The Mongol Rally Guide
The Official Guide to the Mongol Rally
The greatest motoring adventure on the planet
A third of the way around the planet in a vehicle only fit for the scrap heap
So you pressed one of the best buttons in the interweb. The one that loads this here page that tells you more about the most excellent Mongol Rally. The one that will gradually lead you to finding yourself lost and stuck in a desert swearing about this stupid button you pressed ages ago as you watch your car go up in flames leaving you with a 200 mile hike out of the desert in just your pants. The one that will have you spinning yarns of adventuring chaos for decades to come.
What we realised is that most people need to know a bit more about the Mongol Rally than the very few words we put on the main website. So we’ve written them down. And then made this, a sort of informational spaff that you can just print out as a pdf if you like. Or read it here, or email it to the mate you are trying to persuade to join your team, or just stop reading now and sign up.
1. The Rules - well sort of.
Rule 1. You can only take a farcically small vehicle of 1 litre or less
(we will allow up to a 1.2 if you’re a bit weak)
Rule 2. You’re completely on your own
Rule 3. You've got to raise £1000 for charity
Rule 1: Small and shitYou can take any car, as long as it’s crap and with an engine of 1.2 litre or less. Ideally under 1 litre. For motorbikes we've generously allowed 125cc, but would prefer it to be a scooter.
You need to drive a small, shit car to make the rally tougher. It's no fun if it's too easy. If you want easy go for a spa weekend. If you want to make it harder, take a small bike.
With a small car or bike, you're more likely to break down so you're more likely to interact with the locals, more likely to get stuck and more likely to have an adventure. The worse the car the greater the adventure. In fact if you find your car is doing better than expected you are probably wise to pour sugar in the petrol tank.
Rule 2: You're on your ownWe could tell you everything you need to know about all the countries, roads and borders between here and Russia to ensure you have a safe, uncomplicated journey. But if it's not dangerous and you aren't lost, you're not on an adventure. That means no backup or support. If you get stuck or in trouble, you need to solve the problem yourself. Any ‘Help! We’re broken down in Tajikistan,’ type phone calls to Rally HQ will be met with a snort of derision and a click of the receiver.
Rule 3: Raise £1000 for charityIt only seems fair that if you’re having the mother of all adventures you should give a little back, so we ask teams on the Rally to raise a minimum of £1000 for charity. £500 of this goes to our official charity Cool Earth. The other £500 can be donated to a charity of your choice.
Just one more thing
It’s about small. It’s about stupid. It’s about unsuitability. It’s about humour.
We have purposely set the bar for engine size to a mere 1 Litre - or 1000cc. We shall allow up to a 1.2 for those of you who can’t handle a whole litre of courage, but anything over this and you’ll have to contact us directly and pitch your ideas to us very carefully. We shall allow larger engines if we think it’s unsuitable and ridiculous enough.
Want to prove your nuts are akin to a palm tree? Then maybe you want to consider tackling the Rally on a motorbike. Ideally, this should be under 125cc. Again, for anything over this please check with us first. We’re slightly more lenient with bikes, because driving 10,000 miles on a bike is badass enough, but you’re not going to be looked upon kindly by your fellow Ralliers if you turn up on a massive, utterly suitable touring bike.
Take your crap home with youWe no longer import vehicles to Mongolia. Nor will they scrap your car, neither will Russia. Unless you want to pay hefty (the wrong side of $6000 dollar sort of hefty) import fees. Yes, you even have to pay import fees to scrap the car. No, you can't sell it. Nor can you give it to anyone. When you enter the country in a car you get a little stamp in your passport, if you leave with the stamp, but no car, you'll have to pay the tax.
All vehicles must be driven or shipped back to whence they came. We have negotiated massive group discounts with a local freight company to assist with this, but you need to budget for the time or money to get your vehicle home.
3. The Unroute
The un-route rails against this. It forces you to be lost, to not know what’s around the next corner, to embrace the unknown.
It’s brilliantly simple. We give you a start point and a finish point but where you go or what you do in between is entirely your steaming bag of adventuring magic. We recommend that you don’t spend too long planning your route or poring over useful maps or guidebooks. Find out what’s there when you arrive. Unleash the unexpected.
In the past teams have travelled as far south as Iran and Pakistan. Others have ventured into the Arctic Circle. Why not break the mould and go via the Congo or the North Pole?
The Where and When
Finish: Ulan Ude, Russia
Doesn't it go from London to Ulaanbataar?In 2015 we moved the finish line about 500km north to the Siberian town of Ulan Ude.
Why? because we worked out it would save you about £1000 per team on shipping your car home.
You’ll still drag and cajole your sorry carcass of a car across the dusty Mongolian steppe and vomit Chinggis Gold through your nose after a heavy session with some friendly nomads.
The only difference is that the Finish Line is in the Siberian town of Ulan-Ude, 400 miles due north of Ulaanbaatar.
