Kyrgyzstan to Egypt by land and sea
Replies: 6 - Last Post: Jun 12, 2013 5:37 AM Last Post By: platinumpt90
Dec 16, 2012 8:53 AM
Kyrgyzstan to Egypt by land and seaHi everyone - I am a U.S. citizen. I will make my way from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to Cairo, Egypt in January 2013 (departing around January 5) by land and sea. I speak Russian proficiently and some Arabic, but no Turkish. I would like to complete the trip if possible in a month. My goal is not so much "deeply understand the local culture and see all the sites" (as I have lived in Central Asia for a year), but rather "make the trip by land and arrive in Egypt."
I have done a lot of TT research, but my major concerns are the following:
1) I will be making this trip in the winter (January 2013).
2) I will have one big suitcase with me (as I have been living in Bishkek and will be living in Cairo; I'm not a backpacker).
I was wondering if those with experience on this route could look through my general itinerary and tell me if there are any problems, especially with regards to my two concerns. I have italicized specific questions I have.
Here is my general itinerary:
Obtain visas to Tajikistan ($75), Uzbekistan ($116), Azerbaijan ($135) in Bishkek.
Can I get a transit visa to Azerbaijan without a visa to Georgia (as U.S. citizens can enter Georgia without a visa)?
Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan
Flight on Avia Traffic Company or Tajik Air ($140).
I would avoid the flight if I could, but I am guessing that all the roads from Osh to Turkmenistan are closed or very unreliable in January. Can someone confirm that?
Obtain 5-day transit visa to Turkmenistan ($55, 5-day processing time) in Dushanbe.
Can I get the transit visa with my Azerbaijani visa as proof of onward travel? There are conflicting reports. Does someone have recent experience?
While I wait a week for my Turkmen visa, what can I do in and around Dushanbe in January?
Tajikistan to Uzbekistan
Dushanbe to Penjikent (Shared Taxi), Penjikent to Border (Shared Taxi), Border to Samarkand (Shared Taxi)
Will it be hard to find people to share a taxi with in January?
Is there an alternative bus/train option that would be more convenient for my suitcase?
Samarkand to Bukhara ("Shark" Train)
Is it foolish to skip Tashkent? If Tashkent is worth the visit, what's the quickest way to get there from Dushanbe?
Is the Fergana Valley worth a visit in January?
If the Turkmenistan visa does not work in Dushanbe, I might get it in Tashkent. I have heard it takes at least 2 weeks there. But will it still take that long in January, when it should not be so busy at the consulate?
Uzbekistan to Turkmenistan
Bukhara to Farab-Alat Border (Shared Taxi)
Farab-Alat Border to Turkmenabad (Shared Taxi, 40 minutes)
Turkmenabad to Mary (Train)
Mary to Ashgabat (Train) (Bus, 7.5 hours)
Darvaza Gas Crater as Day Trip from Ashgabat (Taxi)
Is there an option cheaper than an $85 taxi to the Darvaza Gas Crater? Is the Crater even worth visiting in January?
Ashgabat to Turkmenbashi (Shared Taxi, 6 hours) (Train, 16 hours)
Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan
Turkmenbashi to Baku (Ferry, $91, 15+ hours, unscheduled)
Does the ferry run in January?
If my 5-day transit visa is about to expire but no ferry arrives, will the Turkmen border guards stamp me out of the country and let me sleep at the port? There are conflicting reports. This one is positive: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2189814
Baku to Qobustan (Day Trip)
Azerbaijan to Georgia
Baku to Tbilisi (Train)
Georgia is Visa Free (for U.S. Citizens)
Georgia to Armenia
Tbilisi to Yerevan (Train)
Visa at Border on Train
Armenia to Turkey (through Georgia, of course)
Yerevan to Istanbul (Bus)
I should have no problem entering Georgia twice within a few days since Georgia has a visa-free regime for U.S. Citizens, right?
Istanbul to Ankara (Bus) (Train is not running)
I have heard that Ankara is not worth visiting. Is that true?
Turkey to Egypt
Ankara to Mersin (Bus)
Mersin to Port Said (Ferry, $110) (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2265983)
Will the ferry run in January?
Many thanks in advance for your comments!
Dec 17, 2012 12:39 PM
1What a lot of questions. This is a travel forum, not a travel agency.
