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Travel Security Advice for Mongolia

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mongolia_mapMongolia_Overview

 


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Mongolia is a vast country of mountains, lakes, deserts and grasslands approximately the size of Alaska.  It peacefully abandoned its communist system in 1990 and has been successfully making the transition to a parliamentary democracy.  Economic reforms continue, although the country’s development will depend on considerable infrastructure investment, particularly in the mining, energy, transportation, and communication sectors.  Travelers to Mongolia should be aware that shortcomings in these areas might have an impact on travel plans.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Mongolia for additional information.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Mongolia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.

The U.S. Embassy is located at Micro Region 11, Big Ring Road, Ulaanbaatar.  The telephone number is (976) 11-329-095, the Consular Section fax number is (976) 11-353-788.  The Embassy after-hours emergency telephone number is 976-9911-4168.  The This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it directly.  The Consular Section is open for American Citizens Services Monday and Thursday from 1-3 p.m., except on U.S. and Mongolian holidays.

ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A valid passport is required for U.S. citizen visitors.  No visa is required for U.S. citizens visiting for fewer than 90 days; however, visitors planning to stay in Mongolia for more than 30 days are required to register with the Office of Immigration, Naturalization and Foreign Citizens in Ulaanbaatar within the first seven days of arrival.  U.S. citizen visitiors who fail to register and who stay longer than 30 days, even for reasons beyond their control, will be stopped at departure, temporarily denied exit, and fined.  It is recommended that visitors who will be in Mongolia beyond 30 days register with the Office of  Immigration, Naturalization and Foreign Citizens within the first seven days of their arrival.

Mongolia requires a valid exit visa to depart the country.  These are normally issued at the port of departure (e.g. the international airport) but are routinely denied for a variety of reasons including civil disputes, pending criminal investigation, or for immigration violations.  Exit visas will be denied until the dispute is resolved or a court has made a decision.  The Mongolian government maintains the right to detain foreign citizens indefinitely without appeal until the situation has been resolved. The Embasy is aware of U.S. citizens who have been denied an exit visa under these circumstances.

U.S. citizens planning to work or study in Mongolia should apply for a visa at a Mongolian embassy or consulate outside of Mongolia.  Failure to do so may result in authorities denying registration, levying a fine, and requiring that the visitor leave the country.  Travelers arriving or departing Mongolia through China or Russia should be aware of Chinese and Russian visa regulations (transiting twice will require a double- or multiple-entry visa) and note that some land-entry points have varying days and hours of operation. Many small land border posts do not operate on a fixed schedule.  Travelers need to check with immigration authorities to make certain the post they intend to use will be open when they want to enter. Travelers planning travel to Russia should get visas prior to arriving in Mongolia, because they are difficult to obtain at the Russian Embassy in Mongolia.  For more information on these requirements, see the Country Specific Information for Russia and China.

Travelers without Mongolian visas are subject to an exit tax payable either in U.S. dollars or Mongolian Tugrugs upon departure.  U.S. citizen visitors to Mongolia do not require a visa if they stay less than 30 days, and no fee is payable if they depart within the 30-day period.  If they stay longer without having registered with immigration, a penalty fee will be assessed at time of departure.  Travelers should inquire whether the exit tax is included with the price of the airline ticket at the time of purchase.  In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. 

These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child’s travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present.  Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Visit the Embassy of Mongolia website for the most current visa information.  Travelers can also contact the Embassy of Mongolia at 2833 M Street NW, Washington, DC  20007, telephone (202) 333-7117 for the most current visa information.

Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Mongolia.  Please verify this information with the
Embassy of Mongolia before you travel.

Information about
dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

There have been no significant acts of terrorism or extremism in Mongolia. There are no regions of instability in the country.  U.S. citizens are advised to avoid all protests, including political protests, and street demonstrations that occur occasionally in Ulaanbaatar, as demonstrations may become violent at any time.  For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.

CRIME:

Over the past few years there has been a significant rise in street crime in Mongolia, particularly in Ulaanbaatar, the capital.  Violent crime, particularly aggravated assault, is increasing, and it is not advisable to walk alone through the city after dark.  The most common crimes against foreigners are pick pocketing and bag snatching.  There are reports of organized groups operating in open areas, usually after dark, who surround, grab, and choke an individual in order to search the victim’s pockets.  Thieves have also sliced victims’ bag straps and clothing in attempts to reach wallets, cell phones, and other valuables.  U.S. citizens who detect pick pocket attempts should not confront the thieves, as they may become violent.

Please be aware that there has been in increase in assaults on inter-racial couples over the last few years, especially targeting foreign men with local women. 

These assaults range from organized attacks by nationalist groups to spontaneous incidents in bars.

In general, travelers should be extremely cautious at these specific locations:

  • Chinggis Khan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar:  Tourists arriving at and departing from this airport are frequently targeted for robbery and pick pocketing by organized groups.
  • The State Department Store and the Area Around the Circus:  Tourists are targeted by organized pick pocket gangs at the entries/exits/elevators of the store and in the areas around the store along Peace Avenue and down to the circus.
  • Naran Tuul Covered Market:  Organized criminal groups look for and target foreigners for robbery and pick pocketing.

Caution is advised when using public transportation or when taking taxis and in crowded public areas, such as open-air markets, the Central Post Office, and the Gandan Monastery. 

