Crime in Mongolia - What to watch for & stay safe

Mongolia is a pretty safe place for most travellers to visit.

Mongolia is one of the least crime-ridden countries to visit. With one of the lowest crime rates in Asia, you won't have to worry too much about getting into trouble while visiting, so long as you play it safe and use common sense. 

Mongolian petty criminals

The biggest concern when travelling in Ulaanbataar or any other Mongolian city is that you might get your purse slashed or your wallet stolen. It's petty theft but really annoying and troublesome if you lose your passport and all your cash. Put them in a money belt or locked up back at the hotel.

Racism in Mongolia

Mongolia has seen a recent rise in ethnically-motivated violence. Ultra-nationalist Mongolian groups single out individuals with Caucasian, African or Chinese features just because of the way they look.

Xenophobic and nationalist groups are most likely to target you if you're a white, black or ethnic-Chinese man speaking with a Mongolian woman.

If you are a single male travelling alone, be very aware of this dynamic and try not to flirt too much at bars or in clubs. There has been a string of racially-inspired attacks since the spring of 2010 against inter-racial couples ranging from deliberate, planned attacks to assaults of passion at bars.

Don't travel by yourself late at night. Keep a low profile at all times (as best you can being Caucasian, African or Chinese!) and simply enjoy yourself. Getting into political arguments with locals at bars or acting in an antagonistic manner is sure to have consequences you don't want.

There are limits when it comes to trying to blend in, guys!

Crime hotspots in Ulaanbaatar

You will need to be wary of theft in the larger cities, on trains, on buses, in airports and at major tourist landmarks - which is true of any destination - but specifically at these locations:

These areas see a variety of organized criminal groups operating on a daily basis, so if you plan on walking through, be sure you have your money stashed in a safe place.

  • Chinggis Khaan International Airport in Ulaanbataar
  • The State Department Store and the area around the Circus
  • Naran Tuul Covered Market
  • The Central Post Office
  • Gandan Monastery

The airport is rich pickings for thieves because many travellers are so weary from their flight they forget to pay attention to their money and easily parted from it. Don't rest your mind until you get to your hotel room!

If you're travelling on the train or bus for extended periods, such as on the Trans-Mongolian Railway, strap that money belt under your shirt. This way, you can sleep on the train without worrying about your things. Try not to wear expensive jewellery or accessories when you go out.


Thieves won't just steal your cash, they even flogged a prayer wheel..

Common scams in Mongolia

Dodgy taxis

Also be aware that unmarked cars often drive the streets of cities with the window rolled down, offering to give you a ride. Be wary! At best, these unmarked cabs will offer poor service for an overly expensive price. At worst, they will be in on a scam where you are held up for all the money you're carrying. If you need to take a cab, be sure to schedule one from your hotel, restaurant or store and have people there assist you.

Mobs of kids

Large groups of teenagers or kids may harass you for your money upon leaving a bar. Generally, as long as you keep your money hidden and out of sight, they will leave you alone to try to find someone showing more obvious bling. These groups are generally harmless if you move through them, but they may seem scary at the time because there are so many people.

Festival times

Times to be aware of increased criminal activity are the Naadam Summer Festival in July and the Tsagaan Sar Winter Festival, when lots of tourists are around. Don't keep your valuables in your pockets, because organized crime syndicates with plenty of experience pickpocketing are sure to be trawling the areas discreetly to steal whatever money they can find.

Horse thieves

It may seem like a fun idea to travel across the desert or scrubland by horse, especially if you are travelling with other tourists or a guide you picked up locally. Armed bandits may follow your group across the desert and steal all your stuff, including your horses, while you sleep. The local guide may either be a patsy or in league with the thieves. Either way, you will end up out of luck and stuck in the desert.

If you want to travel further afield and see some of the stunning natural beauty that Mongolia has to offer, make sure you travel with a respectable touring agency.


How generous, they left one behind..

Border scams

Finally, one common scam if you're crossing the border from Mongolia into either Russia or China is to be stopped and harassed by someone in an official-looking uniform. This person will attempt to inform you that you are required to have travel insurance in order to travel across the border and will sell you the "required travel insurance." This is a flat-out lie designed to trick westerners into giving up money for nothing. Don't do it! There is no such thing as required travel insurance, and the uniforms were probably borrowed, stolen or manufactured, and you already have a great WorldNomads policy!