In 2018, we moved the launch location from the UK to a top-secret location around 30 minutes west of Prague in the Czech Republic. It was a two-day festival of the the macabre. It was like Mad Max on steroids, like a carnival float that's crashed into a zombie infested hospital. Does that make sense? Of course it doesn't. And that’s just the way we like it.
18th July: Pre-launch fun
19th July: Launch ceremony
13th August: Finish line opening ceremony
14th September: Finish line closing ceremony
4. The Money Stuff
What you get for your wonga* Entry to the greatest Rally on earth.
* A heap of expert knowledge and organisation in the months leading up to the launch
* A new improved tracking and blogging system
* A beyond-spectacular launch
* A European pit-stop party
* An awesome finish party
* 'Route beers' meet ups in the run up to the Rally
* Stories so fucking excellent your friends will be in awe of you for decades to come
* The ubiquitous Mongol Rally T-shirt
What you don't get* Your vehicle
* Your vehicle’s insurance
* Travel to and from the start and finish line
* On the road living, fuel, repairs and accommodation costs
* Your £1000 charitable donation
* A set route
* Personal travel insurance
* Visas and paperwork
* Arse wiping and hand holding
What the Blazes will this cost me?A reasonable question. Though the answer depends a lot on how much luxury you choose to reward yourself with.
Your rusty chariotNeed we say it again - the shitter the better. If you’re spending more than a few hundred quid on your car then something’s wrong.
Getting your vehicle home from Ulan UdeNo Rally cars can be left or scrapped in Ulan Ude - you must either drive your car home, or we can join the bulk shipping we co-ordinate for it to be put on a train back to Eastern Europe. Once there you can choose whether to scrap it or collect it and take it home. Costs for this will vary slightly from year to year but we're hoping to get it down to around £1000. Bear in mind if shipping, you’ll need a couple of working days in Ulan-Ude for freight procedures, so don’t book flights home straight after.
Refundable Deposit: In 2019 this was £1200 per teamWe would prefer not take this but every now and again some naughty Rallier dumps their vehicle in a sewage drain or at a random border post and we have to smooth things over. If you’re not one of these troublesome folks, and drive your vehicle back home, then you’ll get all your dosh back after the Rally. The deposit amount is the same as the shipping cost, so should you decide to use the shipping service, we will use your deposit to pay for this. If you ship your vehicle, you won’t get your deposit back.
Tipple and Tiffin: £150 to £500+Again, this is entirely down to your tastes, and whether you like side orders of botulism with your plov.
Visas: £100 - £900+The more adventurous you are, the more visas you’ll need. Russia, the Stans, Iran and China all require visas and there ain’t no wriggling out of it. We recommend you take advantage of the discount for The Visa Machine to save you some pennies as well as hassle.
Fuel: £500 +Naturally this will be more expensive if you take a longer route or you are morbidly obese. Fuel in Russia is super cheapski. Fuel in Turkey is multo ripoffski. If you’re riding a scooter it likely won't cost very much at all.
A note on sponsorship and fundraisingIf you’re cunning, persuasive and equipped with the determination of a charging gaur, then the Mongol Rally could cost you nothing, nada, nil, not a sausage. Yes, you read right: it is possible to get the whole fandango paid for through sponsorship. It is hard work though.
Getting yourself home from Ulan UdeIf you book in advance you can get a flight from Ulan Ude to London for £250. The Trans-Siberian will be about the same price, but take rather longer. Or you can drive home. It’s possible to drive home in a week for around £250 per person, including food, fuel and accommodation. If you want to save pennies then stowing away in the landing gear is usually free, but can result in arrest or death.
Charity Money: £1000This doesn't come out of your own pocket, it comes from donations. But it is something to consider. Get help setting up a fundraising page here
Accommodation: £50 - £1000+This entirely depends on whether you love the feeling of waking up sweating in a nylon nightmare each morning, or are more accustomed to butlers and silver trays.
Travel insurance: £100ishIt’s worth not trying to save too much money here – you will feel like a massive bell-end if the shit hits the fan and the only response you can get from your insurance provider is some stifled laughter before they hang up on you.
Immunisations: £100ishYou’ll need to get jabbed up before doing the Rally. Have a look online or ask a professional what you need - we don't want to start telling you what or what not to let a doctor to stick inside you.
Spares and repairs: £200+The joy of crap old cars is that they are generally cheap and easy to fix. However, if you blow a piston in the Turkmen desert it might be a little more pricey.
Gear: £0 - £1000 +If you’re one of those people who starts salivating at the thought of multi-tools, GoPros and thorium sump guards then the Rally could prove expensive. But there’s really no need for all this extra jiggery pokery and it’s more than possible to do it with a tent you found in a skip and a few spanners. In our view, less is most definitely more.
