The Bottom Line: Making the trip to Inner Mongolia is already a special experience in itself. If flights are inexpensive, why not just go all out and bump up to first class?
The other option was something I’ve done several times in my travels across China; that is, make my way to a popular hotel chain in the city and inferring about any available tour packages they offer. That was my first mission on Day 1 right after I check into my hotel in Hohhot. I tried two hotels: Zhaojun Hotel and Sheraton Hotel, which were within of a short walk from each other. Zhaojun Hotel’s tourist reception desk was serviced by a woman that couldn’t speak a lick of English and so our entire conversation was carried out in Chinese. Pretty impressive, right? On my initial visit I didn’t ask for too many details; I just needed to know where I could go, how many days, and what was the price. Here’s the short version:
I was pretty ecstatic to find out that the travel cost was so cheap, even with having to pay an additional fee for some activities. It was a great start!
Next up was a stop at the Sheraton Hotel. I’ll keep this brief: the asshole travel agent there stated that their trip would cost 600rmb, and when I asked why it was so expensive compared to the 350rmb fee Zhaojun Hotel charged he casually explained that it was because I can’t speak Chinese. What a f@#$%&! joke. PASS! And with that I arrived back at Zhaojun Hotel to sign up for the trip. The following is a detailed itinerary of the tour package and pricing for your reference:
8:00am - Meet and depart from in front of Inner Mongolia Hotel by coach.
12pm - Arrive at a tourist center on Xilamuren Grasslands.
12pm-1:30pm - You can either go horseback riding (405rmb), ride a two-seat off road vehicle (380rmb), or archery. Many people on the tour coughed up 405rmb to ride horses for an hour. I didn’t. Sure the thought of horseback riding in Inner Mongolia was exciting but not for that ridiculous price. Furthermore, a few tourists and I managed to negotiate a deal with a worker for riding the off road vehicles for 200rmb per person. This is important because I found out that prices for the activities were somewhat negotiable, so you may not need to purchase these activities right away when the travel agent or tour guide is trying to break you for your bread. Oh yeah, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND paying to ride the off road vehicles rather than ride the horses. It’s much more of a fun and memorable experience. Just don’t be so ignorant as to not do anything though!
1:30pm - Lunch. The tour guide will try to get you to pay extra to eat roast lamb at 480rmb, which can be split between patrons. It was definitely delicious, but I only recommend paying for it if you can go in with at least 4 other people. It’s not worth shelling out more than 100rmb quite honestly.
After lunch, check into your Yurt (2 twin beds, TV, bathroom, NO Wifi, NO toilet tissue, NO soap, NO toothbrushes, NO air conditioner)
2:30pm - Watch a brief wrestling match.
2:30-6pm - Free time. It’s best to use this time to take a bunch of pictures.
6pm - Dinner
7pm-8:30pm - Free time. I suggest watching the sunset between 7-7:30pm.
8:30-9:30pm - Bonfire Party. Make sure to buy any last minute snacks or drinks during this time because the onsite shops close early.
7:00am - Breakfast
8:00am - Depart to Xiangshawan Desert.
12pm - Eat Lunch.
1:30pm - Arrive & Play at Xiangshawan Desert (280rmb). From my experience, DO NOT hesitate to pay this fee to enter in the desert area, you’ll have so much fun! You should also pay the extra 10rmb fee for a pair of socks to cover your shoes so sand won’t get inside. Trust me!
3-3:30pm - Leave Xiangshawan Desert
6pm - Stop at a Tourist Shopping Center
8:15pm - Arrive back in front of Inner Mongolia Hotel in Hohhot.
2.A Pair of Pants & Shorts
3.Sunglasses – The grassland get quite windy and you may experience bursts of dust storms.
4. Thin Scarf – Again, dirt may fly into your mouth.
5.Toiletries – Tissue, toothbrush & toothpaste, towel, soap
6.Warm Pajamas – With no air conditioning the Yurts get REALLY cold at night.
7.Phone Credit – Make sure you have enough credit on your phone data because there is no Wifi.
8. Walking Shoes - Very comfortable walking shoes that you won't mind getting dirty.
Well, there you have it. If you have any questions about your own journey or want to try to follow my same process, feel free to contact me. I’ve saved the contact information from the tour and would be happy to pass it over. Again, safe & happy travels!