Ultimately, crime in Mongolia isn't a huge deal. Just don't trigger local nationalist or xenophobic elements, don't keep your money where anyone can see it, use your head and your wallet and life will both remain safe.

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18 Comments

  • Patrick Egan said

    Stealing your horses is a national past-time. Almost a guarantee if you are not with a group led by a Mongolian. I know two different instances last summer of Europeans buying horses and traveling with only a friend and no Mongolian guide. They were lucky to get out alive was the word they got from their local consulate.

  • James said

    Seems like the further north you go in Asia, the more dangerous the scams and crime become.

  • Anu Nomin said

    I am a Mongolian citizen as well as a lifetime resident of this country. The statements made in comment of this article are all, despite being true to an extent, are insidious and pessimistic in their nature, with a doctrinaire and opinionated depiction.
    I have been raised, learned and lived in this country. There are just as many affable and honourable people as there are criminals, in fact, even more so. When visiting do not fester fear to a point of paranoia. It is not as bad as some make it out with embittered words.
    Mongolia is an LEDC so there will, of course, be some faults but it is mostly due to the structural strain present in many a person's socialisation with the large poverty tarnishing the economy, as well as certain cultural transmissions among destitute areas.
    Of course you must always have a cautious awareness and utilise the archaic tool of common sense and your brain. But with self-awareness and conscientious cognisance of your surroundings, there should not be any drastic or cataclysmic events in your visit.
    Ask trusted or educated locals about particulars and small tips for travelling and figuring out the societal functions and dangers, to help. But this is something that will help you adapt to the culture, it is polite and should be an interesting experience for foreigners .
    -Have fun and all my best wishes!
    I wish you a pleasant stay in my Homeland

  • Lotfie said

    Mongolia is finally a good place to travel to, it was very pleasant time to work and live there for several months, it was amazing place and lovely people, safe and beautiful.

    i was living in area near Lenin Museum, in diplomatic apartments, i was moving alone in all direction of Ulaanbaatar, no single incident happened to me (Caucasian), all what i can say i wish if i have the time and will to go there again.

  • Cherubino said

    Immigration have double standards...I overstayed by one day due to Naadam festival ( the office was closed )...the boss said I could be refunded the one month extension fee I had already paid...however the next guy a couple of weeks later said I could not...the fine for overstay was 190,000 Tughriks...the guy at the desk said it could be double or triple that depending on the mood of the official...

  • Namuuna said

    Hi,

    I have lived in Mongolia for more than 10 years and during these years I have had a great experience. There are some thief but the police here would handle it . Living here at Mongolia, ub has encouraged me to not be worried if something bad is going to happen. Visiting the city is a good idea but the true nature is in the countryside. Mongolians have an unique tradition. During the summer it's reall hot up to about 30-50 degrees , well maybe from were you come from it may not be hot .

    Mongolia has a magnificent nature and history . The nature built statues and places that have many legend are totally magical.

    Mongolia surely is a wonderful place to come to . If you are coming with your family and want to stay here for a long time,your kids could still learn there English. Schools like :Bsu(British school of ulaanbaatar )

  • Craft said

    Im mongolian and i agree with that kids are the worst of them all if you re traveller please stay away from kids mobs people going with groups they are so dangerius
    There are many scams and gangsters lot of it

  • Undra said

    Mongolia is not a safe place. Period. As a Mongolian, I have first-hand experience. It's NOT safe.

  • William Grace said

    Well in UB you have to pay the police for a crime report ans odds on if you get attacked and robbed the police will be close at hand to protect the thieves.
    My robbery was all caught on Camera. Nota chance in hell the police would do anything and 3 days to get a police report without being interviewed!

  • Grover said

    Well that convinced me, I'll take my tourist dollars elsewhere...

  • Bongo bongo said

    I think mongolia has.. or atleast had by far the highest murder rate in asia. Viloent crime and assult are more common..
    Alcohol is a big factor and in isolated areas its just a lack of police.
    I have seen people carrying guns in some rural areas and when asked they said it was less for hunting and more to shoot robbers. sks and ak47variants.. not bolt action rifles. So there is crime but i think its not geared specificaly to tourists its just the nature of the country... generally id say mongolia is much better than kazakhstan or for crime and the violent street thug type is not so common. Gopniks ect.

