A car trip across Mongolia
Reasons for coming to the motherland of Genghis Khan
Mongolia is a rather picturesque country with fantastic landscapes and strong national identity. However, from year to year, the country is slowly losing its Oriental uniqueness and becoming more and more like China due to their adjacent geographical position. Thus, if you want to see the beauties of genuine Mongolia, shake a leg.
You still have a chance to enjoy authentic Mongolian gers through the window of your car, watch a flock of grunting oxen grazing, see the Mongolian steppes as long as you cannot explore the wides of Mongolia by foot. On the contrary, if you travel by car, you don’t stick to any schedule since everything depends on the whims of the driver and how much fuel he has. Thus, here we will try to explain what is a car trip across Mongolia — a perfect country for travelling if one day the Mongols address the transportation problem.
Some people say that roads can be good, bad and Mongolian. It will just suffice to mention the names of the most dangerous road sections at the mountain passes or in saline valleys. These are the Mother-in-law’s Tongue Path, Valley of Tears, the Pass of Pain, the Death Road. Sounds scary. These names may bring you down.
If you are familiar with Russian roads, you will see nothing new in Mongolia. However, there is only one distinction. The thing is that all roads covered with asphalt are toll. You will have to pay on entering and exiting the city (about 50 cents or 1,000 MNT). By the way, you may face large traffic jams in Ulan-Bator, a capital of the country. There can be enormous holes on the toll asphalt roads and you will see no warning signs of hazardous road conditions. So, be careful! That’s why the Mongols steer around such obstacles against traffic or in the roadside area.
In Mongolia, you are allowed to drive only with a Mongolian driving license and a warning ticket from local police enforcers or an international driving permit.
By the way, in Mongolia, you can rent a car only with a driver (a local one). There are no alternatives. That is why your driving license, be it national or international, will be of no use there.
Keep in mind that the driver would necessarily speak your native language.
Specific aspects of driving and road traffic regulations
People in Mongolia tend not to obey traffic rules. They constantly use horns, do not give way to pedestrians, cut off other cars. There are many off-roaders in Mongolia. Pedestrians run across the road where it is more comfortable and where they believe they won’t be hit by the cars.
The Mongols never switch on the dipped-beam headlamps. They use only distance light, though, in the daytime, they never switch it on. No one knows why.
There are a lot of drunk drivers in Mongolia. The government tries to combat them, but all in vain, though drunk driving is punishable by imprisonment of up to 3 years.
There are no particular prohibitions for driving in the territory of Mongolia. The only restriction is when you are on the borderline or in environmental protection areas. You are not allowed to move within the border zone with China if you have no specific permission. The border zone is a 30 km strip of land along the frontier of Mongolia. Tourists have to pay for the stay and car entry within the territory of the reserves and national parks.
When entering the cities, you are to pay local taxes. There are toll bridges in some aimaks.
According to traffic road regulations, the maximum allowed speed in populated areas is 60 km/h, outside the populated areas — 80 km/h, and 100 km/h on highways. Buses transporting people and freight vehicles transporting people in the body are allowed to drive at a speed of not more than 50 km/h, and not more than 70 km/h outside the populated areas. In case of organized transport of children, the maximum allowed speed is 50 km/h. When towing, the maximum allowed speed can be not more than 40 km/h.
Everyone knows that the Mongols are first-class UAZ racers. Annual national competitions are very popular with those who prefer driving these “national jeeps”.
Today pointsmen with flashing traffic wands of foreign origin are beginning to vigorously combat traffic rules violators. Careless drivers have to obey, stop the car and according to the degree of guilt pay fines or even lose their privilege to drive. Persistent violators may even catch flack in the public.
Police enforcers do not get at dirty cars, however, they ask the drivers to thoroughly clean their vehicle plate numbers. That’s a must!
Fuss-free Mongolian car service
The Mongols have no idea of wheel balancing. No one deals with it. Thus, try to consider this national peculiarity.
A litre of petrol in Mongolia is more expensive than in Russia. It costs more than one dollar. Things get tough with gasoline 95 octane.
Car washes are quite expensive. You have to spend about 1,800 roubles to wash one car.
Possible travel routes across Mongolia
We recommend you to choose the Orkhon Valley. You can find there the most picturesque places in Mongolia where steppes alternate with treed slopes. You may as well enjoy the river and waterfalls. There are many guest houses (with so-called “conveniences” in the steppe) and yurt camps (campsites) with air conditioning and central heating. The Mongols do not go fishing, thus, you are unlikely to see it or try.
However, you can milk grunting oxen, go for a walk with Alsatian dogs shepherding the flock of sheep, or see camels and horses. If you are fond of exotic adventures, you can go to the illegal market and buy a groundhog there for 45-50 thousand MNT, gut it and then bake.
Some people prefer driving across abandoned Soviet military towns. They are scattered all around the country. Tourists find them attractive and mysterious.
Welcome to the land of winds, endless steppes and wonderful landscapes! However, don’t forget your International Driving Permit. Otherwise, you will have to ride a camel. Have a safe trip!