The Stan Trip...
Replies: 14 - Last Post: Feb 11, 2013 12:23 PM Last Post By: karldw
Jan 6, 2013 7:56 AM
The Stan Trip...All,
Having done twice the Beijing to Europe via Siberia, and twice the Beijing to Europe via Iran, I am now going to give a go to the middle passage... the Stans...
Am a little older though, and less patient with visa matters and fact finding, so I would appreciate if I could get some ideas for an itinerary...
I have clear start and end points:
1) I will start from Europe and make my way by train to the Caucasus.
2) I will want to reach Urumqi around a fairly specific time to catch a flight to Kathmandu.
I also have clear but not stringent view on how to travel and how long this could take.
1) I would travel by train when possible but not necessarily all by train
2) I would leave the Caucasus at the end of April and take about 4 weeks for the whole journey to Urumqi.
Now, this said.. I am a EU citizen living in London.
Where should I go? Can someone suggest a four week itinerary that gives me a flavour of the region without having to go to all embassies, perhaps getting some of the visas in London before I go and without breaking the bank?
I saw the Baku to Turkmenbashi ferry option, which would save me a Russian/Kazakh visa... but the Turkmen LOI seems a pain, is it easy to get or do I need to book a package tour?
If I did that, what would be a decent 3-week itinerary to Urumqi from Turkmenbashi?
Thanks in advance,
Jan 6, 2013 8:39 AM
1OK, I'm starting to work it out by myself...
I will go from Osh to Kashgar and then on to Urumqi.
I guess I want to touch Samarkand, Tashkent, Dushanbe, and remember my starting point is Turkmenbashi...
Now looking at a map, if I want to get from Turkmenistan to Dushanbe and then onward to anywhere, it is to get a double entry visa for Uzbekistan... is that right?
Jan 6, 2013 8:45 AM
Note that all my info is based on research, not actual travel experiences, as I haven't done the trip yet.. But I'm travelling Mongolia-Turkey in a few months on the reversed route...
You should be able to get a transit-visa for Turkmenistan (7 or 10 days if your lucky) from London without a LOI... I do not know how the embassy in Baku is working...
The Uzbek embassy in Baku will demand a LOI, which can be bought from travel agencies in Baku... But the Turkmani embassy in London will probably demand that you get the Uzbek visa prior to applying, if your choosing that option...
Do note that the "ferry" from Baku will be a cargo ship, rather than a ferry... A sweet alternative is to go through Northern Iran, which is beautiful (last time I visited at least), even though it's another visa you need to arrange from home as it can take weeks on the road...
Once you're in the Darvaza Crater and Merv are Turkmenistan must-sees (given that the crater is still burning), Bukhara and Samarkand are both old Silk Road cities in Uzbekistan, the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan is a classic road trip, and will take you in to Kyrgyzstan there Kochkor and Song-Köl should be good places for hiring a guide and a horse and live like a nomad for a few days...
If you wanna avoid Kazakhstan all together, leave Kyrgyzstan through the Torugart or Irkeshtam Passes and continue north to Ürümqi...
Jan 6, 2013 9:19 AM
you wrote:"Now looking at a map, if I want to get from Turkmenistan to Dushanbe and then onward to anywhere, it is to get a double entry visa for Uzbekistan... is that right? "
No, you do not need to go to Uz. after you entered Tajikistan.
1. From Dushanbe you can do the famous Pamir Highway and end up in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. From there you could do a beautiful trip through Kyrgyzstan (no visa required for you :-) like Osh, Uzgen, Dshalalabad, Kazarmaan, Ak-Tal, Narin, Tash-Rabat, Torugarth Pass, Kashgar (China) or some other beautiful variants.
2. You could also travel north from Dushanbe in to the Ferghana Valley, cross the boarder to Kyrgyzstan in Isfana and travel Batken, Osh and go on from there.
Jan 6, 2013 10:05 AM
4Thanks very much Ask_G, very helpful.
Regarding the 'ferry'... I'm looking forward to a cargo ship :), more than a ferry..., so that's fine. Actually I have done Northern Iran myself (Rasht, Masule etc), and I agree it's very nice, but no thanks not another visa...
As for the Uzbek visa, the London embassy seems pretty easy going, here is what they say:
"Copy of the letter of invitation from inviting partners in Uzbekistan (see below), except for citizens of the Great Britain, USA, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Spain and Switzerland",
Also, the Kirghiz seem pretty good, here is what they say:
"Starting from 29th of July 2012 the Kyrgyz Republic has up to 60-days visa-free regime for citizens of 44 countries listed below."
The Tajik are more complicated:
"-For the tourism visas - the petition of the tourist organizations which are licensed to do tourist activities.", I guess this is the LOI, will find out... any tips welcome.
Great tip on Turkmenistan... I will give a go to the transit visa application, they don't seem very specific on their site on how long it can be, but they definitely don't ask for a LOI.
Azer are a pain, they want a LOI and it's not cheap...
So, please tell me if this makes sense as a starting point:
- Single entry all round
- Avoid Russia and Kazakhstan
- Baku to Turkmenbashi, then up into Uzbekistan, to Bukhara, Samarkand
- Move into Tajikistan, Dushanbe and Pamir
- Enter Kyrgizstan, go straight to Torugart and on to Kashgar and Urumqi.
With this I'd miss Bishek and Tashkent, not sure how important that is.
I just noticed the extortionary fee to get Azer visa and LOI... bit of a pain.
If my research is right, I'd get visas in this order:
1 - Visa for China and ticket out of Urumqi.
