Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan & Tajikistan - The Heart of the Silk Road


Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan & Tajikistan - The Heart of the Silk Road

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 15 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers

Notes

Group Tour Essentials

Visas
Most nationalities will also need official visa support before they can apply for their Uzbekistan visa. This will be supplied by Undiscovered Destinations. You will therefore need to advise us of your nationality, as per your passport, at the time of booking, so that we can request the visa support if you need this. If this is the case we will also need more information from you.

Please note that our scheduled group tour to Uzbekistan requires that you obtain a multiple entry visa for Uzbekistan. You will be entering Uzbekistan three times. The current cost of the visa if applied for directly at the Embassy in the UK is £65.

These guidelines are based on information supplied by the Uzbekistan Embassy in London. If you are applying for your visa elsewhere please check details with your selected embassy.

The Turkmen visa will be obtained at the border. At the time of writing this costs $85 plus an additional $14 in entry and bank fees, but may increase without notice. You will need to bring two passport photos with you.

The Tajikistan visa should be obtained before you travel.

Please note: We cannot request the visa support until we have full passport and client details from you. We will also need a clear copy of your passport and the embassy at which you are to apply for the visa. The visa support is embassy-specific, so you cannot subsequently change your mind about where you will get the visa. It is your responsibility to provide us with these details in full. Failure to do so will mean that we cannot provide the visa support. Not all countries have official Uzbekistan representation, in which case you will need to allow extra time to send your passport to a country with an Uzbekistan embassy.

Due to the complexities of applying for a visa to Uzbekistan, we recommend you apply through a visa service agency.

Airport Tax
No departure tax currently applies when leaving Uzbekistan by air. There are also no border taxes to pay for the land borders crossed within this tour.

Customs Declarations
Please note that when you arrive in Uzbekistan you will be asked to complete two customs declarations. One of these will be kept by the customs officials and the other will be stamped and returned to you. You will need to keep this safe to present to customs when you next exit Uzbekistan. When you exit Uzbekistan you will need to complete one customs declaration to be given to the officials together with your previous form. This will happen at each border you cross.

Health and Immunisations
We strongly recommend that you contact your doctor’s surgery or a specialist travel clinic for up-to-date information, advice and the necessary vaccinations. For a visit of less than one month, almost certainly you will be advised to have immunisations against the following: Diphtheria and Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Meningitis.

Insurance
What should my travel insurance policy cover?

• medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad

• 24 hour emergency service and assistance

• personal liability cover in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging
property

• lost and stolen possessions cover

• cancellation and curtailment (cutting short your trip) cover

• Extra cover for activities that are commonly excluded from standard policies,such as certain sports

The policy should cover the whole time that you are away.

Your policy may also have:

• personal accident cover

• legal expenses cover

Common travel insurance policy exclusions

Always check the conditions and exclusions of your policy:

• most policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents

You must take reasonable care of your possessions or your policy will not cover you.

Practical information

Local Currency
The currency in Uzbekistan is the som. In Tajikistan it is the somani, and in Turkmenistan it is the manat. For current exchange rates visit www.xe.com.

Where currency can be exchanged
It’s relatively easy to exchange money in Uzbekistan, either at banks or moneychangers. ATM machines are not widely available in Uzbekistan – and those that do exist tend to be unreliable. The best currency to bring into Uzbekistan is US dollars – these should be crisp and free from any marks as many places will not accept them otherwise. Other currencies can be extremely difficult to exchange. When you cross borders into Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, your guides will be able to assist you with obtaining local currency.

Credit cards and travellers cheques
Changing travellers’ cheques can be difficult and we do not recommend that you bring these. In addition to this, credit cards are not widely accepted. We recommend that you bring sufficient cash in US dollars to last your visit.

Best time to go
The region can be bitterly cold in its winter months, and fiercely hot during the July and August. The best time to visit is generally accepted to be from May to June, and September to November.

