The Mongol Rally: the biggest adventure in 10,000 miles (in tiny cars)
January 2, 2013

The Mongol Rally makes other cross-country road trips look like child’s play. 10,000 miles from the UK to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Through some of the most treacherous mountain passes, flooded rivers, and bone-dry dessert the world has to offer. There is no route, your diminutive car is falling apart, and something is destined to go wrong.

The Mongol Rally is serious shit, folks.

It started in 2004, with six teams. In 2012, it was 256 teams, all following three basic rules:

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  1. The car must have an engine size less than 1.2 L
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  3. The car must be less than 10 years old
  4. You must raise £1000 for charity
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There is reasoning behind the seemingly odd rules. The engine size is limited intentionally to ensure that it’s a difficult ride. Unless you have extraordinary good luck, your car is going to break down. The exception: if your car can be of particular use to Mongolia, such as ambulance or fire truck, the engine may be permitted to exceed 1.2L. (You can also pay more to charity for a more powerful vehicle.) The car must be less than 10 years old due to stipulations given by the Mongolian government. After the race, the cars are auctioned off and the proceeds given to Mongolia. The Nissan Micra and Škoda Felicia are popular rallying choices.

Besides those, you’re on your own.

People sign up for the rally in small teams or individuals. Usually all in fancy attire for the occasion. On day two, they make their way to the Czechout party held in the ruins of a medieval castle. After that, the teams have an undetermined amount of time on their un-route to make their way to Ulaanbaatar. The average is four weeks, although some have been quick as 7 days, others as long as 100 days. There is no recognition for getting there first—in fact, if you rush to get there, you’re missing out on the fun. There is no set route, but teams have risen as far north as the Arctic Circle or delved as far south as Iraq or Afghanistan. The most-used route is in-between, through Russia, Ukraine, and/or Turkey.

Again, I must emphasize that this is not just fun and games. People get injured, some end up at the hospital. Even die. But with careful planning and grit, the Mongol Rally can be the adventure of a lifestyle.