Monday, January 20, 2014

Renting a vehicle in Mongolia

Mongolia is a vast nation, with not so much population and not a very good road system. Roads connect only main cities. Public transportation is available but not in abundance and does not connect all the parts. If you really want to travel to Mongolia, it is essential to find a vehicle and a driver (note, you cannot drive in Mongolia, unless you have a Mongolian driving license and this rule is for your own  safety, so do not think about bypassing it). Also, it is essential that vehicle is a good one which can take on the absence of roads in Mongolia, preferably a 4WD.
Before travelling to Mongolia, I did a lot of research on hiring a vehicle and I know how confusing it can be. So I thought of putting some information and a few tips here and hope it is useful to other travellers.

Following are the average costs quoted by different travel agencies to me for a decent 4WD or a Russian Van:

Vehicle rental per day: USD 80-100
Driver’s salary: USD 15
Driver’s food and accommodation: USD 10 (You can negotiate this with driver)
Fuel: USD 1-1.5 per Litre and any vehicle needs between 15-20 litres per 100 kms

So the conclusion is that it is quite expensive and not affordable for most of travellers, unless the group is big.

But when I actually went there, I was surprised the ease with which we found a driver and a vehicle for a very cheap cost (may not be always that easy). We found a driver just strolling through the town of Tsetserleg. An owner of a 4WD approached us and asked us if we would like to hire him. Within half an hour’s of negotiations, following was the agreement:

Vehicle rental: None (No agency involved, car was owned by the driver himself)
His salary and food: USD 25 per day
Fuel: As per the distance

So, we ended up removing the rental from our costing entirely and this is what you can do too.

1. Do not approach a rental agency directly
2. Wait in the town/city for at least a couple days to find a driver. Be patient.
3. There are always a few drivers roaming around in Mongolia and can approach you or you can approach them
4. If they ask for rental, refuse and pay salary, food and accommodation instead. You can give him a USD 5 more and he will be happy.
5. Ask around to locals or other travelers if they know a driver. If there are any expats or travelers who have settled in Mongolia, they would surely know one.

Advantages of having a vehicle:
1. Total flexibility. Go where you want, when you want. Change the plan whenever you want.
2. Usually driver knows the roads and has a lot of mechanical experience too and hence you do not have to worry about breakdowns (our car did not break down a single time in spite of so many warnings given on internet)
3. You can camp in the middle of nowhere. That is what its all about!
4. The costing turns out to be very cheap if you don’t go through an agency
5. Usually drivers are good singers :)
6. Ask around at your guesthouse for travelers to join you. More the people, lesser the cost per head.

Hope this helps you..I am looking for the contact of the driver we hired and will update it as soon as possible.

Edit: Finally I am back home and was able to find the driver's contact. Here's the picture of his visiting card. I am sorry it took so long.



  1. This is awesome information! Me and a friend are heading to Mongolia in July and were looking for this same information. If you could let us know your driver's contact info and if you liked him, I would really appreciate it as well!

    1. I am sorry I could not post the number in was the trip?

  2. The driver was really good. Unfortunately I am traveling in Laos currently and the contact is lying somewhere at my home. I have asked a couple of fellow travelers to look for it too. Hopefully i will find it soon.

  3. I found all these advantages of renting vehicle helpful. You have covered all the topics wisely, and this has geared us to do-it-our self. Using these tips, we can easily van hire St Albans.

    1. Hey i am so happy that it worked out for you and my blog helped you...I really want to go to Mongolia again!

  4. Really great info. Thanks for this. May I ask how many days you hired the driver for? and how much did you end up paying for fuel? I'm planning to go in September for about 3 weeks with about $1000usd budget. Du-able? Thanks again. Cheers!

    1. Hey again! We hired the driver only for 8 days. But you can do it for longer. In all I was in Mongolia for two weeks and my total expense was less than USD 600 (excluding flights). So I think $1000 sounds good. Hopefully you have rocking time! Let me know if you need anything else.

    2. Hi,
      together with my wife we are travelling one month through Mongolia in September. Can you share the contact details of your dirver?
      Domenico (

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. I am so sorry, everyone. I am finally back in India and could update the blog with the driver's details. Hope its useful for future travelers.