Review on Ger to Ger ecotourism program
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Sep 24, 2012 2:42 PM Last Post By: pavelkx2
Sep 2, 2009 11:21 PM
Review on Ger to Ger ecotourism programHello everyone,
I have just come back from a short summer trip in Mongolia, where we decided to take a tour with Ger to Ger to the blue lake (Eastern Mongolia). Although Ger to Ger has very good reviews and references in lonely planet guide books and on the web, we had a terrible experience and definitely suggest you NOT to join Ger to Ger.
Summing up, here are the main concerns:
- During the trip we were left with no guides, only horse men, who did not know how to read. Therefore the phrasal book (Mongolian-English) we were given was absolutely irrelevant. We never controlled the trip, ie, we never knew when and where we would stop, sleep, having meals, etc;
- On the ride horse journey, we were given not enough horses to carry all our luggage and in the end we had to pay an extra horse (which should had been provided by Ger to Ger);
- On the last day, I had a small accident and I fall down of the horse. The horse men are not helpful at all (they did not even got down of the horse to see if I was ok). When we asked help to get back to the closest village by hitch hiking, they did not move a finger to help us.
- Although in UB we were told we did not need to carry water with us, during the trip there was no drinkable water. Most of the people in the group got diarrhea, dehydrated and high fever;
- Local people we stayed with, were not kind. It seems to us we were boring them. I did not feel the "cultural exchanged" I was expecting to;
- Before the departure Ger to Ger provided a "preparation" lesson, with you have to pay for, in which we are suppose to learn useful information for the trip. On contrary, it was not helpful at all and even mislead us;
When we came back to UB, we filled an official complaining form and spoke with Ger to Ger staff. Neither one of the responsible assumed they provided us a bad service. Besides, they even declared Ger to Ger is not a travel agency and their only concern are nomads. Well I just hope they do a better job with local people, than they do with tourists! In the end, we were give a very small compensation. But I was not expecting any money. I just would have liked not to waste over a week with Ger to Ger and have had a better experience in Mongolian steppe.
Edited by: joanaportugal
Sep 12, 2009 8:35 AM
1Hello from Mongolia.
Ger to ger company's owner is not mongolian, just staff is mongolian. The tour's price is not herder's income.
that's 70percent is company's profit.
cheap trip is too much RISK..
Ger to ger gave the small rates of money to herders during the trip..not enough money for herders.
Not every mongolian like this. might be you back your money from ger to ger.
it's not fault herder. Ger to ger knows the herders DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH.
Actually, all of guesthouses organize the arrenged tours in Mongolia. (with guide)
Ger to ger is fall down the mongolia and mongolian. you'll connect the officially owner, who doesn't know this trip in Mongolia excatly.
Just knew 3 years before..
Sep 21, 2009 8:30 AM
we went on a 9 day hike with ger-to-ger to the blue lake in July this year. We had an excellent experience and can definitely recomment the program
actually, we went on a second tour with an official tour company, a driver and guide later, where we had the feeling that the tour company, or rather the guide were misusing the hospitality of the herders to make a larger profit themselves.
at ger-to-ger, we really experienced first-hand how rural Mongolians live. the highlight was an invitation to share the just cooked meat of a just slaughtered Yak. we also miss the great yak-noodle soup cooked by our guides while wild-camping, walking throught empty landscapes, watching wild horses being tamed etc
apart form the last family hardly anybody spoke english, but we were prepared for that. in our experience people could read well
you can always be lucky or unlucky of course, but personally I find it a very recommendable program
Sep 21, 2009 8:32 AM
Sep 27, 2009 8:43 PM
4Joanne - I am so sorry to hear you had such a negative experience because I cannot say enough about how positive an experience I had. I just came back from a 12-day Ger to Ger trip in Dungdovi Provence in the Gobi.
I found the orientation to be quite useful, and in particular gave a bit of onsight into the culture and what to expect, and some basic do's and don't's. It wasn't perfect but it helped.
