Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria

We pulled up to the Hungarian-Romanian border at around 11:50 and proceeded to the vignette office. Our tentative knock on the window was met with a squawk from within and a gesture to a sign stating that they were closed from 11:45-12:15, seemingly so that the tax lady could watch the Romanian equivalent of Hollyoaks.

Passing through border security was fairly easy, switching the neons on seemed to make everything go smoothly. The main border guard, with the biggest gun, seemed to take a liking to Terry the bonsai tree and Basil the Basil plant. True to the word of the Daily Mail the queue to get out of Romania was orders of magnitude larger than the queue to get in (us, the ice cream truck and a pair of stray dogs).
Ten minutes into Romania we saw our first horse and cart, transporting what looked to be potatoes along the dual carriage way.

There seem to be people hanging around everywhere. In the roads. With children. In prostitute outfits.
We went through central Arad to search for a camp site at 01:30am and after being scared by several large dogs we decided to stay at a motel.

hotel in arad city romania motel mongol rally 2014 limo blog

25/07/14

We started the 9 and a half hour drive towards Vama Veche, the Romanian Mongol Rally beach party. Blinded by visions of neons, strobes and naked women gyrating in the sea everything seemed worth it as we set out.

Romania is definitely up there with Bavaria in the running for most roadside trees (AKA ‘scenic beauty’). A large proportion of the roads were single carriageway, winding through gargantuan forested mountains, jutting out over the muddy river suspended by rusted soviet era infrastructure and curling around into corners you could pin your hair back with. Perfect limo cruising conditions. Cross dual carriageways with freight transport and impatient Romanians and you get lane-splitting, hard-shoulder-utilising madness, with up to three cars overtaking swathes of traffic at a time.

On one of the steepest corners we saw the Liverpool team parked up in an unmarked, non-rally vehicle waving for help. We drove straight past them intending to pull over or turn around, but the limo just isn’t cut out for such antics – the only roads you can u-turn on are 5 lanes wide. This triggered one of the first serious crisis talks of the rally so far, and we drove on in guilty silence.

We will remember Bucharest for its traffic and for being a place we got slightly lost. There’s probably more to it, but the limo drove on.

Past the city, we encountered the legendary Mongol Rally Ferrari. Like a monster cat fish, the Loch Ness monster or Mewtwo, if you see the Ferrari, you are compelled to engage in pursuit. Half a tank of petrol later, we’re not even sure he noticed a 21 ft limousine with blacked out windows cruising at 100 mph close behind him for half an hour.

By the time we were close to Vama Veche it was pitch black. This didn’t stop cyclists with no lights popping into the middle of the dual carriage for a gentle jaunt and some frantic arm-waving, or disincentivise men from urgently carrying their rugs to and from wherever they store their rugs.
We did make it to Vama Veche. Driving along sand tracks we found a television scrap-yard/car park guarded by a man who clearly passed most of his waking moments furiously beckoning cars into unmarked bays and pacing, nodding. Beckoning at its finest.

To book into the campsite we first had to join an hour long queue of approximately 8 people to talk to two sexy Romanians with obvious boob jobs. This was the process: fill out 1 piece of paper per tent, crowd everyone you know into the boob-filled office to receive wristbands, pay separately for every single tent with different debit cards (4 transactions) and leave. Then, return and queue for a further 20 minutes with a new form in order to receive permission to park in the TV graveyard. To confuse things, a man dressed as Captain Morgan (of Rum fame) ridicules you in broken English (he asked Dom to wash his face in exchange for alcohol) flanked by more fake-chested Romanians and occasionally gives away lukewarm coke and trinkets. Then, drink and find your way quickly into the sea.
Notable events of the night: Ollie beat a Romanian in an arm wrestle both right and left handed and won their respect. Ollie tried some backflips with some scouts and landed on his head. People on the tables, glass on the floor, naked bodies in the water, and pasta pesto at 6am back at the tents.

26/07

One day later. We packed down the tents, washed the shame and euphoria away into the sea, ate our roadside watermelon, relaxed under a grand piano and eventually left at 2pm to set off in the vague direction of Bulgaria.

