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The Mongol Rally Guys

13 Mar, 2010

Mongol Rally Prep Tips

Posted by: Scott In: Post-Rally

Below are some preparation tips for those of you that are considering doing the Mongol Rally in forthcoming years:

You’ll be doing a lot of promotion before the rally, trying to raise funds for charity and whatnot. The first thing you should do is get yourself a web site (GoDaddy sells domain names for about $10 and you can have it forwarded to anywhere) and print out some business cards. Amazingly, we were one of the only teams in the rally that had cards printed, and every other team thought it was a great idea but hadn’t thought of it themselves. Check out our cards, and then head on over to Prints Made Easy where you can get 100 full-color cards for $15! I would get more than that if you’re serious about fundraising though–I went through about 1500 myself.

Pick your car wisely! It pays to get *everything* checked by a professional mechanic before you leave. If it has a lot of rust on the underside, don’t take it (that was our big mistake).

Pick your teammate(s) wisely! It’ll suck if your teammate leaves you to do all the work, or chooses to fly back home and leave you stranded in the middle of the rally (not referring to my teammate Collin, as he had no choice at that point–we heard some pretty rough tales from other teams about teammate squabbles, money stolen, etc.–don’t let that be you!)

Don’t bother shipping a car overseas–it’s not worth the money and paperwork. We did it because I thought it’d be a good way to get a left-hand drive vehicle for the race and because we would be able to ship out stuff over to the U.K. in it. Don’t follow our example–just find some way to buy it in the U.K.

If you don’t take my advice and do end up shipping a U.S. car overseas make sure it has a front license plate. Some states don’t offer them, but do what you can to get one. If you don’t you will be pulled over dozens of times along your route.

Bring copies of every document you have along with the originals–the car title/deed, your passport, the car bill of sale, etc.

At the end of every day you will be exhausted. I started off thinking that every night your convoy members would gather around a fire, drinking booze and telling stories–nope, not most of the time. You’ll be lucky if you have the determination to heat up some water and eat an instant meal pouch.

Try as you might, your car will get filthy dirty, inside and out. I was all for making the car look pretty at the start, but after you hit the deserts it becomes a hopeless task. You and your car will get absolutely covered in sand and dirt every day, and it will penetrate every nook and cranny of your gear.

Bring a few economy size packs of baby wipes. They are indispensable cleaning and grooming tools when you go for days at a time without showers.

Bugs weren’t really a problem except for when we camped in a low lying piece of farmland just across the border into Kazakhstan, and once again when we got off of the desert plateau and into the lowlands around Qonghirat and Nukus, Uzbekistan. One bottle of spray should do.

Always act confident but play stupid when someone is trying to get a bribe out of you. It may take a while, but eventually they’re going to give up.

It is optimal to bring at least $1,500 cash per person in spending money (food, gas, hotels, bribes, etc.)–$2,000 is better though. Stick $500 wads in a few different locations in case of theft.

Setting up and taking down tents is a chore, so if you can grab one of the instant pop-up tents (such as the kind sold be Quechua) it’ll make your life that much easier. Nobody in the convoy wants to be waiting around for you to finish up packing.

It’s a bit of a pain in the ass, but you’ll be the favorite member of the group if you pack up a folding camping table. Sucks eating and setting stuff on your dirty car.

You won’t come across washing machines very often, so bring a collapsible vinyl tub and some liquid soap to do your laundry by hand when you check into a hotel.

Sunscreen is your friend–bring a couple bottles per person. Don’t forget to grease up your driving arm.

If you can, make sure you have ample time and money. Nothing is worse than having to penny-pinch the whole way or not being able to stop and check out cool sites because you have to be back within twenty days. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, so do it right.

Bottled water is available everywhere, so don’t worry about bringing chlorine tablets and water purifiers. You’ll know when you are hitting a long stretch of road with nothing on it and can buy extra at that time. In some of the Central Asian countries (most notably Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), getting non-carbonated water is quite difficult.

