Mongol Rally Advice: A Complete Guide To Preparing For The Rally

Ed note: Look out for Caitlyn’s team at 1.14 of the video, chasing the ambulance!

Much of the Mongol Rally’s appeal can be attributed to the brash and chaotic nature of this adventure, the idea of getting lost in a country that most of your friends couldn’t place on a map. Despite the laid back and disorganized design of the rally, modern day bureaucracy necessitates a certain level of forethought and preparation before heading off.

Lonely Car Driving The Mongol Rally

A lonely car...

The Mongol Rally Route:

One of the best things about the rally is that there is no set route. You can cater your route to suit your interests/budget/time constraints. I did lots of needless research on our various destinations but the rally isn’t ideal for sightseeing. I can guarantee that when you’re driving through a tight mountain pass in first gear with a trail of 20+ angry Romanian drivers, your thoughts are only on reaching UB and not on the wonderful historical landmarks you’re missing on the way.

Our team, Party of Five, did the ‘half-half’ route. Half Southern route as we drove down through Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey and half Northern route as we took the ferry to Russia and finished our journey through Kazakhstan. Lacking any team member with any form of mechanical knowledge and our low budget were our reasons for not fully committing to the Southern route (through the ‘-stans’). However we didn’t want to just drive straight across Europe and this route meant we could party with all the Southern route hipsters along the Black Sea coast before getting split up in Turkey.

*See the last paragraph for more information on the Turkey to Russia ferry crossing.

Visas For The Mongol Rally:

Thankfully The Adventurists (check out their website, as it’s the official site for the Mongol Rally) have come up with a lovely system called the Visa Machine to deal with all the pesky problems associated with embassies and border crossings. It is possible to organize your visas yourself but judging from the experiences of others, I would recommend the visa machine.

This way, instead of actually having to prove you have booked and paid for accommodation in Russia, you can just google a hotel and scribble their details down on the form (well, it worked for us).

It is better to set your entry dates a few days earlier than you plan on arriving. Luckily for our team, we set our dates about a week earlier than expected. Without checking our visas, we boarded a ferry to Russia the day before our earliest entry date…thankfully it was an overnight ferry and we made it into Russia after only waiting 8 hours at the border! In saying that, plan logically and don’t set your dates too early. My sister had to apply for a new Mongolian visa after hers expired too early, due to our cautious entry date.

More Specific Visa Information:

Unless you are travelling a Southern or extremely Northern route, you are likely to need a double entry visa to Russia thanks to the roughly 200km stretch of land separating Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

The Georgia/Russia border is officially closed, though we did meet a team who made it through with a bit of luck and a large administrative error. I wouldn’t risk it unless you have the money, time and patience for when it all goes wrong.

Ambulance Mirror - The Mongol Rally

The open road from the ambulance mirror.

Mongol Rally Charity:

Taking part in the Mongol Rally requires a minimum donation of £1000, of which at least half goes to the Rally’s official charity (see the Adventurists official website). Fundraising for such a noble cause is easy and people are always interested to hear about such a crazy trip. Getting some media coverage in your local paper shouldn’t be a problem and raffles, barbecues and car boot sales are some pretty easy ways to raise money. We even ‘charged’ our friends to come to our going away party and made about AUD$300. Don’t forget to set up an online donation account such as and spam everyone in your inbox, it is easier than chasing people for cash!

Mongol Rally Sponsorship:

Taking part in the rally is quite expensive! Your biggest costs are likely to be:

  • Airfares (we had to fly from Oz to the start line, but even flying from Ulaanbaatar to Europe will cost you at least $600, try
  • Purchasing a granny mobile (according to the Adventurists’ restrictions)
  • Fixing up your crappy car (e.g.: sump guard to minimize the damage caused by those pesky Mongolian roads. Don’t worry if you don’t know what a sump guard is, neither did I before we left.)
  • On the road repairs to your vehicle (we met a team that had paid £700 for a new gear box, before even getting to Hungary!)
  • Petrol, cheap cheap cheap in Kazakhstan but you can expect to pay up to two euros a litre in Turkey! Check out to help you budget!

Once your donation money has started rolling in, you can try saving your team some expenses through sponsorship. Make sure you draw a clear distinction between money raised for charity (donated directly) and sponsorship money to cover the general expenses of the rally. I think it is a bit cheeky asking people to fund your globetrotting adventures (food, flights etc.), since the car is being donated to charity…

Sell yourself! Use your contacts and approach local businesses asking for help. Our sponsorship Guru Grace created a set of ‘packages’ to offer companies. A donation of £100 would get your sticker placed in a prominent position on our ambulance and a mention on our website. Larger donations gained better rewards such as a dedicated page on our site and a photo album with our ambulance (and their logo) in a range of foreign and exotic looking destinations!

Through Grace’s epic networking we managed to get our ambulance paid for in full by local businesses. We also raised enough money to pay for petrol to the Czech Republic (3 days!) Another idea is to offer a specific amount or gift to be donated. One company paid for our team’s ferry ride from England to France. Others donated food supplies and repair equipment, every bit helps. Sponsorship is worth your time but make sure you get started early – this can’t be left to the last minute!

Ambulance in The Mongol Rally

Pulling the Sponsored Ambulance...

Booking Flights:

Statistically speaking, your chances of reaching Ulaanbaatar aren’t great. We said goodbye to many worthy vehicles along the road and left countless teams stranded in remote towns. Even teams with seemingly sturdy vehicles and a wealth of mechanical knowledge at their disposal were defeated by the harsh roads of Kazakhstan and Mongolia. So, should you pre-book your flight home from Mongolia? It’s a tough call and ultimately a personal decision. We picked up extra members in Mongolia when their cars broke down but others were forced to find more reliable (read: expensive) forms of transport in order to reach UB in time for their impending flights.

Having recently left my stable teaching job in Australia, I had no time constraints and booked a flight back to Europe on the 8th of September. Having arrived on the 28th of August, this was more than sufficient time to ‘see’ UB.

The other option is booking a flight home when (if) you arrive. Be prepared to pay more for your last minute ticket but you can rest easy knowing that if your car packs up in Kazakhstan (1 in 6 chance) you can always fly home from there!

Bus in Kazakhstan - Mongol Rally Advice

A run down bus in Kazakhstan.

Mongol Rally Travel Insurance:

Getting insured for the rally is difficult. Injuries, mishaps and accidents DO happen on the rally and it is therefore recommended that you let the insurance agency know what you are up to before you sign up. I lost count of the amount of insurers I contacted and the equal amount of negative replies I received.

Here is one example of an email I actually received:

(Ed note: Caitlyn emailed me here about this one, and told me that the words ‘take a dump on health and safety’ sum it all up nicely :D)

“Hi there,

I have just had a ruling from our Underwriters in regards to the Mongol Rally, as follows –

We have had a look at the website which states:

The world has gone soft. Satellite maps and GPS have sucked the juiciness out of exploring and some git has already walked off the edge of all the maps. What if you want things to go wrong. What if you need to escape the hermetically sealed world we live in? Fear not, the solution is here. Take a dump on health & safety – do the Mongol Rally.

10,000 miles of adventuring bliss through deserts, mountains and steppe tackled in a car your Granny would use for shopping. The Mongol Rally is hurling yourself at 1/3 of the Earth’s surface in woefully unsuitable vehicles to see what happens.

Imagine yourself completely lost in a massive desert, hundreds of miles from civilisation, driving a car that the laws of physics say should not have got you past the M25 as 3 wheels fall off and a troupe of bandits wander over the horizon. That’s when the adventure begins. The Mongol Rally; the world’s best generator of chaos.

Therefore this is not something we would cover.

(Ed note: The website they are referring to in the email is The Adventurists website).

Stopping For Cows - The Mongol Rally

Stopping for a few cows (and a river).

Don’t waste your time reading through product disclosure statements until you are sure the company is ready to insure you. I contacted customer services directly and explained what the rally was about, with a link to the Adventurists website. Be sure to emphasize that the rally is NOT a race or you will never get insured!

Australian residents can try 1 Cover as they insured us, but since I didn’t need to make any claims I can’t vouch for any more than their willingness.

(Ed note: I’ve spoken with Dan from The Adventurists website about EU residents, he advised that they have a setup with an insurance firm called Campbell Irvine – and they’re a good insurer for the more dangerous stuff)

There are also a range of problems when it comes to getting insured to drive your vehicle. Once out of Europe, insurance can be purchased on border crossings for around USD$50 (variable, this was for Turkey). In the end we gave up and had our two English members insured and they drove all the way to Turkey.

Catching The Ferry From Trobzon To Sochi

It was difficult to find reliable information on the internet about this ferry crossing but don’t worry too much about it, the ferry does go! The port isn’t difficult to find in Trabzon and the guards pointed out the nearby ticket office. The cost for us was around USD$1000 for an ambulance and four seats on the overnight ferry (seats around $100 each). The ticket office only accepts cash though you can pay in USD and an ATM is located nearby. Food onboard is expensive and greasy, the seating areas crowded.

We spent most of our time on the deck and in the large but poorly ventilated bar area. In an attempt to encourage passengers to pay for sleeping cabins, smoking is allowed in the bar and a five track playlist of Turkish pop was blasted almost for the entire night (a short break was given between 2 and 6am). Access to cars during the crossing is inconvenient. Showers are available free. Bring travel sickness tablets.

The Ferry from Trabzon to Sochi - Mongol Rally

The ferry port in Trabzon, heading to Sochi!

Check out Caitlyn’s other Mongol Rally post: Mongol Rally Tips: Accommodation On The Road With Caitlyn

Caitlyn Taylor is an English teacher and freelance writer who would take up a career in backpacking if it were financially feasible. Having backpacked through Europe, Central and South America, Australia and some of Asia, Caitlyn ranks travel destinations according to the availability and deliciousness of street food (best=Colombia).

She speaks English, Swedish and Spanish but stresses that such knowledge is futile if you are trying to get through Mongolian customs…

8 Responses to “Mongol Rally Advice: A Complete Guide To Preparing For The Rally”

  1. Hogga says:

    A friend of mine knows someone who did this kind of thing through Siberia on motorcycles. The Mongol one looks more pretty haha

  2. wow.nice video and for sure the article is really informative which indeed helps backpacker or any traveller.Photoes are stunning.Just loved…them..

  3. Gillian Reading says:

    Looks amazing! Does anyone know a company that insures under 21s to drive from UK to Mongolia? I am really struggling to find a company. Any advice would be great

    • Tom says:

      Hi Gillian. I think The Adventurists themselves have a recommended insurance company that they have a partnership with. You might want to check that out perhaps! Not sure about anything specific for under 21’s tho!

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