I can understand the reservation some people might have about traveling to Mongolia, which I’ll get into greater detail regarding the main concerns. While I would encourage anyone from anywhere to visit Mongolia and experience our beautiful country, there are still some things you should be aware of, so let’s get into it.



Are Mongolian People Racist?

Generally being a homogeneous country, Mongolian people don’t necessarily discriminate against one another despite having a wide range of physical apperance. From the Kazakh minorities, to Buryats, and other sub-ethnicities, we all share share similar cultural roots and history; plus we all look very similar in one sense, so discrimination based on ethnicity/clan is something that’s almost unheard of. HOWEVER,

There is a prevailing attitude amongst Mongolian people, mostly older generation, to be wary of Chinese people and other countries that have Chinese influence. Inner-Mongolians, although being Mongolian themselves, are sometimes seen with suspicion since they have assimilated and integrated more into Chinese culture.

History and propaganda play a role in this attitude, so it goes a long way back. Chinese travellers and people who may be mistaken for Chinese will unfortunately face some form of subtle discimination and prejudice. Though media outlets blew things out of proportion such as the violent attacks against Chinese migrant workers, there seems to be a fear among Chinese and South-East Asians to be targeted for attacks. That’s rarely the case. As long as you have some common sense, avoid bad neighborhoods, and don’t go near drunk Mongolians, people won’t bother you or give you trouble, at least in Ulaanbaatar. For touring the countryside, I would advise booking a trip with a tour agency, and have someone to vouch for you.

For non-Chinese looking people, the locals won’t bother you nor have any prejudice, but you should know some common scams in Ulaanbaatar and make sure to not be taken advantage of in taxis or shops. Well established shops and businesses won’t be a problem, but 3-rd party vendors and shops near resorts etc may try to take advantage of you. Other than that, you will get a few stares of curiousity here and there when travelling through the countryside. Even I myself as an ethnic Mongolian have people staring because of my “European-ish” looks and traits, but they are mostly just out of curiousity and intrigue.

Petty Crimes, Robberies, and Scams

As of 2018, robberies and violent crimes have significanly decreased due to better surveillance, stricter laws, and stronger police presence in Ulaanbaatar. Before 2015, I even as a native Mongolian, had instances of getting mugged and robbed, but it’s a lot better now and no incident of that sort for the past 6 years or so.

Though violent crime is not something to worry about, in certain neighborhoods and districts make sure to be aware of your surroundings and take note of your belongings. Pickpockets, mob of kids trying to sell you something, scams are still things you should be careful of, especially around touristy parts of Ulaanbaatar

When you are travelling through the countryside, it is always advised to have a local guide or someone you trust to show you around. Backpacking around the countryside by yourself can be dangerous, especially if you don’t know the Mongolian language and not prepared.

Villages, soums as we call it, are technologically lagging and are underdeveloped. Corruption is still an issue (though it has greatly improved), so in smaller municipals and counties you might run into organized scams, which is why a trusted local guide is always the best choice!



Nationalism and Xenophobia

Culturally Mongolian people have always been welcoming and provide warm hospitality towards guests, but do know that while Mongolians are warm and friendly people, there is immense pride and sense of nationalism, so getting on their bad side is best to be avoided.

Political correctness and passive-aggression is something that is non-existent. It might be a cultural shock to realize how Mongolian people can be so blunt and direct with their words and actions. Men especially do not tolerate disrespect and may challenge you to a fight if you’re considered being rude.

It’s best advised to avoid any politically opposed opinion related to Chinese and Mongolian topics. It’s considered rude and offensive to equate Chinese people with Mongolian people, so any touchy subject regarding politics, culture, and history are to be avoided if you happen to chat up a local or a stranger. If you have good Mongolian friends this does not apply, but it still will cause some friction.

Alcohol and Mongolians can be a bad combination, so unless you’re partying with friends or being accompanied by a group of people, going to nightclubs, bars, and such at late hours solo could pose risks if you are seen talking with the local women. Mongolian men are protective of women and do not necessarily like seeing foreigners flirting with them. If you want to meet the local women, it’s best to meet them through your social circle rather than nightclubs and bars in Mongolia.

Interracial relationships are still taboo for Mongolian women and you may come across bad stares if you are seen being openly affectionate. Maintaining Mongolian “blood” and lineage is still seen somewhat important, but hopefully such narrow-minded tendencies will improve in the future as Mongolia develops as a country.

In Conclusion

Mongolia is a fastly developing country with rich history and culture that’s very unique from East Asian countries and Western countries, so if you love exploring cultures that are distinctively different from yours, then go for it! You are always welcome in Mongolia.

Mongolia’s natural landscape, warm hospitality by nomads, and the life-changing experience is well worth it.

While crime and corruption has significantly decreased in the past 5 years, it’s still advised to take note of your belongings to prevent pickpockets and scams. As long as you have some common sense and don’t exhibit rude behaviour towards Mongolian people that stir their sense of nationalism, you should be treated with respect and warmth.

Let’s learn a few simple phrases that you can say in Mongolian. If you know these basic phrases, you will be able to get around most places within Mongolia.



Hi / Hello – Sain baina uu? Сайн байна уу?

What’s up? – Yu baina? Юу байна?

How are you? – Sain uu? Сайн уу?

Do you want to grab a drink? – Yum olj u-uh u? Pivdoh u? Юм олж уух уу? Пиводох уу?

Who is it? – Hen be? Хэн бэ?

How was your day? Sonin hachin? Сонин хачин?

What have you been up to? Yu heeged ill baina da? Юу хийгээд л байна даа?