I did advise Ger to Ger afterwards, that the phrases and words could be extended upon (and many were not useful to us), particularly to take conversation to a level a bit further than the obvious. English was hardly spoken and neither did we expect it to be.. we were in Mongolia in the desert after all...
Families always provided boiled (well) water when requested. Of course sometimes we had to drink it warm, depending how well in advance we asked. No-one had sickness and we were a group of 6.
We were not provided a permanent guide (nor promised one), and to be honest this was one of the positive things and made it feel more authentic. Yes, sometimes it would have been nice to have been able to ask an English speaking guide a question, but I liked having local people show us things and some of them spoke a bit of English.
When we rode horses there were three of them and six of us , so we took it in turns and walked the rest of the time. Same with camels. We didn't mind.
Our luggage was carriage by various means, often by motorbike. Somehow they always found room.
I am so surprised that you did not find local people to be kind. We had the complete opposite experience. I cannot think of one of the local people we met who was anything but kind actually.
In summary, not everything went "exactly" as it said it would in the book, but I never expected it to and if I'd wanted a more formal tour I wouldn't have chosen Ger to Ger. However I personally was looking for something where the focus was more on spending time with nomadic families, and getting a glimpse into their culture and daily lives, and at the same time taking in the atmosphere and scenery mostly "from the ground" - we mostly traavelled by foot, horse, camel, cart and sometimes jeep.
I agree, we didn't have control on the trip either; I didn't expect to. At times it was a little tough, eating when you weren't hungry, not knowing the exact time things would happen, but it's to be expected. And we were often advise the time for breakfast - even more so than Ger to Ger led us to believe (they specifically told us things to be flexible and don't expect much it the way of timings to be provided).
I can honestly say the only thing we noticed was completely missed was a packed lunch on one particularly day, which is insignificant but nevertheless I mentioned it just so that Ger to Ger would be aware (because they do say you shouldn't have to paid for anything).
I certainly would hope that Ger to Ger would take any constructive feedback seriously.
Edited by: topple
Oct 4, 2009 2:48 PM
5Re: Review on Ger to Ger ecotourism program
Although the concept of Ger to Ger is commendable I am afraid I agree with Joanaportugal
My experiences in their office was unbelievable, For an organization dealing with travelers one would expect a little bit more understanding of travelers needs and time constraints. The office does not open until 10 AM (the supposedly start of the lessen) In my opinion they were clueless. The Director, an American was not even there by 11:00 am what a way to have banker hours!!
Their so-called mandatory lesson, cost US $25.00 was absurd, especially the language part. The staffer would pronounce a word in Mongolian so fast you couldn’t even understand her and immediately moved to the next word. Mongolian may be easy for her but for most foreigners it is not. I also found them lacking in people skills.
I later met someone that was on the trip I had canceled and he stated nothing was like they had advertised. None of the activities promised happened and on the last day they had to wait more then 6 hours to be picked up and therefore wasted a whole day.
When I returned to UB I found all these very expensive brochures from Ger to Ger everywhere; I thought this was a waste of money, especially for a community development agency. That money could have been better spent paying the nomads.
Aug 25, 2010 1:18 AM
6My girlfriend and I also went on a 3-night Ger to Ger trip called 'Quest for the Lost Emperor' and although there were some aspects we liked, there were also some disappointing ones. The families weren't all that welcoming. One family ignored us when we arrived. There were none of the 'cultural exchanges' in the evenings that Ger to Ger's advertising mention. The families just left us alone and didn't seem interested when I tried talking to them using my Mongolian phrasebook.
The cultural lesson that Ger to Ger gave us before the trip was useless. We were never offered snuff bottles, none of the families played the anklebone game, none of them had the two-string guitar-like instrument, and they didn't seem bothered whether we sat on the west side of the ger or not.
Both my girlfriend and I got sick on the last day of the trip, not surprising since there was animal feces surrounding the ger and all over the camp and was trailed into the ger by people's feet.
