Why would I go there?
Mongolia is an undiscovered frontier. Ahead of you lie thousands of miles of green grassland peppered with wild camels, eagles, horses and nomads. Your only routes are dusty trails running through the country like throbbing veins. Tracks switch between thick mud, gravel and rivers that swallow the road whole. It’s an adventure rider’s playground and one of the best places in the world to take a motorbike.
The south boasts the glistening Gobi Desert, the west is home to nomadic eagle hunters, in the central belt you’ll find the old capital and its ancient monasteries while the east has its deep valleys. Forget about hotels and fine dining; Mongolia is wild camping, gazing at a billion shimmering stars and living on a diet of horse milk and mutton the whole way.
Where is it?
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East Asia that, frustratingly, is only bordered by Russia and China. Unless you squint, it looks like it touches Kazakhstan, but the two are separated by Russia. The issue with that is you’ll need a Russian visa or transit visa to get through Russia if you’re overlanding and want to reach Kazakhstan.
What is there to do?
There’s nothing to do in Mongolia but ride… and ride. The fun part is the journey and the tough part is dealing with whatever Mongolia decides to throw at you along the way – and it thinks up something new every day.
The country is a never-ending rolling backdrop of mind-numbing and sometimes pure expansive wonderment. Mountains and red cliffs poke out of the ground one day, and sink into flat grasslands the next. Two days later you’ll be digging your rear wheel out of a sand dune. The day after and it’s wading through a waist-high river to check how deep it is before slipping and sliding through thick muddy swamps the next.
Through it all, you’ll go from wringing sweat out of your t-shirt to huddling round a dung oven in a frosty yurt, soaking wet and trying to dry your pants.
How do I ride there?
You can ride from the UK, but it’ll take about 4500 miles through Russia on the boring route or around 7000 miles through Central Asia on a more interesting route. An easier option would be to fly into the capital, Ulaanbaatar, and rent a motorcycle. There are plenty of rental companies offering cheap bikes. There are also lots of Mongolian enduro companies renting out KTMs.
Know before you go…
The Mongolian visa is single-entry and valid for 30 days. You need to source the visa in your home country or from an embassy abroad (easy peasy) for around £60. You will need Mongolian vehicle insurance too, which is about £20 for 30 days.
Most people worry about fuel in Mongolia. A 200-mile tank range is enough to get by – you’ll find stations in towns and jerry cans in yurts if you get stuck.
There are three main routes through Mongolia: the north, middle and south. Go for the middle – you’ll have more fun.
1. Know how to cross a river and what to do if your bike becomes submerged.
2. Carry tools, spare tubes and become confident changing tyres and fixing punctures.
3. Pack enough food and water to last two to three days. You may need it.
4. Have decent knobbly rubber, practise picking up your bike, pack light and have a way of charging your phone.
5. Download Maps.Me to your mobile phone for navigation – it’s free and works brilliantly.
6. You can camp wherever you like, apart from National Parks that require entry fees.
About the author…
Andy and his partner Alissa gave up their lives in the UK to travel round the world. They left on January 1, 2018 and at last reports were enjoying life in Laos. Follow their adventures at www.madornomad.com or on social media as Mad or Nomad.