The entry to Bulgaria was straightforward. Yet another border through which we could have smuggled a small family stuffed with drugs and weapons. Thank god for our choice of an inconspicuous car.
For the third time in the trip we resorted to using our mobile app, ‘Maps With Me’ to find somewhere to stay. The first two attempts had lead us to a guarded compound and an un-signposted, swirling pool of mud/road, so we were pessimistic. Pessimists are always rewarded – we were lead to a free campsite directly on the beach with room for (even ridiculously shaped) cars. The sun set over us as we cooked curry on gas stoves on a beach dotted by families with full dining tables and neon strips to light their meals.

To this point, the trip has been more about us driving, eating and sleeping (mostly driving) than it has been about the countries we have travelled through. Bulgaria and Romania blur together as the hills and styles of driving we saw through the tinted windows as we pushed through them. It has been about the double-takes of remote villagers who have never seen a limousine (let alone one tailed by a pink, 30 year old ice cream van crammed full of stuff and 20 year olds), negotiating pot holes and keeping a pair of house plants alive. It has been about comparing bowel movements, dealing with slightly above average heat and making half-assed decisions with whatever scraps of information we have left over from the last time we had wifi. It’s been pretty fun!

beach camping in bulgaria mongol rally

Bulgarian beach curry mongol rally limo service

Europe Part 2

At 7:00am it was time to put on the chauffeur’s hat and get to business, shuttling two loads of kids to the bus station in a neighbouring town for them to start a 3 day hike in a national park. Once back at the camp we said our goodbyes to the remaining people, signed the guestbook and left them an ‘I love Wales’ mug. In return Joe gave us a basil plant and bonsai tree to make us feel more at home in the limo, what a nice guy!

Having stayed in Klinovice the previous night we had only a short 30km drive to arrive at Klenova castle, the location of the Czechout party. However, having discovered that our amateur wiring had caused some issues with the radiator fans we needed to find an auto-parts store on route.
After searching down several side roads we were eventually approached by a portly Czech man who was intrigued by the limo, he knew several words in English and gave us a tour around the town showing us to the auto-moto store. After a significant amount of hand waving and drawing of circuit diagrams we were able to get all of the parts necessary as well as 4 Danish pastries and continued to Klenova Castle where we would stop to fix the problem.

We arrived at the Czechout party at around three, and as we pulled into the team’s area our engine immediately began overheating, spewing steam from the bonnet. A crowd quickly formed to celebrate our misfortune.

In preparation for the rally we had installed a manual override for the radiator fans, in the process we had to move them onto a separate electrical circuit, as our other modifications progressed this circuit was also used to wire in our CB radio, the undercar neons and a 300W inverter. This proved to be a little too much for the single circuit and our inline fuses would occasionally blow disabling the radiator fans and more importantly turning off our neons. To get the problem under control for the time being we wired in a separate ring exclusively for the cooling system, this seems to work OK so far.

We set up the tents and then chilled out, drank some beers whilst watching all the other teams filter in. At around 6 o’clock an announcement was made to say that a freak show was to kick off the party, which was set up in an old aircraft hanger. It definitely had to be seen to be believed. Before long, Ollie was accurately throwing 5 frisbees at the hand-standing freak-man’s testicular area. There was also a strongman show with inhuman displays of brutish force.

After the freak show, the real party began with spectacles of unbelievable dance manoeuvres and an expedition onto the roof. The festivities ended at close to 5 am and Steve slept his 3rd night out of 4 in the limo.

The following morning we set off late in convoy with Eddie’s Ice Cream Van and entered what we thought was Austria, later finding out we were in Bavaria after crossing the actual border.

After a quick curry wurst at a German truck stop, we managed to get the CB Radios working and came up with apt calling names for both of our teams.

Not understanding that Wien = Vienna we took a wrong turn into a small Austrain town where we paraded down the small streets trying to rejoin the motorway. Austria was another country for which the maps had not been downloaded.

Our bad luck continued and we got signalled to ‘Halt’ by Austrian traffic police. “Passports, Licence and tax”. The British road tax disc was not what they wanted to inspect. No vignette = 120 euro fine! We protested and they replied, “4 grown men should have known better” and then breathalysed Ollie.
Lucking by this point, the Ice cream truck had stopped after making weird noises from its gearbox so missed out on the fine and bought a vignette for €6 after a quick message down the CB.

By this time it was getting late so we peeled off the motorway to ask a local the directions to the nearest campsite, we followed the general direction to where he pointed and saw a green sign leading us down an off-road track. Full speed ahead to what we assume means Camp site. It was only when we had no luck and returned to the sign to discover it actually reads “Kromping Grasse” and not “Kamping Platz”. We then gave up and splurged the £1.99 required to use Google maps and made it to an actual campsite 10 km away on the outskirts of Vienna.

