Mongolia

6-19 JUL 2018

You could say it’s pretty much the case that if the word 'Mongol' is added to another word, it enhances that word’s meaning. Mongolian vodka. Mongolian steppe. The Mongolian stretch of the Trans-Siberian Railway. The Mongolian shepherd dog. These all sound stronger, more adventurous, and grander than, say, the standard version of each. And it’s not without reason.

This is what came to mind when we first arrived at the Mongolian steppe and witnessed the endless grassy green landscape. Mongolia is a boundless country. Everything is extreme. By size, it’s twice as big as Turkey, yet the population is only about that of Brooklyn. There are only two motorways, and half the population lives in the capital. Even today, about 25% of the population lives a nomadic lifestyle on the steppe, where it can be -30 degrees in winter.

There is just one nomadic family, with an average of 7-8 members, per 15 square kilometers.

Compare this to New York where, in the same area, 15,000 Manhattanites live.

This is the landscape that we and our guests motorbike through each year. This Mongolian adventure is the only tour where the itinerary isn’t set in stone. While our route is carefully planned, our itinerary can change at a moment’s notice based on the weather and road conditions we find, combined with the inconceivable size of the steppe. It’s easy to get lost but luckily we always travel with local guides. Based on their vast experience, the perfect route is planned, and re-calibrated accordingly. Of course, the trip’s highlights are kept, no matter what. As the locals might say (and it’s the right kind of attitude for this trip): expect the unexpected.

Arrive in Style: The Trans-Siberian Express

There are two ways to get to Ulaanbaatar, from where we start motor biking. For those who book early, the Trans-Siberian Express is one way to join the BTS team and head together to Ulaanbaatar. For this group we meet at Irkutsk. Here we take a look around the city and visit Lake Baikal on a day trip, before jumping aboard the Trans-Siberian Express, arrive three days later in Ulaanbaatar.
If you have long dreamt about travelling on the Trans-Siberian Express and if you’d love to drink endless amounts of tea from a wooden heated tea urn known as samovar, then this is the tour for you! Know that train tickets sell out soon, so if you miss out on tickets or if train travel simply isn’t your thing then you can always get to Ulaanbaatar by air.

Vodka fermented from milk

Once we arrive in Ulaanbaatar, we acclimatize and start to get acquainted with Mongolian culture and local cuisine. Mongolian food is based almost exclusively on meat and protein-rich animal products. This is probably what’s needed to survive a Mongolian winter in the wild. In this part of the world, even horse milk can be made into vodka, but don’t ask us about the taste! The following day, our tour guides bless our motorbikes with kumis, a fermented dairy drink, and we head off into the giant Mongolian steppe.

The wild, shepherds and giant dogs

We leave civilization behind as we head along unmarked roads, through watery tracks, and across a vast green landscape. Sometimes, we meet a family who live in the middle of nowhere with just a few yurts, a sheepdog, a heard of sheep, perhaps some yaks, camels, goats or even some horses as company. Having this range of animals is typical of those living a nomadic life in Mongolia, and it adds to the atmosphere.
The dogs running alongside the motorbikes are the size of Saint Bernards and they’re pretty frightening. Our tour guides reassure us that everything will be okay as long as we don’t lurk around the yurts. One thing’s for sure: these dogs aren’t for petting. In contrast, the locals are very friendly, inviting us into their yurts to show us how they live.
Generally we’ll sleep in yurts, but sometimes we camp under the night sky wherever takes our fancy. Our guides make us delicious mutton stew, while we enjoy the friendlier, summery side of Mongolia.

Chill Out in Hot Springs

The itinerary includes some amazing stops. For example, in the hot springs of the Övörkhangai province we relax our tired bodies. We take a look at the former capital of Mongolia, Karakorum, where we admire colorful temples surrounded by ancient city walls. The city is a sight like no other. We also visit the Tövkhön Monastery, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Mongolia, which is on the top of a mountain with an awesome view that can be only reached on the back of a horse or trekking.
In total, we ride 1500 kilometers during the 9-day roundtrip before returning to Ulaanbaatar. The tour requires confidence on the motorcycle, because more than half the route is off-road. We’ll ride in mud, grass, sand, and through rivers. For those who don’t want to ride, it is possible to book a space on the tour bus, which is an UAZ by the way, and just the looking at this relic from socialist times is an adventure.
Way Of the Road - The Steppe– Motorbike Roadtrip

6-19 JUL 2018

€2100on motorbike
€1900in back-up van

ABILITY LEVEL

advanced motorbike skills or no experience required for pillions and for those who travel in the back-up van

BEST SUITED FOR

couples, solo travelers, groups

MEETING POINT

Irkutsk / Ulaanbaatar / upon agreement in case of group travel

WEATHER

Very changable weather, it can be dry, rainy, sunny, cloudy. Anything is possible between -5 - +30°C.