The sights were disappointing too. One religious monument looked like a rubbish tip with blue scarves strung above it. Another was a pile of rocks. There were, however, some buddhist stupas which were interesting to look at.
The Bulgan Province countryside was nice to look at though and we had a nice walk through the sand dunes, though we got lost coming back.
Jan 29, 2011 2:05 AM
7Joanaportugal comments we find hard to believe:
"During the trip we were left with no guides, only horse men, who did not know how to read. Therefore the phrasal book (Mongolian-English) we were given was absolutely irrelevant. We never controlled the trip, ie, we never knew when and where we would stop, sleep, having meals, etc; "
Every tour group or couple ALWAYS has a guide and these people can read, and they're very patient people. For you to tell people not to join Ger to Ger? I'm sorry but I'm going to have to call you a liar. We spoken with other travelers and like us...we're looking forward to going back to Mongolia and using Ger to Ger again.
We find your Swiss cheese story has way too many holes, especially the part about no guides and only horse man? Oh please what a load of BS! The nomadic herders are the ones I feel sorry for... Having to put up with you. And the part about you falling off?
"On the last day, I had a small accident and I fall down of the horse. The horse men are not helpful at all (they did not even got down of the horse to see if I was ok). When we asked help to get back to the closest village by hitch hiking, they did not move a finger to help us."
I fallen off the horse by accident, (my 1st time riding a horse) and the horseman were extremely helpful to me and they made sure I was ok.
Joanaportugal I really hope you don't have any plans of going back to Mongolia any time soon. Your little story has a lot of holes and with a lot of BS.
Even though you posted this back in 2009. We felt it was wall caImportant to point out a few holes in your story.
Ger to Ger is the best tour company in Mongolia. This company does look after the tourist and Mongolian people who were very nice and patient with foreigners. We love the fact that we're helping the Mongolians by staying with herders and their families. Don't expect wall to wall carpet or hotel like amenities. You're actually experiencing real cultural by living with these families for a short time. Expect to have a cultural shock, get over it and move on, and ENJOY. People like Jaonaportugal has done nothing but complained, whined and made her life miserable. Not the herders or the horseman
Aug 25, 2011 2:21 AM
I totally support your comments, and I have more to add.
I've written day by day the gap between the program and the result we lived this year ... it's more than a gap !
We met 2 other groups of people who said the same...from 2 different countries.
Mongolia is a really nice country. But sometimes the use done by some people is not acceptable (by taking into account in addition the time, the money and the process required to go there).
One more time thank you for having posted these comments.
Sep 11, 2011 2:44 PM
9I have no experience of Ger to Ger, but I do get the feeling there is a bit of an expectation gap with some of these posts, particularly simrobclarke's. I suspect thet Ger to Ger have more work to do, but some visitors also need to lower their expectations.
1) Just because the cultural things don't happen, doesn't mean they aren't real. I have had snuff passed to me a few times, and seen the knucklebone game played at Naadam (guess someone must practise at home...). True, not many people will have a morin khuur at home (how many Westerners play the violin regularly?), but it is true that there are 'correct' places to sit in a ger. I would guess that people who regularly have tourists in their homes may not bother so much with these customs when they know you won't be familiar with them.
2) If you're staying with herders, they will have animals. Animals poo. Herders don't sweep up outside unless the poo is dried and they need it for fuel. It is an unfortunate fact of life that hygeine under these circumstances is not what one might want it to be. I hope you got your jabs before you went and were not seriously ill. (For the record, I have been seriously ill, very likely caught in Mongolia, so health issues are something I do take seriously.)
3) One person's rubbish tip is another person's religious monument. The 'pile of rocks' would have been an ovoo. These are common, but some hold more significance than others. I'd be surprised if this wasn't mentioned in your cultural lesson. These sites do commonly include various types of debris, as worshippers are expected to make offerings - I have seen empty bottles, bits of dead animal, money, crutches, broken bowls... I guess interest is in the eye of the beholder.