We woke at 10am next day and leisurely set off to find the nearest hospital to remedy Alex’s difficulty to breathe. After discovering that the 1st was closed, we set off for Vienna and had equally no luck with the second; no doctors in the hospital. They kindly directed us to the next one and after getting the all clear we drove through Wein traffic, eventually leaving the hell hole which was Austria at 4pm with our first hitchhiker heading towards Budapest.

At the Hungarian border, we decided to actually buy the road tax rather than trying the ‘gunning it through the country as fast as you can’ method. This is what the road tax office looks like (pic)
Hungary was very straight forward and it seemed that the whole country is just wind turbines. Nothing else happened in Hungary we drove straight through.

Departure

WE ARE IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC. Specifically, in a converted farmhouse near Klinovice. We are staying with 20 teenagers who were invited to join a camp here; they come from all over the world (USA, West and East coast, Georgia in Central Asia, Italy, Spain…) to stay here for just under a month. On our first day we were sucked into Chinese character painting, sing-alongs and dynamite manufacture (cereal); it made for a mind-boggling transition from the day and a half we had spent in the car. It has been thunder, lightning and torrential rain since we arrived here, which we take to be an excellent omen.

The rally begun at 7.30am on Sunday morning at Battersea Park. The charge was led by our friends, team ‘Eddies’ Delicious Ice Creams’ in the 1988, pink Ice Cream Van; check them out here. Each car passes through a massive ramp to leave the park and begin the adventure. We eyed it up suspiciously. With its aberrant length and supercar ground clearance we couldn’t see the limo making it. “Just go around it to the left” said the official fairly insistently. We stared mutely at him as if we didn’t understand. “We won’t get to Mongolia if we don’t go over the ramp” we replied. As we climbed the ramp, there was a slightly jubilant atmosphere in the car; we’d make it even in spite of the fact that we definitely couldn’t make it. I think that catches a lot of the feeling of the Rally. We reversed back down a few seconds later.

tower bridge london mongol rally launch

Reactions to the limo so far have been very mixed, with highly varying degrees of forgiveness for the inconvenience of sharing the road with an amateur-driven stretch limo; the Belgians are the least impressed (by the looks on their faces, or they might just look like that on Sunday afternoons; it’s hard to tell through all of the moustaches that seem to be in fashion here).

The route has been entirely made up on the fly, with directions sleuthed from patchily downloaded maps (“No, I don’t think we have France… Or Luxembourg) and so far this method has only lead us slightly astray. I suppose a pretty good example is our ill-fated attempt to get to the racetrack at “Nurberg”. We were convinced by another team we met on the ferry that it would be wicked fun to drive our car around the world-renowned raced track with its sharp corners and cambered turns. But wires were crossed and we headed stoically towards Nuremberg, which turns out to be a very substantial distance from the Nurburgring. Even a day later, writing out this blog post, we were split between whether it was actually “Nuremberg Green”, “The Nurburg Ring” or “Nurburg Green”; none of which turned out to be correct. Word of mouth, eh?

We managed to get fuel consumption down to 29mpg using a variety of techniques which we have labelled “Eco Driving”. The first rule of eco driving is to find a really good lorry. One famous example is the Skynet.be logistics lorry of Day 1. The second rule is to get close to the lorry and hover just under 60mph. This did lead to a near miss as I took a wrong turn and swerved to correct it, not seeing a line of bollards obscured by our unsuspecting convoy.

We have also come up with a way of parking anywhere. You just pull up (for example, in the middle of the road in Heidleberg’s town centre next to a tram line) and whack up the hood. At least one person must pace worriedly nearby, but everyone else is free to get on with their business.

heidelberg-dirrections-mc-donalds-wifi-boot-map

Tomorrow we shall continue to the ‘Czechout Party’, the official European start of the rally. More updates to come!

The Notorious L.I.M.O.

Dom was recently asked to take part in a quick interview for BBC Radio Devon, drive-time. Eager to make use of his 5 minutes of fame he prepared the following rap/beat-poem. Unfortunately Devon is still not quite ready for hip-hop and the producers quickly put an end to Dom’s fledgling rap career. Not wanting his work to go to waste the full text is posted verbatim below. It should be sung to the tune of The Wu Tang Clan’s breakthrough single “Protect ya’ neck”.