    And over the boarder russian parts are really violent. I passed through tuva and its is a dangerous place. The locals can kill for something small and most people carry around knives. In broad dayligh murder on the street of kizil is pretty common . Maybe one guy swears at the other or dosnt share the vodka.. or his cousin stole a horse 50 years ago. No hesitation just stab him bash his head..
    But tuvans were great hospitable peopleand many are quit good natured so it was to understand how they were so lawless. Murder rate was 85 or90 per 100,000 its the highest in the world.
    They just thought if you fight you got to kill the guy.. still in the medeival culture..

    Mongolians just next door were not like this. Drunks could have a fight and let it go.. tuvans would know the other guy down and slice off his head and just hide in the forest for a few years till the police gave up.


    Id say avoid drunks.. if you run into nationalists and they bail you up be resonanle with them most are just worried about their country.. and avoid scammers and pickpockets.. post soviet natipns curse...

    If ypu go to tuva bring stab proof vest and gun.. 😊

  • Inez Deborah Emilia Altar said

    Mongolian police do not keep people as safe as they should and can kill you even if you be a lady at their stations like the deep in one with the sinister genocide style black windows close to the Lotus Hostel, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, that is if you do not let them rape you

  • Tuguldur Sosor said

    Hey
    Mongolia is the best place to live I've been living there for almost 16 years and the culture and everything is so good the festival and stuff is the best so enjoy thanks
    and some Mongolians are bad but it's good to be careful around the public places

  • Jasmine said

    If you travel with native person (Mongolian) nothing bad is going to happen.

  • Mongolia Holiday Package said

    amazing information about Mongolia, could you tell me that is it safe to travelling alone in this country for female traveller, and I have read a lot of blogs about this country but no-one mention about the crime in Mongolia....

  • Julie Mason said

    I travelled around Mongolia in 2000 and apart from some petty theft in the lobby of our hotel (pickpockets), I never felt threatened - in fact, the Mongolians were overwhelmingly friendly, generous and welcoming. Reading the above, things must have changed - but perhaps there has been an influx of non-Mongolians who are committing these crimes as I can't believe the Mongolian character has altered so much in 19 years.

  • Merlin said

    I'm going to travel to Mongolia to become a folk wrestler. After that, I plan to enter Japanese Sumo so I can take on Hakuho and save Japan from the MOngolian menace

  • Keith said

    I have lived in Mongolia for the last 20 years and have traveled and interacted with people throughout the country on every level. This article is a complete misrepresentation of the country and full of falsehoods. Not only have I traveled by horse alone and with groups, but I now own and operate a horse riding company. Never have we had anyone follow us with the intention mentioned in this article.

    There are idiots everywhere and every country has them. If you’re a smart traveler, you learn to spot them and avoid them. There are also idiot travelers who knowingly or unknowingly seem to always stumble into trouble. No amount of travel advice helps these people. If you’re going to indulge in alcohol and let your guard down, act stupid, draw attention to yourself, you find trouble. Just like in any city in any country.

    Unwary travelers in every country will always be spotted by those who will try to scam them with some scheme or other, whether it’s acting as your guide, selling you something or whatever. Theft, like in many places is something, as a traveler, you always have to watch out for. Stay alert, be aware. You’re in a different place, not your bedroom.

    The overwhelming majority of people in Mongolia are very open, warm hearted, honest and concerned that travelers have a safe and good experience in their country. And they will watch out for you and warn you of any dangers they think you should avoid.

    Is there crime and violence in Mongolia? Of course there is, just like every other country. And when it does happen you’ll have to deal with an overworked, underfunded, poorly paid police force, just like in other countries. But it’s definitely a much safer place to travel than most anywhere I’ve lived or traveled. When you travel alone, you should be aware of your surroundings and let people know where you are, where you’re going and when you intend to return. Just like you would anywhere you travel. Single women have and do travel here safely, but should always take precautions, just like anyone.

    Common sense, the idea and term you should keep in mind at all times when traveling is use common sense. Use your common sense when traveling, and you’ll find Mongolia a wonderful country to visit.

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