Please exercise extreme caution when taking taxis, as there have been several reports of foreigners being robbed and/or assaulted while riding in taxis.  It is recommended to have the hotel, restaurant, or store make taxi arrangements for you.  Also, request that a native speaker write your destination address in Mongolian, since most cab drivers do not speak English.  Private unmarked cars often act as taxis here; their availability is high, but their consistency of performance, fare, and safety are low.  It is not recommended to use unmarked taxis.  If you find a cab driver that you like (English speaker, trustworthy, clean car, etc.) request their mobile phone number for future use.

Crime rises sharply before, during, and after the Naadam Summer Festival in July, throughout the summer tourist season, and during and after Tsagaan Sar, the Winter Festival, in January or February.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Ulaanbaatar does not have a dedicated tourist police unit, nor do they have any centralized reporting system.  Allegations of criminal activity should be reported at the police district responsible for the area where the crime took place.  Individuals may wish to consult with an attorney before reporting a crime as there have been reports that the local police can be uncooperative or that they may aggressively question crime victims.  The victims of crime may be required to remain in the country for the duration of the police investigation and prosecution.

The local equivalents to the “911” emergency line in Mongolia are 102 for the police department and 103 for a medical emergency.

Please see ou
r information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Traveler’s checks in U.S. dollars are accepted at some hotels and may be converted to dollars or Tugrugs at several banks.  Credit cards can be used at a variety of hotels, restaurants, and shops in Ulaanbaatar.  Outside of the capital, travelers should have cash.  Cash advances against credit cards are available at some commercial banks such as Trade and Development Bank, Golomt Bank, Khan Bank, and Xac Bank. 

International bank wire transfers are also possible.  There are a handful of VISA and Maestro/Cirrus ATM machines in Ulaanbaatar, but they do not always function and are not reliable.  ATM machines do not exist outside the capital.

U.S. consular officers may not always receive timely notification of the detention or arrest of a U.S. citizen, particularly outside of Ulaanbaatar.  U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, evidence of identity and citizenship are readily available.  Severe fuel shortages and problems with central heating and electrical systems may cause seriously reduced heating levels and power outages in Ulaanbaatar and other cities during the winter.  Smaller towns in the countryside may have no heat or electricity at all.  The Embassy advises all U.S. citizen residents in Mongolia to be prepared to depart if there is a complete energy failure.  General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Mongolian customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning import and export of items such as firearms, ammunition, and antiquities.  Import of firearms or ammunition requires prior approval from the Government of Mongolia.  Export of antiquities requires a special customs clearance certificate issued by authorized antique shops at the time of purchase.  For additional information contact the Embassy of Mongolia at: 2833 M Street NW, Washington, DC  20007, telephone: (202) 333-7117.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical facilities in Mongolia are very limited and do not meet most Western standards, especially for emergency health care requirements.  Many brand-name Western medicines are unavailable.  Ulaanbaatar, the capital, has the majority of medical facilities inside the country; outside of Ulaanbaatar, medical facilities and treatment are extremely limited or non-existent.  Specialized emergency care for infants and the elderly is not available.  Doctors and hospitals usually expect immediate payment in cash for health services.  Infectious diseases, such as plague, meningococcal meningitis, and tuberculosis, are present at various times of the year.  Sanitation in some restaurants is inadequate, particularly outside of Ulaanbaatar.  Stomach illnesses are frequent.  Bottled water and other routine precautions are advisable.

Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation either within Mongolia or to other countries, are extremely expensive and can cost in excess of $100,000.  Evacuation companies will not initiate an evacuation without a fee guarantee beforehand and in full. Please check with your insurance provider before traveling and consider supplemental medical or travel insurance.  Please note that not all insurance companies provide medical evacuation coverage for Mongolia.  Currently, SOS Medica Mongolia UB International Clinic is the only clinic that maintains a dedicated medical evacuation service in Mongolia.

Local hospitals generally do not contact the Embassy about ill or injured U.S. citizens in their care; hospitalized U.S. citizens who need consular assistance from the Embassy should ask the doctor or hospital to contact the U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar.  For more information, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar, which has a list of medical facilities available to foreigners (also available on the U.S. Embassy website) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s international traveler’s hotline (see below).

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC website.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website.  The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Mongolia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving in Ulaanbaatar can be extremely difficult due to poorly maintained streets, malfunctioning traffic lights, inadequate street lighting, a shortage of traffic signs, and undisciplined pedestrians.  There has been a dramatic increase in the number of vehicles on the roads in recent years, but the knowledge and skills of the driving population have not kept pace with the growth in the number of automobiles on the streets.  There are many metered taxis in Ulaanbaatar.  There are a few car rental companies, but safety and maintenance standards are uncertain, and rental vehicles should be utilized with caution.  Cars with drivers can be obtained from local tourist companies.  Public transportation within the capital is extensive, cheap, and generally reliable, but is also extremely crowded (see Information on Crime above), with the result that pickpockets often victimize foreigners.  For specific information concerning Mongolian drivers permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, contact the Embassy of Mongolia at 2833 M Street NW, Washington, DC  20007, telephone (202) 333-7117.

Please refer to our
Road Safety page for more information. Also, we suggest that you visit the website of Mongolia's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.

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 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.

The U.S. Embassy prohibits U.S. government personnel from using AeroMongolia (AM) and the domestic services of Mongolian International Air Transport (MIAT) for official travel because of uncertainties regarding service and maintenance schedules, aircraft certification, and insurance status.  This prohibition does not extend to MIAT’s international flights or to the domestic flights of other carriers.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Mongolia dated December 2, 2009 to update the section on Aviation Safety Oversight

 


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to Mongolia HERE....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)..........

Regards

The SW Team.......

 

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