Main Language
The official language of Uzbekistan is Uzbek, which consists of a number of different dialects. Having only recently been released from the Soviet Union, Russian is also widely spoken, while Tajik is spoken by the country’s Tajik minority. In Turkmenistan the language is Turkmen, which as a Turkic language is similar to Uzbek. In Tajikistan the official language is Tajik, from the Persian language family. English is becoming increasingly widely spoken but it is still not always easy to find someone who speaks it.

Main Religion
Uzbekistan is predominantly Sunni Moslem, although not many people actually practice their faith regularly and Islam is interpreted less strictly here than in other parts of the world. There are also small pockets of Judaism and Christianity.

Food and drink
Central Asian cuisine tends to feature a fair amount of mutton as a staple. Uzbekistan is influenced by Turkish style cuisine and often involves kebabs, breads and various dips. Plov is a regional favourite – a mixture of rice, meat, fried onions and vegetables which is similar to a pilaf. Other dishes to look out for are steamed pumpkins, stuffed cabbage and vine leaves, and a variety of dishes made from fermented dairy products. The food in Uzbekistan contains a fair amount of spices but tends not to be too hot – cumin, coriander and sesame seeds are some of the most popular spices used. In summer, fruit, vegetable and nuts can be found in abundance.

If you have any special dietary requirements you must notify us at the time of booking. While we will make every effort to cater for you, we cannot guarantee that this will be possible. Vegetarians may experience a lack of variety in food as much is made or flavoured with meat.

As a rough guide, a simple meal will cost around $4-8, while something more elaborate will cost $8-10 or more depending on where you eat. Street snacks are cheaper, at around $1-3.

Transport
Our tours in Central Asia use either private cars or air-conditioned minibuses which although not luxurious are perfectly comfortable. We also take some domestic flights, which are made on either RJ85 or A320 aircraft (Uzbekistan) and Boeing aircraft (Turkmenistan).

Local conditions
Travelling in the destinations that we visit requires a good deal of understanding that often standards simply won’t be as they are at home. While we aim to make your trip as comfortable as possible, please be aware that we are often visiting remote or less developed regions that may have little infrastructure. While we aim to make your trip run as smoothly as possible there may be times when we need to ask for your patience while we rectify any problems.

What to take with you

First Aid Kit
The first thing on your list should be a first aid kit. Whilst there is no undue cause for alarm, travellers are best advised to travel well-prepared: adequately immunized, with sufficient supplies of prescription drugs, along with a medical kit.

Clothing
When it comes to clothing it is usually recommended that lighter clothes are worn through the day, and warmer ones at night. A hat is also advised to be worn through the day to protect from the sun. You should make sure that you bring a waterproof jacket for any rainy days. As Uzbekistan is conservative in terms of dress codes you should make sure that you bring a few outfits that are suitable for entering mosques and religious buildings – long sleeves and trousers / skirts are a good idea.

Footwear
Footwear is a main priority on this tour. Comfortable walking shoes/boots are recommended.

Luggage
Your luggage should not exceed 20kgs (44lbs). One large suitcase/rucksack, and one small hand luggage rucksack is acceptable. Please note that you will be crossing land borders on this tour, so you may wish to take wheeled luggage; some border crossings can be lengthy

Other
Suncream/sunblock is a must. Insect repellent, including a bite spray will also be useful to have.

You will not need to bring a sleeping bag as bedding will be provided when at the homestay. However we do recommend that you bring a towel.

Fitness
This tour does not require any special degree of fitness but you will find it more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit.

Cultural and environmental guidelines
Women should not enter mosques unless specifically told they can do so and you should always refer to your guide regarding dress code and behaviour in and near religious sites.

You may come across beggars while on tour in Uzbekistan. Every traveller has different perspectives on this and ultimately the choice is up to you. Many sources recommend that you watch to see if local people give, and then follow their lead with genuine beggars. We do not recommend giving money, sweets, pens etc to children as this can encourage a begging mentality and can lead to children choosing to beg rather than go to school.