Take two 20 liter jerry cans with you and try to never fill both up from the same source. We needed them in the Qaraqalpakstan Desert between Beyneu, Kazakhstan and Qonghirat, Uzbekistan; in the Pamir Mountains; and I’m sure we would of needed them in Mongolia as well.

Border guards always ask for American cigarettes, and it doesn’t hurt to give them some to make instant friends and speed things along. Sure, they have the same brands in Central Asia, but for some reason the American ones are very much preferred. We didn’t bring any, but we probably should have.

Get good wheels. Try to go for solid steel wheel and not the sporty cast metal type–they can crack and break. Try and go up an inch in size–you need all the ground clearance possible. Doing this can do away with any need of protector plates on the bottom of your car.

Get good tires, even if it means paying quite a bit for them. It sucks to keep changing tires in the middle of the journey, or trying to find the right size tires in some junkyard in the middle of Kazakhstan.

Try not to ever be the first one over a decent-size river crossing. Let someone else go first and learn from their mistakes.

Most people we met were very nice. Don’t go along the entire route thinking that every single person is trying to scam you, as a few teams we encountered did. Definitely be aware of airport taxis though (which shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t break down). Always negotiate a price first and ask if that is the full price, in the local currency (not dollars), for the entire trip–not per kilometer.

How did people react when they found out we were American? Usually with smiles. They don’t get very many tourists in general, and very few of those that make it to Central Asia are American, so we were somewhat of a novelty. The first thing people usually brought up was Obama, who seems to be universally adored. They would ask if we approved of Obama, and then usually ask what we thought of Bush. One thumb up followed by one thumb down usually got the message across pretty well.

Bring trash bags! People, please please please remove any garbage that you create. Yes, it is a huge pain in the ass, and yes, it is hard to find places to throw it away, and yes, it does take up room in the car and tend to get smelly after a while…but that’s no excuse to just throw your crap on the ground. I don’t care if no one is around, or if the place is already littered with refuse–don’t do it. We went through a few additional garbage bags ourselves just cleaning up the trash that fellow ralliers left in their wake. I think the event organizers should encourage this type of behavior more than they do presently.

Bring a spare key. Or two. Collin and I were constantly leaving our keys inside of the car, or misplacing them amongst our belongings. Make sure each team member has their own copy of the car key, and think about maybe even bringing along a spare one in a magnetic case and attaching it to the underside of the car somewhere. Getting locked out of your own car in the middle of the desert would be a real bummer.

Do some research. Yes, it’s sometimes fun to just go off with no plans and wing it for a while, but that gets old after a few days of being lost with no showers or warm meals. Take some time to roughly plan the route you are going to take, and maybe highlight a few sights you will be passing by in case you want to make a short detour. Remember, this isn’t a race! You may never pass by many of these places again, and wouldn’t it suck to know that you passed by something really cool and never even knew it was there? I know Lonely Planet guides sometimes get a bad rap, but if you are doing a route through Central Asia I highly recommend grabbing yourself a copy of Lonely Planet Central Asia. We didn’t take one with us and ended up having to try and buy one off of a traveling Danish couple once we found out how useful it was. Lucky for us they gave it to us for free.

29 Responses to "Mongol Rally Prep Tips"

1 | Cheryl and the Lakes Area Club

November 5th, 2009 at 3:03 pm


Wow what a trip and it’s so good to know you are both back safe and sound. It really sounds like this was a once in a life time trip. I can’t wait for you to present this to the Lakes Area Rotary Club. Great job Collin and Scott!

2 | Scott

November 5th, 2009 at 4:08 pm


Thanks for your help and support Cheryl!

3 | Steve

January 12th, 2010 at 7:18 pm


Thanks for the heads up. The folding table is a nice idea that we hadn’t really considered, the business cards are definitely a nice touch, and the idea to go with steelie wheels instead of the fancier looking rims is definitely a good plan.

