No Visas Please
I had 2 straight weeks of vacation that needed to be taken and a list of places I wanted to take Yagmur abroad. My one condition for this next international trip: no visa applications. From the 8 foreign countries we had set foot on, Yagmur had to get a visa/eTA for 5 of them compared to my 1.
I knew this was going to be one of my craziest itineraries ever. Combining visa free countries with low budget flights, I created a trip that spanned from Asia to Africa with little room for mistakes. The lucky countries were: Mongolia, Belarus, Turkey, & Morocco.
6 separate tickets + 10 actual flights + 3 overnight flights/airport stays = Probably going to be a bumpy ride.
Welcome to Mongolia!
It was a long flight from New York to Ulaanbaatar but we made it!
We arrived bright and early to Ulaanbaatar. We paid a cab 10 USD to take us near our Airbnb where we withdrew some cash from an ATM and found the Mongolian version of a 7/11 for some coffee.
We spent a few days exploring Ulaanbaatar. We headed over to check out Gandantegchinlen Monastery. There is an entrance fee (1.5 USD) and a fee if you want to take a pic of the inside (2.6 USD).
There’s usually no one working the booth. However, the monks will come find you as you walk around and ask you to pay. Make sure they give you your ticket! They only gave us one for the two of us 🙁
Be sure to walk around both inside and out!
We also headed over and checked out the main square: Sukhbaatar Square.
There’s a good view point in the southern part of Ulaanbaatar. We hopped on a bus going south for only 500 MNT (20 cents USD) and got off around Zaisan Monument. There’s an official path on the north side. We ended up on the south side and walked up from there.
My One Wish
After exploring all of Ulaanbaatar, we decided it was time to escape the city. Yagmur found out about a huge Genghis Khan statue she thought would be interesting to visit. I was up for anything. The only thing I did want however, was to hang out in a ger.
Our first stop? The Genhkis Khan Equestrian Statue of course.
We then stopped by Turtle Rock:
We also walked up to Aryapala Temple Meditation Center for some meditation.
After all the walking, we got to hang out in a Mongolian family’s ger and enjoyed a delicious meal!
The Ride of Her Life
We took up the chance to go horse back-riding in an open, Mongolian field. We had two Mongolian guys to take us around.
It was fun and beautiful until the unforeseeable happened. Distracted by the mountains, the corner of my eye missed the jolt which was immediately followed by a scream. I turned my head and Yagmur was gone. Her horse had wildly, charged off at the blink of an eye. Franticly screaming, Yagmur gripped the saddle for dear life as her right leg dangled helplessly in the air.
It took 2 seconds for the three of us to grasp what had just happened. On the 3rd second, the Mongolian guy who had been riding next to her began pursuit.
“Let’s go!” I told the guy to my left and we quickly followed on the 4th.
“This can’t be real” I thought as our horses galloped right behind. The chase was soon over, as the first guy managed to bring her horse to a halt.
By the time the guy to my left and I reached her, Yagmur was off the horse, shaking under a small tree, trying to process what had just happened.
“Did you fall off? Are you hurt?” I gently asked as I rushed over to her, watching her catch her breath.
“No, I’m okay…” she began “the horse just went crazy!” she continued, reliving the scare. I gave her a hug and held her for a bit.
“You did great not letting go. How did you hang on?” I asked trying to get her to relax through talking.
“There’s a handle at the front of my saddle. I told myself, ‘Yagmur, you need to hang on.’ and somehow I did” she explained.
“Let’s sit down for as long as you need. Everything is okay now.” I told her.
Once she was ready to head back, we got up. “What do you think, can you ride back?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I’m a little afraid now.” She said still trying to decide.
“Babe, I understand you’re afraid but you can beat it. Life will only get harder if you hang around me because I’m nothing but trouble.” I said jokingly.
“You’re right about that.” She replied and shot me a smirk.
“You are strong babe. We’ll switch horses and ride back. What do you say?”
“Okay, let’s go!”
We switched horses and I took Yamgur’s scarf. Her scarf had gotten loose and had hit the horse in the eye which sent the horse into a frenzy. We took our time on our way back to the ger.
As we slowly headed back, we stopped every now and then to enjoy the scenery.
We eventually headed back to Ulaanbaatar to get a good night’s rest for our next flight.
Thinking about what happened to Yagmur, I was reminded about why life gets tough. There are many different reasons why life isn’t always easy. I’ve thought about it a lot over the years and came to one conclusion: life is tough to tell good stories 🙂
Total Cost: $658 (SRB: $336; YA: $322)
Switching gears to the numbers (yes, those numbers are the real numbers), let’s be transparent and breakdown the main drivers of how we were able to keep this trip’s costs so low:
- Full price, one way tickets from NYC to ULN was $531 pp. I was able to use 26k points pp to bring each ticket down to $141.
- The ticket cost to leave Ulaanbaatar (arriving to Minsk, Belarus), will be included in the S&Y Minsk, Belarus post.
- Our central, one bedroom Airbnb in Ulaanbaatar cost $27 per night. For two people, that comes out to about $13 pp.
- A meal in Ulaanbaatar will come out to be roughly $5 or less!
- We stayed for 4 days/3 nights.
Her Budget (37.31% LTD)
A win is a win so let’s take bask in it while we can. This was one of her cheapest cities by far. The only city to beat her $322 Ulaanbaatar trip was Washington D.C. at $196, for obvious reasons. I was glad to be able to move some costs around and take full advantage of my travel points. I’m definitely going to appreciate the minor increase of 2.15% to her overall budget leaving her at 37.31% LTD.
Our Progress (50.00%)
We are half way there people! For me, this is a huge milestone when it comes to all the planning involved in these trips. We will keep it up and continue one city at a time!
The night flights were tough and the horseback riding could have gone so much worse. Nevertheless, we keep our chin up, arm raised, and ready for what our next journey will bring!