Goodbye – Bayrtai, baka, bye. Баяртай, бака

See you tomorrow – Margaash uulzya. Маргааш уулзЪя

Talk to you later – Daraa yariya. Дараа яръя

How much? – Une hed ve? Үнэ хэд вэ?

Where is X / Where can I find X – X haana baidag ve? X хаана байдаг вэ?

Can you help me? – Nadad tuslaach? Надад туслаач?

Thank you – Bayarlalaa. Баярлалаа

You’re welcome – Zugeeree. Зүгээрээ

I am from (Insert Country) – Be (Insert Country). Би (Insert Country)

Excuse me – Uuchlaarai. Уучлаарай

Go to X – X yavna. Х явна

Does this go to X – Ene X yavdag u? Энэ Х явдаг уу?

Yes – Tiim. Тийм

No – Ugui. Үгүй

I don’t understand – Be oilgodogguie. Би ойлгодүггүй ээ.

Do you speak X? – Ta X heleer yaridag u? Та Х хэлээр ярьдаг уу?

Could you repeat that? – Ta dahiad heleed uguch? Та дахиад хэлээд өгөөч?

Let’s go – Yavya. ЯвЪя

Where do you live – Chi/ta haana amidardag ve? Чи/та хаана амьдардаг вэ?

What is this? – Ene yu ve? Энэ юу вэ?

How do you say X in Mongolian – X Mongolor yu gedeg ve? Х Монголоор юу гэдэг вэ?

How many are there? – Hed baigaa ve? Хэд байгаа вэ?

Are you okay – Chi/ta zuger u? Чи/та зүгээр үү?

What’s happening – Yu bolod baina? Юу болоод байна?

I’m hungry – Bi ulsuj baina. Би өлсөж байна

I’m tired – Bi yadarch baina. Би ядарч байна

I have to go – Be yavah heregtei baina. Би явах хэрэгтэй байна

Good luck – Amjilt husie. Амжилт хүсье

I love you – Be chamd hairtai. Би чамд хайртай

I like you – Be chamd durtai. Би чамд дуртай

Next Lesson: Simple Greetings to Learn in Mongolian

Buy Mongolian Language eBook: https://orgilproductions.com/learn-mongolian/

Mongolians don’t always use the Cyrillic alphabet when talking with one another online via chat or sms, sometimes a converted Latin alphabet is used to communicate for convenience. Depending on the people some letters are switched here and there but mean the same thing.




А а – A a

Б б – B b

В в – V v or W w

Г г – G g

Д д – D d

Е е – E e or I i

Ё ё – Yo yo

Ж ж – J j

З з – Z z

И и – I i

Й й – I i

К к – K k

Л л – L l

М м – M m

Н н – N n

О о – O o

Ө ө – U u or V v

П п – P p

Р р – R r

С с – S s

Т т –  T t

У у – U u or Y y

Ү ү – U u or Y y

Ф ф  – F f

Х х –  – Kh kh or H h

Ц ц – Ts ts

Ч ч  – Ch ch or J j

Ш ш  – Sh sh

Щ щ  – Shts shts

ъ – I i

ь – I i

Ы ы – Ii ii or Ee ee

Э э  – E e

Ю ю  – Yu yu

Я я – Ya ya

Example: I want to go to the shopping mall is Би худалдааны дэлгүүр руу явмаар байна. In Latinized version it would be Bi hudaldaanii delguur yavmaar baina.

Buy Mongolian Language eBook: https://orgilproductions.com/learn-mongolian/

A lot of people tend to have the misconception that Mongolians speak Chinese or Russian, however, the official language in Mongolia is Mongolian and the writing system is Mongolian Cyrillic.

The language itself is completely different from Russian and Mandarin Chinese. The Mongolian language shares a lot of similarities with Northeast Asian and Central Asian languages, however, there are many borrowed Russian and Chinese words.

For example: Mashin, means car in both Russian and Mongolian. Shivgua means watermelon in Mongolian and Mandarin Chinese. You will most likely notice these shared words in nouns and things that were introduced to Mongolians. A lot of food names have Chinese origins while a lot of technological inventions have Russian origins.



Asking if Mongolians speak Chinese is Offensive

Most Mongolians are proud of their historical achievements and their culture, so asking a Mongolian if they speak Chinese (while innocent and genuinely a reasonable question) it is taken as an offense by Mongolians.

When I say Mongolians I am talking about Mongolians who live in Mongolia. Most Inner Mongolians who live in China wouldn’t probably take much offense and a lot of them would be able to speak in Mandarin.

Do Mongolians learn Chinese or Russian?

Before the 21st century, most Mongolians were taught Russian as a second language because USSR and Mongolia were very close allies. There were many exchange students, and summer camp exchanges when there was still a Soviet Union.

If you ever meet a Mongolian in their 40s and 50s, he or she will be able to at least know basic Russian and get by if necessary, but nowadays, not a lot of people learn Russian anymore and instead opt to learn English for better future prospects since it’s a more commonly used language around the world.

Mandarin Chinese is surprisingly not a favourite among Mongolians even though Mongolia and China are close trading partners, perhaps there is historical and cultural stigma attached to it. However, students who are seeking to study abroad in China do learn Mandarin Chinese, but a majority of international Mongolian students decide to apply for American, European, or Japanese/Korean schools.

Will Mongolians learn Russian or Chinese more often in the future?

Who knows, as Western influence declines perhaps Mongolians will opt to study Russian or Mandarin Chinese more. The Chinese economy is growing day by day, so Mongolians might have to learn Mandarin or Cantonese in the future for logical and practical reasons.

