Heading into the Mongolian steppe? You'll need a Mongolia road map or three.
Take a look at this main road...
And there ain't many of these!
A lesser road...
Which way would you go now?
Before maps and GPS, directions went pretty much like this...
"See those two mountains, well just aim between them and then follow the river until it bends west... you can't miss it!"
Now imagine someone saying that in Mongolian!
You NEED a Mongolia road map.
Purchase a map with place names marked in both the Latin (English) and Cyrillic (Russian) alphabets.
Mongolians use the Cyrillic alphabet. You will need the Latin alphabet for yourself. Asking for directions without a bilingual map will end in disaster!
Saying the name of your destination won't work - nobody will understand you. Heck, when I first came here I couldn't buy a coke - until I realized Mongolians pronounced 'cola' as 'collar'. Only a small difference but they couldn't understand.
You get the point.
Buy the most up-to-date Mongolia road map you can find.
The roads move.
Yes, you read that right - week by week, day by day, car by car - the roads move.
Look at this photo and you'll understand why...
Ninety-nine percent of roads are just dirt tracks. When it rains, cars drive around the puddles creating a new route. When an animal stands in the road, the cars drive around it. For endless reasons, the roads move.
You will look in vain for landmarks and road signs. If you want to find your way, take the most up-to-date map you can find. (Even the Google map of Mongolia can't help you here - it cannot detect the dirt roads seen in the photo above.)
Having at least two maps will give you the opportunity to compare routes.
Can I recommend a Mongolia road map?
I can do better than that - I can recommend four.
But BEWARE of bumpy Mongolian roads - in fact they are more bump than road! Whatever technology you use it may not survive the journey. And if you can't find a place to recharge, you may not even know you have damaged equipment! Take at least one of the paper maps listed above, as well!
Don't wait until you arrive in Mongolia. Availability varies.
Instead, click here for the best online source.
Please don't rely on the 'dedicated' Map Shop recommended in the Bradt Guide. Their selection is small and poor. It disappointed me, and I only live round the corner!
The best source in Ulaan Baatar is a two-story bookstore on Baga Toyruu Street, just around the corner from the Ulaan Baatar Hotel.
How do you find it?
Buy a map of Ulaanbaatar ;)
Or maybe you're considering driving here, rather than renting a jeep once you arrive.
Lots of stir crazy people drive across Europe to Mongolia every year. If you're dying to drive here and need an excuse, you can't find a better one than the
Share your story! How did you find your way?