According to all tourists that have visited Mongolia, they all state that it's like traveling back in time. The same tourists and expatriates told that this country is as peaceful as it gets and there is no risk of terrorism coming from the western countries. Its borders although are not so heavily guarded, patrols are common.
Mongolia is a landlocked country, sharing its northern border with Russia and the southern border with China. Although locked between one former communist country and a communist country in the couth, Mongolia has kept its democracy fairly intact. Riots are uncommon throughout the streets of Ulaanbaatar, with its biggest anti-communist protest that took place in 1990. Since then, only minor protests took place in Ulaanbaatar and most of them are peaceful.
Mongolians are all about peace, as the dominant religion is Buddhism. In a holiday in Ulaanbaatar, you can visit all the temples and museums or just simply go out in the desert. Mongolia has a cold desert named the Gobi, which stretches on China as well. And Ulaanbaatar is voted the coldest capital city in the world, as the temperature in August do not exceed 60 degrees Fahrenheit and in the winter, temperatures can plummet to below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to the last count of people, there are a little above 3 million people that currently live in Mongolia. Almost 30% of all people still stick close to the nomad tradition. Outside the capital city, most of them live in tents called Ger and they’re very cozy as well due to their round shape.
The Mongolian wilderness holds very interesting facts and not only. The Gobi desert houses dozens of snow leopards, which are endangered. Only a few sanctuaries still remain in this country and hunting them for their fur is strictly forbidden.
Lots of statues are to be encountered in Mongolia, as it was ruled in the medieval period by their notorious ruler, Genghis-Khan.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Mongolia
Overall Risks in Mongolia: LOW
Mongolia has a very low crime rate compared to other Asian countries. Although crime rates have increased since 2016, they are pretty uncommon and the capital city is one of the safest in the whole world.
A large number of businesses and hotels accept international credit cards and ATM’s are quite common in the capital city. Credit card fraud is uncommon, but it can occur from time to time. Keeping a track of your bank account and on what you spend it’s mandatory as well. If a hotel or a restaurant does not accept your credit card, it is because the computers there are missing an international chip that can transfer money.
Another problem that Mongolia faces is that of road safety. When renting a car, be sure to apply to the road laws. Not all roads are maintained in the country, but in Ulaanbaatar, roads are pretty good. Road rage and alcohol consumption is yet another hazard that drivers face and it's pretty common. If you are a fan of wide roads, Mongolia is a party crasher because roads are very narrow and visibility is heavily affected especially when you're trying to pass a slower vehicle. To make matters worse, the harsh weather in Mongolia is another factor that affects the road conditions.
Public transportation is not state of the art, as the buses are poorly maintained and crowding on a bus is very common. Pickpocketing and other opportunity crimes are also common in Ulaanbaatar. When choosing to travel by cab from point A to point B, never choose an unmarked or unregistered taxi. Often, the taxi drivers are aggressive in nature and it can turn to theft or mugging. In case of this unfortunate turn of events, police forces are not able to track a cab unless you have the license number, so choosing a registered cab is the best way to go.
Air-travel is considered safe in Mongolia and no accidents were reported for some years.
Racism and anti-foreigner dogmas are present, as many factions in the capital are constantly on patrol. Bars are hotspots for ultra-nationalists are things could get messy if you bump into these kinds of people.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Mongolia: MEDIUM
Theft in the capital city is on the rise according to the safety reports from 2017. Petty theft like bag slashing and snatching hit and run crimes are present throughout Ulaanbaatar. A haven for pickpockets and thieves is the airport, targeting foreigners especially. As a matter of fact, once you reach your hotel room and deposit your money in a safety box, then you can be sure.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Mongolia?
When walking around the capital, carry a small amount of money with you and do not display the money in any circumstance. Jewelry theft and wallet theft is also common in all public transportation and in the trans-Mongolian railway. A waist-bag is mandatory when traveling by train so you can have full control upon your belongings and cash.
Scam Risk in Mongolia: MEDIUM
Scams are present all over the capital city and some of them are easy to spot. Unmarked and unregistered taxis are a mean of concern as the service is very poor and the price can be above the normal price of a taxi. If you need to travel by cab, be sure to ask the hotel staff for a trustworthy taxi company.
Mobs of kids can harass you for spare change or money outside restaurants and pubs. They are not dangerous, but they can get insistent when you display money outside the bar, so keeping the money out of their sight will make them go away easily.
