When entering Mongolia, by land or air, fill out the straightforward entry form. You’ll have to register if you plan to be in Mongolia for more than 30 days. Registering in Ulaanbaatar (UB) is fairly straightforward, and it’s also possible in Ölgii if you arrive in western Mongolia.
If you are legally exporting any antiques, you must have a receipt and a customs certificate from the place you bought them. Most reliable shops in Ulaanbaatar can provide this. If the shop cannot produce a receipt or if you buy the item from a country market, assume that you will not be able to export the item; it will be confiscated upon departure.
At some sites (especially Kharkhorin and Bayanzag) you’ll be offered furs of rare animals and even fossilised dinosaur bones and eggs. Please do not take up these offers. There are stiff penalties for illegally exporting fossils, including jail time.
Travellers entering at the airport with extra baggage can expect to have their luggage opened and inspected. You can bring the following into Mongolia duty-free:
- 1L of spirits
- 2L of wine
- 3L of beer
- three bottles of perfume
- 200 cigarettes
A 30-day tourist visa is required for some foreign nationals, although a number of countries can visit visa free, including citizens of the USA, Canada and Germany.
Tourist visas A 30-day tourist visa is required for most countries and can be easily obtained at any Mongolian embassy, consulate, consulate-general or honorary consul.
Visa on arrival If you are travelling to Mongolia from a country that has no Mongolian consulate, you can pick up a 30-day tourist visa on arrival at the airport in Ulaanbaatar. You’ll need T108,000 (or dollar equivalent) and two passport photos – you should also have a pre-approval letter from an organisation or company in Mongolia.
90-day visa-free nationalities Citizens of the following countries can stay in Mongolia for up to 90 days without a visa: Belarus, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Serbia, Ukraine and USA. If they stay less than 30 days, nothing needs to be done, other than having their passport stamped when they enter and leave the country. If they stay more than 30 days, they need to register.
Other visa-free nationalities Citizens of Canada, Germany, Israel, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, Thailand and Turkey can stay visa-free for up to 30 days; Philippines passport-holders can stay for 21 days without a visa, and Hong Kong citizens can stay visa-free for up to 14 days.
Registration All visitors who plan to stay more than 30 days must be registered within seven days of their arrival.
Extension Visitors can extend on a per-week basis. A one-week extension is T22,000. A 30-day extension is T108,000. If you overstay your visa the fine is also T108,000. When requesting an extension, you may be asked for a flight itinerary printout.
Regulations To check current regulations, try the website of the Mongolian embassy in Washington DC at www.mongolianembassy.us. Other websites to check include www.immigration.gov.mn and mfa.gov.mn.
Cost Standard tourist visas generally last 30 days from the date of entry, and you must enter Mongolia within three months of issue. Each embassy or consulate sets its own price. For single-entry/exit visas you can expect to pay: A$230 in Canberra, UK£40 in London, C$90 in Ottawa and Y405 in Bĕijīng.
Issuing time Visas normally take several days, or even up to two weeks, to issue. If you want your visa quicker, possibly within 24 hours, you will have to pay an ‘express fee’, which is double the normal cost. If you want to stay longer than 30 days, tourist visas can be extended in Ulaanbaatar.
Multiple-entry visas Multiple-entry/exit tourist visas are usually only issued to foreign residents who do a lot of travel.
These visas last 72 hours from the date of entry. This period will only allow you to get off the Trans-Mongolian train for a very short time before catching another train to Russia or China. A single-entry/exit transit visa costs between US$25 and US$60, depending on where you apply for it, and cannot be extended. You will need to show the train or plane ticket and a visa for the next country (Russia or China).
If you have a 30-day tourist visa, you can extend it by another 30 days. For extensions, go to the Office of Immigration, Naturalisation & Foreign Citizens. The only catch is that if you stay longer than 30 days you have to be registered at this office (which you should have done within seven days after arrival).
The office is located about 1.8km east of Ulaanbaatar airport (next to the large sports arena), an inconvenient 15km trek from the city centre. The office can get quite busy, so try to arrive early to avoid the lines. There is a small cafe here that serves meals if you get stuck during the lunch hour. An information desk with English–speaking staff can help answer your questions and point you to the correct line.
The INFC office is a branch of the main visa office of the Ministry of External Relations (www.mfa.gov.mn). You may be sent to the ministry if your visa situation is complicated (ie you require a work permit). The entrance is on the west side of the building. In Mongolian it’s known as: Gadaadiin Irgen Haryatiin Asuudal Erhleh Gazar (Гадаадын Иргэн Харьяатын Асуудал Эрхлэх Газар).
If you have already registered, you should apply for an extension about a week before your visa expires. It costs T3600 per day and the minimum extension is seven days. You will need a passport-sized photo and must pay a T5000 processing fee. The extension will be issued on the same day. Credit cards may be accepted, but it’s best to bring cash in case the machine isn’t working.
Several guesthouses in Ulaanbaatar will take care of visa extensions (and registration) for a small fee. If you don’t have a letter of support, you can write your own (handwritten is OK); the letter should state the date of your arrival, the date of extension and the reason for travel.
Getting a visa extension outside Ulaanbaatar is difficult, as officials would need to send your passport back to Ulaanbaatar. In an extreme situation this might be possible at the INFC office in Ölgii.
Transit and tourist visas are good for one entry and one exit (unless you have a double or multiple-entry/exit visa). If you are working in Mongolia, or if you obtained your visa at an honorary consul, you are usually issued a single-entry visa (valid for entry only). In this case, another visa is required to leave the country. These visas are available from the INFC office.
