Last July I left on a rally with three friends. 300 teams of cars started on their journey from Goodwood Racetrack in the South of the UK and drove all the way to Ulan Bator, the capital city of Mongolia.

The rally was called The Mongol Rally (link) and there were only three rules:

  • Raise money for charity (one in Mongolia and one of your own choice)

  • There is no back-up or safety, it's all on your own backs

  • The car you take must be 1.5litre engine or less

We took a one litre Suziki Alto (image).

There is so much for me to say about the trip. I made a video documentary of the journey, you can watch it here: (Youtube) and if you want to know anything at all, ask me and I shall answer.

As long as I get questions, I'll give answers. I don't have constant internet access as I'm currently abroad travelling (Croatia at the moment), but when I get internet, you can be sure I'll be on Reddit....

Edit: formatting

Edit 2: One of my friends is a professional photographer, he documented the trip with hundreds of photographs and put a selection of his favorites on his website, here They are separated into sections of the trip. - check them out if you don't fancy watching the video.

Edit 3: Ummm....holy crap, I leave the computer for a couple of hours and this thing blows up. Did not expect this. I'll answer every question I can, but it will take a while. Bear with me!

Edit 4: Common questions:

  • The route we took passed through: England, France, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia and finally Mongolia.

  • We took a ferry across from England to France. Our car -whilst being a trooper- cannot sail.

  • Once we arrived in Mongolia, ownership of the car was passed to the charity there. The car was then sold at auction to a local and the money went to the charity. We flew home to England two weeks later.

Comments: 1181 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

joshsaldana164 karma


Corican30 karma

As Chenobble said, the entry fee of roughly 200GBP (I cant remember it exactly) is the only money that goes to the organizers. I imagine this money goes towards the starting line party (hiring out a race track cant be cheap), the European starting party in the Czech Republic (hiring out a castle cant be cheap) and the three seperate finish line parties in Ulan Bator.

We received t-shirts and Buffs as part of the rally, but as you said: no prizes.

The organizers also run a visa service in which they provide a service for aquiring visas in countries such as Russia, where you require an invitation, this company has contacts in all the countries to get the invites that we would never be able to get by ourselves. I expect there were a couple of contacts that needed under-the-table deals to grease the wheels. Just a guess.

But the main point is that the money we raise goes directly to the charities, not anywhere else.

It would be cheaper to do it ourselves, but there was a community spirit on the rally, a common support. And also we would never have been able to get visa invitations for many of the countries without the help the rally organizers provided.

Cheehu136 karma

Any funny stories?

Edit: My highest rated comment.YES!

Corican570 karma

On the border between Armenia and Iran we had to help the border control people with our passports, because they had never seen UK passports and didn't know what to do. Joe ended up behind the desk, putting our information into the computer system, guessing at what information goes where.

Shortly after this we were forced to line up at gun point. It turned out that the guards just wanted to look at our piercings (my friends and I have facial piercings - eyebrow, gauged ears (not too big), etc...) The guards were cringing and giggling like girls whilst looking at them. They thought it was hilarious and gross that I had a 1 cm hole in my ear. Strange to see a man with an AK hiding his face in his hands and giggling like a school girl....

Animal_Mothers_Balls130 karma

Man. I love driving/road-tripping/traveling. Thank you so much for introducing me to this rally and I genuinely want to do it now.

What items did you find essential for your trip? And what items did you realise afterwards that you should have taken?

Corican42 karma

Hmmmm..... decent sleeping bags were very welcome. We had some colllllld nights. Especially in the desert. And a good sleeping mat, that made a big difference. We each had the self inflating sleeping mats, they proved verrrry valuable.

We also took a multi-fuel stove (MSR Whisperlite international) to cook boil in a bag rice and pasta in. A hot meal makes a world of difference after a long day.

Campbells106 karma

What was the most dangerous moment in the whole journey?

Corican203 karma

We had more than our fair share of near misses on the roads (especially in Romania-those people are crazy), but the one that stopped my heart for the longest was driving up the Transfagarasan highway (rated the best road in the world by Top Gear UK), we took a corner too fast and felt the wheels lift up off the road, we thought for sure we would tip and roll off the edge (no barriers, of course), but thankfully the insane amount of weight in our car kept it safe. We proceeded -slightly- slower from then on.

[deleted]103 karma

Best country you traveled through?

Any fights between friends?

