Road Conditions and Safety:
- Operating a vehicle outside of Ulaanbaatar is unsafe, particularly after dark. Outside of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia has few paved roads and even fewer street lights. Most roads have only two lanes and no shoulders and most sealed roads need resurfacing. Trucks commonly carry overloaded cargo. Livestock crossing roads, even high traffic ones, is common. Pedestrians also cross all types of roads at undesignated locations. Passing is difficult and dangerous due to the narrow, highly-trafficked nature of the roads.
Mongolian motorists are sometimes aggressive, commonly cutting each other off, performing illegal turns, driving through red lights, and/or suddenly stopping in the middle of the road. Moreover, driving while intoxicated is common. Although Mongolia is a right-hand traffic country, more than half of all vehicles have the steering wheel on the right-hand side. Most motorcycle and moped drivers have limited experience sharing the road. Motorists rarely respect pedestrian right-of-way, even in crosswalks.
- Driving off-road in Mongolia can be dangerous, especially without a knowledgeable Mongolian guide. Those contemplating off-road driving in Mongolia should bring standard vehicle maintenance equipment, a good GPS unit, and a reliable satellite phone. Exercise particular caution when driving off-road during winter. Mongolia?s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) regularly assists stuck vehicles. However, off-road rescue can take days given the remoteness and rough terrain, and few NEMA rescue crews speak English. Foreign motorists may face life-threatening situations after becoming stranded in remote locations without sufficient sources of food, water, and heat.
- To help reduce traffic and air pollution, police actively restrict certain license plate numbers from driving into downtown Ulaanbaatar on certain days of the week, usually alternating odd/even numbers.
- All foreign residents must carry a Mongolian driving permit. It is not legal to drive in Mongolia with a U.S. driver?s license. U.S. citizen tourists may legally drive in Mongolia for up to six months with a valid international driver?s license, but must have a Mongolian license thereafter. Automobile insurance is mandatory. For information concerning Mongolian driver?s licenses, vehicle inspection, road taxes, and vehicle insurance, contact the Embassy of Mongolia in Washington, DC.
- If you are involved in a collision, never move your vehicle until after the police arrive to assess the scene–even if your vehicle is blocking traffic. Moving your vehicle will incur a fine. Be prepared to wait because it can take hours before police arrive at the scene of the collision.
Ulaanbaatar has a fairly reliable bus system. Bus maps are not posted in English and buses can become extremely crowded–be alert against pickpocketing. Unofficial, unregistered, un-metered taxis are rampant in Ulaanbaatar, however registered taxis are also available. Registered taxis may refuse service during rush hour, however.
The safety and maintenance standards of rental car companies vary. Local tour companies can provide cars with drivers, but the drivers? experience, knowledge, and English-speaking abilities will vary.
For more information, please visit our Road Safety page.
Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Mongolia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Mongolia?s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.
With few exceptions, Mongolian hospitals do not meet Western standards. Although most doctors and emergency responders are dedicated professionals, their training and equipment are sub-standard. Most modern medical facilities are in Ulaanbaatar, though some public and private hospitals in larger provincial cities offer medical services on par with those in the capital. Medical services may be completely unavailable in remote areas. Mongolia does not have helicopter medical evacuation and those who require medical assistance in remote areas must drive to the nearest major town. Medical evacuation to Ulaanbaatar is conducted by commercial air carriers. Some pharmacies in Ulaanbaatar carry European or U.S. pharmaceuticals, but quantity and variety is limited. Most pharmaceuticals are made in China or Russia, and lack English labels. See our list of medical facilities in Ulaanbaatar.
Air Pollution: Due to the pervasiveness of coal-burning for domestic heating, Ulaanbaatar and most other Mongolian cities suffer severe air pollution during winter. The U.S. Embassy?s air quality monitor registers Air Quality Indices (AQIs) in excess of 300 most days from December through February. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describes AQIs above 300 as ?hazardous.? Air pollution can cause both short- and long-term health effects and poses an especially high risk to children, pregnant women, the elderly, outdoor enthusiasts, and people with heart or lung disease. Travelers planning to visit Ulaanbaatar during winter should consult a medical professional and should, at the very least, consider carrying an N95 mask to help filter out harmful particulates. For reliable and timely air pollution readings, check the U.S. Embassy?s live air quality monitor.
Water Quality: The quality of drinking water varies throughout Mongolia and it is likely not up to U.S. standards for potability. Most Mongolians do not drink tap water and instead prefer to consume bottled water for their domestic use.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation. The U.S. Embassy does not provide medical evacuation, but will contact the insurance company on your behalf to arrange medical evacuation if necessary.
If traveling with prescription medication, check the Government of Mongolia?s Customs Agency to ensure the medication is legal in Mongolia. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor?s prescription.
