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Travellers' Tips: Mongolia

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Make sure you are fully covered for medical treatment, including hospitalisation and medical evacuation. Insurance should also cover unexpected losses or expenses such as lost luggage, stolen cash and credit cards, missed flights, etc.

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Check Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice before travelling. Keep a photocopy of your passport page, visas and serial numbers of your travellers’ cheques separately and safely to the originals. Or, scan and e-mail these documents to your “Hotmail” or “Yahoo” account. This makes replacement in case of loss simpler. You should register at the British Embassy, even if you are only staying in Mongolia for a few days, and especially if you are travelling into the countryside.

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All passports must have at least six months validity from your date of entry into Mongolia.

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British passport holders require visas to enter Mongolia. These are best obtained from your nearest Mongolian Embassy before you travel. Mongolian visas are valid for six months from the date of issue i.e. you must enter Mongolia no more than six months from the date your visa was issued.

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Only four border points are open to British passport holders. These are Ulaanbaatar’s international airport, the road/train crossing to China at Zamin Uud, the road crossing to Russia at Altanbulag and the train crossing to Russia at Sukhbaatar. Additionally, with prior permission from the Russian authorities, you can cross at Tsagan-Nuur (Bayan-Ulgii province) and Borshoo (Uvs province).

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If you are leaving Mongolia to either Russia or China, we suggest you obtain the necessary double or multiple visas from the Russian or Chinese Embassies before entering Mongolia as there have been some problems obtaining visas from these Ulaanbaatar based Embassies, particularly the former. Contrary to international travel information and the Chinese Embassy in London, the airlines require all British passport holders to have a Chinese visa before boarding a flight to Beijing. This applies regardless of the length of time in transit. There is no airside transit facility at Beijing airport.

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Travellers have also reported some difficulty entering or exiting Russia at the Mongolian/Russian border crossing point. These problems seem to relate to Russian currency and customs regulations and completing all necessary Russian forms. You are strongly advised to read the Travel Advice and Travellers' Tips for Russia and be scrupulous about correctly completing all possible paperwork when you enter and exit Russia.

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If you are staying in Mongolia for less than 30 days, you should have an "entry/exit" visa. If you do, there should be no requirement to register with Mongolian Authorities. If you are unsure please check with the British Embassy in Ulaanbaatar. 30- day visas can be extended on arrival in Ulaanbaatar, usually for a maximum of another 30 days at a cost of 2 US Dollars per day. If you intend to remain in Mongolia for more than 30 days you must register with the Foreign Citizens’ Bureau in Ulaanbaatar within the first 7 days of arrival. Failure to do so usually results in a large fine. If you need to register, then before leaving Mongolia, you must de-register at the Foreign Citizens' Bureau before obtaining an "exit" visa from Consular Department of the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If you do not, you will not be allowed to exit Mongolia and told to return to Ulaanbaatar to de-register and obtain your exit visa. This is particularly inconvenient if you are trying to leave by train as it involves a long journey back to the capital from the border crossing points.

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Mongolia is a cash-based society with credit cards only beginning to gain acceptance. US Dollar travellers’ cheques can be easily cashed and converted to Mongolian Togrogs. Money can be transferred to and collected in Mongolia using commercial means such as Western Union or MoneyGram.

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Mongolia is relatively safe. But crime, including violent muggings does occur. Attacks against women have increased. Do not walk home alone at night, particularly in poorly lit areas. In Ulaanbaatar, use the abundant and cheap taxis. Petty crime, such as pick pocketing is common, particularly in tourist frequented areas including the airport and railway station, and on public transport.

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Emergency health care in Ulaanbaatar is adequate for most basic needs. In other urban centres and the countryside it can be non-existent. If you are travelling into the countryside, take with you suitable medical supplies, including any required prescription medicine. Your travel insurance must include cover for medical evacuation to Ulaanbaatar or another country. There are no medical evacuation facilities in Mongolia and these must come from China or further away. Foot and Mouth and other infectious diseases are common in Mongolia, including plague. In the case of an outbreak, affected areas of the country will be quarantined and travel restricted or even prohibited. You may be prevented from travelling to an affected area, or prevented from leaving if already there. Bubonic Plague can be caught from the fleas on marmots and other rodents. Do not approach such animals, even when dead.

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Mongolia is a country of extreme weather, from +35C in summer to –35C (and lower) in winter. Even in summer, due to the altitude, evenings can be cold and weather conditions change without warning. If you are travelling into the countryside, be prepared for all conditions.

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Mongolia’s countryside is vast, mainly without a formal road network and certainly without road signs. If you are travelling into the countryside take the appropriate equipment. A Global Positioning System, maps, satellite phone and/or emergency beacon and medical supplies are among the basics for safe travel.

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