Corican499 karma

We decided that our favorite country was Iran, because it was such a pleasant surprise.

Whenever we would tell people that we would be driving through Iran, they would always ask "why would you do that? its so dangerous! You will get killed!!!!!!!!"

But when we got there we found that it was, by far, the most friendly and welcoming country we had ever been to. We would constantly be swarmed with people wanting to shake our hands and welcome us to their country, telling us that they are so happy to see us. Out of every ten cars that passed us, nine of them would wave at us, lean out of the window to shake our hands and welcome us to their country.

At one point we were driving along the highway to Tehran, when a family pulled up next to us (our small car with loads of bags didn't exactly race along...) and the driver leant fully out of his window, pouring us tea from a teapot on his dashboard, whilst his wife in the passenger seat continued to steer the car whilst reading a book.

It was such a beautiful country, with such lovely people. I would highly recommend it to anyone that has the chance to visit.

As for your second question: the friends I went with and I have all been best friends for many years, and so we didn't have any major problems. Just a few little snaps here and there when tempers were short. But they were quickly forgotten.

gloon62 karma


Corican131 karma

Thanks a lot buddy, I've actually been here two months, working in Chillout Hostel and falling in love with a girl that works here. Tomorrow I am moving on with my travels. I'm heading to Morocco. I will be sad to leave the city, and sad to leave her.... :(

Cypherwraith15 karma

At one point we were driving along the highway to Tehran, when a family pulled up next to us (our small car with loads of bags didn't exactly race along...) and the driver leant fully out of his window, pouring us tea from a teapot on his dashboard, whilst his wife in the passenger seat continued to steer the car whilst reading a book.

TIL that Iranians are pretty cool. And that Tehranians are some of the best Iranians.

Corican30 karma

Also: the women.....ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh the women.

Makes you appreciate eyes a whole lot more.

BlitzCrunk79 karma

  • Between the 4 of you, how many languages did you speak?

  • How often were you guys able to shower?

  • How was the laundry done?

  • How were car shots done? like the ones in 0:25:24 - Did one of you guys get out to act it out or was there a dedicated camera guy from the event?

  • Best food you guys tried out?

Corican123 karma

  • Joe speaks middling French and German.
  • Jake speaks middling Russian
  • I speak very basic Arabic.
  • We took a phrasebook.

Not exactly perfect, but we made do.

We camped for four days and then spent a night in a hostel/hotel, and repeat. So basically every four days. Occasionally we would find a service station with a shower that stunk of rape and drugs. You make do with what you get...

We washed our clothes in sinks, we visited launderettes twice, we learnt to accept one another in our natural states.

I was the camera man for our team, occasionally I would get out and walk ahead, let them pass and then get back in. Sometimes I would be leaning precariously out of the window or doors. Some teams filmed videos, some didn't. One team was sponsored by the Discovery channel and got a ton of amazing DSLR camera equipment for their video. But then they left it in their car on display in Budapest and it was all stolen :(

Arabic food is my particular favourite. The spices they put in their meat are fantastic. I tried borscht for the first time in Russia (red cabbage soup) and it is surprisingly tasty considering how basic it is.

motoringmouth66 karma

What did it cost you all up (fuel, accom, rally entrance, misc++)?

Corican112 karma

We think it cost us ABOUT 2500 GBP each (4011 dollars). This includes:

  • Entrance costs to the rally
  • Fuel
  • Food
  • Occasional accommodation when we needed showers or WIFI (normally slept in a tent)
  • Visas (Iran was the most expensive due to terrible laws about bringing cars in and out)
  • All equipment
  • Yeah, everything.

The trip took 5 weeks to get to Mongolia, and we stayed there for two weeks before flying home. Not too bad for the price and the experience!

triplecherrytroll55 karma

Did you get the Iranian visa at the border or beforehand?

Corican72 karma

We had to go to the embassy in London beforehand, because they want to take fingerprints.

Corican129 karma

It was one man, doing everything, there was about 50 of us waiting in a tiny hot room. Halfway through he just walked out of the building for an hour for his lunch break.

Fun times with bureaucracy.

laddergoat8952 karma

My friends did this too, they were the guys that did it in the 3 wheeled Relient Robin

First people ever to pull it off in a 3 wheeler, they came in pretty early too, I think they were 8th...somehow.

They won the Legends of the Rally award at the end.

Which route did you take? The southern or northern?