The following diseases are prevalent:
- Meningococcal meningitis
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Local laws and Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, then you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Customs: Mongolian customs authorities strictly enforce laws regulating the import and export of firearms, ammunition, precious metals, antiquities and drugs. Importation of firearms or ammunition requires prior government approval. All precious metals should be declared on arrival. Exporting antiquities requires a special customs clearance certificate issued by an authorized antique dealer at the time of purchase. Importing medicines is not allowed. Medicines for personal use must have doctor?s prescription. Vitamins are limited only for personal use. Quantity of more than 2 packages will result in taxation. For additional information, contact the Embassy of Mongolia.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report ? see country reports
- Human Rights Report ? see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: Mongolia?s criminal code prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, language, race, age, gender, social status, professional position, religion, education, or medical status. There are no laws or legal provisions that criminalize being LGBTI or that specifically target the LGBTI community. However, NGOs continue to report that LGBTI individuals face violence and discrimination both in public and at home based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. There were also reports that LGBTI persons face greater discrimination and fear in rural areas than in Ulaanbaatar. The Government of Mongolia does not recognize same-sex spouses for visa and residency purposes.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Major streets in Ulaanbaatar feature textured sidewalks to aid visually impaired pedestrians, but numerous obstacles prevent persons with disabilities from moving freely. Government buildings and public transportation remain largely inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Mongolian elevators are often too small to accommodate a standard-sized wheelchair. Service animals are rare and are often barred from entering public buildings.
Women Travelers: Domestic violence and sexual assault are serious problems in Mongolia. See the Safety & Security section above, as well as our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Safety and Security
Travelers are urged to review the Mongolia Travel Advisory, which provides information about safety and security concerns affecting the country.
The phone number to report crimes to the local police in Mongolia is 102. The number to call an ambulance or fire truck in an emergency is 103. Please note that local authorities, including the operators responding to these emergency numbers, do not commonly speak English.
Crime: Mongolia is a relatively safe country for foreigners. However, both street crime and violent crime are on the rise, especially in the larger towns and cities. Crime typically peaks during the Naadam summer festival in July and during the Tsagaan Sar (Lunar New Year) festival in January or February. Most street crime occurs late at night, often outside bars and nightclubs.
Theft: Pickpocketing and bag-snatching can occur at any time, especially in crowded places like markets, train stations, and popular tourist attractions. You should take precautions to protect your personal effects when in public. The Embassy has also received reports of visitors? accommodations being burgled while occupied. These burglaries most often occurred when travelers were staying in yurt (known in Mongolia as ger) camps where locking the door to the accommodation may be impossible.
Robbery: The most common form of robbery experienced by visitors to Mongolia is mugging. You are most likely to be mugged if you are alone in unfamiliar urban neighborhoods after dark, or in unregistered private vehicles operating as taxis. Stick to well-lit and well-established tourist areas and use registered taxis whenever possible.
Sexual assault: Though infrequent, the Embassy does receive reports of sexual assaults perpetrated against travelers. These reports indicate that perpetrators are most often familiar with the victim in some way such as tour guides or employees of locations frequented by tourists, like ger camps and monasteries. If you are a victim of sexual assault contact the Mongolian police immediately and seek assistance from the Embassy by calling +976 7007-6001. Female travelers are encouraged to avoid traveling alone in Mongolia and all travelers should research and hire only reputable tour agencies with established safety and security records, especially when visiting remote areas far from the capital.
The police will instruct victims of sexual assault to obtain an examination at the criminal forensic institute, which is in Ulaanbaatar city or in provincial centers. A medical check from any other clinic/hospital will not be admitted into evidence at any judicial proceeding. The Embassy can assist in helping you locate these centers.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance.
Street harassment: Street harassment is especially prevalent at night and in areas outside the capital. The most common targets of street harassment are unaccompanied women and foreign men accompanying Mongolian or other Asian women. Street harassment may range from verbal abuse to physical assault. Certain nationalist groups also perpetrate premeditated attacks against foreigners. Most street harassment occurs in or near bars and nightclubs, and alcohol is often involved. All travelers should avoid walking alone after dark, avoid using unregistered taxi cabs, and moderate their use of alcohol in order to avoid becoming an easy target for harassment in public.
Drug offenses: Mongolian police are particularly keen on combatting the use of drugs, a problem they generally see as imported by foreigners. Penalties for drug possession and or trafficking in Mongolia range from one to twelve years imprisonment.
Smuggling of contraband goods, antiquities, and wildlife: Smuggling of these items is prevalent across both the Russian and Chinese borders. Travelers have been known to be duped into transporting contraband goods or controlled antiquities from Mongolia. Be wary of other passengers requesting help with their luggage, as it could contain illicit articles. Penalties for smuggling in Mongolia vary based on the items smuggled and range from one month of electronic monitoring to eight years imprisonment and fines from 450,000 MNT to 40,000,000 MNT equivalent to 160 USD to 14,000 USD as of September 2020.
Demonstrations: Demonstrations are common in many parts of Mongolia but are most prominent in the capital Ulaanbaatar. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can become confrontational and escalate into violence. Protesters may block traffic on roads, including major thoroughfares. U.S. citizens should avoid demonstration areas and exercise caution if near any protests. Some demonstrations by Mongolian ultra-nationalists take a xenophobic turn and may place foreigners at heightened risk should they encounter these events. U.S. citizens should avoid participating in demonstrations and other activities that might be deemed political by Mongolian authorities.