ROAD CONDITIONS

30% asphalt roads, 70% off road possibilities on the endless terrain, ponds and river crossings, muddy and bumpy parts are to be expected

BIKER PACKAGE

150 CC Shineray motorbikes, professional guides, Russian UAZ back up van, mechanic

ACCOMMODATION

double or twin bed 3star hotel room with wifi and hot water in Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar, yurts and wild camping on the Steppe, usually with hot water

LOCAL TRANSPORTATION

taxi, motorbike, UAZ

FREE TIME/NIGHTLIFE

nice local restaurants in Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar, vodka, kumis and beers in the yurts

HOW BIG IS THE GROUP?

each back up crew (back up van, mechanic and guide) can take maximum 12 riders at the same time. In one camp we can handle a maximum of 2 groups

WHAT’S INCLUDED

accommodation, local transport, motorbikes, petrol, breakfast, lunch and dinner (except in Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar), back-up van, English speaking guide, mechanic, entrance fees to national parks

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED

flight tickets, visas, ticket for the Transiberian Express, insurance, motorbiking clothes, alcohol, extra programmes, mobil data usage

special requirements

driving license for motorbikes, biker protectors

APPLICATION DEADLINE

3 months prior the trip or upon availability

INSTALLMENT PAYMENT PLAN

40% upon application, 60% 2 months prior arrival
Send us your application! Once we receive your details, we will send you the booking information. To confirm your booking, a deposit of 40% of the price of the given trip (or the full balance if within two months of the departure date) is required. This can be done by bank transfer.

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Way Of the Road - The Steppe Q & A

DO I NEED A VISA?

It depends on your nationality. From most of the countries you will need a visa both to Russia and Mongolia. Please always check it on your local embassy’s website. The process can take up to 3 weeks while you need to leave your passports in the embassies, please be aware of this. We'll help you with the whole process, you do not need to worry about this.

WHICH COUNTRIES WILL WE VISIT?

We'll fly to Irkutsk, Russia to have a couple of days of sightseeing, from where we'll head to Mongolia on the Transiberian Express. You can also fly directly to Mongolia and join the trip there.

WHAT KIND OF DRIVING LICENSE DO I NEED TO PARTICIPATE ON THE TRIP as a motorbiker?

You need to have a motorcycle driving license valid for a 150 cc motorbike (at least).

WHAT CAN I DO IF I REALLY WANT TO ATTEND, BUT I CAN NOT RIDE?

You can sit into the back-up van which is an amazing UAZ and enjoy totally the same trip while saving 200 EUR.

IN WHAT KIND OF A DRESS SHOULD I RIDE?

It depends on your choice. We do not recommend to wear leather motorbike suits as we do not go fast on the bikes. But do to the fact that the temperature is very differing, it is good to wear multiple layers, such in case of skiing. It’s a good idea to wear either a durable high top hiking boot, a real biking boot or even a dirt bike boot. Don't forget about your rain clothes as the temperature is very changeable.

SHOULD I BRING MY OWN HELMET? IF YES, WHAT KIND IS THE BEST?

They provide helmets if necessary, but obviously these ones are used and not from the highest quality. We recommend you to bring your own one! It is your decision what kind of a helmet you prefer, but you need to be prepared for defending yourself against a very strong sunshine, rain, mud and dust.

WHAT KIND OF ROAD CONDITIONS SHOULD I EXPECT?

There will be parts with straight, smooth concrete roads, but this is not typical, we'll mostly ride off-road. You need to be prepared for bumps, river crossings, mud, sand, grass, gravel, lots of curves and anything you can imagine.

FOR WHAT KIND OF HEALTH ISSUES SHOULD I BE PREPARED?

