How safe is Mongolia?
Most visitors to Mongolia enjoy their vacation without threat to their safety. Incidents that do occur are generally either minor health problems or petty theft (by far, the most common problems for foreigners are diarrhea and pickpockets). Compared with other countries in Asia, Mongolia has extremely low crime rates. Of course, the risk of any type of safety problem can be greatly reduced by practicing common sense and preventative action. Read more common concerns.
Planning your trip
What are Mongolia's primary attractions?
Most of Mongolia's tourists come for the stunningly unspoiled wilderness. Much of Mongolia exists today just as it did when Gengis Khan rode across the steppes - undeveloped and inhabited more by animals than people. Mongolia offers a broad range of climates and sites, from the towering Altai Mountains in the west to southern Mongolia's Gobi dessert, a fertile site of dinosaur bones. Mongolia also boasts some of the most amazing archaeological sites in the world. The remains of Buddhist temples dot the landscape of the country along with ancient petroglyphs and Turkish stone carvings. Certainly anyone with an adventurous spirit will find Mongolia a vacation destination like no other.
When is the best time to visit?
Mongolia's tourist season generally runs from March through September, peaking with the Naddam festival in mid July. Mid August through mid October is an especially good time to visit as many families are living the 'rich life' enjoying fat animals and the amiable weather before the onset of winter.
What are Mongolia's visas requirements?
Visas to Mongolia can be obtained through Mongolian embassies abroad or by contacting the Ministry of External Relations in Ulaanbaatar. It is possible to get a visa at the border or airport, but it will be more expensive.
To obtain a visa you will need a current passport valid for at least 6 months, a completed application, and 2 passport photographs. A standard visa is US$25 and a transit visa is US$15.
Note: Due to recent changes in visa regulations, US citizens do not need a visa to visit Mongolia for a period of less than 30 days.
Will I need any other visas?
Mongolia's national airline, MIAT, offers international flights from several countries around the world including Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, and Germany. If you are outside these countries, you should check the individual visa requirements for the country you will travel through.
What airlines service Mongolia?
You can fly to Ulaanbaatar via the following airlines: Aeroflot (SU), Mongolian Airlines (OM), Korean Air (KE), and Air China (CA). In addition, there are train lines to Ulaanbaatar from both Beijing and Moscow.
Are there ATM's in Mongolia? Can I use Traveler's Checks?
Many places in Ulaanbaatar will accept Visa cards. Traveler's Checks generally are not accepted, but the Trade and Development Bank, also in Ulaanbaatar, will cash them. There are ATM machines throughout the capital that are compatible with most major banks. ATM cards, credit cards, and Traveler's Checks are not accepted outside the capital.
What kind of weather conditions should I pack for?
If you are in Mongolia during the summer, you can expect considerably hot weather. Particularly in June and July, daily temperatures in many areas of the country regularly rise above 100 F. All visitors are still advised to pack cold weather clothing as temperatures may fall greatly during the evening.
Mongolia's winter generally lasts from mid October to late April. During the coldest months, daily temperatures may never raise above freezing. Winter tourists are given supplementary information, via email or surface mail, with tips and advice about packing for Mongolia's extreme climate.
How's the food in Mongolia? Should I bring my own? What if I'm a vegetarian?
Depending on the area and time of your visit, food availability will vary widely. In Ulaanbaatar you can eat or buy Spanish, French, American, or Indian food, among others. While in the countryside, your meals will be cooked by our staff. Typical meals are high in meat and vegetables, but as our client, you can request food preferences when available. Vegetarians will have a tough time when visiting Mongolian families, but accommodations can be made. Visitors are encouraged to pack some small snacks or energy bars for more arduous days. These can also be purchased in Ulaanbaatar.
Will I have any allergy related problems?
Due to the isolation of many parts of western Mongolia from any form of advanced medical care, people with serious allergies, whether likely to be a problem in Mongolia or not, are strongly encouraged to discuss their trip with their doctor before coming. Further information regarding specific health concerns can be addressed through email.
What kind of equipment should I pack?
Anyone interested in an expedition to Mongolia is encouraged to email us for additional information, including packing suggestions. Many items may depend on the type of trip you will take as well as the season and size of your group.
Do I need any experience?
Previous experience with extended outdoor treks is not necessary to visit Mongolia. Some aspects of life (a very different diet, lack of modern amenities, etc.) may require less adaptation to the well prepared but anyone with an adventurous spirit is welcome. For some of the most strenuous trips, such as mountain climbing or bicycle touring, previous experience is recommended for your safety.
How are local perceptions of foreigners?
Since it's independence in 1992, Mongolia has welcomed visitors, tourists, explorers, and adventurers from around the world. Today the Mongolian people are overwhelmingly supportive of anyone wanting to learn more about their culture. Indeed, one of the most common comments made by foreigners is how warmly they were received by the local people. Whether in predominately Buddhist central and eastern Mongolia or in historically Moslem western Mongolia, tourists have had nothing but positive experiences. One common expression in Mongolia is 'Religion follows culture' meaning local religions have adapted to the unique Mongolian lifestyle.
Is Mongolia dangerous?
Compared to other countries in the region, Mongolia is extremely safe. The most common threat to foreign visitors, especially during the summer months, are pickpockets and robbery. Of course, you can reduce the likelihood of being targeted for these crimes by being aware of your surroundings and avoiding unnecessarily dangerous situations. The Mongolian Office of National Statistics tracks and records crime rates around the country.
Another common concern among travelers is the safety and stability of the central Asian region. We recommend consulting the U.S. State Department's website for up to date information regarding travel safety. U.S. Sate Department
How strenuous are these treks?
You have complete control over all aspects of your trip in Mongolia. The landscape of western Mongolia is rugged enough to challenge the most extreme adventurer but many of the sites are also accessible by jeep or horse. You are the best judge of your abilities - we have expeditions ranging from relaxed to extremely strenuous to fit you.
What immunizations are recommended for travel in Mongolia?
Although immunizations are not required to enter Mongolia, those visitors staying for extended periods of time or spending a lot of time in the countryside may want to consider being immunized. For specific immunizations, consult your health care provider. The following should be considered: Hepatitis-A, Hepatitis-B, Typhoid, and, at your discretion, Cholera.
For future health information and recent news, we recommend checking with the Center for Disease Control.
Can I drink the water?
Yes. But why risk being sick for your entire vacation? Bottled water is widely available throughout the country.
I don't speak Mongolian or Kazakh. How will I communicate?
While in Ulaanabaatar you will find that many people can communicate in English. Outside the capital, you will probably have to rely on translators. Mongolians and Kazakhs are very understanding of language barriers. In addition, most province capitals offer services in English.
During your vacation
Can I contact my friends or family back home while I'm in western Mongolia?
While in Mongolia's capital, international communication is easy. There are hundreds of Internet cafes, and inexpensive international phone cards can be found in all major stores. From the capital you can also send or receive telegrams and international money wires.
Olgii, the capital of the Bayan Olgii Province, is serviced by two Internet cafés and 24-hour phone service (International calls are expensive, but possible). While in the countryside, international communication will not be possible.
How are the accommodations in Ulaanbaatar and the rest of the country?
Typical accommodation in Ulaanbaatar will have many more amenities than those in the rest of the country. Many fine hotels in the capital offer large rooms with phone or Internet service, hot water, and room service. In smaller towns throughout the country, the local 'hotel' could be a room at the hospital or floor space in someone's Ger.
How will I travel in Mongolia?
Travel in Mongolia, for the most part, is overland. This could be in a Russian jeep, a small van, a motorcycle, or a horse. Roads are not paved so be prepared to be bounced around!