Alcohol: If you choose to drink alcohol, it is important to do so in moderation and to stop and seek medical attention if you begin to feel ill. Alcohol is an important aspect of Mongolian social culture and strangers may offer to drink with travelers as a welcoming gesture. While most of these offers are innocuous and truly a friendly gesture, travelers should be wary of accepting beverages offered on the street by strangers who approach them late at night as these are often the precursor to a robbery. The prevalent use of alcohol is also connected to a high frequency of physical altercations sometimes resulting in injury. U.S. citizen travelers are known to have become wittingly or unwittingly involved in such altercations and injured.
Driving under the influence: Mongolian police take driving under the influence very seriously and enforcement is vigorous in urban areas. Penalties for driving under the influence in Mongolia include a one-year suspension of driving privileges and a 400,000 MNT fine, roughly 140 USD as of September 2020. Travelers should exercise the same precautions as they would in the United States, use of a designated driver or a taxi, to avoid operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
Victims of Crime:
Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes. If you are the victim of a crime you should contact the local authorities to file a Mongolian police report. You should also inform the U.S. Embassy. A crime may only be reported in person at the local police district having jurisdiction over the location where the crime occurred. Before reporting a crime, you may wish to consult an attorney. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of English-speaking lawyers that you may access online. You must have your passport or residency permit with you.
Once you report a crime to the police Mongolian law requires that you remain in the country for the duration of both the investigation and any subsequent trial. In some instances, the law provides for a victim to appoint a legal representative to take their place.
The police will instruct victims of assault or sexual assault to undergo an examination by the criminal forensic institute which is located in Ulaanbaatar or in provincial centers. No other medical examination will be accepted as evidence by Mongolian authorities. The Embassy can assist in helping you locate these centers.
It is important to note that, if a victim does not file a complaint, police may refuse to investigate the crime–even if they have probable cause to suspect that a crime took place.
Please see our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
If you are the victim of a crime the U.S. Embassy can:
- help you find appropriate medical care and provide a list of doctors and hospitals
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide our information on victim?s compensation programs in the U.S. as well as local resources
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation, which includes accommodation and flights back to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- replace a stolen, lost, or damaged passport
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated. Mongolia?s vast area and limited road and communications infrastructure make emergency response challenging for local and national authorities. Mongolia?s severe weather?desert conditions in the summer in many tourist areas and dangerously cold in the winter (-40? F) across the country?exacerbates the potential for urgent situations, especially in the event of injury or becoming lost or disoriented outside of city centers. The Embassy recommends travelers not drive outside of Ulaanbaatar or other city centers after sunset. In winter visitors should always keep high-quality cold-weather clothing in vehicles, even for short trips, to protect oneself in the event of delay or becoming stranded. Routine safety inspections for emergency and medical equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and tour guides and tourist attraction staff may not be adequately trained or certified by the host government or recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, basic medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities, with significant limitations on the availability of medication and quality of health care. First responders are generally unable to quickly access areas outside of major cities to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Entry exit Requirementsh
Visit the Mongolian Immigration Agency?s website or the website of the Mongolian Embassy in Washington, DC for the most current information on entry, exit, and visa requirements.
Tourism & Business Travel: You do not need a visa if visiting for fewer than 90 days, but your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your date of arrival. For stays of more than 30 days, you must register with Mongolian Immigration within seven days of arrival. Failure to register will result in a fine of $100-$300 upon departure and you will not be allowed to depart the country until the fine is paid in full to the Mongolian Immigration Agency. You will also be fined if you stay beyond your 90-day admission even if you extend your stay due to circumstances beyond your control. This fine, which accumulates daily for every day your stay extends beyond 90 days, must also be paid in full before Mongolian authorities will allow you to depart.
Work, Study, Reside: If you plan to visit, work, study, or reside in Mongolia for more than 90 days you must apply for a visa at the Mongolian Embassy in Washington, DC, the Mongolian Consulate General in San Francisco, or the Mongolian Mission to the United Nations in New York before you depart the United States.
Overland Travel to/from China or Russia: Only the Zamiin Uud border crossing in the south with China and the Sukhbaatar/Altanbulag border crossing in the north with Russia, are always open to foreign travelers. Other overland ports of entry are open sporadically. The status of border crossings is available in Mongolian.
Other Entry and Exit Requirements: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Mongolia.
Minors traveling with guardians who are not their parents must travel with a signed, notarized letter from at least one parent authorizing the minor?s travel. Minors traveling alone by air must present a signed, notarized letter from at least one parent attesting that the minor will utilize the services of the airline to ensure the child is accompanied throughout the trip.
- The Embassy of Mongolia is located at: 2833 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007; telephone (202) 333-7117 and 202 333-7017; email email@example.com.
- The Consulate General of Mongolia is located at: 465 California Street Suite 200, San Francisco, CA 94104; telephone (415) 622-4000; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Permanent Mission of Mongolia to the United Nations is located at: 6 East 77th Street, New York, NY 10075; telephone (212) 861-9460; email email@example.com.
See the Department of State?s Fact Sheet on Mongolia for information on U.S.-Mongolia relations.