First of all we are travelling to Mongolia, where food is very greasy, so you need to know that diarrhea and stomach infections can happen anytime. It’s always a good idea to keep a hand sanitizer in your bag. Hospitals are not widely spread on the Steppe, so always ride safely and focus on your physical integrity! However, if anyone feels unwell, he/she can sit in the back-up car. From this point one of the guides will ride his/her bike for a while.

IS THE FUEL SUPPLY SOLVED IN THE WHOLE TRIP?

Yes, the group leaders will take care of it, they bring extra supply in the back-up van.

WHAT ABOUT THE FOOD?

In Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar there is a buffet system breakfast in the hotel, but there are several good and cheap restaurant around the cities. After heading to the Steppe you'll get breakfast from the local guides, usually bread with ham, tuna or cheese. On shorter ride days we stop for lunch somewhere on the Steppe and our guides cook for us, on longer days we just get some food brought from home or from a local shop (some snacks, protein slices, etc.). Dinner is always warm food, the owners of the yurts cook for us. Mongolian food is based almost exclusively on meat and protein-rich animal products. In case of special diets, please let us know in advance and we'll ask the local partners about the possibilities.

WHO LEADS THE TOUR?

The staff contains the following people: a professional English speaking guide grown up in Mongolia (he can ride anybody's bike if anything goes wrong and he takes care of any upcoming situation), an amazingly kind driver of the UAZ (he's also the mechanic, an expert of Shineray bikes and has his tools and spare parts), and there is also a group leader from our side, who has already done this trip multiple times and knows the local stuffs and staffs as well.

HOW DO BAGS TRAVEL, WHAT KIND OF BAGS SHOULD I BRING?

You need to pack into at least 2 bags. The big bag travels in the back-up van so don't bring your expensive suitcases (you can pack them in and out everyday in the yurts), and hand baggages will be strapped on your motorbikes. In this you should wear your extra layers, water, camera and any personal items you need during the day.

WHAT KIND OF VACCINATIONS SHOULD I HAVE?

Please ask your local health authority. Usually there are no mandatory vaccinations.

HOW MUCH POCKET-MONEY WILL I NEED?

You only have to pay for your snacks, some drinks and your mobile data. In Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar there are nice and relative cheap restaurants that are worth to try. For all this, if you don't drink heavily and you don't buy expensive souvenirs, 250 EUR should be more than enough.

WHAT IS THE LOCAL CURRENCY AND WHERE TO CHANGE MONEY? ARE THERE ATM-S AND CAN I PAY BY CARD?

The currency is Mongolian Tughrik (~ 1 USD=2463 MNT, 1 EUR=2892 MNT). We will have the opportunity to change money at the airport after the arrival to Ulaanbaatar, or somewhere in the city center. ATM-s and credit card payments are not typical, so we suggest to bring money (USD or EUR) and change or withdraw at the beginning of the trip.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO BUY AND DRINK ALCOHOL DURING THE TRIP?

Of course you can. In Mongolia there are lots of types of vodkas and they also have local beers. If you prefer to drink something else, it's better to take it from home.

WHAT KIND OF INSURANCE SHOULD I TAKE OUT?

You'll need to have one that is valid for motorcycling, valid in Mongolia (and Russia). If you need help, please get in touch with us!

WHAT KIND OF ACCOMMODATIONS SHOULD I EXPECT ALONG THE WAY?

In Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar we'll stay in 3 star hotels with bathroom, and on the Steppe we'll sleep in yurts (2-4 people in each). Bathroom is usually in a common building close to the yurts. We'll spend one or two nights in tents as well, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The hospitality of the locals makes up for all the inconveniences.

IS IT A PROBLEM IF I WANT TO COME ALONE?

Not at all. Yurts are usually for 2 or 3 people, so probably you'll be paired with one of your super friendly group mates, but if you prefer to sleep alone, please request this in the application form and we'll figure out something for you.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU'LL GET A FLAT TIRE OR ANYTHING ELSE IS BROKEN?

You shouldn't worry, the back-up van with the mechanic is always the last one on the road, just park your bike beside, wait for him and enjoy the stunning scenery while he repairs your bike. Usually he can fix anything within 15 mins. The head of the group will wait you.

WILL I HAVE WIFI AND MOBILE NETWORK COVERAGE DURING THE TRIP?

In the big cities such as Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar you’ll have both, even in the hotel we stay at. In the remote areas it is better not to count with them, but at least every second or maximum 3rd days you will be able to contact with the rest of the world. :)
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