If Russian economy grows and has more of an influence in the world as it did back during the Soviet Union era, then Mongolians will probably pick it back up again. However, Mongolia today is influenced by Korean, Japanese, and Western cultures so English is currently the second language of choice.

We will just have to wait and see.

Buy Mongolian Language eBook: https://orgilproductions.com/learn-mongolian/

There are around 7-8 million ethnic Mongolians with varying degrees of physical and facial features. Historically and culturally being a nomadic type of people of Turkic origins, it was common for Mongolian tribes to intermarry within Eurasia. Hence, a small minority of Mongolians can have blue, grey, green eyes, and blonde or red hair.

However, to most people who are not aware of Mongolian culture and its people, your average Mongolian could be mistaken for other Asians, such as Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. It’s pretty understandable because we tend to associate similarly looking kinds of people together in one group and label or categorize them.

For someone who has extensively traveled through Asia as a whole though, it’s pretty easy to tell who is whom and sometimes even distinguish their ethnic roots in a more detailed level.

Regardless of whether you are reading this for fun or plan on traveling to Mongolia soon, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of the different types of Mongolians since mistaking them for other East Asians can sometimes be taken as an offense.



Nomads

mongolian nomads wearing deel

Due to the harsh climate and weather, nomads tend to have rougher features with blushed red cheeks and heavily tanned skin. They don’t have the luxury of moisturizing their faces, applying sunscreen, so naturally they adapt to the environment.

Sedentary Mongolians

As of 2018, there are about 1.5 million Mongolians living in the capital, and about 1.8 million Mongolians (60% of the population) are living in urban cities.

Depending on the individual’s roots, your average city dweller can look very different from one another. However, if we’re talking about the majority and stereotypical city dweller look, usually they are more fair than nomads who live out in the countryside and generally taller due to better nutrition. While most simply look “Asian” there is still some admixture of Eastern European, Central/Western Asian features.

Some of my friends think I sometimes look slightly Russian and some strangers have commented that I could pass as half Asian, but as far as I am aware, none of my family have Eastern European roots and I consider myself a very average looking Mongolian and overall just Asian in appearance.

Minority Mongolians

Lastly you have people with pronounced Eurasian appearance. This is very common the further west you go in Mongolia, where Kazakhs and other minority Mongolians live. It’s not surprising to see Mongolians with blonde, red hair with green or blue eyes within those regions. While they are not as common and prevalent compared to people such as myself and sedentary Mongolians with moreso Northeast Asian appearance, it’s still considered normal and nothing out out of the ordinary.

Now hopefully that gives a good insight into the different kinds of look Mongolian people can have, so please stop saying Mongolians are dark/tanned nomads who ride horses 😛 You have people who look somewhat similar to Korean Japanese and Northern Chinese, to very Eastern European and Central Asian to slightly Persian looking.

Mongolian Culture Facts

Mongolia is a land-locked country with the capital city being Ulaanbaatar, which also represents their largest city. The country forms part of central Asia, sitting North of China and to the South of Russia. Some of the landmarks of this country include the Gobi desert, Altay Mountains and the Mongolian Plateau. The Mongols have a very interesting culture, which is practiced till now. Let us look at a few Mongolian culture facts.

The Religion

A major part of the population (93 percent) are Tibetan Buddhists. This religion gained prominence in the country in the 16th century. A large percentage of the remaining 5 percent are Sunni Muslims while a small percentage are Shamanists. The Shamanists are traditionalists, who worship the clear blue sky and following in the footsteps of their ancestors. However, you will find some Buddhists who still go the ancestral way.



The Language

The official language of Mongolia is Khalkha Mongol, representing the primary language of this country. 90 percent of the population speaks this language. Other languages, though not so prominent include Turkic languages such as Tuvan, Kazakh and Uzbek. Russian is also spoken by a small percentage of the population.

Mongols write the Khalkha using the Cyrillic alphabet. The most common foreign language is Russian, although you can still communicate in English and Korean, which have slowly gained popularity over the past years.

Traditional Housing

yurt

Traditionally, the Mongolians live in a tent-like structure called a ger or yurt. The ger is made in a simple design, though it is put together in such a way that it can be taken apart. The Mongols keep their items in this structure, including valuable treasures and rugs.

Traditional Clothing

mongolian man and woman wearing the deel

Mongols wear a traditional costume called the deel. This costume is woven from silk, cotton and wool. You will find men and women donning this costume in the rural areas of Mongolia. You will also encounter the costume in urban areas as well, being worn by the elderly and by the general public during festivities. The deel is usually worn with colorful hats, boots and belts.

Mongolian wrestling

mongolian men wrestling

This is such a popular pastime that you will find cave paintings that depict the sport. Originally this sport was meant o provide stamina, fighting skills and strength to Mongol soldiers. The Mongols call this sport “Bokh”. Wrestling forms a set of three skills that were considered ideal for the Mongol man.

The Mongols have an annual wrestling competition called the Nadaam of Ulan Bator. This competition is so vital that it is broadcast over TV and live radio countrywide. Smaller events are held in rural areas in spaces that don’t have any gravel. The sport is interesting, because there are no categories according to weight. This gives small competitors the chance to go against their larger counterparts.

In Closing

The Mongols are an interesting group of people. A visit to Mongolia will give you a chance to learn about the interesting culture of the Mongols. Right from the language to their favorite sport, this country has a lot to offer.

I remember the days when falling in love couldn’t be any easier. All it took was a linger that lasted a while longer. For days and nights the sweet feeling of infatuation surrounds with its blanket of warmth and romantic idealism. The sappy love songs and the cheesy movies actually made sense for a change.