Break up your requests and put them into the relevant country forums.
I doubt you'll fit all those destinations into one month, especially given the weather conditions which will add to the unreliability of transport. I say drop Tajikistan and Armenia, for starters.
I'm currently pushing a 30 kg suitcase and 10 kg pack cross Central Asia and Iran as part of a journey from Australia to Europe that began two months ago using all modes of transport.
Not all trains have space for excess or oversized luggage. You may end up blocking the aisle in an open-seating carriage, or creating a problem for fellow passengers if in a compartment.
You may have to pay extra to get a second bag into the luggage hold of a large bus (coach), but at least you know it's onboard.
With shared taxis and minibuses, it's prudent to pay for a second seat in case you need to stash some of your gear inside the vehicle, or as consideration for the fact that your big bag will take up the space that another passenger might otherwise expect to use.
Dec 18, 2012 2:28 AM
Dec 19, 2012 3:47 AM
3Thanks for the comments. Emmeff, your point is well taken. I apologize for the massive number of questions. My general concerns are about the winter weather and the big suitcase. As I'm working out the details, I agree that it won't be done in a month; but I'm not on a specific time frame, so I'm not too worried about delays. I don't see myself coming back to the region again, so that's why I want to visit Tajikistan and Armenia. Tajikistan is also for a convnient Turkmen visa.
In general, I am aware of the troubles winter weather and a large bag can cause. However, I am wondering if anyone (maybe Emmeff) has any comments about specific routes/trains/buses where a large bag or winter weather would make things particularly difficult or the route completely inaccessible.
Dec 19, 2012 5:58 AM
4Your itinerary has trouble in Tajikistan: the roads between Dushanbe and Panjikent are not good during the winter - but passable. More problematic is the fact that the border between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan is closed at Panjikent. You could drive from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan and it would be much more reasonable for you.
Jan 10, 2013 5:48 AM
Jun 12, 2013 5:37 AM
6For anyone interested, I completed this trip successfully in a little over one month. The January weather was no problem, I never paid extra for my 25kg suitcase, and I felt that I had more than enough time in each city to do everything that I wanted to do. (That said, I speak Russian, so things went smoothly.) Note, however, that I did not go to Turkmenistan and cross the Caspian Sea because my Turkmen transit visa application was rejected. Instead, from Bukhara, I returned to Tashkent and flew to Baku.
Here are some general notes about this path:
Dushanbe to Khojand
Flights are 382 somoni ($80) and must be purchased at the main government air travel company. There is at least 1 flight per day. I ended up taking a shared jeep instead for 120 somoni ($25). As the Chinese tunnels are now complete, the shared jeep trip from Dushanbe to Khojand is open year-round. The shared jeep left from a parking area a little south of Цементный завод towards the north end of Rudaki Avenue. It took 5 hours.
Khojand to Tashkent
As posts above noted, the Panjikent border is closed. The Oybek border is open, though, and is rather easy. In Khojand, there is a shared taxi lot for vehicles going to the border. The trip took 1 hour, and I paid 70 somoni ($14) for an entire vehicle (because it was getting late and no other passengers were coming). You could probably pay less. At the border, you must declare all your currency. Nevertheless, the customs official did not count mine. Customs forms were only in Russian and Uzbek, not English. From the border, you should share a taxi with other people crossing the border. There was only one other person when I crossed (a nice Tajik musician who had made the trip before), and we each paid $15 to share a taxi to Tashkent (2 hours).
Uzbekistan Intercity Transportation
In general, intercity buses are cheaper and faster than trains, but they don't run at night or in bad weather for safety reasons. Shared taxis (if full) are more expensive than buses but cheaper than trains. They are just as fast as buses. Note that in Bukhara, train tickets are purchased in the station; you have to go around to the right-hand side (when facing the station) to get to the booths. Note that the "Bukhara train station" is actually in Kagan, a city 30 minutes away from Bukhara. There is a cheap public bus that goes between the train station and Bukhara; a taxi would be expensive. You can buy train tickets in Bukhara at the small ticket office across from the main bazaar (sorry, that's not very specific). Here is some route information. It is not by any means exhaustive.
Tashkent to Samarkand (normal train) takes 3.5 hours, leaves at 8:05am every day, costs 26000 sum ($13).