I’m all geared up
This is my big brake
Clutching sweaty palms
Putin can wait no need to accelerate

We’re chauffeur of ourselves
We’ve got limo-tless ambition
In our decision to drive to Mongolia, cross the Gobi,
We’re limo la vida loca

In a car replete with seven seats
Drenched in the fetid reek of feet, deet, kebab meat
The floor would be littered
If only bribes came with receipts

We’ve Czech’d our visas
It’s Istanbul to Constantinople,
Weather’s not looking so hopeful in Mosul
And just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind
Let’s hope we find Azerbaijan, Tashkent get enough
of those somewhat substantive Stans, understandably,
Borat are you calling me man?

And then Mongolia’s stepping up, Khan’t com-plane,
Pulling in Baatar late than never, Baatar we there yet?
Hit the road Yak, Khan touch this, bit of a Khanundrum,

And then Russian away,
Putin our car through its paces,
Never Stalin, Moscow fast like wacky races
Speeding through Soviet military bases
And then not quite back the way Ukraine,
Warsaw from sitting too long

But it’s for doctors without borders
Treating soldiers, civilians and people getting older
They’ve got the world’s disorders on their shoulders

But don’t worry if you’re wishing
You could end this rendition
The limo’s got an electric partition
Allowing judicious intermission.

Necessary car modifications

Having moved the limo into Bath, workshop space is now at a premium, subsequently we have taken to converting deserted car parks into guerrilla-garages by night. Tonight we chose the Oldfield park primary school car park to set up shop. To aid in our visibility on the road and to improve handling and performance we have decided to fit the car with electric-blue neon’s along its full length. A large number of holes drilled into the chassis and a bag of cable ties later we had a single strip of “neons” attached.

fitting blue neon lights to the limousine for the 2014 mongol rally blog

Fitting neons to a rover 827 limousine  regency mongol rally  2014 team

Later we moved to a council construction site to fit the second strip, despite several no parking signs and a large amount of chain-link fencing the authority of the limo and the rover marque seems to dissuade people from approaching us and requesting we cease our occupation. This authority has become somewhat of a recurring theme, initially one of the major objections to buying the limousine had been that it would be “a nightmare to park” this seems to be almost the opposite of what we have experienced. Despite parking anywhere we have pleased for the past several weeks we haven’t been questioned, fined or prompted to move once. This includes extended periods parked up in taxi ranks, bus stations, and outside unesco world heritage sites as well as inconspicuously parking across several spaces reserved exclusively for university of bath security and traffic enforcement personnel. We can only assume that people see the limo and either assume that some high profile, rover loving, gangster or perhaps a funeral procession is close by, or are simply intimidated by the sheer power of the rover marque and styling of the car. Either way, we have been unmolested by parking tickets despite our utter disregard for parking etiquette.

Guildhall bath rover 827 limousine mongol rally

Any self respecting limousine owner has a set of diplomatic flags. After a quick visit to http://www.flagpoles.se/ (the leading online diplomatic flag seller) and the realisiation that a simple setup could cost in excess of £500 and would only be rated up to 75mph the decision was made to make our own bespoke flag holders. After some quick napkin calculations and a visit to the University of Bath machine shop we were proud owners of some of the highest strength flag holders ever seen on a road legal limo. Conservative calculations estimate a speed of 175mph could be achieved before permanent damage would occur to the poles.

limo flag lathe turning rover 800 827 mongol rally

Upon fitting a pair of dignitary flags our immunity seems to have extended to all rules of the road, as seen in the following picture. If you are familiar with bath you will know that this is the main entrance to the historic roman baths in the centre of the town, normally just walking here is stressful enough with the number of tourists, but the limo finds passage with ease, the flags easily carving a route through the crowds and past no-entry signs. When the masses become too much one passenger can simply step out and walk in front of the car and beckon people authoritatively to step aside. Given our success in Bath I feel we will be attempting to approach wider known landmarks on the continent as we pass by, we just hope our union jacks will carry as much weight on the other side of the channel.

Roman Baths Entrance Somerset Rover Limo 827 800

However our flippant attitude to the highway code may have been misguided. Somehow we inadvertently entered into a CCTV covered temporary bus lane 4 times in 2 days, as we learned to our disappointment the next week when we received letters from the council. The bus lane is pretty poorly signposted and the lane isn’t painted as it is only operational between 10-6, but I still think we should be exempt as we can carry more than 8 passengers, making us technically a bus. You win this time Bath & North East Somerset Council.

bus lane fine bath limo 827 rover

Visas for the Mongol Rally

Applying for visas can be nearly as fun as the Rally itself; everyone likes stamps in their passport and receiving packages. Additionally it is a chance to get some of that money out of your bank account that has been weighing you down. During the application process you may even make some friends at embassies to meet on your trip.

