Self-driving tours are becoming more popular in Mongolia. Many people want the freedom and flexibility to explore on their own and go see that one place on the google map that a tour guide won’t take you. This option is great for those looking for an adventure. However, before you start your journey, you may be wondering, what do I need to take with me when driving around Mongolia? Keep reading to find out!
First things first, you are of course going to need a vehicle and a driver’s license. If you don’t have a license don’t worry. Check out our post here for further details about getting a Mongolian driver’s license.
If you have a license, then you will need a car. If you are planning to stick to the major centres then your standard vehicle like a Prius will be fine. If you are planning to see a lot of destinations off the beaten track (and many are) then you are going to need a more sturdy vehicle like a 4WD. There are several companies in Mongolia that offer vehicles for hire with full support. Be careful though and read the reviews, they are not all equal. One site to check out could be Drive Mongolia which seems to offer quite a few solutions and could be a good place to start if you are looking at hiring an off-road vehicle. Whichever company you choose to use, make sure that you do a thorough check of the vehicle yourself before leaving the company’s yard.
With that out of the way let’s go through these essential things you need to have if you are driving around Mongolia yourself. These things are all important and in no particular order.
Item 1: Spare fuel can (with fuel)
So this may seem self-explanatory but you should always have a spare fuel can (with fuel in it) if you are going for long journey’s into the countryside. In Mongolia, you can go hundreds of kilometres without seeing a fuel station. Having a small 5 or 10-litre gas can really come in handy. On several occasions when travelling to see places, I have needed to use my extra fuel. Even on occasions, I have come to a petrol station and they have not had fuel.
A few other things to note here. You should make sure that you have a proper fuel can/container. Using an old simple plastic container could cause you problems. Many larger fuel stations will not fill up these kinds of containers as they could get a hefty fine. Although smaller petrol stations may, it is just better to have a proper fuel can/container to avoid this problem altogether. Make sure you have some cash to pay for fuel in small country towns, not all accept cards!
Item 2: A spare tire (or two)
This should also go without saying, but you should make sure you have at least one spare tire with you. I have lost count of the number of times that I have been in a vehicle in Mongolia and got a flat tire. Mongolian roads aren’t great at times so you can really expect to get a flat tire at some point. Now I said ‘a spare tire’ but often two is better, especially if you are planning to go to some rough terrain places. It isn’t impossible to get two flat tires within the space of 10mins (believe me it can happen).
When taking your spare tires, make sure they have some good tread on them as well as that they are the right size. These seem like simple things but are easy to forget, especially when you are making sure you have packed everything. It also wouldn’t hurt to make sure your tire pressure is good as well.
Item 3: Tow rope
This one you may think that you can do without, but if you are really going out to the countryside you should have this! No one wants to have that day when you have a breakdown but it does happen and in Mongolia, it can be quite a while before you come across someone in the middle of nowhere and if you don’t have a tow rope and they don’t either you are going to be waiting a lot lot longer. Save yourself the time and just have one on you. It doesn’t take up much space and can really be a lifesaver not just for breakdowns but for when you get stuck too.
Item 4: Two jacks
So you have a flat tire and you think no problem I will just change the tire. You get the spare tire out and then you realise there is no jack! Don’t be this person and make sure you have a tire jack. But I also said two jacks, that’s because it makes it much easier and safer to change a tire. When travelling in Mongolia you can’t guarantee you are going to have a nice flat paved surface to change a tire on so having that extra jack just ensures that you have the added safety that you have two points of contact when changing a tire, especially on an uneven surface. Don’t let an annoying flat tire turn into an emergency trip to the hospital!
Item 5: A good tent
If you are planning on going out long distances into the countryside make sure you have a tent. Many times you may find that you are hundreds of kilometres from a town which probably won’t have a hotel. Having a tent means you can camp anywhere at any time. It also means that you will be able to stay where you want. Found a gorgeous river that you want to stay the night at? No worries just set up your tent! I would say make sure that your tent has a good wind rating. There can be very little shelter from the wind on Mongolia’s vast open plains.
Bonus item: Air compressor and puncher repair kit
As an added bonus that can be really handy to have, pick up a little air compressor. They aren’t large so they won’t take up that much space but when you need some air for a fixed flat tire or even that air bed for the tent they can be a great help. You may also come across another traveller who could use it, so lend a helping hand. The other item connected with the compressor is a puncher repair kit. It can be a good solution with the compressor rather than taking an extra spare tire. Instructions to use the repair kit are normally straight forward and with the air compressor handy you shouldn’t have too many problems getting back on the road!
And that’s our list of essential things you should have before heading out on your self-driving adventure in Mongolia. You may have other things that are essential so let us know in the comments. You may choose to take some of these things or not, it’s entirely up to you. However, on my journey, they were invaluable to have so I wouldn’t leave without them. Before you start your epic adventure, why not learn a few simple phrases that can help you out? For the 5 most practical phrases why not check out our post here, or check out the Mongolian courses we offer?
Safe travels everyone!