I travel as part of my job. I’m thankful for the opportunity to see different countries and cities. In 2017, I traveled to Mongolia, particularly to Ulaanbaatar City for a consultation visit. It was a short visit, barely three days. Our gracious hosts took us to some tourist spots in the city.
Here are 7 tips when visiting Mongolia.
Filipinos don’t need visa to go to Mongolia.
Thankfully, Mongolia and the Philippines have a bilateral agreement. Their citizens can travel to either country without a visa.
I boarded my flight from Nashville, went through Incheon, South Korea, then landed at the Chinggis Khan International Airport. I lined up at passport control and after about 3 minutes, the immigration officer let me enter the country. They didn’t even ask any question!
Read a little bit of history before going to Mongolia.
Wikipedia is a good place to start. Read about the history of Mongolia, and also about the life and rule of Genghis Khan and his successors. You can also read a bit about the life of Marco Polo, the Venetian explorer who, according to his account, spent some time in the courts of Kublai Khan.
There is a Marco Polo series on Netflix. If you have a subscription, you can also watch that for some fictionalized history. Here’s a link about Marco Polo and his life: https://www.biography.com/news/marco-polo-facts-netflix-series.
Visit the National Museum in Ulaanbaatar.
You’ll get to read about interesting tidbits about the history of Mongolia and their impact on the world. You’ll also learn about the ancient Mongolians’ way of life, their architecture, and society. It was fun to see a traditional Mongolian house called ‘ger’ as well as the weapons and armor they used to wear.
Genghis Khan is a huge cultural symbol.
In the Mongolian language, he is known as Chinggis Khan and not as Genghis Khan. Maybe it was a translation or pronunciation problem. But if you go to Mongolia and read “Chinggis Khan” everywhere, it is referring to the same historical person. “Chinggis” or “Genghis” means “Great.”
We visited this humongous statue of Chinggis Khan about an hour away from the city. It was majestic and reminded me of the Statue of Liberty. Except that this statue was set on top of the hills and big Chinggis Khan statue had this giant scowl on his face.
If you know how to hail a jeepney or a taxi in Manila, you’ll be fine in Ulaanbaatar.
The cars in Ulaanbaatar looked old and beat up. Some of the cars are left-hand drive, which is what we are familiar in the Philippines and in the US but there were also cars that are right-hand drive, meaning the driver is on the right side of the car. But they also drive on the right lane or right side of the road.
The right-hand drive cars probably came from Japan and maybe much cheaper! The taxis were not marked as taxis. They all just looked like regular cars. Maybe they are. The only way to find out was to put your hand out in front of you and wave at oncoming vehicles. Any car that stops would be taxis.
Be safe. Avoid places where you may be mugged or robbed.
This tip isn’t just for a visit to Mongolia but for any country that people visit. If you’re not familiar with a country, it’s really best to be careful. A few weeks before we visited Ulaanbaatar, our host had a visitor who was robbed near the same hotel where we stayed at. But sometimes, even if you’re careful, you may still encounter some bad experience.
At the same time, you won’t be able to enjoy any place you visit if you don’t venture out of the beaten path. So I say, venture out but find ways to remain safe. Do your due diligence and learn where you may be able to find help when you need it.
Mongolia is in the northern hemisphere, pretty close to Russia. It was cold–at least for my Filipino bones. If you visit, make sure to check the forecast and bring jackets that will keep you warm.
Ulaanbaatar is a city of contrasts. You will see a lot of new buildings rising up, but you would also see old buildings that are reminiscent of Soviet-era. A lot of the newer buildings were built by the Chinese and the Koreans who are starting to invest in the country.