It wouldn't be the 21st century without a few stuffy suit wearing mechanoids threatening to give you a standard issue buggering if you don’t have the correct paperwork. Here’s a brief summary of what you need in order to go on the Rally.
Despite a shit load of people getting stoned for world peace in the sixties you still need a specially stamped piece of paper to get into most of the countries along the Rally route. If you can feel your adventure boner going floppy at the thought of this The Visa Machine can dot the i’s and cross the t’s for you. They have been working with us since the Rally began and we think they are the queens salty bits. There's even one Rally specific visa that can only be got through them.
Some visas require things like letters of invitation or hotel bookings as well as an application form. You can expect the simplest visas to take about a week to process and the more complicated ones much longer. As the Consulates need your passport for this time you obviously can’t get visas concurrently and if you are getting 9 or 10 visas the whole process can take up to four months. If you are using a visa agency you should expect to be without your passport for this time.
The Visa Machine offer a discount on processing fees to Mongol Ralliers who apply before their application deadlines. It is possible to get some visas using an express service, though of course this will cost you more.
The Visa Machine also arrange Turkmenistani visas on arrival. The Turkmen consulate in the UK has requested that all Mongol Ralliers use this service so if you want to travel through Turkmenistan it is important you apply early. In 2019 the deadline was the 1st April.
Personal Travel Insurance
It is absolutely essential to both get good cover, and to get it early. Sadly many standard policies won't be worth the cleverly disguised loo roll they are printed on and can leave your family frantically trying to raise half a million quid to make sure you don’t get put back together by the village carpenter. Believe us when we say this has happened before.
It is a good idea to get travel insurance in advance of the Rally in case you find yourself unable to participate in the Rally after the refund period has expired.
Carnet de Passage en Douane
This is a bit like a visa for your car. Fortunately you only need it if you are travelling through Iran or Pakistan, unfortunately, these tend to be quite expensive. They are generally sold through the automobile association of the country where your car is from. If your car is registered in the UK you can get this from the RAC, in recent years some teams opted to get the CPD on the Iranian border which they have said worked out cheaper.
You need to get motor insurance in advance for the whole of Europe. You should find that any policy purchased in Europe will cover you for Europe anyway. Some insurance companies might have a problem with you being on the Rally so it will help to reiterate that the Rally is not a Race. Beyond the boundaries of Europe you purchase insurance at the border of each country you are about to enter. Insurance is bought for the car rather than the driver, you should expect to pay $20 -$50 per country for this.
International Driving Permit (IDP)
The IDP is a small booklet which explains in multiple languages that someone somewhere deemed you capable of driving on public roads. It costs next to nothing and is a doddle to get. They're not a substitute for your original licence, they're literally just a translation of what you've already got. It's not a bad idea to get a couple so you can give them over to crooked cops looking for bribes without fear of being held ransom.
Vehicle Registration Document
It sounds blindingly obvious but you need a registration document in your name to drive to a foreign country. It proves the car is yours. A 'new keepers supplement' won’t do. A photocopy of the registration document won’t do. A registration document in your mum's name won’t cut the mustard either. If you've given your car a fancy new paint-job you should make sure the colour on your registration document matches the colour of your trusty steed. In the UK a registration document (V5) takes about 3 weeks to process.
MOT & Vehicle Tax
These need to be valid until the point you leave Europe. If you are driving home they also need to be valid for your home leg too. If you're buying your car in the UK the remainder of the MOT can be passed over to the new owner, the vehicle tax needs to be bought afresh. MOT is valid for 12 months, vehicle tax is valid for 6 months or a year.
The first is jumping into the Adventurists Find a Teammate Facebook group and the Mongol Rally Teams group and seeing who else is in the same boat - there are always a few others looking to corral some like minded types into an adventure.
The next is to just rock up on your own - the Mongol Rally is a fluid beast and you'll find people make friends at the launch and then convoy all the way through the adventure, often people will chop and change between cars as well - obviously it's not guaranteed but the additional unknown factor of not knowing who will be on the road with you can make for a more exciting adventure.
Finally you could go by motorcycle - it's harder, comes with more kudos and will definitely result in more stories at the end of it - it can also work out much cheaper as fuel costs, entry fee and on the road repairs all work out cheaper.
7. Saving the world
Cool Earth works alongside indigenous villages to halt rainforest destruction.
Local people stand to lose the most from deforestation but the most to gain from its protection, that’s why they are the forest’s best possible custodians. All Cool Earth partnerships are community-owned and led. By developing local livelihoods, their mission is to end the cycle of deforestation entrenching villages into further poverty. Creating strong, self-determining communities.
9. The Warning
Your chances of being seriously injured or dying as a result of taking part are high. Individuals who have taken part in past Adventurists' adventures have been permanently disfigured, seriously disabled and even lost their life.
This is not a glorified holiday, it's an unsupported adventure and so by its very nature extremely risky. You really are on your own and you really are putting both your health and life at risk. This is what makes them adventures.