This is an annual report produced
in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar.
OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Mongolia.
For more in depth information, review OSAC’s Mongolia webpage for
original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of
which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
The current U.S. Department of
State at the date of this report’s publication advises reconsidering
travel to Mongolia due to travel and transport restrictions related to
Mongolia’s response to an outbreak in the neighboring People’s Republic of
China of COVID-19. However, the Travel Advisory
in effect prior to the outbreak assessed Mongolia at Level 1, indicating
travelers should exercise normal precautions.
Overall Crime and
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Ulaanbaatar as being a LOW-threat
location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
However, crime rates fluctuate significantly year to year nationwide. The
National Police Agency (NPA) reported the number of “serious” crimes decreased
by 22%, and “less serious” crimes decreased by more than 10% year on year
across the country.
Overall crime in Ulaanbaatar’s
central Sukhbaatar district, which contains many of Mongolia’s government
institutions, foreign diplomatic missions, and tourist attractions (e.g.
Sukhbaatar Square, expatriate-oriented restaurants and hotels) decreased by 22%
Street crime remains
common in Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar in particularly, with victims seemingly
targeted at random. Locations that attract thieves include the Narantuul
covered market (commonly known as the “Black Market”); the State Department
Store (a name derived from Mongolia’s socialist past); the Mercury food market
shopping center; the Seoul Street restaurant/bar district; the section of Baga
Toiruu (Little Ring Road) between the Urgoo Cinema and Ulaanbaatar Hotel; and
crowded sporting events. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should
against foreigners in Ulaanbaatar occur and, when not random, include
anti-foreigner motivations or the expectation of financial gain. Most assaults occur
during the evening hours and involve intoxicated or emotionally disturbed
There is a small
nationalist portion of Mongolia’s criminal element, which targets foreign
nationals. This group feeds on the fear that foreign businesses exploit
Mongolians and the country’s natural resources. Foreigners have reported
unprovoked and serious physical assaults that have occurred without warning.
Foreign males are most at risk from such attacks or threats during the late
evening hours at nightclubs and bars (even at some of Ulaanbaatar’s more
upscale establishments), especially if they are in the company of Mongolian
women. Additionally, nationalist groups sometimes mistake Asian-Americans for
nationals of China, Japan, Korea, or Vietnam, other known targets of such
groups. In general, Mongolians are not well disposed to ethnic Chinese.
While Mongolian law
includes a definition of sexual harassment for civil/labor issues, there are no
criminal code provision covering the activity and Mongolia adopted a law on
combating domestic violence in 2016. Be cautious when traveling alone, in
isolated areas, and in situations in which alcohol consumption is
Most local businesses
accept international credit cards, though they may occasionally reject them,
especially when they lack embedded computer chips. Credit cards issued by
Mongolian banks are in wide acceptance, especially in Ulaanbaatar. Credit card
use outside the capital is far less common. Credit card fraud and other
internet-based crimes are an increasing trend. Keep your credit card issuing
bank’s contact information readily available, and closely monitor accounts
during and after travel to Mongolia for fraudulent activity. Review
OSAC’s report, Taking Credit.
ATMs are rapidly
becoming common at Ulaanbaatar hotels, major banks, restaurants, and
supermarkets. There have been reports of ATM card fraud involving scanning
devices attached to the front of ATMs, and of employees at restaurants and bars
using skimmers to duplicate magnetic strip information. Review
OSAC’s report, The Overseas
Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.
Hotels and banks
provide official currency exchange; exchanging relatively small amounts of U.S.
dollars and other major foreign currencies in Ulaanbaatar is generally easy.
The Mongolian tugrik (MNT) is not easily exchangeable outside Mongolia.
Police report that known
organized crime groups are specifically involved with human trafficking, (sex
and labor) prostitution and labor) and drug trafficking. While much of the
activity originates from China and Russia, there is an increasing market for
such vice in and around a number of Mongolian industries.
Other Areas of Concern
Due to extreme
weather and the absence of paved roads in much of rural Mongolia, use GPS and avoid
travel outside of Ulaanbaatar or other city centers after dark.
