Mongolia travel guide
Mongolia is far-flung and hardly well-trodden, but do not let that put you off. There is so much to see and do in this sizeable Central Asian country, from the stunning scenery and wildlife of mountains and deserts to the emerging luxury hotels and restaurants in the capital, Ulaanbaatar.
In the ancient land of Mongolia, history buffs and culture vultures will find plenty to keep them entertained. Outside of the main cities, many Mongolians continue to hold on to the traditional life of herdsmen. Residing in portable felt and canvas tents (known as 'ger'), the modern-day Mongolian nomads move from one place to another in search of shelter, water supply and food for themselves and their animals.
Mongolia's vast areas of wilderness, from the sprawling Gobi Desert to the snow-peaked mountains located in the Bayan-Ölgii Province, offer plenty of scope for adventurous outdoor enthusiasts. Fishing, jeep tours, horse and camel riding, mountain biking and birdwatching are but a few of the activities on offer. Intrepid visitors can also explore numerous temple ruins like Mañjuśrī Monastery on the slopes of Bogd Khan Mountain or Ongi Monastery in the Dundgovi Province.
While infrastructure remains relatively underdeveloped in vast swathes of rural Mongolia, elsewhere the country is racing headlong into the 21st century. The capital Ulaanbaatar is transforming at a pace that any returning visitors will find dizzying. In a relatively short space of time, the city has turned into an ultra-modern metropolis with international restaurants, five-star hotels, shopping malls and glass tower blocks – a sure sign of Mongolia's status as an up-and-coming Asian travel hotspot.
While there is plenty of nightlife and excitement in Ulaanbaatar, do not visit Mongolia without exploring the wild, largely unspoilt landscapes and traditional lifestyle of its inhabitants. Leaving the capital does not mean being stranded from civilisation. Internet is now available even in small villages and it is not uncommon to see nomads toting mobile phones. It is perhaps this contrast that makes Mongolia such a fascinating destination to visit today. Get planning your trip now before the tourist hordes inevitably catch on.
1,564,116 sq km (603,909 sq miles).
2.06 per sq km.
President Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh since 2021.
Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene Luvsannamsrai since 2021.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Mongolia set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Mongolian Embassy in the UK.
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Mongolia.
Passport validity requirements
To enter Mongolia, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive.
Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.
You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.
You do not need a visa to visit Mongolia as a tourist for up to 30 days within a 6-month period.
Registering with the authorities
Your hotel or landlord will register you using an app. If you are travelling independently or staying with friends, you must register yourself with the Mongolian Immigration Agency. You do not need to go in person.
The agency will issue you with a digital residence permit that shows your passport number, address, photograph and fingerprints. Always carry it when you are in Mongolia.
Borders with Mongolia
Mongolia takes border security very seriously and foreign nationals are not routinely allowed access to border areas. The authorities can regard zones of up to 100km inside the border as a border area. If you wish to travel in these areas, you must get permission from the State Frontier Guard Authority. Only a few specified land border crossings are open to foreigners.
Border points open to British citizens
There are normally 8 border points open to British passport holders:
- Chinggis Khaan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar
- Zamin Uud – road and train crossing to China
- Bulgan – road crossing to China in the west
- Bichigt – road crossing to China in the south-east
- Tsagaannuur – road crossing to Russia in the far west
- Sukhbaatar – train crossing to Russia
- Altanbulag – road crossing to Russia
- Ereen-Tsav – road crossing to Russia
You may not cross into China or Russia at other border points, as they are only open to Mongolians, Chinese or Russians.
If you travel by train across the China-Mongolia border, expect a delay of a few hours as the railways use different gauges.
It is difficult to get visas for China or Russia in Mongolia. Ask the Chinese and Russian embassies in London about their visa requirements before travelling to Mongolia.
You can only enter Mongolia from Russia on public buses, trains, taxis or private vehicles. All international flights are suspended.
Russian border officials will carefully examine your travel documents.
If you have arrived in Mongolia from Russia and need assistance, call +976 (11) 458 133 and select the option ‘consular services for British nationals’.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Mongolia guide.
Travelling with children
Adults accompanying children other than their own should have a notarised letter from the parents or legal guardian to confirm the arrangement.
There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Mongolia. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
If you become involved in a commercial dispute or a criminal investigation about a customs matter, you may be held in Mongolia until it is resolved. Ask to speak to the British Embassy, especially if the authorities say you must accept a travel ban.
Bringing your vehicle to Mongolia
If you plan to enter Mongolia at a land border crossing in your own vehicle, inform the tax authorities and border troops in advance – contact Mongolian Customs (in Mongolian). You must complete a customs declaration form – you can do this at the border or at Ulaanbaatar City Customs Office, next to the train station. Make sure you have all the vehicle documents, including your driving licence, ownership records and insurance.
If you do not leave Mongolia in the vehicle you used to enter the country, you must pay customs tax. The amount of tax depends on the vehicle’s engine size and value. For information, see Mongolian Customs (in Mongolian).
If your vehicle breaks down and cannot be fixed, you must pay for it to be transported out of Mongolia or sell it to a local mechanic.
If you sell your broken-down vehicle to a mechanic, you must still pay customs tax when you leave. You must show the customs office evidence you sold the vehicle (proof of sale document, photos, a letter from the mechanic and a police report).
You must not leave your vehicle unattended or abandon it. If you do, Mongolian Customs will contact the British Embassy and send you a fine. If you leave your vehicle in Mongolia, you must pay to store it with a mechanic or at an official customs warehouse. When you leave the country, you must submit a customs declaration form and show your driving licence, car ownership records and evidence of valid insurance.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Mongolia
Although there is no recent history of terrorism in Mongolia, attacks cannot be ruled out.
There have been occasional instances of civil and political unrest resulting in protests and violence. Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations for your personal safety.
Pickpockets may operate in markets and crowded public places. The risk increases during the festivals of Tsagaan Sar (New Year, celebrated from December to February) and Naadam (July). Take extra precautions during these periods.
Occasionally large groups of people, including children and teenagers, harass pedestrians for money as they get into vehicles or walk into pubs or restaurants. Keep your mobile phone, passport and money in a secured bag on your person, and leave valuables in a hotel safe if possible.
Violent incidents are rare, but foreigners have been assaulted and robbed in Ulaanbaatar. Avoid being out alone at night, and ask hotels, restaurants or clubs to order a car for you. If hailing a ride, use only licensed taxis such as VIP Taxis. Alternatively use the taxi app UBCab, which is trackable.
The Mongolian government has asked foreigners to report crimes so they can investigate and keep records. You do not need to have any further involvement and will be free to leave once you’ve made your report.
In an emergency call the police on 102 or +976 102 from an international mobile phone. There should be someone available on this number who can speak to you in English.
Laws and cultural differences
Always carry your passport – a copy is not sufficient if the police ask you for ID, and you could be fined. Keep copies of the photo page and the page with your Mongolian entry stamp in a separate place.
If you are a resident, carry your registration card.
Respecting religious customs
Show respect in Buddhist monasteries. Always ask for permission to take photographs and do not touch sacred images or objects.
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
It is illegal to possess or use of any type of drugs, including cannabis. If you are found guilty of drug trafficking, you could face a life sentence. Mongolian prisons have very basic facilities.
It is illegal to photograph or video police, police escorts or military personnel. You could be arrested and fined. The court decides the fine based on the degree of social danger of the crime and the income of the defendant.
Although not illegal, same-sex relationships are not generally accepted socially.
Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
Wildlife, animal products and souvenirs
It is illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected species of wild animal or trade its parts without a licence. You could get a fine and a prison sentence.
Phone and wifi coverage
Most UK phone networks operate in the cities and wifi is widely available in hotels, restaurants and bars, especially in Ulaanbaatar. You can buy local SIM cards and mobile phones. In rural Mongolia there are large areas that do not have network coverage.
You need a 1968 international driving permit (IDP) and a UK driving licence to drive in Mongolia. The 1949 IDP is not accepted any more. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel. You can buy an IDP in person from some UK post offices – find your nearest post office branch that offers this service.
There are a high number of road accidents, due to:
- low driving standards
- poorly maintained vehicles
- difficult terrain
- dangerous road conditions
Driving in Ulaanbaatar is hazardous as roads are heavily congested. Outside the capital, only about 10% of the country’s roads are tarmacked and signposting is minimal. If you are planning to drive in rural Mongolia, see information on driving abroad and prepare by:
- researching your route
- asking local guides or drivers about the road conditions ahead
- checking World Meteorological Organization weather forecasts for Mongolia
- taking back-up communication devices such as a satellite phone
- packing plenty of water and provisions
- sharing details of your route and expected arrival and departure times
Mongolia does not have an extensive road network and driving can be dangerous due to the terrain.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
Mongolia is a huge country with varying weather conditions from +35°C in summer to -40°C in winter and during the nights. Weather conditions often change without warning.
There are frequent weather warnings all year round for flooding, dust storms, heavy snow and blizzards, strong winds and heatwaves.
The most extreme weather conditions occur in and around the Gobi Desert and the Steppes. Check the World Meteorological Organization weather forecasts for Mongolia.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Call 103 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on vaccinations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s Mongolia guide
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Mongolia. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.
The high levels of air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, especially in winter, may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be especially affected. You can check the levels for Ulaanbaatar on the Real-time Air Quality Index.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
It is best to bring prescription medication and a first aid kit with you. Medical products in pharmacies are mainly from China and Russia, so you may not easily recognise what you need.
There are no reciprocal healthcare agreements between the UK and Mongolia, so you cannot get free healthcare in Mongolia.
If you are injured or become ill in a remote part of the country, it may be a long journey to the nearest medical facility. Outside Ulaanbaatar, the standard of healthcare is limited, and doctors may not speak English.
At hospitals, you will have to pay 80% of the treatment cost in advance. Make sure you have access to funds and that your insurance covers:
- full medical expenses
- an air ambulance, in case you need to be flown home
- bringing a body home in the event of a death
- bringing your family home, if one of you is seriously ill or injured
FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Mongolia.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Mongolia
Police: 102 (includes traffic police)
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors and translators and interpreters in Mongolia
- dealing with a death in Mongolia
- being arrested or imprisoned in Mongolia
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
Help abroad in an emergency
If you’re in Mongolia and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Ulaanbaatar.
You can also contact FCDO online.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.