Is it safe?
How safe is it to travel in Central Asia & Mongolia?
"Is it safe?" - is the question we hear a lot. Regarding safety, Central Asia it is like everywhere in the world; there are good places and bad. The good thing is that most Central Asian countries and especially Mongolia are tourist friendly and hardly have as much crime as other Asian countries, though common sense still applies. Often if there is any crime with tourists, it usually won't exceed the occasional wallet steal or theft. Despite this, there are still cautions you can take.
Allthough no country in the entire world is immune from terrorism, Central Asia is a region that is relatively close to hot terrorist zones. That is why you should make sure you always educate yourself before traveling around.
Be sure to always check the current state of border territories before entering, especially from a political standpoint. There aren’t any attacks common enough to be worried about, but they require you to take caution.
Disease is something that is always a risk when traveling somewhere new, and there is no difference when it comes to Central Asia. Although it is relatively safe, there are precautions to take in certain areas, especially where poverty is more prominent.
In the past months and years, there have been small outbreaks of diseases in some areas of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. These include:
− Hepatitis A
− Hepatitis B
Ideally, you want to get vaccinations for as many of these diseases as possible.
Also, water cleanliness is a common problem in Central Asia. Ensure that you boil as much water as you can, if on the go then only drink bottled water, never go for tap water.
Is there a high crime rate?
Fortunately, the crime is predominately petty and low level in most areas of Central Asia, although being a tourist, you will be targeted due to your perceived ignorance about the subject.
Crime, when happening, will usually occur in high volume areas during the night, locations include Tashkent, Bishkek, West Kazakhstan, South Almaty, and Dushanbe. You will find that some of these territories have put in place curfews to minimize crime, though where there isn't, you will have to use your common sense as stated earlier.
Amongst Ulaanbataar in Mongolia, pickpocketing is quite common due to the high traffics of people. It is essential that when visiting here, you have your wallet in some form of bag that is firmly and tightly strapped onto you.
Ensure that whenever traveling, especially when you're alone, stay amongst crowds of people, most crimes happen in dark and desolate places when it is easy to corner someone.
Tips for Solo Female Travellers
Although the stereotype is that Central Asia may be a dangerous place for females to go solo, the fact is, for the most part, it is like any other travel arrangement including standard precautionary. Despite the above, there are differences in the culture, and this could affect how comfortable a female would feel on her own.
Amongst Central Asian men, there may be some form of "harassment" that manifests itself through winks, stares and just subtle body language cues. In this case, if the women do not wish to advance on it, the best thing to do is just ignore it, and it will dissipate.
Perhaps the most common place for any harassment to unfold is public transport, in the form of trains and buses. Ensure that when you sit down or stand, it is either next to another female person, so there is no more space for anyone else to join, or on a single seat.
Precautions that any solo female traveler can take include:
− Don't let people know you are a solo female traveler
− Join up with other travelers and tourists in the country
− Avoid situations where your isolated and may be with high volumes of men
− Make sure your bag is properly strapped on you and that you carry it only in public places where people can help
What do I have to consider when crossing borders?
Due to several countries being landlocked and there being no travel zones, several Central Asian borders are tendinous. When crossing the border, it is not uncommon to be scammed or harassed by an "official" that will demand money for some kind of service from you. If this ever happens, ensure that you do not give in as these people are just scammers who want to take advantage of your lack of knowledge. They are rarely violent and will subside once you show confidence that they are liars.
What about harassment?
Heavy drinking (e.g. Vodka) is found in Central Asia & Mongolia especially on public holidays. So be careful if you come across drunk men. In these areas men are in general strong and strength is an important traditional heritage. You don’t want to get into a fight with a nomadic wrestler.
Nevertheless, enjoy your travels!
Although your focus may be on the negatives of Central Asia after reading this, note that all crime and safety issues are amongst the minority when traveling to this incredible region. As long as you take precautions and are aware of the above dangers, you will have a great time visiting the different countries and cultures.
Maybe, now keep enjoying some amazing photos of Central Asia & Mongolia.