Cycling Mongolia - Where to get started?

After cycling Australia in 2010 & New Zealand in 2012, I needed another challenge something different away from everything. I called my friend Nick (Photo above) and asked him if he was willing to follow me on my cycling journey from Mongolia to Tajikistan. The plan was to fund-raise for two charity:

  1. Amnesty International

  2. One Girl ( That fight for girls education in Africa)

We meet up in Beijing and stayed at the "Peking International Youth Hostel" for 2 nights, We then booked our train ticket to "Ulaan-Bataar" on an epic journey on the Transiberian.

There is a direct train from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar that runs twice a week and only takes about 30 hours, but tickets cost $200. The direct train is of course the easiest way to travel from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, but being the budget bikepackers we are, we decided to take cheapest (and most fun!) route.

Beware !!!

When you reach the train station in Beijing, no one will help you or tell you where to go to check in your bicycle, instead they will ask you $200 to bring you to the right place, same goes for cashier ! My friend and I spent literally two hours finding it.

while facing the train station go about 250 - 300 meters right, there will be a small gate with border security guard waiting for you

or you can flight:

30 hours from Beijing to Ulaan-Bataar...

After reaching the train station in Ulaan-Bataar, you will need to go "Large luggage" pick up and of course pay a fee to get your bike back (not much). We then booked a taxi to our hotel, driver are crazy insane! Mongolia may have very low po

Where to stay in Ulaan-Bataar?

Finding Accommodation while Bike touring

If you traveling by bicycle you may want to try Warmshower, they are a non-profit social networking service established worldwide similar to Couchsurfing but mostly for people engaging in bicycle touring to arrange homes-stays or simply allowing travelers to pitch their tent for the night. I have personally hosted & being host many times, met incredibly generous human beings, and broaden my knowledge with cycling touring significantly. 

Hostel in Ulaan-Bataar

Best Time to Visit Mongolia.

The best time to visit Mongolia is between June and August, when the weather is warm, and relatively dry compared to the winter months. May and September are also good months to visit Mongolia. Nick and I started our journey in April, which was not a good idea at all to cross the Gobi desert, and lucky for us we came prepared to the extreme cold temperatures.

MONGOLIA WEATHER IN APRIL: The temperature in April is -2°C to +22°C daytime and -8°C to +15°Cat nights. ... The temperature in June is +15°C to +33°C daytime and +8°C to +20°C at nights. Unlucky for us it was way colder that it was supposed to be, more like -20°C to +25° C daytime.


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What to expect in the desert...

Funny story...

Nick and I were sleeping in the middle of the desert, we usually wake up around 8:30 am time to get a nice and warm coffee & oats before to hit the road (Normal).

Mongolia as Russia love "Vodka" and it is very common to bring a bottle of Vodka while being invited to someone house. For some reason, we had a bottle of Vodka lying on the floor next to our tent and as soon as we woke up there was a guy waiting for us and asking us to drink Vodka with him.

Its 8:30 am in the morning for god sake ! I pored a bit of Vodka in a coffee cup and handed to him but he stared at the cup like it was not enough so i filled up the cup and he just swallow the whole thing, at that point we knew that we will not be able to get rid of him and that we gonna have to drink him. I like Vodka and i am sure my friend does too, the problem was to drink 250 ml of it as shot, at 9 am we already were completely drunk. The guy left and we quickly started to pack our tent but he did not have enough and came back with two big bottle (5 liters each of beer) Oh man !!! The day was definitely over... BEWARE: If you ever travel to Mongolia HIDE your bottle of Vodka...

Recommended stove:

As you saw on the video there is not much in the desert and I will not recommend you to buy any Canister for this trip, for any reason you ran out of gas you will not be able to buy any until the next big town, which is Urumqi in China. I have been using the MSR XGK Ex Stove Cooking System, since my first bikepacking in Australia in 2010 and i must say that this stove is awesome. Just need petrol and you are good to go !

Recommended Tent :

  • MSR Elexir 2

Description: Unique pole geometry optimizes headroom and fits two mats; adaptable rainfly allows for excellent views

  • Built-in gear lofts and glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls enhance livability

  • Includes an MSR Elixir footprint that allows for a lightweight fast & light setup with rainfly

  • Freestanding system features color-coded poles, clips and webbing, Plus red vestibules for fast and easy setup

  • Mesh and solid fabric panels offer ventilation, warmth and privacy

Other tents that you may like:

If you’re planning to travel by bike, there’s no getting around it—you’ll have to bring stuff.

The central truth for this stuff: less is more. Countless cyclists end up shipping excess stuff home a week or two into their ride after they realize how little they actually need and precisely how heavy their extra stuff is.

The other central truth: the less weight you carry, the more fun it is to ride. In time, you’ll figure out what works best for you.

Bikepacking Check List

Check also: Traveling Mongolia Is Easier Than You Think by Alex Erdman on Forbes

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