General Money Entry Requirements Health & safety Weather Embassies Etiquette Public Holidays Attractions Map
Mountains in Mongolia ©Honza Soukup
Mongolia is an unlikely tourist destination but one that proves irresistible to lovers of wide-open spaces, untamed wilderness and raw natural beauty. Outside of the capital Ulaanbaatar, where over half the population lives, visitors encounter a land blissfully unaffected by the modern world. It is a journey back in time where nomadic lifestyles are perfectly in tune with the natural rhythms of the landscape, and the people are renowned for their warmth and hospitality.
Mongolia is three times the size of France and twice the size of Texas, yet with under three million people, it is the most sparsely populated country on earth. The main economic activity is livestock tending, although the country's considerable mineral wealth is beginning to be exploited.
Key attractions are the Gobi Desert with its astounding Khongor sand dunes; the varied sights of Gorkhi-Terelj National Park; vast and pristine Khövsgöl Lake near Moron; and Karakorum, former capital of the Mongol Empire and home to Mongolia's most important monastery. From desert steppes to snow-clad mountains, explorers and adventurers come from far and wide to brave Mongolia on horseback and embark on camel trekking, 4X4 excursions, rock climbing expeditions and desert safaris.
Ulaanbaatar itself is more a functional centre with few must-see attractions to speak of. One worthwhile site, however, is the National Museum of History (with an entire floor dedicated to Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongol Empire). Under his grandson Kublai Khan, Mongolia became the world's first superpower, spanning from modern-day Korea to Poland and encompassing 22 percent of the globe at its peak. Ulaanbaatar is also the main transport hub for Mongolia, with the only international airport, Chinggis Khaan International Airport, located 12 miles (18km) southwest of the city.
Following almost a century of Soviet domination, Mongolia became a democracy in 1990, but was left with the consequences of the USSR's anti-religious violence. The most destructive consequence of that regime was the systematic eradication of the native Buddhist faith. Over 7,000 monasteries were destroyed, with only four surviving; over 20,000 monks were killed. Today, Buddhism is once again flourishing and people are rejoining the traditions that have sustained them for centuries.
Mongolian is spoken by at least 95 percent of the population and Russian is the most commonly spoken foreign tongue, followed by English. (Korean and some European languages are spoken by Mongolian expats whove worked or studied abroad)
Travellers to Mongolia may bring with them up to 200 cigarettes/50 cigars/250g of tobacco, one litre of vodka, two litres of wine, three litres of beer, and personal goods valued up to US$1,000. Pornographic materials and narcotics are prohibited.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs are standard.
Foreign passengers to Mongolia who do not qualify for visa exemption AND who are holding confirmation of a pre-arranged visa, can obtain a single-entry visa on arrival at Chinggis Khaan International Airport (ULN), for a fee, provided that (i) their passport is valid for at least one year beyond the date of their arrival in Mongolia; (ii) they are in possession of two passport photos; (iii) they are arriving from a country without diplomatic representation of Mongolia; and (iv) a sponsor in Mongolia submits a request on their behalf to the Mongolian Immigration Authority. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid on arrival in Mongolia. No visa is required, for stays of up to 90 days.
British citizens must have a passport that is valid on arrival in Mongolia. A visa is required.
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid on arrival in Mongolia. No visa is required for stays of up to 30 days.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid on arrival in Mongolia. A visa is required.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid on their arrival in Mongolia. A visa is required.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid on arrival in Mongolia. A visa is required.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid on arrival in Mongolia. A visa is required.
No particular immunisations are required for travel to Mongolia, although standard vaccinations like hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and rabies are recommended. Vaccines for meningococcal disease are recommended for extended stay or prolonged contact with the local population. Traveller's diarrhea is the most common complaint, and altitude sickness may be experienced in the Altai, Hangayn, or Khangai Mountains. There have been no infectious outbreaks reported in the last few years.
It is advisable to only drink boiled or filtered water in Mongolia, and avoid raw and unpeeled fruits and vegetables. In addition, long clothes will prevent bug bites and related illnesses. Medical facilities in Mongolia are extremely limited, so travel insurance with evacuation provisions is recommended; the designated hospital for foreigners is Hospital Number 2, located at Peace Avenue in Ulaanbaatar. Many Western medications are not available here, so it is essential to carry a medical kit with all vital supplies; this should be accompanied by a doctor's note explaining the need and purpose of these various medications.
Travellers to Mongolia should not be unduly concerned about their personal safety. As in every city, exercise caution in Ulaanbaatar, especially at night, as theft has been known to occur. Watch out for pickpockets at the airport. Be careful when using public transport, or when driving yourself around Mongolia - there are few paved roads and road conditions can be poor, and visibility (especially at night) is often less than ideal. There are occasional protests and demonstrations, which should be avoided where possible.
* For current safety alerts, please visit Foreign travel advice - GOV.UK or Travel.State.Gov
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Embassies of Mongolia
Foreign Embassies in Mongolia
The most important aspect of Mongolian social etiquette is the ideal of hospitality. Mongolians are famously welcoming of foreigners, although they expect - in return - that visitors show respect for Mongolian culture, by being enthusiastic and compliant guests; this means accepting food and drink (even alcoholic drinks) when it is offered, however it is not required that people drink the beverage. Travellers who enjoy 'roughing it' will probably find more success in Mongolia if they maintain their personal appearance - dirty clothes, long hair, and unkempt beards are generally frowned upon.
Friends of the same gender will often hold hands or put their arms around one another and Mongolians are quite physically affectionate too, although not overbearing. Vodka-drinking is an inveterate feature of Mongolian culture, and being able to 'hold your liquor' is probably your shortest route to social acceptance. Finally, although there are some harsh standards of conduct, and high expectations placed on Mongolian women, these do not apply to foreigners.
Public Holidays in Mongolia
Spend a single night in Mongolia under a canopy of stars and it's easy to mistake it for another planet. There are few tarred roads in this rugged terrain and the main urban centre, Ulaanbaatar, is small, so don't expect modern luxury. Rather, people come here for its natural beauty, unaffected by the bustle, stress and pollution of modern life; every journey through the wilderness here is an adventure into remote territory.
From the ice-capped peaks of Bayan-Olgii, to the roaring river mouth at the Yolin am, the surreal white limestone cliffs at Tsagaan Suvarga to the lush lakes in the Khuisiin Naiman Nuur Natural Reserve, strap up your boots and step down the rough and rewarding pathways of Mongolia. Whether for hunting, fishing, horse riding or trekking, most tourists come in the summer, when you're least likely to be stuck in the mud!
A visit to Mongolia is incomplete without accepting local hospitality and experiencing their traditions. The famous Nomadic lifestyle of the Mongols exists as part of everyday life here and the people are warm and friendly to foreigners, and proud to share their customs and heritage.
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