We’re looking at making the trip for 2011 and after just a couple emails I’ve already made, I definitely agree with the plan to buy a car over there (from here in Edmonton to London was roughly $3900 (USD)!

4 | Steve

January 12th, 2010 at 8:16 pm


BTW, if you don’t mind, I wouldn’t mind copying this write-up for out page. It’s got some good stuff on it and I’ll toss you a creditation


January 18th, 2010 at 10:52 am


[…] following is taken from the website of The Mongol Rally Guys who entered in […]

6 | Dan Coupar

January 26th, 2010 at 3:03 pm


Some really great advice there, thanks!

7 | Scott

January 26th, 2010 at 5:17 pm


No problem–was hoping it’d help a few people out!

8 | lostinmongolia

May 2nd, 2010 at 10:09 am


As you enter into Mongolia from Russia you come into a province called bayan ulgii. Then on to Hovd. As you leave the center of Hovd province, (aimag) there is 145 Km till the next town of Zereg. Many cars stop for help here because the road is so bad along this stretch. I recommend not stopping there. There are a bunch of ruffians there who chased us out of town last year. They wanted us to pay 100 dollars for a little weld job that would have cost less than 2 pounds. I heard from others that there have been other problems there before. They try to do what every they can to get your car from you. If you must stop stay away from groups of men as they are normally drunk and could be dangerous.

9 | Scott

May 2nd, 2010 at 1:32 pm


Lost: I have heard of this happening before. Good tip, thanks.

10 | Sam

November 19th, 2010 at 11:18 pm


Hi, my buddy and I are down to do the rally in July 2011. I found your tips really helpful so thanks! I was wondering though, if you could give me an estimate on how much you actually spent on gas? Also, do you know anyone who took the ‘high road’ and drove through Russia/Siberia and dropped into Mongolia from the north?

11 | Scott

November 20th, 2010 at 1:50 am


Hi Sam, thanks for stopping by.

Gas can be paid by credit card until Romania or so, so that’s what we did to conserve gas. After that gas prices drop quite a bit. Your car is small, and won’t take much. We didn’t keep track, but it was maybe $500 after Europe?

There are always a few teams that go through Russia and get there quick–it’s all paved and not very interesting. Not recommended.

12 | Rob (Mongol Rally Chief)

May 8th, 2011 at 1:45 pm


“Bring trash bags! People, please please please remove any garbage that you create. …We went through a few additional garbage bags ourselves just cleaning up the trash that fellow ralliers left in their wake. I think the event organizers should encourage this type of behavior more than they do presently.”

Agreed. I’ll see what I can do!

Great stuff guys, good work.

Mongol Rally Chief

13 | Scott

May 8th, 2011 at 10:37 pm


Thanks for stopping by Rob!

14 | Rickshaw Run Tips | Rickshaw Run Guys

October 31st, 2011 at 6:16 pm


[…] as I did in late 2009 after I “finished” the Mongol Rally, I would like to list to some tips for those souls […]

15 | Costs of the Mongol Rally: Car, bits and petrol. « Interesting little things with Martin

March 14th, 2012 at 6:00 am


[…] a bit more information about just what you should by for the car, take a look at the Mongol Rally guys or Adventure kings or the Adventurist’s Mongol Rally site on facebook. All in all, make sure […]

16 | Doing My Homework: The Mongol Rally Guys from 2009 « The Mongol Rally 2012

March 18th, 2012 at 9:27 pm


[…] post on there with a load of tips for this year’s Mongol Rally participants – make sure you go and have a […]

17 | John

August 11th, 2012 at 6:26 am


Thanks for the tips! Some good ones I didn’t think of such as the cigarettes. I’m entering in 2014 and seriously can’t wait, will be the trip of a lifetime! Currently researching the best car to take on the rally/trip. Hopefully bump into you guys along the beaten path. 🙂

18 | Scott

August 17th, 2012 at 7:48 am


No problem John–best of luck to you with your 2014 journey!

19 | Dave V.