You have the choice of either using a visa service such as The Visa Machine or Real Russia, or you can organise everything yourself. We went for a bit of a mixture. Organising your own visas takes time, but once you have figured it out, it is very quick to fill out a second application. Because there were four on our team we thought it would definitely be worth applying ourselves as we would save the administration fee times four! Getting visas directly yourself is significantly cheaper in most circumstances.

It is important to always double check any information you find online  against the official embassy website, visa applications procedures seem to change nearly every year, this account is accurate to the procedures as they were in 2014. Additionally our team is all British and this advice may not be relevant to other nationalities. There may be extra requirements, or fewer!

Before you start:

  1. Make sure you have a fair number of empty pages in your passport (at least 1-2 per visa).
  2. You are going to need a good amount of time, around 2 weeks per visa (some need to be done by April, e-visas can be done at the same time as others).
  3. Ensure you have at least one year left on your passport.
  4. You should scan all of the used/marked/personalised pages in your passport, these are necessary for some forms, and will be useful when you are filling out applications and your passport is away at an embassy.
  5. For some of the visas you need to have a fairly good idea of your planned entry dates, therefore you need to have a pretty good route plan before you begin applying for visas.
  6. If you are applying for a few visas you are going to need a bunch of passport photos. We  saved a fair bit of money by printing these ourselves. You will need a couple of these to apply for your international driving licences also, so it is worth printing a couple spare.
  7. A printer and scanner.
  8. Ensure you have a thoroughly sharpened pencil or your quill and ink set to hand.

These are not full guides, typically some of the areas of the application that were unclear to us are highlighted and omitted when obvious. So, only use this article in addition to carefully reading the application instructions given on the embassy website.

 

Turkey

The visa application process for Turkey is VERY EASY. It couldn’t be more straight-forward. British citizens (and many other nationalities also) only require an E-Visa to enter turkey for up to 6 months.  The process is completed entirely online so you do not need to travel to an embassy or send your passport away. Additionally at the time of writing, the cost of the visa was only $20 making it one of the cheapest we bought.

We found the process so user friendly that we sent the Turkish embassy a congratulations message, and true to their impeccable service standards we received this reply within minutes.

mongol-rally-2014-team-visas-turkey

It is well worth completing this one yourself. Visa services charge between 50-100% mark-up to cover administrative costs for this particular visa. This may not be too much for an individual visa but for the whole team you can make a big saving getting this one on your own.

The visa will allow you to stay in Turkey for a total of 90 days in any period of 180 days.

Get your Turkish visa here: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/apply/

 

Visa Duration: Up to 90 days

Visa cost: $20

Level of difficulty: EASY

 

Azerbaijan

This year it was easiest to get this one through the Visa Machine since they have just been authorised to provide Azerbaijan e-visas. These last for 15 days, and are issued by the Azerbaijani government to a limited number of tourist agencies. They are cheaper and less time consuming than standard tourist visas. Once you apply through the visa machine they will send you a how to guide for filling out the form.

As with the Turkish e-visa you do not need to send away your passport to complete the application process, everything is done via e-mail. This means you can get this visa while other applications are processing; just make sure that you already have high quality scans of your passport.

This visa requires proof of hotel bookings during your intended stay. Booking.com is a great website for booking hotels in central Asia and has the additional benefit of allowing you to cancel most bookings without paying any fee up until the day before your arrival. Check on the specific hotel to ensure that you can cancel, that they don’t charge you and that a deposit and credit card is not required.

 

Visa Duration: 15 days

Visa cost: £92.53

Level of difficulty: MEDIUM

 

Turkmenistan

We haven’t technically gotten this visa yet. We have only applied for a Letter of Invitation for a visa. We then take this to the Turkmenistan embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan where we will be given a letter of permission(not a visa) which allows us to board the ferry into Turkmenbashi. From what we understand, the embassy is only open between 9.30am until 12.30pm on Mondays and Fridays so we need to time our arrival accordingly.