Haggling is a way of life in Central Asia when making many purchases, especially with tourist souvenirs. Usually, but not always, the vendor will start with a price that is higher than they are prepared to accept, and the buyer is expected to haggle. There are no hard and fast rules with this – some vendors may initially quote a vastly overinflated price, others may start with a price close to the true value, while others may just present you with one price and not be prepared to discuss it. Although many tourists may feel uncomfortable with this, it’s important to remember that this is best entered into in a relaxed manner. Once you have agreed upon a price, it is extremely bad form to then not pay this. Please also bear in mind that a small amount of money to you can be a relatively large amount for the vendor, and that it is not necessarily best practice to ‘beat the vendor down’ to the lowest possible price. Remember that they also have a living to make.

Please make sure that you take any rubbish back to the hotels or camps with you where it can be properly disposed of – this includes cigarette butts as well.

Please do not buy any products made from endangered species – this is not sustainable and hastens the species’ decline.

Photography
You should always ask permission before taking anyone's photograph and respect their decision if they say no. In more remote areas women and older people often do not want to be photographed. Some people may also ask for some money – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot - in return for a photo. Taking photos of military installations, state buildings, and airports can lead to problems with local authorities. If you are unsure about whether it is acceptable to take a photo, please ask your tour leader or guide.

Please note that many sites charge photography fees, which are not included in the cost of your tour. You should allow around $40 or so if you wish to take photos at a wide range of sites.

Tipping
Tipping is common practise in Central Asia. If your local guide has been helpful then you could think about tipping. If you are travelling on our group tour, a reasonable amount to allow would be around $3-4 per person per day for the guides, and around $2 per person per day for the driver.

Foreign Office Advice
We constantly monitor the advice posted by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). In particular we will always advise clients of any travel warnings. At the time of writing the FCO advises against travel to areas of Uzbekistan which border Afghanistan – this includes Termez which is visited on this tour. It is likely travel warnings will remain in place for some time to come, and we are only able to accept a booking on the basis that you are aware this is the case and confirm that you are still happy to travel irrespective of the current FCO advice.

Furthermore, it is the clients’ responsibility to ensure that they hold full travel insurance which includes medical repatriation.

You should check the validity of your insurance with your provider, given the travel warnings in place. We can however, help you organise insurance which will continue to be valid.

It should be noted that this information applies to British citizens. Other nationals are asked to check the current position of their respective government.

Further Information

Public Holidays in Uzbekistan:

1 Jan Victory of Islamic Revolution.
8 Mar Women’s Day.
21 Mar Navruz (New Year)
1 May Labour Day
9 May Day of Memory and Respect
1 Sep Independence Day
8 Dec Constitution Day

In addition to this Uzbekistan celebrates a number of Islamic holidays which follow the lunar calendar and so vary annually.

Dates are for guidance only and may vary year to year

Electrical Supply

Electrical supply is 220V and plugs usually have two round pins like most European countries.

Recommended Reading

Central Asia – The Lonely Planet Guide
Bradley Mayhew

The Great Game
Peter Hopkirk

The Lost Heart of Asia
Colin Thubron

Murder in Samarkand
Craig Murray

A Ride to Khiva
Frederick Burnaby

IMPORTANT NOTES – PLEASE READ

Please note that the information provided is correct at the time of writing but may change. It is intended as a guide only. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health visit www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk or contact your local healthcare provider.

In addition we strongly advise you to check the information and any travel advice provided by your government. For British citizens you should visit the Foreign Office website www.fco.gov.uk.

Furthermore, you should be aware that any travel warnings or advisories may affect the validity of your travel insurance. Therefore, at the time of booking your tour it is essential you check any restrictions on cover with your insurance provider.

Issue Date – 16/4/13

For possible changes to this dossier please visit www.undiscovered-destinations.com or call +44 (0)191 296 2674