Road Conditions and Safety:
- Operating a vehicle outside of Ulaanbaatar is unsafe, particularly after dark. Outside of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia has few paved roads and even fewer street lights. Most roads have only two lanes and no shoulders and most sealed roads need resurfacing. Trucks commonly carry overloaded cargo. Livestock crossing roads, even high traffic ones, is common. Pedestrians also cross all types of roads at undesignated locations. Passing is difficult and dangerous due to the narrow, highly-trafficked nature of the roads.
Mongolian motorists are sometimes aggressive, commonly cutting each other off, performing illegal turns, driving through red lights, and/or suddenly stopping in the middle of the road. Moreover, driving while intoxicated is common. Although Mongolia is a right-hand traffic country, more than half of all vehicles have the steering wheel on the right-hand side. Most motorcycle and moped drivers have limited experience sharing the road. Motorists rarely respect pedestrian right-of-way, even in crosswalks.
- Driving off-road in Mongolia can be dangerous, especially without a knowledgeable Mongolian guide. Those contemplating off-road driving in Mongolia should bring standard vehicle maintenance equipment, a good GPS unit, and a reliable satellite phone. Exercise particular caution when driving off-road during winter. Mongolia?s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) regularly assists stuck vehicles. However, off-road rescue can take days given the remoteness and rough terrain, and few NEMA rescue crews speak English. Foreign motorists may face life-threatening situations after becoming stranded in remote locations without sufficient sources of food, water, and heat.
- To help reduce traffic and air pollution, police actively restrict certain license plate numbers from driving into downtown Ulaanbaatar on certain days of the week, usually alternating odd/even numbers.
- All foreign residents must carry a Mongolian driving permit. It is not legal to drive in Mongolia with a U.S. driver?s license. U.S. citizen tourists may legally drive in Mongolia for up to six months with a valid international driver?s license, but must have a Mongolian license thereafter. Automobile insurance is mandatory. For information concerning Mongolian driver?s licenses, vehicle inspection, road taxes, and vehicle insurance, contact the Embassy of Mongolia in Washington, DC.
- If you are involved in a collision, never move your vehicle until after the police arrive to assess the scene--even if your vehicle is blocking traffic. Moving your vehicle will incur a fine. Be prepared to wait because it can take hours before police arrive at the scene of the collision.
Ulaanbaatar has a fairly reliable bus system. Bus maps are not posted in English and buses can become extremely crowded--be alert against pickpocketing. Unofficial, unregistered, un-metered taxis are rampant in Ulaanbaatar, however registered taxis are also available. Registered taxis may refuse service during rush hour, however.
The safety and maintenance standards of rental car companies vary. Local tour companies can provide cars with drivers, but the drivers? experience, knowledge, and English-speaking abilities will vary.
For more information, please visit our Road Safety page.
Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Mongolia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Mongolia?s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.