Tashkent to Samarkand (Afrosiab fast train) takes 2.5 hours, leaves at 8:00am every day, costs around 40000 sum ($20).
Samarkand to Bukhara (normal train) takes 7 hours, costs 56000 sum ($28).
Samarkand to Bukhara (bus) takes 4.5 hours, costs 30000 sum ($15).
Samarkand to Bukhara (shared taxi) takes 4.5 hours, costs 37500 sum ($19).
Bukhara to Tashkent (normal train) is an overnight train, costs 54000 sum ($27). There's also a 26000 overnight train on this route, but I'm not exactly sure when it runs.
I called many Turkmen embassies regarding visa regulations, and they all said that you can apply for a Turkmen visa at any embassy and pick up your visa at any embassy or Turkmen border. It usually takes 5 working days for the express service (which is reasonably priced, though I forget the price, maybe around $30). The exception is if you apply at the embassy in Tashkent, which (even during the low season of January) takes at least two weeks. You pay when you pick up the visa. My 5-day transit visa application was processed in 4 working days (though rejected). If you plan to pick up your visa at the border, call the embassy where you applied to determine the result before making the trip to the border.
Bukhara to Uzbek-Turkmen Border
Shared taxis from Bukhara to the border depart from Kalhoz Market. Alat is the name of the last Uzbek town before the border; if you want to go to the border, specify that you want to go to the border, not just to Alat.
Bukhara to border (shared taxi) takes 70 minutes, costs 15000 sum ($7).
Bukhara to Alat (shared taxi) costs 10000 sum ($5). Alat to border (shared taxi) costs 6000 sum ($3).
Uzbek-Turkmen Border (from Uzbekistan)
Try to go early and rush through inspection, as the line takes a long time with angry, old women. You take two marshrutkas across no man's land, which cost 1000 Uzbek sum or 1 Turkmen manat each.
If for some reason you end up at the airport as I did, do not pay 50 manat ($64) for a taxi into the city. The bus that leaves on the other side of the parking lot costs 0.40 manat ($0.50).
Baku to Tbilisi
There are only overnight buses that go straight from Baku to Tbilisi for 12 manat ($15) leaving at 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm. There is a train option, but I did not look into it. But if you want to leave in the morning and arrive in the evening, then you can take buses to the border (10 manat) and then take the marshrutka (which runs every thirty minutes or so) from the border to Tbilisi (4 lari / $2.50).
Tbilisi to Yerevan
Overnight train costs $20. It's slower than the bus. There have been many threads about problems with getting a visa at the border on the train. For me, it was no problem. We arrived at the border at around 12am, and it was open. The few foreigners on the train got off, we purchased the visa, and then got back on. You can pay in Georgian lari or Armenian dirham. It cost 15 lari.
Yerevan to Istanbul
There is one bus (or maybe two) that goes from Yerevan to Istanbul (through Georgia). It cost $60. It left 9am Saturday morning and arrived at 9pm Sunday night (7pm Turkey time), so it was 36 hours. It is an Armenian bus, so service was good but not as good as Turkish buses.
Iskenderun to Port Said
Ever since the Syrian conflict broke out, Sisa Shipping runs a ferry from Iskenderun, Turkey to Port Said, Egypt. When I took it, all the passengers were Syrian refugees except me and one British guy. The contact at Sisa Shipping is Elif Gondem (firstname.lastname@example.org). The agent who actually sells tickets in Iskenderun is Ozlem Unal (email@example.com, 03266141012). The office is located on Maresal Fevzi Sakmak Cd near the intersection with Ziya Gokalp Cd. It cost me (and the Syrians I talked to) $170 plus a $10 service fee, although the British guy got it for $110. We went to the dock at 12pm, boarded at around 6pm, and arrived in Port Said at 8pm the next day.
Port Said to Cairo
Locals all recommended taking the Super Jet Bus, which leaves every half hour, takes 2 hours to get to Cairo, and costs 25 pounds ($3.70). But if you enter Cairo during rush hour (as I did), then it takes a total of 4.5 hours. In such case, the train - which is cheaper and takes around 4 hours - is a better option. The train station is also much closer to the city center (in Port Said) and very close to the port, whereas the Super Jet Bus station is on the south side of the city.
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