There are many festivals going on in Mongolia and they are a huge attraction throughout the year, but this is a hotspot for tricksters. They can sell you basically everything with a low quality for a huge amount of money.
Border scams are also very common. Scammers often dressed as border officials ask for money because as you may not have an insurance policy for crossing into China or Russia. Even if you have a valid travel insurance policy, they will tell you that it’s not valid and in exchange for cash, they will give you a fake policy. Avoid these scammers at all costs.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Mongolia?
As mentioned before, there are a number of scams that you have to pay attention to once you enter Mongolia - however, if you take upon some basic safety measures, you should not get into any trouble.
In this respect, we advise you to always pay attention to your surroundings - namely, when you have to pay something and when strangers approach you. Moreover, don't be ashamed to double or even triple check the product you plan on buying. Keep in mind that clerks might try to persuade and even hurry you into buying a certain item. If they do so, it is better if you find another shop that sells that item or return the next day.
In short, never take anything for granted, as it might be a scam, especially if it seems too good to be true.
Kidnapping Risk in Mongolia: LOW
Kidnappings in Mongolia are uncommon according to official statements. Although they could occur, the best way is not to walk alone in night time just to avoid some unpleasant situations. If they happen, they are not linked with terrorism or ISIS.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Mongolia?
Even though Mongolia comes with a low risk of kidnapping, it is better if you avoid walking alone during the night or through remote places during your travels. It is recommended to stick to the places that are meant for tourists - basically, don't go off the beaten path and you should be just fine.
Terrorism Risk in Mongolia: LOW
Terrorism is not present in Mongolia and no incidents have been reported. Although the borders are very porous, people that are suspected to be affiliated to terrorist organizations are closely monitored. People that originate from countries that are known for terrorism and affiliation with ISIS are closely monitored as well and are not allowed to bring guns and ammunition in Mongolia.
- How to avoid terrorism in Mongolia?
As terrorism is a more sever issue, we recommend you to treat any sort of suspicious event with great caution - even though the risk is little to none, it does help to always be aware of the condition of your surroundings. Any gathering, so to say, that seems even a bit suspicious, is to be avoided.
However, as mentioned before, terrorism is not present in Mongolia and the risks of an attack being carried out are very low - thus, you should not worry about terrorism/ terrorists.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Mongolia: MEDIUM
According to some travel blogs and forums, women that travel solo in Mongolia has experienced some trouble after ten o'clock PM with drunks in the city center of Ulaanbaatar. It is highly recommended that you walk only with large groups of people. Although Mongolians are very kind to foreigners, some people tend to show hostility to US citizens due to the rising nationalist views.
Normal safety precautions are to be taken when traveling alone as a female and avoid walking around too late into the night and also avoid pubs and bars.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Mongolia?
When traveling alone as a female, you should always be aware of the fact that locals with malicious intents will mainly target you for their crimes - namely, pickpocketing, theft, assault, violence, and so on. In this respect, we recommend you to stay within populated areas and the areas that are meant for tourists.
Naturally, you should not walk alone after sunset, especially when you are getting back from a club/ bar.
Rape Risk in Mongolia: LOW
As for the rape risk in Mongolia, incidents involving rape and harassment are very uncommon. They do occur and normal safety precautions are to be taken. No special clothing should be adopted as the country is mainly Buddhist.
- How to avoid getting raped in Mongolia?
As in the case of most crimes that occur in Mongolia, you can avoid such instances if you take normal safety precautions - namely, avoid being all alone, don't travel through remote areas without proper company, and try to not attract any attention towards you.
Risks for People Traveling with Children in Mongolia: LOW
Mongolia is highly safe to travel with children as there are many things to visit and do in Mongolia, especially outside the capital. Horse rides and meeting the nomads are activities that children would love the most. According to parents that took their children in Mongolia, they stated that children absolutely loved the country and they did not like the capital as there aren't many attractions for children.
Although, normal safety precautions are to be taken when traveling with children, especially in the capital, as it sometimes can get very crowded and children can get lost.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
When it comes to traveling to children, the only thing you should worry about is them getting lost in the crowds of the capital - in order to avoid such incidents, it is recommended that you or someone else keeps an eye on them at all times.
As mentioned before, the children will love the country, especially the country-side and, thus, they might try to explore some of the areas you are in on their own. If you monitor them and make sure that they are safe, nothing bad should ever happen.
Natural Disaster Risks in Mongolia: MEDIUM
Mongolia has witnessed some seismic activity before, but only minor events. Earthquakes usually do not exceed 4 degrees on the Richter scale and the damage is minimal.