Corican27 karma

Oh yeah, we met them. Brave guys. Brave but stupid.

And we took the southern route.

cromptonenator52 karma

Amazing! Well done.

  1. What would you say was the most beautiful place that you saw?

  2. Was there any lesson you learned that you'd like to share with reddit?

Corican108 karma

  • It's hard to pick one specific place turns out....the world is pretty beautiful! But one of my favorite places was Ani, a ruined Armenian city situated on the border to Turkey. The wikipedia page has information and pictures about it, and it is also in my video of the trip.

There are also some pictures by my friend Jake Baggaley on his website (linked in original post).

  • Always remember that the vast majority of the people in the world are friendly and wonderful, they can tell the difference between the politics of your country and you as an individual.

And always try something new, don't be scared, even if it seems ridiculous...

....especially if it seems ridiculous.

blekkja50 karma

No question, just popping in to say that I'm a little jealous. That sounds like a whole lot of fun.

Actually, I lie. A question: What was the reasoning behind the cc limit?

Corican86 karma

To make it more of an adventure. Where's the fun in doing it in a suitable vehicle?!

blekkja33 karma

That seems legit. As somebody who drives a 40 year old, small, british car I understand completely. Something reliable and modern with more than 4 speeds? Pffft.

I was thinking that it might actually have been a race at the same time, which would have added a whole layer of extra unnecessary crazyness onto the journey.

Corican105 karma

It's not a race. There's no prize for first place except bragging rights.

The team that got there first did so in two weeks of non-stop driving. With people sleeping in the back. Whilst impressive, it is stupid because you miss the whole world.

We took our time and made several stops to different locations that we wanted to visit. Definitely the way to do it.

fradetti45 karma

Do you think a Fiat panda 4x4 (the old one from the 80's) could do the trip?

Corican103 karma

Getting to the finish line and seeing some of the cars that DID make it....I would say yes, provided you have a decent amount of luck (we all needed that) and it isn't in terrible condition...yeah it could make it fine!

One car rolled three times and landed on its roof somewhere in Mongolia, the team were fine, they tipped it back up and made it to the finish line with no glass in any of the windows, no windscreen, wheels bent out of shape and off center. They duct-taped a piece of mesh fence to the front to act as an impromptu windscreen.

One guy did the whole thing on a scooter. A 75cc scooter, like this.

So I think your chances in a Panda are pretty good! ;)

joe_the_bartender37 karma

At what point in the trip were you the closest to death?

Corican90 karma

Closest? Driving atop the mountains along the transfagarasan highway in Romania. We were up in thick fog and clouds. We couldnt see the front of the car it was so foggy. We were crawling along, with some cars slowly coming the other way in the other lane, then suddenly we see two headlights about ten feet in front of us, in our lane, going about 260mph, we swerved off the road and they just managed to cut in front of the cars in the oncoming lane. Our cars passed within an inch of each other. We had to stop and get our breath back.

Some people are dumb.

GregBowmore31 karma

On the website it talks about the serious dangers, the possible loss of life etc. Did you know of anyone in your rally that this happened too?

Corican57 karma

On the rally that I was on (they do it every year for the past few years) there was one team that died when they -apparently- tried to overtake some cars and went headlong into an oncoming truck. Other than that there was several injuries, mostly caused by the influence of alcohol. Broken limbs, cuts, concussions and the like.

You have to sign a waiver when you join the rally to say that you understand the risks.

Most of the bad stuff happened because of stupidity in one way or another. There have been no serious attacks or anything.

Emphursis24 karma

That sounds like a great experience, I'll watch the video in a bit.

How much did it cost in petrol? Did you have to pay that out of your own pocket or was it subsidised?

Where there any moments where you thought about giving up and going home?

Any particularly scary moments?

Corican114 karma

We got several sponsorship deals from local and national businesses, they provided us with financial or equipment donations and we promoted their companies on our car with stickers, on our website, and on the video. We had about 500 GBP donated into our fuel fund, the rest we paid for ourselves.

We never felt like giving up, but there were several low changing our third wheel in one day on a road through Siberia, the freezing rain pouring down and trucks driving past, splattering us with mud whilst we lay on the ground, jacking up the car. No one said anything, we just did what we had to do and got back in the car and drove on.

Aside from poor driving standards in many (read: all) of the countries we passed through, we had a few scary moments....

