Mongolia Charity Rally – Planning the Southern Route

Which route are you taking?

The Southern Route

Are you nuts?!

We get that a lot. On our first post about route planning we spoke about the last leg of our journey, from Uzbekistan to Mongolia. How do we get to Uzbekistan in the first place?

There are a few alternatives around the Caspian Sea:
Caspian Sea

  • The Russian Way: yes, you guessed it. Through Russia and Kazakhstan, entering Uzbekistan through what once was the Aral Sea.
  • The Sailor Way: crossing the Caspian Sea using the infamous ferry from Baku to Turkmenistan.
  • The Southern Route: which surrounds the Caspian Sea via Iran followed by a peculiar border crossing into Turkmenistan.

Any of these options are certainly challenging, in particular the latter. Why would that be? Well, let’s have a think. It could be due to the heat, it is certainly hotter than going through Russia all the way to Mongolia, with an average temperature of nearly 40. It could also be the distance. It is perhaps a few thousand miles longer, give or take. Or maybe it is the countries that it goes through, way off the beaten track and whose entry requirements are a bit cumbersome.

I truly believe the term procrastination was created for people interested in obtaining an Iranian visa. While going through the visa requirements, it is incredibly easy to start watching animations of cats falling off a table (or whatever your favourite wasting-time guilty pleasure might be). Getting a Visa for Turkmenistan is not simple either.

And then there is the Carnet de Passage. Some countries require this to allow travellers to temporarily import their vehicles (or other valuable goods) without having to leave a cash deposit at the border. It is, in essence, an international guarantee for payment of customs duties and taxes to a government should the vehicle or item not be re-exported from that country. In other words, a paper that says that you are not selling the vehicle behind when leaving the country. No, we are not selling our car, we need it to get to Mongolia. And yes, Iran is one of the countries that requires such thing. It is not straightforward to get and it is definitely not cheap.
Carnet De Passage

If half of what people say about this route is true, about its culture and how welcoming people are then forgetting the countless hours spent at the embassy to get a visa will be done in no time. Convincing our families that it is absolutely safe to travel the Southern Route will be a different kettle of fish. But we will try 🙂

Why on earth do people choose the Southern Route year after year then? Well, let’s see if we can make a case:


Or should I say Persia. Now I know this is probably the main reason why our loved ones are a bit sceptical about this route. But from a cultural point of view there is so much stuff here that you would not believe it. I mean, come on, Ishafan:

Many well-known travel bloggers have recently visited Iran and wrote about it in English y en Español.

We have spoken to teams from other years and they have all said how Iran is one of the highlights of their trip. You would think that the images above would be the reason for that. But then you would be wrong. It is the people:

The People

Well-known travel bloggers or previous years ralliers, they all agree on one thing: Iranians are extremely welcoming and friendly with foreign travellers.

The Bizarre Places

Door to Hell, Darvaze (Turkmenistan), enough said:
Door to Hell

Southern Route Then?

Yes, maybe. Here is the Google map of what it could look like.

Understanding other cultures and viewing the world with our own eyes is part of the reason why we are doing this trip. We cannot wait to visit all those countries and get to know their people a little bit. Perhaps by telling our story here we can change some of the fears and perceptions that we tend to have in the western world.

In any case, the answer to the first question is probably yes, we are nuts. But not because we want to take the Southern Route. We are driving a car from London to Mongolia, and that in itself is a clear statement that indeed, we are nuts. Mum don’t worry, we are also very cautious too 🙂


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