Street crime is common in Mongolia, particularly in Ulaanbaatar, the capital. Most of the street crime is non-violent, but violent incidents do occur regularly. The most common crimes against foreigners are pickpocketing and bag snatching. There are reports of organized groups operating in open areas, usually after dark, surrounding, grabbing, and choking an individual in order to search his or her pockets. Thieves have also cut victims’ bag straps and clothing in attempts to reach wallets, cell phones, and other valuables. If you detect pickpocket attempts, you should not confront the thieves, since they may become violent. It is best not to walk alone through Ulaanbaatar after dark.
Inter-racial couples are targeted for assault. The perpetrators usually target foreign men with local women. These assaults range from organized attacks by nationalist groups to spontaneous incidents in bars.
Since the spring of 2010, the U.S. Embassy has received an increased number of reports of apparently xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals.These attacks occurred without provocation, and robbery was not the motive. Attackers targeted the victim(s) based solely on their ethnicity or perceived foreign nationality. Some of these attacks were directed against U.S. citizens.
Additionally, nationalist groups frequently mistake Asian-Americans for ethnic Chinese or Koreans and may attack without warning or provocation. Asian-Americans should exercise caution at all times when walking the streets of Ulaanbaatar.
In general, you should be extremely cautious at these locations:
Chinggis Khan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar: Organized groups frequently target tourists for robbery and pickpocketing at this airport.
The State Department Store and the area around the Circus: Organized pickpocket gangs target tourists at the entries/exits/elevators of the store and in surrounding areas, along Peace Avenue, and down to the Circus.
Naran Tuul Covered Market: Organized criminal groups target foreigners for robbery and pickpocketing.
You should also be careful in crowded public areas, such as open-air markets, the Central Post Office, and the Gandan Monastery.
In addition, you should be alert for potential criminal activity when you use public transportation or taxis. There have been several reports of foreigners being robbed and/or assaulted while riding in taxis. You may wish to ask your hotel, a restaurant, or store to make taxi arrangements for you. Also, you may wish to request that a native speaker write your destination address in Mongolian, since most cab drivers do not speak English. Private unmarked cars often act as taxis in Mongolia; their availability is high, but their consistency of performance, fare, and safety is low. You should not use unmarked taxis. If you find a cab driver whom you like (English speaker, trustworthy, clean car, etc.), request his mobile phone number for future use.
Crime rises sharply before, during, and after the Naadam Summer Festival in July, throughout the summer tourist season, and during and after Tsagaan Sar, the Winter Festival, in January or February.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegged items illegal in the United States, but you may also be breaking local law.
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