Mongolia Cycle Touring Tips

posted by: Justin

Mongolia has always been a much anticipated destination of our cycle trip. From the point we first opened the pages of the Lonely Planet guide in London and began to fantasize about wide open spaces and a daily routine focused on little more than reaching point ‘B’ from point ‘A’ we have been looking forward to reaching Mongolia.

This month we were lucky to host Amandine and Mike, a French cycle touring couple who had travelled to Mongolia last year. We asked lots of questions about their experiences while they were with us and this has only fuelled our dreams further.

As we continue our preparations towards the next leg of our trip here are a few of the things we have learnt recently about travelling in Mongolia.

Visa Options

1. Three month visa

Our initial research into visas lead us to believe that the only option available was to get a one month visa and then extend it within seven days of your entry into Mongolia for a further month. As the extension is only possible in Ulaanbaatar this would make entering in the west of Mongolia around 1700km from Ulaanbaatar impossible.

After further online digging we found a few mentions of a longer three month visa and finally details about how to get one on this blog from Mike and Jen who cycled in Mongolia in 2009. We contacted the Mongolian travel agent they used and were assured that we should be able to get a three month visa. This will give us a lot more flexibility and makes entering through the Western Altai mountain region border then cycling east to Ulaanbaatar and south into China possible.

2. Food & climate

We already knew to expect warm days and cold nights when we arrive in Mongolia (most likely in June or July). Amandine and Mike confirmed that the evenings were near freezing during their trip, especially when they were hiking near Khovsgol Lake. Advice from Tom at Ride Earth and watching his recently put together movie confirmed the unpredictable nature of the weather as he encountered storms and freezing night-time temperatures in eastern Mongolia during May.

Recent blog reading has resulted in us developing a sense of dread towards the food available in Mongolia.

  • “A bowl of Lopsha, the typical meal in Mongolia. Made up of cudes of mutton, cubes of mutton fat, home made noodles and if you are lucky (as we were in this case) a few cubes of potato and some diced onion.  …In most guanz’s you simply tell them you want to eat. There is no such thing as a menu as this is all they eat.”

Ann Cunniffe & Diarmuid Cunniffe on November 5th, 2009

Talking with our French guests did little to alleviate our worries with them explaining that the food available is not so terrible just boringly the same. As regular readers of our blog will know food is a BIG part of our travel so in order to keep our spirits up in Mongolia we plan to dream of all the wonderful food on offer once we reach China and South East Asia. We are also looking forward to our Mongolian day of food blog maybe filled with three identical meals!

 2011 Route Map 2 Day of food - Dinner

3. Mapping products

Our on road navigation when cycling is mainly done using paper maps for high level planning and day to day navigation. When we enter a city or need to locate a specific address we then switch to using a GPS. For Mongolia we wanted to make sure we had access to both reliable paper and electronic maps.

Paper maps proved to be fairly straight forward as there were only two major publishers we could locate via Stanfords in the UK. We decided to go with the Reise Know-How Verlag map as Reise seem to have a good reputation and we had already decided to use their Russian maps. Amardine and Mike had used the same Reise map and said it was as accurate as could be expected.

Again with electronic maps there seemed to be two main options for our Garmin GPS either using the Garmin produced MapSource World Map or going with OpenStreetMap (OSM) of Mongolia which I downloaded from Cloud Made. I actually decided to try both maps and found that the Garmin version was more detailed than the OSM version.

I was also able to get hold of a useful Points of Interest (POI) data set from Chris at sainyavaarai.blogspot.com and another set by emailing Bernard at the Mongolian Maps website.

4. We aren’t the only ones

Although Mongolia is not as common a cycle touring destination as somewhere like France or Italy it is not as uncommon as our ever concerned parents might think. Here are a few blogs from others that have travelled through Mongolia by bicycle:

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4 responses to “Mongolia Cycle Touring Tips”

  • … and you think the links in the blog will make parents rest easy !! Hey, seriously though, there is going to be some mind blowing stuff that you will see and do …. a day in the office in NZ will not compare !! Regards, Bruce

  • Bruce on January 22nd, 2011 at 10:54 am
  • Hey Guys,

    Absolutely stoked to see you got a positive reply re the 3 month visa for Mongolia, your post is making to mind ache of that leg of the trip so much easier for us. Hope every thing is going well in Istanbul and may the days only get warmer.

    S and A

  • Sergai and Adrienn on January 31st, 2011 at 3:33 am
  • Want to see video’s of Tom who has been cycling Mongolia?
    Go and watch the WorldCycle Video’s-channel on Vimeo. Where
    you’ll find 647 video’s from 284 memebres from all over the world. Tom shows 5 video’s about Mongolia.

    Get inspired and add your films!

    http://vimeo.com/groups/wereldfietser/videos/15243784

  • WorldCycle Video's on February 4th, 2011 at 7:21 am
  • World Cycle Video people – you are collecting an amazing set of cycle videos there indeed. We’ve already seen Tom’s videos but we might just have to dive into some of the rest before we leave our high speed internet connection in Istanbul.

  • Emma on February 8th, 2011 at 9:16 pm

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