4) Getting lost is part of the experience. I've lost count of the number of times I have been lost (or at least not exactly where we thought we should be), always with highly capable drivers. Since both you and I are still here, clearly it wasn't that serious.
Jul 5, 2012 2:58 AM
10We just completed a 4 day tour with Ger to Ger and would have to agree completely with the comments made through this thread about the staff. Though it is 3 years since the initial post, the service in the office has not improved. Their staff is not pleasant, nor particularly helpful. We arrived at the office for our scheduled "training" at 10am and 30 minutes later they came over to ask why we were there. 4 hours later we left the office, which included a 45 minute "why I am so great" talking to by the owner/founder. After leaving we both questioned just how much of our money would ever make it to the families we were about to visit.
The families on the tour were wonderful and the experience went off thanks to their kindness and patience with 2 people who lack and ability to communicate in Mongolian. I found no issues at all with the nomad families, but any coordination back with the office led ultimately to confusion.
Finally, upon our return we explained to the owner that one of our sleeping bag zippers was broken. It was not a big issue, but when we requested a refund we were surprised when they looked around like they had no idea why we would ask such a thing. They refused to provide any refund and told us that we must have broken it.
We had already booked 2 more trips through them and immediately canceled after this final straw. This is not an organization I feel is organized and would not recommend them to anyone. There are far more reputable organizations to give your money to here in Ulan Bator who will provide you excellent service as well as ensure the money goes to a good cause.
Sep 24, 2012 2:07 AM
11We've been on two tours with Ger to Ger. The first one was to White lake and the second one to Rashaant area (The last emperor's quest).
The first one was nice and we didn't have any problems. Ger to ger will send you to the private camp called "Eco ger camp" right next to the lake. It is run by a mongolian couple which warmly welcomes you and tries to make your stay a really nice experience. It is actually thanks to them that it was such a nice trip. You don't have to go with Ger to Ger to stay in this camp. Just go by bus to Tsetserleg, there go to Fairland guesthouse and they can find a cheap driver for you. He will take you to the camp. You'll save a lot of money!
The second trip was unfortunatelly quite a dissapointment. It was presented as "horseback riding tour", but I wouldn't call it this way. First of all, prepare for waiting. A lot. There are just few hours of activities per day and the rest is your "freetime". There are two horseback rides per day, but it is one hour each.
We experienced some problems during our stay. Two horseback rides were simply ommitted without any particular reasons. Some of our rider guides act really unproffesionally. One of our friends fell off the horse, because the horse was simply not used to riders. I want to point out that she is an experienced rider. Another guide rider put as on wild horse as well, fortunately this didn't end up in an accident.
Another problem was that there were four of us but there were only three single beds. This happened two times during five nights, so two of us were forced to sleep on one single bed. We were not told this at all.
The company has a really weird way of a complaint process. First, you should complain to the family, next to the local facilitator and later in the office. The first two options are really useless, because no-one speaks even basic english. Therefore we went to office and wrote down a complaint. It usually takes a while to process the complaint so you need to wait few days. After few days, they agreed that they will refund us two cancelled horserides. The answer for the rest was that it is not their problem and they will not refund anything.
We went to the office again and talked to the manager name Zanjan Fromer. This was probably the worst part. Even we are used to dealing with businessmen because we work in business, this was unbelievable. He didn't really care about what we were saying. He kept saying the same all over again that it is not his problem, he called me "dude" (very professional business "addressing" indeed), saying "don't waste my time", etc. I couldn't believe his unproffesional behaviour. His point was that we should read their website, where there is apperantly somewhere written that these problems can happen. We were not told about this at all when we read the itinerary or when we asked questions about the tour in the office. Not only his point was irellevant, because it is their responsibility to inform us about the tour, but it is not even written anywhere on their website!
As a summary - I definitely wouldn't recommend this travel agency not only because it is quite expensive, many problems during just one tour but most of all the unbelievably unprofessional and rude way they dealt with us.
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