Update: When we got to Baku this year we found that the Turkmenistan embassy now opens 5 days a week especially for the Mongol Rally. Hopefully this continues! (2014)

We’re then hoping to take the Caspian sea ferry to Turkmenbashi and when we get there, we should then be able to exchange our second invitation for a transit visa giving us 5 days to cross the country. If you don’t get out in time, you will incur impressive fines.

More information here: http://savoirfaireabroad.com/mongol-rally-the-lowdown-on-tourist-visas/

Again we chose to use the visa machine for this one, the LOI needs to be acquired from a tour company in Turkmenistan and the VM sorts this out for you. The deadline for the VM application for the 2014 rally was April 1st.

 

Visa Duration: 5 days (from entering the country)

LOI cost: £39.11

Level of difficulty: MEDIUM

 

Uzbekistan

The form is completed on the website and then you print out a pdf copy and sign it. We were able to send off all of our applications in one envelope, putting each in a separate plastic sleeve.

There were a couple of things about this one that we weren’t sure on which we eventually got answers from the embassy after countless failed attempts at reaching them by phone (only open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 10am and 1pm).

  1. For inviting party, if you are from the UK you can put none
  2. For place of visa issuance put London (if that is where you are applying)
  3. For address in Uzbekistan just put down the address of a hotel on route
  4. For purpose of visit we put down: Auto tourism. Travelling by car for Charity Rally
  5. For passport issuer put IPS
  6. Create a totally new application for each member of the team
  7. Compile the separate applications into separate packages and post altogether

When you arrive in Uzbekistan you need to register. Bear in mind that during your time in Uzbekistan you need to stay at a hotel at least once to be registered. The registration also needs to be done within 3 days of your arrival (Saturdays and Sundays count as part of the three days).

We followed the Uzbek embassy on twitter to ensure fast processing of our applications.

visa mongol rally uzbekistan

Visa Duration: 30 days

Visa cost: £67

Level of difficulty: MEDIUM

 

Kazakhstan

For Kazakhstan, we got a 30 day tourist visa and all was fairly straight forward.

It was also the first visa which required proof of travel insurance. We used Campbell Irvine who are aware of the rally and cover its participants.

The main point of confusion on the visa application was the questions about transit. This is specific to transit visas so we put the great abbreviation N.A in these fields.

We’ve recently found out that the Kazakhstan government have issued a statement saying that British citizens will not require a visa for a stay of up to 15 days between 15th July 2014 and 15th July 2015. Check the www.gov.uk website if this will stand in the future.

This application required hotel bookings. We booked 3 hotels in Kazakhstan adding up to 30 days of stay on booking.com. We then cancelled the bookings when we successfully received our visas back. We’re starting to feel sorry for the hotels that think they’re receiving our business and probably many other ralliers.

 

Visa Duration: 30 days

Visa cost: £35

Level of difficulty: MEDIUM

 

Russia

For the Russian visa you need to acquire a Letter Of Invitation first before you can apply. We did this through Real Russia as it seemed to be the cheapest and most well renowned. This was very straight forward and the website tells you everything you need to know. We opted for a 30 day double entry visa as we hope to drive back. The 30 days starts from the first date of entry on your visa.

The visa application form is an online one that is then printed and is the lengthiest one we’ve filled out for the trip. It includes such questions as:

  1. Have you ever been afflicted with a communicable disease of public health significance or a dangerous physical or mental disorder?
  2. Do you have any specialized skills, training or experience related to firearms, explosives, nuclear, biological or chemical substances?
  3. Are/were you a member of a professional, civic or charitable organizations or do you cooperate/cooperated with any of these organizations?

We applied for a general tourism visa. There is also an option for auto-tourism which you need to provide a V5 for. We are still unsure whether using a general tourism will be fine, although it appears that the Visa Machine advises people applying through them to select tourism, so it is probably fine. You need to list hotels but don’t have to provide booking confirmations for them. You also need to include details of your travel insurance but don’t need to post it with your application.

It is also important that you register when you enter Russia. Extensive information here: http://www.realrussia.co.uk/visas/russian/registration

 

Visa Duration: 30 days

Visa cost: £107.20

Level of difficulty: TRICKY (although easy enough if the lights are on and somebody is home)

 

Mongolia

In 2014, the Ministry of Foreign affairs announced that all British passport holders do not require a visa when travelling for tourism or business for up to 30 days. This policy was new to this year and isn’t guaranteed to continue so check the following link to see if this is still the case:

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/mongolia/entry-requirements

 

In Conclusion

Organizing visas yourself is really not so hard, using a visa agency doesn’t really reduce the amount of paperwork all that much, trust me do it yourself for the easier ones and save the money! If this helped you out or if you have any new information that could be helpful for future adventurers post below!

