The Mongol Rally

Mini cooper race car in Mongol Rally
Mongol Rally Logo
Mongol Rally Logo

When: Once a year in July – The 2009 Rally starts July 18th.

Where: London to Mongolia via ???

The Mongol Rally is not as much a race as it is a framework for guaranteed Adventure. There are no prizes, no time limits, no support crews, no set courses and hardly any rules.

So what’s the point? The mad adventure geniuses at the Adventurists (the event’s organizers) sum up the Rally’s philosophy quite eloquently…

The world is just a little bit too safe. Gone are the days where the edge of the map called you forth to discover what lay beyond – satellite maps and GPS have it laid out before you leave the armchair. What if you want things to go wrong? What if you want a bit of unknown in a world full of health and safety measures? What if the words “adventure travel” conjure images of old ladies on a guided tour to Everest base camp with all the danger and real adventure neatly removed? What you need is the Mongol Rally.

A car crossing the stream in the middle of nowhere on the MOngol Rally
Monks check out some of the Cars participating in the Mongol Rally

The Journey

The Mongol Rally begins in London and finishes in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar around three weeks and a whole heap of adventure later. The rally is not about reaching the end, its about the fun you’ll have trying.

During the rally you’ll drive nearly 10,000 miles through a plethora of countries most people have never heard of.

The philosophy of the race is that “If nothing goes wrong, then everything has gone wrong.”

And to make sure that things actually do go wrong, the organizers have imposed some strict, and kinda comical limits on the type of vehicles that can participate.

The Vehicles

participants in the Mongol Rally stand on top of a dusty car

The Rally’s rules have traditionally stipulated that a participating car must “generally be considered to be crap.” The choice of vehicles, therefore, is limited to those wholely unsuited to rallying.

There are no high-tech vehicles like you’d expect to find at Dakar or The Baja 1000 – if you want to run the Mongol Rally you’ll be doing it in a car with an engine of 1 liter or less. Imagine a Clown Car and you pretty much get the picture.

If you want to go on a motorbike (ideally a scooter) you’re limited to under 125cc. If you’re desperate to use something bigger you can be accommodated, but you will be fined $150 for every 0.1 liter above the limit.

cars broken down in a field during the Mongolian Rally

In a further bid to up the sillyness factor there is a full exemption for what they call Vehicles of significant comedy value. These are vehicles that demonstrate significant silliness or unlikeliness value. Good examples would be a cherry picker or an electric milk float.

The Un-route

The Mongol Rally is supposed to be an adventure not a guided tour. It’s about getting out into the world and discovering it for yourself, so the creators resolutely refuse to give you a set route to follow. They do however list a few optional meeting points where you can hook up with fellow ralliers to swap stories and drink some brewskis.

The rally is absolutely not about reaching the end, but the fun you have trying. To get to the end teams have gone as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as Afghanistan. What happens after leaving the safety of London is anyone’s guess.

In a normal year just over half the teams make the finish line in one piece.


blown tire on a car running the Mongol Rally

Although The Mongol Rally is designed to be light-hearted and fun, it can also be very dangerous and taking part massively increases your chances of dying compared with staying at home. You will be driving through some very remote places in wholly unsuitable cars with no support system.

If something goes wrong or you get yourself into trouble, you have to get yourself out of it – there is absolutely no support or back-up once you hit the road.

To enter the Rally you must sign a waiver releasing the organizers from liability for your disappearance, injury or death.

What’s it gonna Cost me?

car stuck in the sand during the Mongol Rally

Working out costs for a thing like the Mongol Rally is a gray science. The list below gives an estimate of some of the costs involved:

  • Entry Fee: $1,183 per team – Each team is one car or two mopeds/motorbikes. You can squeeze five people in your car to make it cheaper if you like (As long as the vehicle is legally allowed to carry that amount of people). For more information about the entry fee what you get for your cash, Click here.
  • Charities: $2,000 per car – The Mongol Rally isn’t just about adventure, it’s also about raising huge sacks of cash for some great charities. In 2008 they made over $400,000 for some very worthy causes. Although this is the largest chunk of cash you need to come up with, there is no need to pay it yourself. Most people get sponsors to fork over this fee.
night shot of a car and its driver during the Mongol Rally
  • Visas: $400-$800 per person – Depending on which countries you choose to tackle. The organizers run a visa service for ralliers who are residents in the UK.
  • Gas: $900+Depends on the vehicle, the route and the price of oil. It’s likely to be fairly economical at sub 1 liter.
  • Food: $200+ – Depends on how fat you are and how much you like hunting or eating road kill.
  • Accommodations: Only applicable when absolutely necessary in cities! Depends on how much you want to spend and how early you are. There are hotels between $10 and $20 in most places, but camping out in your car is always the option of choice.
  • Repairs: This will depend on your mechanical know-how and how many spares you carry. There could come a point beyond all repair where you need to buy a camel to carry on. At current market prices the going rate for camels is 1/8 of a wife.
  • Bribes: It is very unlikely that you will get to Mongolia without being asked to oil the palms of lots of Policemen. It’s often possible to get away without paying by being sneaky.

How to Enter The Mongol Rally

adventurist Logo

Unfortunately all the spots on the 2009 Mongol Rally sold out in under two minutes. You can put your name on a waiting list for the 2009 event, or just start planning for 2010 early. To keep up with new developments I highly recommend perusing the Adventurists awesome website or sign up for the Mongol Rally mailing list.

If you can’t wait till 2010, check out one of the other Adventurist Events:

Rickshaw Run

Adventurists Rally: Africa

About the Author

CM Burns
CM Burns
CM Burns has been a music video director, a cameraman for Nat Geo, has recorded ancient Tibetan chants in India and swum with whales in Baja, California. Currently living in the Philippines you will find him anywhere Adventure happens.
CM Burns
CM Burns
CM Burns has been a music video director, a cameraman for Nat Geo, has recorded ancient Tibetan chants in India and swum with whales in Baja, California. Currently living in the Philippines you will find him anywhere Adventure happens.
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