Authority for Border Protection takes any attempted illegal border crossing
seriously. Even with an onward visa, overland travel into and out of Mongolia
is not always possible. The most widely used overland ports of entry and
exit—the Zamiin Uud border crossing in the south and the Sukhbaatar/Altanbulag
border crossing in the north—are always open to foreign travelers. Travelers
attempting to enter/depart Mongolia illegally can expect detention and
Road Safety and
Ulaanbaatar is hectic and dangerous. The number of motor vehicles far exceeds current
transportation infrastructure, contributing to chronic traffic jams. Most
vehicles in Mongolia are right-side drive despite the prevailing direction of
travel being the right side of the road. This dilemma leads to frequent head-on
collisions on two-lane roadways. A recurring trend involves the driver of a
right-side drive vehicle attempting to pass a slower-moving vehicle; due to
limited visibility, the driver is unable to see the oncoming vehicle until having
entered the passing lane nearly fully.
Many local drivers
and passengers do not wear seatbelts, increasing injuries and fatalities from
vehicular accidents. There is limited proactive enforcement of traffic laws,
and drivers often disregard many safe driving practices. This haphazard style
of urban driving leads to very frequent, but typically minor, vehicle accidents
within Ulaanbaatar. Drivers in the countryside should exercise caution, as the
decrease in traffic may lead to accidents at a higher speed.
zero-tolerance law, drunk drivers are a serious threat, with alcohol-related
accidents sharply increasing during holiday periods, especially during
Driving at night is
extremely dangerous outside of Ulaanbaatar due to poor road conditions, reduced
visibility, drunk drivers, harsh winter weather, and limited emergency response
specifies that drivers not move their vehicles after an accident until police
have arrived on the scene and investigated, creating dangerous if not
obstructive conditions. Foreign drivers may be subject to a less than fair
investigation. Frequently, foreign drivers have complained of biased accident
investigations in which the foreign driver is assigned fault, even when the
evidence suggests a local driver was likely responsible.
Avoid renting a vehicle without a
reputable local driver and seat belts.
Cellular phone coverage outside
of the major cities is spotty at best; consider using a satellite phone if
planning to stay in remote regions. Those wishing to travel outside of
Ulaanbaatar (or other sizeable cities) should make all travel and transportation
arrangements through recognized and reputable travel agencies/operators. Review
OSAC’s reports, Road Safety
Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive
Driving Techniques; and read the State
Department’s webpage on driving and
road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
taxicabs are generally safe and reliable.
is fairly common among Mongolians, with the expectation that hitchhikers will compensate private drivers
with 1,000-2,000 tugrik, the generally accepted rate for short trips within the
city. Avoid unmarked/unlicensed taxis; many who have used unmarked/unlicensed
taxis (private vehicles) have reported robberies and physical assaults; such
vehicles are virtually untraceable by the police should a passenger become the
victim of a crime. Unmarked/unlicensed taxis are also frequently in poor
physical condition and may face a higher risk of involvement in traffic
accidents. Unsafe driving habits and poorly enforced drunk driving laws put
passengers in danger. Confrontations with drivers can quickly escalate to
at dangerous levels, is common on public buses. Additionally, buses are often
in poor physical condition, putting them at further risk of involvement in
traffic accidents. Foreigners using public buses are at serious risk for
pickpocketing and other crimes of opportunity. Women have reported instances of
inappropriate physical contact on buses.
Unsafe, icy roads in
winter and heavy traffic congestion in Ulaanbaatar throughout the year further
increase the danger of using public transportation. There is also no guarantee
that drivers of public buses or unmarked/unlicensed taxis have valid licenses
or are compliant with local law.
A north-south railroad line
connects Ulaanbaatar to Russia (Ulan Ude and Irkutsk) and China (Erlian and
Beijing). Rail travel is safe; a partial derailment in 2018 led to
nine injured passengers.
