Planning A Worldwide Trip
Replies: 7 - Last Post: Nov 27, 2011 6:57 AM Last Post By: emmeff
Nov 25, 2011 11:57 PM
Planning A Worldwide TripHi,
I'm planning a big trip to leave on in the next couple of years. I realize that situations change and all that, but I'm trying to get a general feel for the endeavor while I plan it out. I'm trying to fly as little as possible or not at all. I'm hoping to arrange to travel by freighter (slow, I know!) to Singapore or Malaysia from Melbourne, Australia and continue overland until I get to the Atlantic and try to work it out from there.
I had initially planned to cross through South Asia but with Myanmar's border difficulties with Bangladesh I started investing traveling through Central Asia along the Silk Road. If anyone has done this before, I'd appreciate any advice, tips and stories that I can get.
My route so far, as I envision it, will run like this:
Malaysia -> Thailand -> Cambodia (or Laos) -> Vietnam -> China (likely along the coast until I reach Beijing) - > Kazakhstan -> Turkmenistan (possibly via Uzbekistan) -> Iran -> Turkey -> Greece -> Albania -> Montenegro -> Bosnia & Herzegovina -> Croatia -> Slovenia -> Italy -> Switzerland -> France.
Once I hit the Atlantic, I'll likely cross to the US and travel across, staying with a number of friends I have there.
My concerns for this post, however, are to do with the 'Stans.
Has anybody made a trip like this along the Silk Road? I've heard a few horror stories about how difficult the Visas are, and my concern is being held up by transportation and having my visa expire ahead of time.
Is the trip possible? I'd prefer not to drive but I'll be arranging things so I can if need be. Any hints or suggestions for getting through the Stans happily and healthily?
Thanks in advance.
Nov 26, 2011 1:14 AM
1Do a search of these boards - you'll find hundreds of posts about trips along the Silk Road and associated tips, stories (horror and otherwise), rants, and as much visa information as you could desire. You don't mention your nationality (Australian?), but in most cases getting the visas for all these countries en route is a pretty straightforward process; it's just a matter of a little advance planning and being prepared to spend a certain amount of time hanging around in queues in front of embassies.
WRT your route: Kazakhstan does a border with Turkmenistan, but it's remote and requires days of travelling through thoroughly uninteresting steppe to get to. Going via Uzbekistan is a no-brainer, both for ease of travel and because crossing Central Asia and missing Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva would be quixotic in the extreme. As far as I'm concerned, it would also be a mistake to miss out Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, two of the highlights of this part of the world. If you've limited time, leave China through Kyrgyzstan and head to Uzbekistan that way. The scenery in Kyrgyzstan is far more dramatic than Kazakhstan, and it's cheaper and better set up for independent travellers, so if you must give any Central Asian 'stan a miss, let it be Kazakhstan.
Incidentally, although this is not the forum for it, don't skip the Caucasus by going straight into Turkey from Iran! Georgia and Armenia are two of my favourite countries in the world to travel in: both abound in stunning landscapes, friendly and helpful people and beautiful old churches and monasteries in gorgeous settings.
Nov 26, 2011 1:47 AM
2I was definitely planning for a detour into the Caucasus out of Iran.
As for going through Kyrgyzstan, that definitely sounds like a good idea. I had been a little concerned with the apparent lack of sights for much of the trip across Kazakhstan.
I've read that you need to arrange to have a guide accompany you throughout Turkmenistan. I've got no issue with that, my major concern is that if I'm held up anywhere on my journey I don't want to have someone waiting for me at the border. And hopefully they'd be able to understand me, as I'm not sure I could master a Central Asian language without experiencing it before.
Nov 26, 2011 2:09 AM
3Try to get a transit visa for Turkmenistan. It gives you 5 days and no need for a guide.
Nov 26, 2011 12:48 PM
4I did a similar route, but the other way round three years ago. I was in Central Asia during the winter so I did not venture out as much as I would have liked. But, I had no problems whatever (apart from the cold that is) and I am glad I went to what seemed to me a totally different way of life.
Yes, go to Uzbekistan. I spent three weeks there and it was a highlight. I went to Nukus for just a couple of days for its famous Savitsky Art Gallery/museum which was magnificent.
Then to Khiva-Bukhara-Samarkand and Tashkent. Very enjoyable with stunning mosques, medrassas and mausolea throughout.
Ashgabat in Turkmenistan was one of the strangest cities I have ever been to, but worth it
Nov 26, 2011 4:25 PM
5I was thinking of getting a transit visa to go through Turkmenistan, so hopefully crossing through won't be all that time consuming for me. Ashgabat certainly sounds strange from all I've heard about it, I certainly want to see it for myself. I think the phrase I'll need to learn in a number of languages is 'Can I take a photo of that?'.
I did some more plotting of my trip last night, and I've decided to go from Iran to Armenia, then Georgia and down along the coast of the Black Sea to cross into Turkey on the border at Sarp.
Did you have much trouble in Central Asia in terms of transport and the language barrier? I'm not too worried about it, but I'll be traveling by myself (unless I happen to find somebody to travel with along that stretch of my trip). I'll do my best to pick up a few key phrases in Uzbek, Turkmen and Farsi - I'm okay with languages when I put my mind to them.
Nov 27, 2011 2:56 AM
Nov 27, 2011 6:57 AM
7Learn the basic characters for numbers in as many of the relevant languages as you can, so that you can read timetables, prices and taxi meters. For Central Asia, learn some Russian (as recommended by anaya) or at least the Cyrillic alphabet so you can begin to understand maps and signs. Don't expect taxi drivers in countries that don't use Roman script to understand your maps, business cards or instructions in guide books.
For bargaining in many countries (for taxi fares as well as market items), carry a cheap calculator with a big display.
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