The exit visa situation in particular applies to Israeli and US passport-holders (who usually enter without visas). Israelis need an exit visa if they stay more than 30 days and Americans need one if they stay more than 90 days.
Cost For most nationalities the exit visa costs around US$15, plus an additional US$2 per day that you stay beyond the expiry of your entry visa.
Duration It is valid for 10 days, which means that you can stay 10 days after your normal visa has expired.
If you intend to stay in Mongolia for more than 30 days, you must register before the end of your first seven days of being in the country (although this rule is sometimes overlooked and you might be able to register in the first 30 days). Note that you can only register twice per calendar year at the INFC office.
Requirements Registration takes place at the INFC office. The process is free, but you have to pay T1000 for the one-page application. You’ll need one passport-sized photo. Most guesthouses can rustle up an invitation to Mongolia for you if you require one.
Signing out As a formality, the registration also needs to be ‘signed out’; however, the official you are dealing with will usually do this when you register so you won’t have to come back. A specific date is not needed; just set the exit date as far out as possible and you can leave any time before that date.
Ölgii office If you’ve arrived in western Mongolia from Russia, the INFC office in Ölgii can get you registered.
Fine If you don’t register, you are liable for a fine (theoretically from US$100 to US$300) when you leave the country.
The only way to remain in Mongolia on a long-term basis (ie more than three months) is to get a work or study permit. The company or organisation you are working for should handle this for you, but if you are working independently you need to go it alone. You will almost certainly need a letter from an employer providing a legitimate reason for your stay. Registration typically takes place at the INFC office near the airport.
Visas for Onward Travel
The best place to get a visa for China is in your home country. Applying at home will require less paperwork and you’ll have a better shot at getting a multiple-entry visa. If you cannot get one in your home country, the Chinese Embassy in Ulaanbaatar is another option. Drop off passports between 9.30am and noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday (pick-up is 4pm to 5pm). Transit visas (single- or double-entry) last up to seven days from each date of entry, and single- and double-entry tourist visas are valid for 30 days from the date of each entry – you must enter China within 90 days of being issued the visa. Single-/double-entry tourist visas cost US$30/60 and take four days to issue. For two-day or same-day service, you’ll have to fork out an extra US$20 or US$30. You must pay in US dollars. Visas for US citizens are US$140, regardless of type.
When you apply for the visa you must provide one passport photo, proof of departure from China (eg an air or train ticket), proof of a booked hotel stay of three nights and a bank statement. This is not as difficult as it sounds. For the proof of departure, you can go to any travel agent in Ulaanbaatar, make a booking for a flight and get a printout (you don’t need to actually buy the ticket). As for the hotel bookings, the best way to do this is to book three nights at a hostel in Bĕijīng using your credit card. These bookings are usually 90% refundable so even if you never stay at the hostel this exercise should only cost a few dollars. Payment for the visa is made at the Golomt Bank across the street from the embassy front gate.
In August and early September lines are long due to students lining up for visas. At this time the line starts to form at 6am (or earlier). Before the embassy opens, the guard will give out a limited number of tickets. If you don’t get a ticket, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get inside that day. For updated information, see http://mn.china-embassy.org.
The consular section at the Kazakh Embassy is open from 10am to noon and 4pm to 6pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Single-entry, one-month visas cost US$160 for Americans and US$30 for most other nationalities and take four to five days to process. Double-entry and multiple-entry visas are not usually available. Before trekking down here, call the embassy to make sure the consul is in town and the hours are still the same (and to check that they are even issuing visas, as this service periodically stops).
Getting a Russian visa is by no means a straightforward process, but it's getting easier. If at all possible, obtain a your visa in your home country, rather than on the road.
The consular section of the Russian Embassy is open for visas from 9am to noon daily. Costs and processing time vary depending on nationality (and some nationalities won't be able to get a tourist visa), although most nationalities are charged US$70. You will need one photo. Some (not all) nationalities can get a visa for one month. You can send an email to the consulate and ask about costs and eligibility for your nationality (they will respond but correspondence may end up in your junk mail).
There is a catch – you will almost certainly be required to have a tourist voucher (also called visa support letter), which can only be arranged by a private tour operator. The consular section of the embassy will pass out business cards of companies that can arrange this; Legend Tour, located on Seoul St behind the embassy, has been a long-time player in this game.
For full visa-support service Legend Tour charges Australians US$150 and will process in 16 business days. Americans are charged US$205, with seven business day processing. French and Dutch nationals are charged US$100 and will be processed in 12 business days. You may need to show proof of health insurance and/or cash.
Citizens of Germany, the UK and New Zealand are a few of the nationalities that cannot get a tourist visa here (unless the applicant has been living in Mongolia for more than 90 days). However, they can get a transit visa. You must bring all your tickets into and out of Russia to get the visa. The length of the transit visa depends on your travel route but you are usually given a maximum of seven days (enough to take the Trans-Siberian to Europe). Regular processing time for a transit visa is four days, although rush visas can be done the following day. Prices are the same as for a tourist visa.
For additional information, contact http://waytorussia.net.
Make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months from your date of arrival. If you lose your passport, your embassy in Ulaanbaatar can replace it, usually in one day.
The Office of Immigration, Naturalisation & Foreign Citizens, which registers passports, is located about 2km from the airport in Ulaanbaatar. If you need to register your passport or need to apply for a visa extension, you should visit this office when you land (if that's during working hours). This will save you having to make a second trip out to the airport for registration. To get there from the airport, walk out to the main road, turn right and walk 900m, then turn right again and walk 350m. The large round building (a sports arena) is a nearby landmark.