First, what even is a ger?
A ger is a large, round portable home used by traditional Mongolian nomadic families. Wooden columns are covered by a combination of wool and cotton and are tied together with horsehair.
Two central pillars in the middle of the room helps to support the roof, and the final product is a large, tent like structure. Gers have been used by Mongolians for thousands of years, and many nomadic families still inhabit them to this day.
If you’re traveling to Mongolia, I’d definitely recommend booking an overnight stay in one of these traditional dwellings. If you do, the following is some good information to know prior to your stay.
1. There is no bathroom or running water in the ger, and it’s expected you’ll “relieve” yourself in the bushes. This means no showering, and you’ll want to make sure the tour includes drinking water. I also recommend bringing plenty of toilet paper and hand sanitizer just in case you need it.
2. There is no electricity in the ger. When daylight runs out, it’s hard to read or do activities within the ger. I suggest cozying up in a snug blanket and looking up at the brilliant stars above. It’s also not a bad time to make friends with other travelers on the tour and swap life stories around a warm fire.
3. Extending on the above note, bring clothing layers to deal with the day/night temperature changes. It’s typically quite warm during the day but can get chilly at night, so it’s nice to have a pullover to sleep in if needed.
4. It’s quite remote. I found the isolation to be extremely peaceful, but if you’re the type to need constant stimulation and WIFI, this might not be the experience for you. Staying in a ger is a lot like camping in many ways, and it’s great for a little break from technology.
5. The nomadic families are extremely hospitable. During your stay with a nomadic family you definitely won’t go hungry. We enjoyed tons of homemade cheese, bread, yogurt, and a fermented horse milk called ‘Airag’. Offering food and beverages is a very common way to welcome guests in Mongolia. Please note that if presented, it is considered rude to decline food or drink offerings. Traveling is all about trying new things, so unless you have an allergy, give airag a big gulp!
6. Unless booked exclusively, there’s a good chance you’ll be sharing the ger with someone else on the tour. Gers can be different sizes and hold anywhere from 2 – 4 beds in each unit. There isn’t much privacy within the ger as it is a single room, so just something to keep in mind when booking.
7. Always come into the ger right foot first and head towards the left-hand side of the room. Mongolians consider it bad luck to enter the ger using your left foot. The right side of the ger is regarded as the domain of the family, while the left side is for guests.
8. Never walk between the two central pillars within the ger. Traditionally these pillars represent the sky and the earth and are not meant to be crossed between.
9. Always accept food and drinks with your right hand. It is considered rude to take a food or drink offering with your left hand. If the dish is very heavy, you may use both hands.
Mongolia is a vast, gorgeous country with an endless buffet of breathtaking scenery. While staying in a ger might not be as exciting or wild as the city experiences of Ulaanbaatar, it is absolutely a must-do when visiting here. Make sure you bring a jacket and some good hiking shoes, and you’ll be sipping airag and enjoying the tranquility of the Mongolian wilderness with a nomadic family in no time.
Author bio: My name is Hannah! I’m 30 years old and love all things travel related. I’ve lived and worked abroad, backpacked my way through 17 countries as a solo female traveler, and explored 48 countries to date.