OSAC’s report, Security In
Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Mongolia is a
landlocked country with limited transportation connections. Air travel is safe;
no major accidents occurred in 2019.
Pedestrians should exercise
extreme caution when crossing streets. Vehicles routinely do not yield to
pedestrians, even at crosswalks; many ignore red lights. Pedestrians have died
or been seriously injured falling through open manholes. Pedestrians must also
be extremely cautious around Ulaanbaatar’s numerous construction sites. There
have been reports of pedestrians dying or receiving serious injury from falling
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Ulaanbaatar as being a LOW-threat
location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government
interests. There have been no reports of terrorist attacks or indigenous
terrorist groups operating in Mongolia. Authorities are cognizant that porous
national borders might allow transnational terrorists entry. Authorities
closely monitor visitors from countries that are host to transnational
Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Ulaanbaatar as being a LOW-threat
location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government
interests. Peaceful protests occasionally occur in the city center, but turnout
is usually relatively small. Large-scale demonstrations and acts of civil
disobedience have been uncommon since the country rejected Soviet-style
socialism in 1990.
seismic activity, including minor earthquakes. The country regularly
experiences earthquakes in the range of 4.0-4.4 magnitude on the Richter scale.
Most tremors are centered in the country’s mountainous west. According to the
Mongolian National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), seismic activity has
increased in Mongolia in the past few years. There are concerns that even a
relatively minor quake would be devastating to Ulaanbaatar due to the number of
apartment buildings built to low standards. Review OSAC’s report, Central Asia
bitterly cold in the winter. From late-September to mid-May, temperatures fall
well below zero degrees Fahrenheit and settle in the -10s for extended periods.
The harsh cold regularly results in numerous deaths. A vehicle breakdown in an
isolated location can quickly become a life-threatening event.
regulatory changes and a pivot to more efficient fuel sources, air quality in
Ulaanbaatar during the winter is among the worst in the world. Air pollution
often reaches hazardous levels because of emissions from coal-burning stoves,
power plants, boilers, and vehicles. Although the government is taking measures
to reduce pollution, growing urbanization and an influx of residents challenges
efforts to reduce emissions at the individual household level. Winter visitors
should use custom-fitted N95- or N99-compliant particle masks if spending
extended periods outdoors in Ulaanbaatar. The U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar maintains
an air-quality monitoring program, providing real-time air quality index (AQI)
readings via a website and Twitter.
While there is no
shortage of fuel due to the close proximity of coalmines to Ulaanbaatar,
approximately 70% of the city’s electricity and 50% of the city’s heat comes
from one power plant that is in need of renovation. The continued economic
growth and resulting demand for power has placed severe strains on the city’s
power grid. Plans to add to generating capacity are still under consideration.
A failure at the primary power plant during the winter months would have
catastrophic consequences for the residents of Ulaanbaatar.
Although there is no
systemic government infringement on personal privacy, visitors should have no
expectation of U.S.-style privacy in public or private locations. Hotel staff
may access hotel rooms without the occupants’ consent/knowledge. Take precautions
to safeguard sensitive, personal, and/or proprietary information.
Domestic violence and
sexual assault are serious problems in Mongolia. Reports of rape and gender-based
violence are significantly underreported. Female visitors may be subject to
sexual harassment both in the workplace and on the street. It is important to
document all incidents of sexual assault thoroughly and in a timely manner.
Street harassment is especially prevalent at night and in areas outside the
capital. Women travelers should not hike, trek, or camp on their own in
Mongolia. In 2018, a U.S. woman was raped in western Mongolia while on a
should consider joining large tour groups when visiting monasteries and when
patronizing ger camps. In 2016 and 2017, there were several reports of sexual
assault against foreign women visiting popular monasteries. In each case, a
monk isolated the foreign tourist during her tour. There were also several
reports of thieves entering the gers of female travelers late at night to steal
valuables; one of these incidents also involved sexual assault. If a sexual assault occurs, Mongolian police may require
the victim to stay in Mongolia for a protracted period while the investigation
proceeds. Alternatively, the victim may designate a legal representative
for this purpose. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female
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 faced violence and
discrimination both in public and at home based on their sexual orientation or
gender identity. There were also reports that LGBTI persons faced 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. Review
the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+
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, often may not enter
public buildings. Review the State Department’s webpage
on security for travelers
Drug addiction and
trafficking are an increasing concern, and a growing problem. The Mongolian
National Police views drug trafficking as a serious and increasing threat.