What started off as mere fantasy became borderline obsession. And then suddenly, the muse I made, the idealism I held all fell crumbling down. Realizing the so called undying love was never reciprocated and that she never had the same feelings in the first place stabbed a wound deeper than any blade could.

But life goes on, as in time, wounds healed, and I felt ready for another adventure. With chest out and head up high, the world looked brighter, more optimistic, something that was missing from my life for a while. Soon enough, my stomach is churning, lips dry, and breath heavy, a feeling that once was lost but regained. Somehow this time, I actually had the courage to whisper a word, but soon enough I regretted it. I walk away in embarrassment only to mull myself over my idiocy.



However, life is forgiving and rich in generosity. I was sitting face to face, with the girl of my “dreams” finally! That sound of her laughter, her smile; if only we could freeze time and stay in them forever. Waiting for that phone ring almost felt like eternity and with slightest whisper of sound, my trembled and reached for the phone. But I still wait, perhaps she did not get my message, perhaps something happened, I thought, but slowly the realization kicked in. The sadness, the disappointment, the grief…

My guitar would take a good beating for a few days, as a means to mend yet another broken heart. Only this time around, forever it did not take; perhaps life’s responsibilities demanded a quick recovery. I dust myself off yet again, and set sail for a different horizon. Ohh how life always challenges you every step of the way guiding you.

Love at first sight? I thought such things no longer existed? Perhaps I should be careful, perhaps there’s more to it, I pondered. Down the rabbit hole deeper I went into the elusive nature of love, but the mystical forces of love could not let me off so easily as I found myself yet again at the mercy of Eros. She was intelligent, ambitious, and had a knack for challenging my assertions. This time though, I was prepared, “somewhat…”, and as fate would have it, she was under my arms staring into my soul like the starry skies at night.

Yet, it’s funny how fleeting it all can be. My heart said yes, but my mind said no. As much as I tried to convince myself into my delusions, sometimes love is not enough. The deeper I dive in love, the worse the pain, but more the growth. But life always works out for the best, it shows you that things can get better if you so choose, as those same butterflies found their way back in my stomach.

Aahhh, those big brown eyes and elegant grace of her body and voice. For once, my crazy philosophical rants, my outrageous spiritual beliefs, didn’t sound so crazy after all, as she stared into my world with amazement and excitement. At last, someone that could connect with my purest form of self, my ideals, my values…

But as if the Almighty above couldn’t make it any harder, time and circumstance never allowed for the flower to fully blossom. But life still goes on… slowly but surely your ideals of romanticism with it. New and old, they all leave their imprint on to you and they in turn take some of yours. Love no longer is the romantic movies you watch on TV, songs you hear on the Radio, nor fantasies you read in books; it becomes something more; something mature, more grounded, more real.

Yet, we still hold on to that little innocence of love, that Romanticism of our youth……..

How Do The Nomads Live in Mongolia

When people think of Mongolia, they mostly think of open plains and grassland steppes where the nomads roam free. To some extent it is true. Mongolia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. However, since 1990s Mongolia has slowly been transitioning into a more urbanized way country.

There are major stereotypes about Mongolia being a nomadic country that is not so developed, but since the mining boom in 2011, Mongolia has been developing at a rapid rate. To suggest that Mongolia today is still the same as 20-30 years ago from the 20th century would be a false statements. Way of life in Mongolia is changing as we speak.

BUT, there are still thousands of nomads or people who opt to live a simpler nomadic lifestyle out in the countryside. In some ways they live a more comfortable life than the former nomads who decided to move into the city.

What Does It Take To Be A Nomad

As a former nomad myself, you definitely need a strong fortitude of emotional discipline. The weather can get extremely cold or extremely hot depending on some years. Some summers can be arid and dry, whereas the winters cold blizzard like. It’s not easy living a lifestyle that is still very vulnerable to weather and the environment.

People who show interest in Mongolian culture and traditional way of life mostly tend to be people sick of the modern lifestyle that’s plugged into everything. Or perhaps people who are more in tune with nature and a simpler way of life. The nomadic lifestyle definitely is more about living in the now and giving up the luxuries of modern day life.



You Have To Make Sacrifices

You won’t have the luxury of showering everyday, buying groceries at your own pleasure; even eating different kinds of foods. The nomad diet is pretty simple. A lot meats, potatoes and flour. Though the meals are organic and delicious, you might get tired of eating the same thing over and over again.

With the help of renewable energy, a lot nomads today have a television hooked up via a satellite. Some have generators that produce electricity, so you can find refrigerators here and there, but anything beyond that is asking for too much.

Modern day electronics don’t jive so well with a nomad lifestyle, so most of what you have right now won’t serve much purpose if you do decide to become a nomad.

A Typical Day As a Nomad

mongolian nomads wearing deel

This will mostly depend on the kind of nomad. There are the hardcore nomads living pretty much off the grid with minimal contact with society and civilization. And then there are the nomads who focus more on tourism and providing hospitality to foreigners.

Where these nomads decide to live also influence their day to day life. However, if we are talking in general, a nomadic culture is still gender oriented. The men take care of the more physically demanding tasks while the women focus more on managing the household.

Usual chores for men are herding the flock of animals, slaughtering livestock, breaking down wild horses, construction and manual labor. Women on the other hand are in charge of preparing food, milking animals, and tending to the livestock. Nomads are hardy people physically and mentally very strong.

