Local Laws and Customs, Part 1

Well, might as well share all the things I write down in my notebook about the countries we’re going to visit while driving the mongol rally 2013. Here’s part 1. More parts to come, I’m sure. Enjoy! :)



  • Possession and use of drugs is illegal and, if found guilty, you could face a lengthy prison sentence in very basic conditions.
  • Male homosexual activity is illegal, punishable by a custodial sentence. Homosexuality is still very much frowned upon socially. You should take care over public displays of affection.
  • There remain sensitivities around relationships between foreign men and local women, and the Turkmen authorities are known to take action against both. For foreign nationals this could result in a fine or deportation from the county.
  • Photography of many official buildings is forbidden. You should check before taking photographs near potentially sensitive sites such as airports, military barracks, police stations, government buildings, embassies and the Presidential Palace. It is best to check with the nearest policeman if it is possible to take photographs.
  • It is also against the law to smoke outside and if caught you could be fined.



  • Seatbelts for drivers and passengers are compulsory and the use of mobile phones while driving is prohibited.
  • You drive on the right in Uzbekistan. Be aware that vehicles approaching a roundabout have the right of way over vehicles already on the roundabout.
  • We recommend that you carry a photocopy of your passport at all times. Requests to produce an ID, for example by the police, are frequent.
  • Possession of drugs is illegal. There is a ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco to those under 20. Prison sentences can be lengthy. While prison conditions have reportedly improved, reports of widespread hepatitis and tuberculosis and allegations of mistreatment of some prisoners by officials remain a source of concern.
  • You should carry a doctor’s prescription if you intend to travel with prescription medicine and declare the items on your Customs Declaration Form. Possession of such items, even with a doctor’s prescription could, if not declared, or if the quantity held exceeds legal limits, lead to administrative or even criminal proceedings.
  • Homosexuality is illegal under Uzbek law and is still very much frowned upon socially. You should take care over public displays of affection.
  • You should be aware that any form of photography can upset the authorities, particularly photographs of government buildings including the Palace of Forums in Tashkent. You should check before using a camera, especially near airports, border checkpoints, military barracks, bridges, police stations and metro stations.
  • You must register within three days of arrival. If you are staying in a hotel, you will be asked for your passport at check-in and it will be retained for a short period. Hotel staff will complete the registration paperwork and return your passport to you.
  • If staying in a private house, your host should register you with their local district OVIR (Department of Foreign Travel & Exit (they also deal with the registration of Foreign Citizens)). If you travel to another city and plan to stay for longer than three days, you will need to register again. You must follow this procedure, as a full record of your whereabouts whilst in Uzbekistan is required upon departure. Visitors who are unable to account for their whereabouts could be fined and possibly deported.



  • Service stations and petrol/water access can be limited outside the main cities
  • Local Traffic Police only have the right to stop vehicles if an offence has been committed.  Travellers should note that a Traffic Police Official should start immediately to complete official papers relating to any alleged offence.
  • Kazakhstan has a secular constitution. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs.
  • Possession and use of drugs is illegal and, if found guilty, you could face a lengthy prison sentence in basic conditions.
  • Although homosexuality is not illegal, it is often not tolerated, especially outside the major cities.
  • Local regulations require you to carry photo ID at all times.
  • Some restrictions exist on photography near military establishments, border areas and some official buildings. Notices about these restrictions are sometimes, but not always, indicated so some caution is advised. Travellers should also be aware that photography of airport facilities is prohibited.
  • You should bring enough cash for your trip. Travellers’ cheques are not normally accepted. US$ are the most widely accepted foreign currency. ATM’s are now available in most towns, but do not always accept foreign credit or debit cards. If you are bringing more than 3,000US$ into Kazakhstan you should declare these amounts on arrival into the country and when exiting.



  • Driving in Mongolia can be hazardous. There are few all-weather roads anywhere outside major towns. You should ensure your vehicle is suitably equipped for the terrain and you have appropriate supplies and communication equipment.
  • Driving standards have largely not kept pace with the dramatic growth in the number of vehicles in Mongolia and are highly variable. Vehicle maintenance in Mongolia can be poor, even for rental vehicles.
  • Driver and passengers should take sensible precautions including wearing seat belts where possible and avoiding driving at night.
  • We advise that you use an experienced, professional driver familiar with the driving conditions. Driving in Ulaanbaatar is also hazardous as roads are heavily congested, minimally signposted and there are a high number of accidents. (HAH!)
  • Possession and use of drugs is illegal and if found guilty you could face a long prison sentence in an institution with very basic facilities.
  • Although not illegal, homosexuality is a subject many Mongolians are uncomfortable with. Some Mongolian men are unhappy to see Mongolian women in relationships with foreign men. In both cases it is sensible to be discreet to avoid causing offence.
  • Though many Mongolians are familiar with foreign visitors, you should be aware of local customs, especially if visiting remote areas or calling on a Mongolian family. Stepping on a door threshold or wearing short sleeves for example can cause offence.
  • Remember to show appropriate respect in Buddhist monasteries: ask permission before taking photographs, and do not touch any sacred images or objects.