That excellent feeling of having your passports back in your hands, priceless:

mongol rally visas turkmenistan uzbekistan russia

LMLS in the York Vision

York Vision just put up an article covering our trip on their site!

Read it here:

http://www.yorkvision.co.uk/lifestyle/mongolia-in-a-limo/29/04/2014

Or look at the text below:

A PPE graduate (2013) from the University of York is part of a 4 man team driving a 20 year old Rover stretch limousine from London, England to Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia for charity this summer. Dominic Falcão, along with Steven Brace, Oliver Skittery and Jack Chartres are undertaking the 15,000 mile round trip in aid of their chosen charity, Médecins sans Frontières, as part of the Mongol Rally 2014. The Rally has only a designated start point, London, and end point, Ulaan Baatar, for the team to pick a route between.

They have opted to drive through Europe, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia, crossing three deserts, including the Gobi Desert, on the way. Médecins Sans Frontières are a humanitarian charity that provides medical assistance to countries affected by armed conflict, natural disasters and poor healthcare systems. “We’ve chosen to support MSF because the majority of the funds raised go directly to running their essential support programmes,” Steven explains. “Their work is particularly urgent and relevant given the number and scale of conflicts occurring today” Dominic adds. Typically cars in the rally are required to have an engine size of 1 litre or less.

However, when the group found a bargain 2nd hand limo on eBay, they could not resist the offer. “We contacted the rally organisers to see if an exception could be made, and when they heard we wanted to use a limo they were all for it”. Dominic was told by his driving instructor that he was the worst student he’d had in 40 years of instructing and would certainly crash within a week of passing his test. When Jack told his parents about the rally they weren’t completely on board. Two days after telling them he received a 6 page hand-written letter from his mother pleading him not to take part. One of her many concerns was that Jack, who measures in at 6 foot 5 inches tall “would be too cramped”. This was before Jack had informed them that he had purchased a limousine.

Aside from parental concern, the team have other hurdles to overcome. Steven, who suffers from chronic car sickness, hopes that he will be able to obtain a driving licence in time for the start of the rally on the 19th of July. Insurance has proven to be a major hurdle. Initially the boys found that after contacting countless insurance brokers the same question came up every time. “Why do four twenty-two year old students need insurance on a limousine?” Unfortunately, “More seats and extra legroom” was not the answer they were looking for. They were finally successful when they found a specialist broker that covers convicted and banned drivers.

When asked why they chose a limo they replied “With one of the longest continuous histories in the motor industry, the Rover marque has always had a reputation for luxury without extravagance and style without ostentation. It has maintained this status with the Rover 827 limousine which includes exclusively full-grain leather interiors and fully electric wing mirrors. The Rover 827’s top of class air conditioning system makes it the only practical choice for crossing the Gobi desert. This paired with state of the art soft-air suspension will allow a smooth journey across potholes, river crossings and arid desert planes.” The team are hoping to raise £2,500 for their chosen charities; three of the team have run half marathons to raise money and Dominic has shaved his head, waxed his legs and armpits and is piercing his ear and nipple to raise money. They have additional fundraising events planned for the near future. To follow their progress, and donate, like them on Facebook at “London Mongolia Limo Service”, find them on Twitter at @mongolrallylimo or go to www.mongolrallylimoservice.co.uk.

LMLS in the Bath Impact

Just had an article about the trip published in the Bath Impact click on the image to read the full story.

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Three mechanical engineering students are part of a team of four preparing to take on a 10,000 mile charity rally from London to Mongolia, in a 20 year old Limousine!

Steven Brace, Oliver Skittery, Jack Chartres and Dominic Falcão have signed up for the Mongol Rally 2014 to raise money for their chosen charity Médecins Sans Frontières and for the official rally charity Cool Earth. The Rally travels through Europe, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia crossing the Gobi desert on the way.

Médecins Sans Frontières are a humanitarian charity that provides medical assistance to countries affected by armed conflict, natural disasters and poor healthcare systems. “We’ve chosen to support MSF because the majority of the funds raised go directly to running their essential support programs.” Steven explained.

