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.
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.
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!
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.
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: