I drove for the first time in Mongolia! Our car came last week, and I finally needed to go somewhere badly enough that I took the plunge and ventured onto the roads of UB. If you could see the driving here, you may have more respect for the fact that I have returned from my outings unscathed. From what I can tell, the rules of driving are something like:
- Stay on the right side of the road, most of the time, if you can
- Turn left, or make a full U-turn in the middle of the street, whenever and wherever you need to
- Don’t hit cars turning in front of you
- Honk if you are passing a car on the wrong side of the road, so that oncoming traffic will know a car is heading towards them
- Swerve all over the road to avoid the massive pot holes
- Don’t let too much space get between you and the vehicle in front of you
- Never yield to pedestrians
- When you get in an accident, don’t pull over to the side of the road so that traffic can get around you; instead stay put and wait on the police to come and take measurements (no joke) to diagram and document the accident — every accident
- And weirdly enough, never turn right on red — people actually follow this one
Pedestrians definitely don’t have the right of way, and often the traffic lights aren’t synched with the pedestrian lights. When I first got here I found the best strategy for crossing the street on foot was to find a Mongolian and go when they go.
The not yielding to pedestrians has been the most difficult rule for me to follow as a driver — There has been some “You go,” “No, you go first” motioning between me and the pedestrians, which in the end just holds up traffic because they are so conditioned to the not yielding rule.
There are stop lights, and there’s so much traffic you don’t get going fast enough for major wrecks. But, you do need to be aggressive. Driving in UB is not for the faint of heart.