Should You Become A Nomad?

horse eating grass

Assuming you become a Mongolian citizen and renounce your old citizenship, becoming a nomad in Mongolia is not for everyone. While you may enjoy the experience of being a nomad for a week or two during tours around the countryside via a travel agency, if you are not serious about it, it will take a toll on your body once you live for a month, a year, a decade, etc.

You will have to unlearn everything you’ve been taught about life and give up most of what you know about modern day life. That means computers, hot showers, baths, candy, and many other modern day inventions.

Becoming a nomad is not just a way of life, but also a way of thought. You learn to be one with the land and in tune with mother nature. It’s about letting go of the expectations of society and to becoming comfortable living independently on your own and surviving.

Crossing the Mongolia – China Border on a Budget

If you are travelling through either Mongolia or China, it’s always good to know some cheap ways to methods to get around. As a Mongolian traveler who prefers adventurous experiences, I’ve had my fair share of bargaining, negotiating, and finding good deals.

For newcomers to Mongolia, it’s recommended to read this Lonely Planet Guide and to learn the basics of the Mongolian language.

Read recommended gear for backpackers and travelers in Mongolia

Transportation Methods

As of 2017, there are 2 common ways to travel to/from Mongolia and China via land.

A) Trans Siberian Railway

trans siberian railway train ride

For those of you who don’t like the hassle, this is the preferred method of travel. All you need to do is book a ticket from either Ulaanbaatar or Beijing. Although the Mongolian government website is not the best, visit UBTZ.mn for tickets and pricing. Usually it’s 200-300k Tugriks (~100 USD) UB to Beijing one way. ~1200 Yuan (~180 USD) Beijing to UB.

Click here for Ulaanbaatar railway location

Click here for Beijing railway location

You will mostly be spending the next 24 hours confined in a small bunk-bed room that fits 4 people. When crossing the border, Mongolian and Chinese inspectors will check your IDs and on rare occasions, sometimes your luggage. You do have to wait a few hours for the train to change tracks, but it’s the most seamless and effortless way to travel.

I myself even prefer the train to flying. You don’t have to be patted down for security, nor check your luggage. You simply show your ticket and get on the train. There are plenty of people who will be selling drinks and food on stops, although slightly expensive compared to the original price.

Sometimes you meet cool people on the train and share travel stories, food, and good company. It’s something that doesn’t happen often when flying, so for backpackers and adventurous types who don’t want to go through the stressful hassle, book a direct train ticket from either Beijing or Ulaanbaatar.

B) Local Railway / Drive + Bus

Compared to a direct train ride, this method is a lot more annoying, especially if you are traveling with heavy bags and luggage. However, if you are simply traveling with a backpack, it’s comparatively a lot cheaper.

Ulaanbaatar to Erenhot / Erlian

ulaanbaatar main train station

Head to the national railway station. You can either negotiate a price with drivers that are headed towards Zamiin-Uud (border town) or you can book a train ticket to Zamiin-Uud. It usually costs ~35k Tugriks (15 USD)

Drivers usually only take ~8 hours to get to Zamiin Uud from Ulaanbaatar. However, it’s more dangerous and some drivers can be reckless with the speed limit. Trains usually take 12-14 hours.

Beijing to Erenhot / Erlian

muxiyuan bus station beijing

Head to the Muxiyuan bus station and book a ticket to Erlian / Erenhot. You can negotiate a price with 3-rd party vendors outside the bus station. How much it will cost depends on your negotiating skills. Otherwise, official tickets usually cost ~200 Yuans (~ 30 USD)

Make sure you have the writing and pronunciation correctly. I happened to book the wrong ticket and ended up getting lost somewhere in Inner Mongolia.

Finally, How To Actually Cross The Border

Once you are either at Zamiin-Uud train station or Erlian bus station, people will usually ask if you need to cross the border. Be careful of being ripped off if and/or being hassled into uncomfortable situations, some people can be incredibly pushy.

If you like negotiating, you can negotiate the price, but you will ultimately have to choose a driver to cross the border. You are not allowed to walk across the border. You must be transported by a vehicle!

I would advise to mostly go with Mongolian citizens to help you cross the border. Mongolian citizens are able to cross the border with without any visa restrictions, whereas Chinese citizens need a visa. And Mongolians are less likely to rip you off or make you feel uncomfortable.

If you are at the border very early, you will have to wait until 10 AM until it opens.

Zamiin-Uud to Erlian

zamiin uud train station

Once you arrive in Zamiin-Uud, people will ask you if you need to cross the border. Usually it’s 50 Yuan ( ~5 USD) per person to cross and take you to the Erlian bus station.

You will be dropped at the Mongolian border for clearance, picked up again and driven to the Chinese border clearance. Once you pass Chinese border clearance, you can choose to be dropped at the Erlian bus station or somewhere around the city if you prefer.

Once you are at the Erlian bus station, you will be hassled by a lot of vendors who will try to sell you a ticket to Beijing. Tickets are usually 200-300 Yuan (30 USD – 40 USD) depending on your negotiation skills.

Erlian to Zamiin-Uud

erenhot town

After arriving in Erlian, some taxi drivers will ask you if you need to get to the border. If it’s a Mongolian driver, you won’t have much trouble crossing since they are not limited by visa restrictions. They will drive you to the Chinese border clearance, and then the Mongolian border clearance.

If it’s a Chinese national, you will most likely be dropped off at the Chinese border clearance and you will have to find someone else to get you across the Mongolian border. There are plenty of cars passing through, so you won’t have too much trouble. However it is a bit more expensive. Be ready to spend ~10+ USD.

