The green plains, rolling hills and eternal blue skies of Mongolia seem to stretch out forever. This vast Asian country has some of the most remote and untouched landscapes in the world.
Without a doubt, the best way to experience these grand vistas and jagged mountains is by car, and because most of Mongolia doesn't have roads, driving becomes an epic adventure in itself.
What is it like driving in Mongolia?
Driving in Mongolia instills a sense of freedom and adventure. Only a small portion of Mongolia has anything close to what we would define as a road and a large portion of those "roads" are not paved. Drivers normally encounter narrow, dirt paths carved out by locals forging their own path through the country. Of course, this is very confusing when you reach multiple cross roads that loop in and out through the plains like paths of a figure skater.
There is also a lack of road signs to assure drivers that they are headed in the right direction. The only time signs are present is when drivers are approaching a major town, which are few and far between.
While driving in Mongolia is a fun and exciting adventure, it is also an experience in which preparation is essential as this free-for-all escape into the wild countryside can take a wrong turn fast. The perks are many but so are the dangers. Of course always be sure to have the right travel insurance to protect yourself in case of mishaps in Mongolia or any country.
Perks of driving in Mongolia
I highly recommend driving in Mongolia for a few reasons. One perk is that in this country of nomads, it is legal to camp anywhere. If you are done driving for the day, you simply stop the car, set up a tent and start cooking. Now, this might sound a little unnerving to a few of you, but it actually can become an evening to remember.
You see, there is little to no light pollution in the majority of Mongolia simply because there is little to no civilization.
Here, camping under the stars is really camping under the stars. As you sit back and relax, thousands of stars begin to appear in the deep, darkest blue sky. They twinkle and dance and soar throughout the evening. On a clear night, even the arms of the Milky Way are visible. Often a Mongolian nomad will sit down and share the evening with you, adding some local flavor to the experience.
Throughout the country's history, the Mongolians have been nomads. Even today, many of the shepherds living in the plains continue to live in the traditional Gers. These huts speckle the countryside and are filled with welcoming locals.
The locals are kind and warm-hearted. Don't be surprised if they invite you to come to dinner or stay in their Ger. They often offer travelers a warm meal and a bed, and maybe even a drink of Airag (The local Mongolia alcohol).
Please remember to show your appreciation for their generosity by giving a donation. This shows thankfulness and respect.
How to stay safe in Mongolia
As I mentioned earlier, safety is important when driving in Mongolia. Here are a few things you should have before ever set out on the road.
- A GPS - Many times when driving in Mongolia, I looked at the GPS and mountains in front of me and realized I needed to be on the other side of a mountain. When this happened, there was only one fix. I had to steer my car off the dirt path and into the grass, pointing the car in the right direction. Then I just continued heading straight until another path (the right dirt path) presented itself. I know it sounds a little odd, perhaps even crazy, but that's how it's done in Mongolia.
- Give the Car a Tune Up - Making sure your car is up to the challenge is essential before heading out on a Mongolian road trip. I have already described just how rustic the "roads' are. Literally, some of the pots holes in the dirt roads can come up to your waist. Hitting one of these potholes at high speed can total the car. It is important to keep your eye on what is supposed to be a road and constantly look out for obstacles. Remember, many places are desolate, and if the car breaks down, there is very little chance that someone will come that way within minutes. It could be hours, if not days before you are rescued.
- Take Spare Equipment - Make sure to bring extra tires, gas, water and oil. Of course, you should have plenty of basic essentials for survival such as food and water.
Driving in Mongolia is an adventure filled with vast mountains, green plains and rolling hills. Though driving through the land of the eternal blue is challenging, it is an experience well worth the challenge and one that you will never forget.
Is a trip to Mongolia on your bucket list?
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