One was when we were setting up camp on the side of the road in Kazakhstan, it was pitch black and the road was cutting through a huge expanse of wasteland, there was nothing for miles around. Whilst we were cooking some delicious rice a car pulled up next to us and a huuuuuuge man got out. He came over to us where we were sitting on the floor, looked at our car (covered in stickers and bags) and asked "where you from?", we told him we were from England and he nodded, shook our hands and then returned to his car. He opened the boot of the car and bent in to get something. He walked back over to us with his arms full of something. We had no idea what was going on as it was too dark to see what was happening. He dropped....some things on the floor beside us and then went back to his car and brought one big thing. He dropped that too, then got in his car and drove off. We took a look at what he had left....eleven cantaloupes and a watermelon the size of a small tire.

It was a relief.

Emphursis28 karma

That must have taken some creative packing to get three spare wheels, four people, camping equipment and food into that car!

Did you ever find out why he decided to give you eleven cantaloupes and a watermelon, or is it still a mystery?

Corican43 karma

We just assumed he was trying to sell them all day and didn't want to go home to his wife and have her be disappointed that he didn't sell them all. This way he can say that he sold everything!

Our roof rack collapsed several times from over-packing (as can be seen in the video) and we slowly moved more and more stuff into the car. We had our backpacks containing our personal items and clothes in the boot. Everything else went on the roof.

0mgrzx22 karma

How did you get from the UK to the rest of Europe? By boat, or did you use the Channel Tunnel?

Corican41 karma

We took the ferry from Dover to Calais, in the north of France. Most teams took ferries as they are most frequent and cheap. (about 5 GBP each person, including the car)

ecoecho21 karma

This is such an amazing adventure to have! And I spent some time in Mongolia last year, and can also attest to its wonderfulness. And although I've never been to Iran, I once met the most amazing Iran family on vacation in Malaysia. Ever since then, I've really wanted to visit Iran. Is it feasible to bike tour around Iran, you think?

Corican23 karma

We only passed through the north, going down around the curve of the Caspain sea, although we did pass through Tehran we didn't stop there (choosing to stay in a small town just outside of it instead). Whilst we had no problems whatsoever, it is in the south where the 'action' is. So I cannot attest to that area. But certainly the top half of the country gets my approval!

And provided that you have experience/ are informed about cycling through deserts, you should be good to go :)

milkmeh20 karma

Im watching the documentary just now, maybe i missed it so excuse me if i didnt hear why, but my question is why did one of the dudes drop out of the race or leave in Tbilisi?

Corican9 karma

He joined last minute and had no time to get visas. Georgia is the last country in Europe you can get to with visas.

johnconnor810016 karma

How long do you have to be in a car before you want to kill everyone in it ? Seriously though was there anyone who surprised you, unexpected friendliness or terribly mean?

Corican7 karma

We all knew each other for a long time, and are best friends, we really didnt have any problems together. I think it helps that we had all taken holidays together and been in lots of different crazy situations, so we knew who likes what and who gets annoyed by what.

gordoha8 karma

Why did you go through Iran? Just looking at google maps it would seem that the best way is through Russia.

Corican9 karma

The northern route (russia) is shorter, easier and less varied than the southern route (through the middle east). We chose to go south to see a wider variety of countries and cultures.

ChickenPotPi5 karma

Tell me you did an oil change, Tell me you did! waves close fist in front of your face like an angry parent might

Corican7 karma

We topped up our oil....that's like....the same thing....right? <_<

BonerYNot5 karma

Did you ever fart in the car and not tell anyone until it was too late?

Corican10 karma

Does a bear shit in the woods?

areyouready5 karma

Did you get a change to go out into the steppes and stay in a ger while you were in Mongolia? That was by far my favourite part of Mongolia, the immensity of empty space is stunning.

Corican4 karma

Sadly we didn't. Upon entering via the northern border we drove straight south to the capital city where our car was auctioned (see original post) and we were subsequently unable to get out of the city. We were all too lazy and tired to take taxis. And hearing a large variety of stories from others about taxi drivers robbing them at knife point, we decided to relax in the city.

DiFontaine5 karma

A friend and I are planning a similar thing, my questions-

What are the roads like? We want to carry on up to Siberia, (along the Road of Bones to Magadan, down to Vladivostok and then back along the Trans-Siberian Highway) and we were pretty sure we'd need a 4x4, but if you managed it in an Alto would it be entirely necessary?

How hard was it to obtain visas/get the car in and out of various countries?

What route did you take?

Where did you stay? I've heard Kazakhstan can be kind of sketchy if you wild camp...

Big respect though!

EDIT: Just read your story about the Kazakh melon man, it's this kind of thing I was worried about...!

Corican4 karma

The roads went from very good to very bad, and everything in between. The worst roads were in the desert in Uzbekistan, they shook our car so much that the roof rack fell apart three times.

As long as we were careful in regards to avoiding potholes, there was nothing that our car couldnt handle. We just had to drive around particularly bad potholes. A 4x4 could cruise through/over what we had to go around. So its not that a 4x4 can do anything we couldnt, it would just be a faster, smoother ride.

I would say that a 4x4 is not necessary, but just make sure you get a somewhat reliable car. The fewer electronic parts the better -moving parts can be fixed with ductape and wd40, a computer chip can't.

All our visas were taken care of by the visa machine. If you ctrl+f 'visa machine' then you can find some information that ive already given about it.

Our route is now in the original post.

We camped for about four days, then would stay in a hotel or hostel for showers or wifi. Camping was never a problem. We normally just pulled over on the side of the road and set up camp there. Sometimes we would drive a little bit off the road, sometimes we couldnt be bothered. We were never told to move on. You have to remember that most people could never care enough to get out of their cars and tell you off.

Animal_Mothers_Balls3 karma

  • How did you go about gaining sponsorship?
  • Did you find having second languages helped a lot? Or can you get by just as easily with just phrasebooks?

Corican3 karma

  • We wrote out a few different email templates, asking for funds or equipment or whatever, then filled in the company names and sent them to EVERY COMPANY WE COULD THINK OF. We also attached a brochure-type-thing in the form of a pdf that explained in detail who we were and what we were doing (the initial email just highlighted key facts to keep it short)

  • We all had very limited second language skills, but luckily the phrasebook technique works well. We all just practiced the basics as we entered a new country. Please. Thanks. Hello. Goodbye. Etc...

yooamatwa3 karma

Did any of you have any experience with car repair? If I did something like this I would need to bring along a ninja mechanic!

Corican5 karma

Not in the slightest. We learnt how to change a tire before we left. Thats it.

Most teams had less knowledge than that.

We took a spanner and a screwdriver. We used the spanner once to hit the radiator cover into position to stop it from rattling.

cbfw863 karma

How did you keep electricals fully charged?

Corican5 karma

We used a converter in the car that plugged into the cigarette lighter, allowing us to charge things whenever we were cruising.

souleh3 karma


I got back from doing the Plymouth - Gambia "Banjul Challenge" in Feburary - was awesome, the next on my list is to do the Mongol Rally when I get the chance!

So what are your top 5 tips for someone whose done a shorter road rally (4,500 miles, 3 weeks) before, but wants to do the Mongol Rally?

Edit: your friend is a very talented photographer; good stuff.

Corican4 karma

I'll pass on the same tips I've been giving to others:

  • Spend the day in Istanbul, it's beautiful.

  • Make an appropriate plan for how much driving you think you will do each day. Then add two or three hours.

  • Understand that your car WILL be slower than you think.

  • Make sure you can all change a flat tire.

  • Take less than you think you need.

  • Take balloons, give them to kids you pass in the villages in the middle of the desert. An inflated balloon is like a gift from God to a kid living in the desert.

  • Don't leave chocolate in the car.

  • Don't put bottles of milk on the floor of the car where they might leak and make your car smell awful for two weeks straight.... >:(

  • When/If you get to the finish line, don't get COMPLETELY black out drunk at the party, there were many people who were robbed by taxi drivers and such. And whilst you're at it: make sure you know how to get to your hotel from the bar, or at least the name of it.

Kevinthecoolguy3 karma

I don't know how I should preface the question so you can choose:

Did you have any shady business with corrupt authorities?

What shady business did you have with corrupt authorities?

Corican5 karma

We did not initiate any shady business, but we were asked for lots of bribes, we think about $2000 in total, but we only paid $5 to one man who controlled the gate on a border crossing. Because he wouldnt open it and let us through till we did it. We each carried a spare wallet with 2/3 dollars in. And whenever we were asked for money, we said we didnt have it. They would lower their asking price again and again, and finally we would get out our wallets and say 'look! i have...two dollars. Do you want two dollars?' They never took it. They just wave you on - because they are wasting their time, they could be stopping other motorists for bribes.