The biggest threat for foreigners that visit Mongolia in the winter is the bitter cold. Remember that the country is south of Siberia and temperatures can plummet well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Many deaths in the winter have been related to cold and especially engine failure when driving in the cold. A large number of cold-related victims were trapped inside the car in the middle of nowhere and the phone signal is not available.
Another threat is combining the cold winter air with pollution. Mongolia is a highly polluted country due to energy plants, central heating systems and not only. Best way to stay away from these dangerous gasses is to wear a protective mask. Pollution also comes from China, as it’s a highly industrialized country and Chinese people are known for their clouds noxious gasses.
Transportation Risks in Mongolia: MEDIUM
First of all, it is worth mentioning that Mongolia does not have an extensive road network - in short, if you plan to travel by car, you will most likely have to follow tracks and not actually roads. You will need to look after car tracks in the sand, mud, or dust and, naturally, don't expect any road signs or such things.
The terrain might prove itself quite dangerous as well, especially if you are not familiar with it - moreover, some areas of Mongolia don't have mobile coverage and, thus, your GPS may be rendered useless. In this case, you should equip yourself with a satellite phone.
In terms of safety, we recommend you to avoid driving during the night, as traffic might turn quite chaotic - it has been reported that the number of vehicles, as well as their types, has significantly increased recently. Thus, you can expect quite some vehicles turning up on roads that you might consider abandoned or such.
Furthermore, it is well known that the traffic of Ulaanbaatar is not safe - the roads are congested, there's a high number of reported accidents, and there are very few signposts as well.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Mongolia: LOW
As expected, there are no reported incidents that involve the use of spiked drinks - in this respect, you can safely drink and party while visiting this country, though we recommend you spend more time seeing the beauties Mongolia has to offer.
Even though you are safe from drink-spiking, you are not safe from drunk locals/ foreigners that might try to disturb you or anyone else - in order to avoid any unwanted scenarios, you should know when to leave such a facility. Moreover, you should be careful on the way to your accommodation as well.
When leaving a night-club, pub, or bar, keep an eye out for bands of teenagers or even children, as they might try to harass you for money - obviously, these groups are large and the people will gather around you; while some of them will beg for money, other will seize any opportunity and eventually pickpocket you.
This is why we recommend you to call a taxi before actually leaving the pub so that you don't have to wait for it out in the open.
Health Risks in Mongolia: MEDIUM
Health care in Mongolia is quite well below the western standards. Although the hospital staff is very caring and professional, they lack equipment and some of them are undertrained. When traveling in the countryside, take extra safety precautions as medical service is not available. Some drugs are hard to find even in hospitals and the stocks are usually sold very rapidly due to the high request.
Having a chronic condition is a big risk in Mongolia. Medication is available in the country, but most of them have either Chinese or Russian labels and few have instructions in English. When traveling to Mongolia, be sure to grab some extra medication for you to carry and have all the time. Always remember to have the medication in the original package so you won’t have certain issues at crossing the border.
List of Vaccines You Need in Mongolia
Other precautions that should be taken before you visit Mongolia are to visit your local doctor and inform him of your journey. Some medical checks are to be made due to the low temperatures present in the country. Also, the CDC recommends that some vaccines are to be made to keep you out of harm’s way:
- Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine
- Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine
- Flu shot
- Hepatitis A and B vaccines
- Typhoid vaccine
- Anti-Rabies vaccine
Concluding Remarks: Is Mongolia Safe to Visit?
Mongolia is voted as being very safe to visit even by female solo travelers and by families that have children. If you choose to travel with a group, your safety concern diminishes.
Keeping an eye on strange activity can save you from unpleasant moments in the city capital, Ulaanbaatar. Many things are to be visited and to be admired, but always check your personal belongings and be aware of your surroundings. Pickpocketing and all kinds of petty thefts are common in the capital, so locking your belongings in the hotel room and not wearing too much jewelry is the right way to go.
Terrorism is absent in Mongolia and the officials are doing a very great job by monitoring everybody suspicious that enters the country. The country is safe even for female solo travelers, but taking some normal precautions also. Children are welcomed to visit Mongolia and although the capital has almost no spaces designed for children, the countryside will bring up the smiles.
The bitter cold that engulfs Mongolia from October until the end of May poses a serious health problem and not only. Temperatures can drop well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and medication is scarce in the countryside. Also, driving in the countryside is difficult in the winter time, so grabbing some extra tires and having a look at the weather forecast will probably save your life.