Foreign travelers in the possession of drugs can expect an uncertain and opaque
judicial process if charges are filed. Conviction of possession of even
so-called "soft" illicit drugs can lead to harsh penalties, including
lengthy imprisonment. Crime involving drug dealing was up more than 30% in 2019,
but from a baseline of only 195 cases nationwide in 2018.
The Mongolian National Police
continues to improve its emergency response system in Ulaanbaatar and has the
ability in most instances to pinpoint the location of emergency calls,
including those from a cell phone. However, the police do not have English
speakers on duty. Ulaanbaatar does not have a dedicated tourist police unit or
a centralized incident reporting system.
Detained or arrested
U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible. Most police
officers are unaware of a foreign national’s right to request consular
assistance after an arrest, which may require the detainee to request multiple
times to speak to a consular official.
subjected foreign citizens to exit bans for a variety of reasons, including
pending civil disputes, pending criminal investigations, or immigration
violations. Once an exit ban comes into force, it stays valid until the dispute
resolves administratively, a court renders a decision, or the entity that
requested the ban asks for it to end. Foreigners subjected to a criminal investigation
or complaint may face detention or be unable to leave the country while legal
proceedings are pending, even for petty crimes. Strongly consider retaining
legal counsel for even minor offenses, as the Mongolian legal system is
complicated and difficult for non-citizens to navigate. Foreigners may have to
retain and pay for the services of registered translators when they are victims
of reported crimes or accused of crimes. The Embassy maintains lists of interpreters and
emergency line in MONGOLIA is 102. Report crimes to the
police district responsible for the area in which the crime occurred. If local
reporting is not possible, report the crime in Ulaanbaatar or the closest city.
Before reporting a crime, you may wish to consult an attorney, as travelers
have reported police occasionally question victims in an aggressive manner. Download
the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
organization charged with maintaining peace and security is the National Police
Fire Emergency Line: 105
hospitals do not meet Western standards. Although most doctors and emergency
responders are dedicated and professional, their training and equipment are substandard.
Modern medical facilities are heavily concentrated in Ulaanbaatar. Although
some public and private hospitals in larger provincial cities offer medical
services on par with those in the capital, there are very few if any medical
resources available in the rural countryside.
chronic medical conditions should carefully weigh the risks of traveling to
Mongolia, because specialty medicines are likely unavailable. Most
pharmaceuticals come from China or Russia, and lack English labels. Brand-name
drugs and medical supplies can be hard to find, and public hospitals are
frequently out of stock. While many over-the-counter drugs are available, travelers
should consider bringing your own medications in their original containers and
with evidence of prescriptions as appropriate. Refer to OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.
Find contact information for
available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S.
Embassy in Mongolia’s Medical Assistance webpage.
can cost up to $100,000. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing
international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the
State Department’s webpage on insurance
Vaccination and Health Guidance
The poor winter air
quality may trigger health problems (e.g. asthma, allergies, and other upper
respiratory illnesses). CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance
Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, I’m Drinking What in My
Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of
Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for
Fire Safety Abroad
The Regional Security
Office is currently re-establishing an OSAC Country Council in Ulaanbaatar. Any
interested members of the U.S. private sector should contact the RSO or OSAC’s
Asia-Pacific team for more information.
U.S. Embassy Contact
Denver Street #3, 11th Microdistrict, Ulaanbaatar
Hours: Monday-Friday, 0830-1700 (excluding U.S. and Mongolian holidays)
Embassy Operator: (+976) 7007-6001
Emergency calls after normal business hours: (+976) 7007-6001
Department Emergency Line: +1-202-501-4444
you travel, consider the following resources: