Lessons learned from the Mongol Rally: How much does it cost

When we decided to drive Martha to Mongolia, we had some idea of what the adventure would be like. We’d read a few blogs and watched a few youtube videos, so we knew the roads would be challenging and the views would be amazing. What we didn’t really know was how much it would all cost.

Shane and I have travelled before, but we have never tried to budget for temporarily importing our car into a bunch of different countries, and we usually have a much more detailed day-by-day plan so we know how much everything will cost before we go. On the Mongol Rally that seemed impossible – we didn’t know what the road conditions would be like, whether Martha would break down or when the Baku-Turkmenbashi ferry would ever arrive, so we couldn’t book everything in advance or nail down every penny of spending.

Now that we’ve completed the Mongol Rally and have recorded all of the money we spent over the last seven weeks, we wanted to share exactly how much it cost us to help anyone planning an adventure like this in the future.

First – a caveat – every team’s costs will be different. There are significant costs other teams incurred that we didn’t have to pay, such as:

  1. Car (we already bought Martha for £500 five years ago)
  2. Getting the car ready for the rally (Shane’s family, particularly his Uncle, and some of our sponsors helped with this so it didn’t cost us anything). We also didn’t have to spend anything fixing Martha on the road, because she never broke down!
  3. Camping equipment (we already had a tent, sleeping bags, sleeping mats etc. from previous trips and my parents bought us a camping stove and some other bits and pieces as Christmas presents)
  4. Air fares (we aren’t flying home and we didn’t have to fly anywhere to start the Rally)
  5. Police bribes / speeding fines (apart from some fake costs as the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border, we didn’t spend any money bribing any police officers and didn’t get caught committing any traffic offences. This cannot be said for all other teams).

All costs below are in GBP (£), as that’s the currency we started with, and all costs are per team rather than per individual. The more people in your Mongol Rally team, the cheaper the adventure will be!

Mongol Rally entry fee: £475

This is a fee we paid to the Adventurists just to be part of the Mongol Rally. Lots of people have complained that as the Rally is completely unsupported, the Adventurists don’t really do anything and so this money is a waste. However, as well as organise some parties and give away some freebies (which I agree we could do without), the Adventurists did do some useful stuff in helping us get visas for Turkmenistan and making sure we could enter Mongolia without paying a huge (£5000+) deposit for our car. Plus, it’s worth the money to be part of the Rally and go with other teams – you could get seriously stuck on your own.

Vehicle deposit / shipping cost: £500   

Annoying as it is, you can’t leave a UK (or EU, for that matter) car in Mongolia without paying huge import taxes (£10,000+). This applies even if the car is dead, or if you try to sell it. The Adventurists moved the finish line of the Rally from Ulaanbaatar to Ulan Ude in Russia to help make it easier to ship cars back to Europe, and make you pay a deposit of £1,000 to make sure no one does anything illegal with their cars. As we have found another team to drive Martha back, we no longer have to pay for shipping, but we have agreed to split the cost of the deposit 50:50.

Travel insurance: £580

This will cover us for the next 18 months so isn’t strictly a Mongol Rally cost, but it would have been much easier (and cheaper) to get travel insurance if we weren’t driving halfway across the world, with all the risk that carries.

Visas: £945  

A large percentage of this cost went to the Russian government. Visas for Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were also particularly expensive. For a full breakdown of visa costs, see our post on applying for visas here.

Ferries: £335

Dover to Calais was £75, Baku to Turkmenbashi was £245, plus a £15 charge for using the ramp to get onto the ferry (seriously).

Fuel: £633

Over 15,000km (10,000 miles) Martha used about 1,200 litres of fuel. At U.K. prices this would have cost £1,400. Luckily the price of petrol took a nosedive once we left Europe. In Turkmenistan a litre of petrol cost us about 6 pence!

Food and drink: £575

When we camped we usually cooked our own food. A £30 spend in Sainsbury’s at the beginning of our trip kept us going all through Europe, the Pamir Highway and Mongolia! When we stayed in cities we generally ate out and sampled the local cuisine or the less local cuisine when we got bored of kebabs. This included a couple of more expensive meals in Almaty, Kazakhstan and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Accommodation: £680

We planned to wild camp most nights but after an incident with a squirrel on our very first night in Belgium we ended up chickening out a bit at the start and paid for more campsites than planned. We also always looked for accommodation with parking when staying in cities, which means we didn’t always stay in the cheapest places but never had to worry about the car or pay extra for parking.  A significant chunk of this figure went to the Grand Turkmen Hotel in Turkmenistan, where we stayed because we arrived late at night and couldn’t find anywhere else.

Car insurance: £175

This doesn’t include the cost of U.K. car insurance because we had that anyway and it was very minimal to start with. We bought insurance at every border where we thought it was compulsory to do so – this didn’t include Georgia, Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan.

Road tax / other tax: £145

Again, we paid charges at borders for road tax, eco tax etc. when we had to. This includes a fake charge we paid in Tajikistan to leave the country.

Vignettes and tolls: £60

At roughly 25p a time, tolls in Mongolia were not expensive. In Europe, however, we spent a significant amount of money buying vignettes (little stickers for your windscreen that you need to drive on certain roads). Most of the vignettes covered us for around 10 days of driving, but we only needed them for a matter of hours until we left the country.

Museums and entry fees: £50

We did plenty of sight seeing, but most of it was free on the road! Where we did have to pay entrance fees, it wasn’t too expensive outside of Europe.

 

To keep costs down we recommend travelling in a bigger team. Fuel, road tax and insurance can then be split more than two ways, and getting a triple / 4-bed room usually works out cheaper per-person than a 2-bed in most hostels), camping and cooking your own food as much as you can, driving your car back to Europe instead of paying the shipping cost, and not breaking your car or the law, which will save you in repair costs and fines.

 

Total: £5,150

The complete cost of the Mongol Rally was £5,150 (or £2,575 per person).  It isn’t cheap, but with the average cost of a honeymoon standing at around £4,000 for a week in the sun, it isn’t bad value for a seven-week road trip across two continents, 20 countries and memories to last a lifetime.

Cheap? No. Worth it? Absolutely.

 

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