Buses from Ulaanbaatar to Erlian

If you book a bus ticket that goes from Ulaanbaatar to Erlian and back, it’s a bit easier and less hassle to cross the border. You don’t have to negotiate border crossing fees with independent drivers, since it will be direct route. You will have to get off for clearance and such, but you won’t have to waste time worrying about border transit.

This website is in Mongolian, but you could try using Google Translate to make sense of the basics.

Total Estimated Cost

A) Trans Siberian: ~250k (UB to Beijing) or ~450k (Beijing to UB) Tugriks + 20k Tugriks (Food)

B) Local Mongolian Railway: ~35k Tugriks (Zamiin Uud train ticket) + 20k (Food) + 20k (Border crossing) +  90k (Beijing bus ticket) + 20k (Food) = ~185k Tugriks (~80 USD)

C) Overnight Bus: ~55k Tugriks (Bus ticket) + 20k (Food) + 90k (Beijing bus ticket) + 20k (Food) = ~185k Tugriks (~80 USD)

Safe Travels!

Sometimes it’s simply better to pay a little more to make your travel experience more comfortable. Negotiating prices, arguing with locals and being stingy with money is emotionally draining. It’s not where you go, what you see, what you cross off your list, but the experience and the memories you make. Smile! Enjoy your trip!

For aspiring backpackers, check out my list of recommended travel gear for budget travelers.

 

Traditional Clothing

Tradtional Mongolian clothing is simply the deel. Depending on the use and purpose of the deel, the material, the style and look can vary.

Check out this cool video about making the Mongolian deel:

Practical Deel

mongolian nomads wearing deel

The deels that nomads wear are mainly for practical purposes. It’s made out of wool and cloth. No fancy stitching or ornaments. The outer layer of the deel is hardy and tough. It doesn’t burn nor get wet quite easily.

The inner layer consists of wool for heat conservation and feels quite comfortable. There are 2-3 “buttons” around the neck area, but the placement and style can vary based on who sewed the deel.

In most cases you wrap yourself with khadag or with a big belt around your hip area, otherwise the deel will just drape over your body.



Decorative Deel

mongolian man and woman wearing the deel

While the deel most nomads wear are moreso for practical use, Mongolians have modernized the style and look of the deel as well for decoration. The material used to make it is usually more expenseive, such as silk or cotton.

You won’t see a lot of Mongolians wearing the decoration deel for everyday purposes, but for holidays, festivals, and other special events, it’s pretty normal to wear one.

Check out Gobi Cashmere. They make the best modern style deels.

Accessories

Accessories for the deel usually include military style boots, or traditional Mongolian boots are pretty big and bulky with a pointy tip.

Cowboy hats, belts, and other personal accessories look good on deels.

Fashion Trend in Mongolia

If you are visiting major cities like Ulaanbaatar, then you most likely will see Mongolians wearing clothes that are pretty modern. Jeans, dress shoes, t-shirt, etc.

Mongolians living in Ulaanbaatar are very trendy and fashionable, because most people in urban environments tend to judge someone’s character based on the clothes they wear. The usual fashion trend in Mongolia is a mix of Western and Korean / Japanese.

It’s pretty common to see teenagers and adults alike to dye their hair blonde, white, and other intresting colors with unique hairstyles. You won’t see Mongolians wearing any trainer sneakers unless they are going for a workout.

Mongolian kids standing in group
My friends and I on a night out.

Suggested Reads: Learn the Mongolian Language – Free eBook

The official modern day Mongolian writing system is Cyrillic. It’s similar to many Slavic and Central Asian countries that use the Cyrillic alphabet, but it has the additional Ө Ү as vowels which is unique to the Mongolian language. Before using the Cyrillic alphabet Mongolians used to mainly use the traditional script and at one point in time even Latin, for further reading check out: Mongolian writing system.

The vowels and consonents are as follows. Keep in mind that for shorter sounds only 1 vowel is used while for longer sounds 2 same vowels are used and they can mean 2 totally different things.

 

Vowels: А а, И и, О о , Ө ө, У у, Ү ү, Я я, Ю ю, Е е, Ё ё, Й й, Ы ы, Э э

Consonants: Б б, В в, Г г, Д д, Ж ж, З з, К к, Л л, М м, Н н, П п, Р р, С с, Т т, Х х, Ц ц, Ч ч, Ш ш, Щ щ




 

The Alphabet

 

А а – Pronounced like Aahh

Б б – Pronounced like Behh

В в – Pronounced like Vehh

Г г – Pronounced like Gehh

Д д – Pronounced like Dehh

Е е – Pronounced like Yeeh

Ё ё – Pronounced like Yohh

Ж ж – Pronounced like Jehh

З з – Pronounced like Zehh

И и – Pronounced like Ee

Й й – Pronounced like Ee 

К к – Pronounced like Khahh

Л л – Pronounced like ILL. Emphasis on LL as if you are about to spit

М м – Pronounced like Imm

Н н – Pronounced like Inn

О о – Pronounced like Ohh. The O sound used in ORC but hold the O

Ө ө – Pronounced like Uhh. The U sound used in UGH, but hold the U

П п – Pronounced like Pehh

Р р – Pronounced like Irr with rolling R.

С с – Pronounced like Iss

Т т – Pronounced like Tehh

У у – Pronounced like Uhh. The U sound used in LUNAR

Ү ү – Pronounced like Oo. Similar to oops

Ф ф  – Pronounced like Fahh & Fehh

Х х –  – Pronounced like Hahh, Hehh

Ц ц – Pronounced like Ts

Ч ч  – Pronounced like Che

Ш ш  – Pronounced like Ish

Щ щ  – Pronounced like Ishts

ъ – It’s a vowel hardener, no sound

ь – It’s a vowel softener, no sound

Ы ы – Pronounced like Ee

Э э  – Pronounced like Ehh

Ю ю  – Pronounced like Yu

Я я – Pronounced like Ya

Suggested Read: Beginner Mongolian Lessons

RUSSIANS ARE VERY DIRECT

Russians do not take shit from anyone and will tell things how it is. Political correctness is nonexistent and people are not afraid to be bluntly honest when it comes to things. During my flight to Moscow as I pecked my movie screen in front me, a beautiful woman turned back at me and told me to take it easy with a distinct Russian accent. Apparently I was poking too hard and didn’t realize we had a remote control for the screen.

If it were me in her position, I’d silently sit and wait for the poking to stop…

NO ENGLISH

Had it not been for my basic Russian and understanding of Cyrillic alphabet, it would have been a nightmare communicating with the locals. In Moscow, a city of 10 million people, I came across only 2 locals who spoke English proficiently. It is advised to at least know the Cyrillic alphabet if you plan to visit anytime soon, as most Russians will conduct their business in their own tongue.



TOURISTS ARE RARE

As a bloke who could pass for many different nationalities and ethnicities, I had a strange pleasure in seeing the surprised faces of the Russians as soon as I opened my mouth to only speak in a broken elementary Russian. Tourists are not as common in Russia as one may think and even in the capital it’s rare for the average person to have an opportunity to freely converse with a tourist or a foreigner.

Especially, if you are an Indian, Latino, African, and Hispanic, most Russians will look at you with curiosity since it’s not a usual sight. As our posse (odd bunch of Latino, Indian, German, Polish, Korean, and Mongolian) sat in the park, we had eyes darting from left and right, with some trying to make sense of what we were talking about. This young girl even approached us and started talking so that she could practice her English.

Mongolian with Russian Mongolian and Russian

During my Trans Siberian train ride, a few fellow Russians invited me over to join their conversation and we ended up speaking until dawn with a mix of broken English and Russian while holding a dictionary.

SINCERE & GENUINELY HELPFUL

It is true that most Russians have stone cold faces and don’t smile as much as their Western counterparts, but there is a saying in Russia “A laughter without a reason is a sign of stupidity” which they abide by. So if you ever get a Russian to smile, he or she is not doing it out of politeness or courtesy, but because they are genuinely happy.

Mongolians and Russians seem to share this trait when it comes to smiling, however, Russians go out of their way when you ask them for help and directions. Almost everyone walked me to my destination and even asked other strangers for me if they personally didn’t know. In one instance, a taxi driver spent almost an hour driving me around Ulan-Ude without extra charge until I found my hostel. While it clearly was my fault for not knowing where the hostel was, my driver made sure I got there nonetheless.

LESS ADS & SIMPLER LIFESTYLE

Besides the few ad boards near bus and metro stations, you won’t find any glittering lights with 150 inch screens advertising certain brands or products. Russian people are much more present and are not distracted by cellphones, computers, and the internet as much.

Moscow itself is beautiful with aesthetically lit buildings at night with many decorations. It’s very rare to see any flyers, signs, and forms of advertising in the main city centre.

moscow city

Sport sponsorship in Mongolia is still lacking. High-schools and colleges don’t often have varsity clubs and teams that compete with each other unless the educational systems reform and encourage athletic competition among students. The usual way to go professional is through joining professional clubs and associations with your own money and spare time. This holds back a lot of talented and willing individuals from pursuing a career in sports, but Mongolia has been successful in producing great athletes nonetheless.

Mongolians usually excel in Judo, wrestling, and boxing. However, that does not mean we don’t enjoy other types of sport activities either as a hobby or just for the viewing pleasure. Here are 5 of the most popular types of sports we enjoy partaking in or watching.



Wrestling

From a young age, it is expected of Mongolian boys to be at least somewhat competent when it comes to wrestling, Mongolian wrestling that is. The rules are simple; don’t fall before you opponent does. It is a sport that requires a good core as well as upper body strength. During the annual Naadam festival we host the Mongolian wrestling championships, which lasts throughout the entire day. Sometimes a single match can even take 3-4 hours!

Greek wrestling is also popular among the younger generation; you might have heard of Mandakhnaran Ganzorig who became Rio Olympics 2016’s sensation, when his coaches decided to strip down in protest against an unfair ruling.

Mongolian wrestling

Sumo

It is a common sight to see many Mongolians sitting in front of a TV cheering for their favourite Sumo wrestlers. When it comes to sumo, Mongolians do very well and consistently win year to year. Some famous Mongolian sumo wrestling are: Dolgorsürengiin Dagvador AKA Asashoryu, Munkhbat Davaajargal AKA Hakuho, and Davaanyam Byambadorj AKA Harumafuji.

asashiro sumo wrestler
Sumo wrestling champion Dagvadorj

Basketball

When it comes to sports popular in the west, Basketball is widely accepted in the Mongolian culture. In most playgrounds there are hoops for kids to play basketball, and some even spend their hard earned money to rent basketball courts for a few hours.

basketball court in mongolia
Average basketball court in Mongolia

The most popular game set-up called “Buunduh” or free for all allows everyone to join in. The first person to usually score 6-8 hoops gets the privilege to kick the least scored player(s) out of the match, and on it goes until there are 2 players remaining; then it is one on one.

Although Mongolians are far from competing amongst the top countries in the world, Mongolian leagues scout out foreign talent and are able to hire them on a contractual basis. In the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, there are 2 major basketball courts that host league matches and most of the time the seats are full.

