Dear GoMad Nomad,
I love horses and would like try to incorporate some horseback riding on a trip I’m planning to Asia next summer. Are there any countries where this is a common activity? How accessible is it for tourists that will only stay a short time? What kind of gear do I need to bring? Any advice you can offer would be great!
– Lauren W.
Hi Lauren, this is actually a great question!
Pursuing activities that you already know you love is a great way to really get the most out of your travels, especially when it involves something like this that will take you out of the cities and into the rural or unpopulated areas of a country. Though it *is* possible to find horseback riding in Thailand and the rest of South-East Asia, these are not areas where horses play a particularly important part in traditional local culture (with the puzzling exception of the neighboring Indonesian islands of Sumba and Sumbawa). A much better bet, if you want to interact with a ‘horse culture’ while you’re at it, is to look towards Central Asia. Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, especially, have a long history of horseback riding as well as a developed tourist infrastructure that will make it easier for you to get a trip sorted out.
As to how much gear you need to take, well, that depends a lot on your own plans. It isn’t unknown in either of these countries for travelers to simply buy a horse and ride it during their stay before re-selling it at the end. However, most travelers will simply hire a guide who will provide horses/equipment and often arrange for places to stay along the way as well. It sounds like you’re looking at a limited timeframe, so this is probably your best option. When I visited Mongolia a few years ago, we paid 66,000 Tughrik (~$36!) per day for a group of four people to hire a guide/horse/equipment/bed around the Khovsgol Lake area in the north. Food was a bit extra, but not much.
Prices in Kyrgyzstan will run a bit more than this, but better transportation links also make it easier to get around the country on public transportation and so will save you some money in that regard. Both countries are beautiful, with amazing people, and are visa-free for Americans. Whichever you decide to visit, have fun!
Thanks for the question, Lauren! If any of our readers have questions for the GoMad Nomad team, we’d be happy to address them on this month;y column. Whatever you need help with, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the Contact page to get in touch. Happy travels!