Typically cars in the rally are required to have an engine size of 1 litre or less. However, when the group found a bargain 2nd hand limo on eBay, they could not resist the offer.  “We contacted the rally organisers to see if an exception could be made, and when they heard we wanted to use a limo they were all for it”.

When Jack told his parents about the rally they weren’t completely on board. Two days after telling them he received a 6 page hand-written letter from his mother pleading him not to take part. One of her many concerns was that Jack, who measures in at 6 foot 5 inches long, “would be too cramped”. This was before Jack had informed them that he had purchased a limousine. Jack exclaimed, “This 20 foot executive vehicle will be perfect for my long legs and my mum’s nerves.”

Aside from parental concern, the team have other hurdles to overcome. Steven, who suffers from chronic car sickness, hopes that he will be able to obtain a driving licence in time for the start of the rally on the 19th of July. Dom, the team’s 4th member, a graduate of PPE from York University was told by his driving instructor that he was the worst student he’d had in 40 years of instructing and would certainly crash within a week of passing his test.

Insurance has proven to be a major hurdle. Initially the boys found that after contacting countless insurance brokers the same question came up every time. “Why do three twenty-two year old students need insurance on a limousine?” Unfortunately, “More seats and extra legroom” was not the answer they were looking for. They were finally successful when they found a specialist broker that covers convicted and banned drivers.

When asked why they chose a limo they replied “With one of the longest continuous histories in the motor industry, the Rover marque has always had a reputation for luxury without extravagance and style without ostentation. It has maintained this status with the Rover 827 limousine which includes exclusively full-grain leather interiors and fully electric wing mirrors. The Rover 827’s top of class air conditioning system makes it the only practical choice for crossing the Gobi desert. This paired with state of the art soft-air suspension will allow a smooth journey across potholes, river crossings and arid desert planes.”

The team are hoping to raise £2,500 for their chosen charities; they have all signed up for the Bath half marathon on the 3rd of March and are planning other fund raising events in the near future.

To follow their progress, and donate, go to www.mongolrallylimoservice.co.uk.

 

Choosing our car for the Mongol Rally

Finding the perfect car for our trip took a considerable amount of time and thought. Bearing in mind that we are going to have to sit in this thing for 8 weeks, through 22 countries and 6 time zones, it was not an easy decision.

Initially we had our hearts set on an immaculate 1993 Fiat Panda, Parade edition, with a full length retractable canvas roof it would have been perfect for Jack’s larger frame. We had organised to collect the Panda from Liverpool but when the seller found out our plans for the car he got cold feet. Understandably he did not want this future automotive classic to meet an untimely end in the middle of the Karakum desert.

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Artists impression of the team Parading to Ulan Bator.

Several months later we had finished mourning the Panda, the search for the perfect car continued. After spending more time scouring eBay than revising for our exams, we had exhausted nearly every category eBay autos had to offer, only “commercial” vehicles remained. We organised by Price: Lowest first and there it was, the 1994 Rover 827si Regency limousine. Buy it now.

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This is what Ollie looks like at 4:30AM

The following monday Ollie and Steve were sat on the 4:30am train to Eastbourne. They had arranged to meet the seller outside the station to take the limo for a test drive. The seller usually met people at the taxi drop off, but didn’t think the limo’s turning circle would be capable of navigating the tight corners; however, the rover easily fit into the adjacent coach bays.

Steve kicked the tyres plenty of times, checked the electric partition was working, and decided that the Rover was good to go. Paperwork was signed, a man was paid and the keys were handed over.

Ollie had the pleasure of driving the limousine home, whilst Steven was busy testing each and every one of the remaining seven seats.  A pitstop was made to refuel both the team and the car. Without much thought Ollie headed straight for the car park, forgetting that the Rover is significantly longer than a standard space. Although surprisingly this did not pose an issue, as you can see.

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Bay parking a limousine, no problem.

Calling in at Bath, Ollie and Steven headed straight to the Royal Crescent for a postcard photoshoot, image at top of post. Heading into town and with a successful bay park under his belt, Ollie confidently went for the parallel park. Absolutely no problem at all!

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Parallel parking a limousine, no problem.

With over 300 trouble free miles on the clock, our spirits were high, we began to believe the Rover reliability issues we had heard so much about were pure hyperbole. The cambelt remained in one piece, the cylinder head was not “warped into the shape of a pringle”  and it had not snapped in half.

The next morning the Rover did not start.

Breakdown count: 1

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Rover reliability issues