Football

Football is another Western sport that is very popular in Mongolia. Although we don’t have that many fields and playgrounds to play as freely as basketball, that doesn’t stop Mongolians from playing street football with its own specific rules.

national stadium ulaanbaatar
The national stadium in Ulaanbaatar

Since football fields are scarce it is common to team up with random strangers and play together as a team, or sometimes classmates make their own teams and play against other teams from other classes or schools on a specific agreed bet.

Boxing & Judo

I am putting Boxing and Judo in the same category since they were the blessing of 2008 during the Beijing Olympics. Mongolians took to the streets and cheered their two national athletes for winning the first gold medals in the Olympics.

It was a rare sight to see all Mongolians throughout the capital, honking, laughing, kissing one another, and running amok while the police let them. Naidan Tuvshinbayar and Enkhbat Badaruugan received a hero’s welcome after the games and were awarded handsomely by the government.

Many youth were inspired by their achievements and either picked up Boxing or Judo. Usually the commonplace they all train is in the Sporting Palace near the Sukhbaatar (Chinggis) square.

Hope you enjoyed this article, for further interesting reads, check out this article on Morin Khuur.

After almost 5 humble years in the land of the free, USA, it is time for me set sail for a different horizon. It’s crazy how fast time flies and before you know it, you’re wondering how everything went by so quickly without you having the chance to do the things you wished to do. Although I am grateful for everyone who’ve come across my journeys to make me who I am today, it’s also hard to deny how differently things would have turned out had I known what I know now.

My values. What excites me and what makes me get up in the morning? I wish I had asked those questions a little earlier… We are so caught up with unnecessary distractions only to keep ourselves busy, so that we don’t have to ask the more important questions in life. Instead, we’re more concerned with “What is Kim even wearing?” “Does she like me back?” “I got so fucked up last night bro!” “That shirt is so cute, I have to buy it”



Funnily enough, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be as a child. I just never took the time to ask, to connect with myself again for a long while. Deep within ourselves, we always know what we want, but we’re drowned with mediocrity of life and its distractions. Looking back, was it all worth it? Was it worth trying to impress others? Was it worth it to “grow up”? Was it worth it to “be realistic”?

I am an individual with a different perspective, you are an individual with a unique perspective, we all are individuals with unique perspectives and gifts. Yet we try to hide them, bury them, to avoid asking the questions about ourselves because we are afraid of what we’ll find. Find that pearl and let it shine! Find that butterfly in your stomach! Find that excitement and joy you once had in your life!

Why is reading important?

If you wish to better your life, reading is one of the most crucial tools that will you help you achieve your goals. You have the opportunity to learn a lifetime of failures, successes, and stories from the person you aspire to be like.

I admit that reading felt like a dreadful experience. Nothing seemed more boring than staring at a group of words trying to decipher what it meant. However, I gave it another chance when turning twenty, and the benefits that I received from the sheer amount of knowledge and information got me hooked. If you wish to live your life to the fullest, YOU HAVE TO READ!

Choosing the right books

It comes down to personal preference, but I mainly suggest books that are related to self-development, autobiographies, training manual, etc, and this is what the article is aimed towards. Some people read for their personal enjoyment, but we’re here to learn, so I won’t talking much about literature. Anyways, let’s get down to business.



Method #1: The Lazyman Method

Do you drive to work? Do you go to the gym? Do you take brisk walks? If you do, put on a pair of headphones or turn on your speaker and try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks with 30 day free trial. It’s both enjoyable and fun to soak in information as you perform any physical exercises.

Let’s break down the math.

1 Hour Commute x 5 Days = 5 Hours
45 Minute Workout x 3 Days = 2.25 Hours
45 Minutes of Cooking x 3 Days = 2.25 Hours

That’s almost 10 hours in total. I didn’t even include any other monotonous activities that can add to that. 10 hours of an audiobook read is almost 300 pages worth of material, so with that pace, you’d be finishing one book per week easily. If you have faster comprehension skills, you can speed it up 2x and finish it in half the time.

Method #2: Do Something While I Wait Method

Instead of going to facebook to watch cat videos or youtube to watch epic-fail compilations, download Kindle, Nook Reader, or iBooks, and start reading. You’ll be amazed how much you can read, just by spacing out your reading sessions.

5 minutes = ~5 pages x 3 days (using the bathroom) = 15 pages
10 minutes = ~ 10 pages x 5 days (waiting for class, friend, etc) = 50 pages
30 minutes = ~25 x 3 days (commuting) = 75 pages.

That’s well over half a book, Compile all the minutes you waste waiting for someone to show up or while taking the train & bus, going to the bathroom, etc, and within 2 weeks, an average sized book can be read.

Method # 3: The Grinding Method

I personally never do this often, but if you really want to get the book out of the way. The most effective method proposed by YouTuber Fight Mediocrity, is to speed up your audiobook by 2-3 times while you actually read along your paperback or digital version book. An average book takes 7-8 hours to read on an audiobook, so if you speed your audiobook by 2 times, it will only take 3-4 hours to finish a book.

Final words – it’s more than just bragging rights

There are snobs out there who brag about the amount of books they’ve read, but my main point is to help you learn more by becoming more efficient. You can get a lot done and become more smarter, wiser, and knowledgeable while you perform the most mundane tasks in life.

Books give you a shortcut to learning the things that took over a lifetime to master by others. However, we only retain 7-10% of what we read unless we apply it to our every-day life. As soon as you finish a book, write down the most important points you’ve learned and start implementing it to create the life you want.