These full and frank independent reviews are from travellers who have booked directly through Responsible Travel. They are not edited by us or any of the companies we work with. Find the real story, from real travellers below.
Sam Grainne review 15 Aug 2008
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
The solar eclipse. Also visiting a nomadic family one night.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Not really applicable as a one-off trip to see solar eclipse and Mongolia along the way. General tips would be Mongolia is a big country with poor infrastructure. Make sure your trip doesn't involve too much driving or you will spend your whole time on a bus and not out seeing things. Covering 400km in one day, while possible, is not pleasant.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Yes and no. It was run by a Mongolian company on the tour operatorís behalf. Food shopping was done as we went along so the local shops were supported. However there was inadequate supply of drinking water (ie boiled water) so we had to buy a lot of bottled water which has many bad environmental points. Secondly, there was a lot of driving involved in our trip. Most days our drivers would start work at 6.30 and finish well after 9pm (sometimes later if they had to fix the buses).
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
I made sure I enjoyed it because I was there. And seeing the solar eclipse was an amazing experience. However I am very disappointed in the tour operator. I don't know whether the fault lies directly with them or the local operator, but of course ultimately it is their responsibility. The itinerary was changed shortly before full payment was due (a flight to the west of Mongolia was removed). Initially this didn't bother me too much - it was replaced with "one long day of driving" and I thought it would be better for the environment. In reality what happened was that we spent 4 extremely long days doing nothing but sitting in the buses to get to the eclipse site, and not stopping at all. And of course, we had similar long days driving back. Other itinerary changes occurred - like the trip was turned into all camping rather than some nights in ger camps and homestays with nomadic families. These latter are things people want to see in Mongolia. In the end these did get put on the itinerary - due to the efforts of our excellent tour leader who went out of his way to rescue the tour.
Read the operator's response here:
Thanks for your comments here. The changes to the itinerary were necessary and were applied for logistical reasons. We understand the impact this had on the tour (i.e. long travel days), but with the distances involved we feel there was no choice. We appreciate your comments in relation to the tenting aspect, and we are working to improve the options and variety for any future tours of this kind.