September 8th, 2012 at 2:36 pm


Just got back from spending two months in Mongolia and ran into several rally teams along the way. I enjoyed talking to the team members and I will probably enter in ’14 or ’15. The one problem I heard most often was broken shocks. Along with all the other advice I’ve read I think I will do some serious suspension mods in preparation for the trek.

20 | Scott

September 8th, 2012 at 3:20 pm


Yes, your shocks will take a beating! Our were alright, but we installed fresh ones prior to shipping the vehicle over to the UK (it was just everything else that ended up going on the car, hah). You should definitely do it–you’ll have a blast!

21 | TULGA

November 14th, 2012 at 6:39 am


NOTICE.!!! I`m from Mongolia, Ulanbatar.
I have attached some ADS…
I`ll buy any kind of automobile. Cars are can be old, or dameged… It doesn`t matter, I offer well cost… For SMS /00(+)976/ 88251684… OR

22 | Rallier 2014

June 10th, 2013 at 2:53 pm



Just a quick question (if this thread is still active). Why is it bad to fill the gerry cans from the same source?


A Noob Rallier

23 | Scott

June 11th, 2013 at 12:55 pm


It’s so that if you get bad petrol from one source it won’t be contaminating your car AND both cans. In a worst case scenario you could always siphon the petrol out of your tank and replace it with good stuff from one of your jerry cans. (That being said, we had no issues with bad petrol during our journey.)

24 | Justin the rookie

January 14th, 2014 at 10:45 pm


Hey this is a really old thread, but these tips have answered a lot of questions for me.. I have quite a few questions though. We’re going to have a three person team, does one of us necessarily have to know how to work on the car and fix it? Because we don’t. And we’re the border crossings too difficult being American and all? And how much would a car over there in London before the rally cost that would be good for the rally?

25 | Scott

January 16th, 2014 at 4:24 pm


Happy to be of service Justin.

Know how to fix a car? Hah! Hardly anybody that does the Mongol Rally has any working mechanical know-how. If it breaks you find someone who can fix it, that’s all.

Nobody cares that you’re American–it takes the same ungodly amount of time to cross borders no matter what your nationality. Ex-soviet states LOVE their paperwork.

Depends, but I’ve seen Suzuki Swifts with 50k miles on them for around 1,000 pounds ($1,600). It’s not “good for the rally”, but that’s the whole point, right? 😉

26 | Justin the rookie

January 17th, 2014 at 12:10 pm


Oh thank god because we have no idea how to gix anything. The main question I need to ask, is the funding. How much money $ do you think a four person team would need.. Plane tickets, visas, and all. Per person

27 | Scott

January 20th, 2014 at 7:41 am


What The Adventurists list on the Costs page of their web site is a good place to start. What we spent isn’t really all that helpful, seeing as we had a different car, bought in the US, had to ship it to the UK, petrol prices were different at the time, plane tickets from where?, etc. etc. etc.

Do make sure to have USD$1000 or so once in Mongolia to fly back with (they raise the rates mid-August onward seeing as all the ralliers come in then). But then again, guess the rules have changed and now you are kind of obligated to drive back out of Mongolia, which changes things a bit.

28 | Justin the rookie

January 23rd, 2014 at 6:10 pm


Okay thank you this all helps so much, one last question though, about the plane tickets, I’m just looking to get a general idea of what you guys spent to get from the U.S to London and then from Mongolia back to the U.S. and maybe any recommendations on when to buy the tickets or good airline for such a long trip and anything of that sort.

29 | Scott

January 24th, 2014 at 3:45 am


Well…think you have to drive back from Mongolia this year, you cant just leave your car there like we did.

Ticket back from Mongolia for me was about $100 when bought in UB (didn’t know when I’d arrive, so could pre-purchase it ahead of time). There’s only one airline out if you’re heading towards Europe (MIAT/Aeroflot).

US to London? Just use or something.

All depends though–plane tickets always go up and down in price depending on tons of factors.

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