2 - Visa for Azerbaijan
3 - Visa for Tajikistan
4 - Visa for Uzbekistan
5 - Visa for Turkmenistan (they'll want to see the Azer and the Uzbek visa).
If you see a flaw in the above please flag it!
Jan 6, 2013 10:31 AM
5Thanks Peterna, I realised the point about the map after reading Ask_G's message, I was originally looking at this map: http://www.unescap.org/ttdw/common/Maps/TAR-map-GIS.pdf, which didn't show the Pamir highway...
Do you think the Pamir Highway and the road Osh to Kashgar will be open in May?
Starts to look like a very interesting trip, if only visas weren't necessary :)
Jan 6, 2013 11:54 AM
I'm a little annoyed that Denmark isn't on the Uzbek list.. Another LOI I need to get :)
Concerning the route... If you like busing it, you can visit Tashkent after Samarkand, and then go to Dushanbe (but you will have to do some backtracking...
As well when you get into Kyrgyzstan, where you can visit Osh, then go north to Bishek and then backtrack down to Osh and leave for China...
But if you take care of all the visas from home you don't need the capitals for that, but there might be some interesting sites there...
The Torugart Pass should become snow free sometime in May (usually), but is technically open all year... The Irkeshtam Pass should be a little less "under the weather"... Ask around when you get to Osh...
I little note on the Pamir - since it is running right along the Afghan border for quite a while - check up on safety conditions when you are in Dushanbe... Ask both at the UK Embassy and at the bus station to get the most conservative and careless versions of reality.. And your hotel/hostel may be able to provide something in between...
The "petition of the tourist organizations" is a LOI for sure... I'd look for travel agencies or websites that can sell it to you (when this board are back to full speed, you will probably be able to find some threads recommending reliable homepages for getting LOI's)...
Jan 6, 2013 5:30 PM
7I'll offer a second vote for forgetting Azerbaijan and the Caspian ferry and traveling via Iran to Turkmenistan instead, especially if time and money are issues.
The cost of the visa + authorisation code for Iran is likely to be no more than the cost of the visa + LOI for Azerbaijan. Plus you can get the visa for Iran on the road without further hassles. Plus you can plan your travel through Iran reliably without submitting to the vagueness of the Caspian ferry timetable and risk having your Turkmen visa expire while waiting for the wretched ferry to arrive/depart/unload. Plus Iran is extraordinarily cheap since the rial devalued by 60% several months ago. (I was in the country three weeks ago and had trouble spending any substantial sums of money.)
Regarding safety on the Pamir highway, the border with Afghanistan isn't an issue. There is some danger of banditry by local police and soldiers. You also need to be totally self-sufficient with food, water and warm clothing and to allow the flexibility of potentially waiting days for rides between towns.
No great loss if you don't make it to Bishkek. Travel between Osh and Kashgar via Irkeshtam is a bit hit and miss, and again you need to carry food and water and allow the potential for delays if looking to make your own way along this route. There is a bus service for part of the year, but it only runs if it has enough passengers on the days it is scheduled for travel.
Jan 6, 2013 7:43 PM
if your interest is nature and you have the time for it, I would recommend you to leave Bishkek out (if you have your Chinas visa prior to departure in UK) and do the rout I wrote in my first post. You would miss a good piece of nature if you would do the direct route Osh - Irkeshtam Pass - Kashgar.
Security along the Pamir Highway is normally no problem. There is either a bigger issue going on or you will be fine. There was some unrest in 2012 so that travelers needed to leave the Pamir Highway immediately. The officials helped the tourists with slow transportations like bicyclers and picked them up to get over the boarder quicker.
Jan 7, 2013 12:10 AM
9Emmelf, thanks for the advice and the 'second vote' on Iran. There's a couple of things to it for me... the curiosity of experiencing the caucasus, the 'romance' of going on a cargo ship and the practical aspects of having to get the impossibility of having the iranian visa in London (I need it in order to get the Turkmen transit visa) due to the consulate being closed. But I'll keep it in mind and see how things unfold, I may have other type of probs on the Azer side, and you are right money-wise the Iran option is much better as I do not have to bother with Georgia/Armenia/Azerbaijian, ferry cost and the expensive Baku hotels...
As for self-sufficiency, no probs, have hitchhiked through Tibet twice, so I guess it won't be different.
Peterna, yes I will take the route you suggested with me and remember your advice. I was leaving those juicy bits of planning for when I am on site and limit myself to the ugly visa arrangements now. Once I am in Kyrghizstan then it'll be fun to choose which way to go...
Thanks for valuable advice...
Jan 7, 2013 4:50 AM
10Regarding hitchhiking in Central Asia - you should expect to pay for your ride, as the locals do. Flagging down a ride on a street corner is a very common practice, but you should offer to share the petrol costs.
Some people have reported successful hitching without payment, but this is exploiting the locals and, in particular, abusing a cultural obligation to extend hospitality to visitors. You can afford to travel to that region, so you can afford to pay for transport while there.
Jan 9, 2013 6:51 AM
I travelled extensively in Central Asia over the last 10 years. Turkmenistan is a fascinating country, the Baku "ferry / cargo ship" was a fun (although slightly worrying) option when I used it (but that was back in 2004...), and of course Bukhara and Samarkand cannot be missed. I posted very detailed trip reports on the "Central Asia FAQ" thread of this branch, being posts #34-37, 73-77 and 79. Instead of repeating everything here, I'd suggest you check them out, and then ask away with any questions you might have! All the best!
Jan 15, 2013 2:43 PM
I had a scan through your reports on the FAQ thread, many thanks. There's a lot to read and not being ready to go yet I better print the stuff out and take it with me... I'll have a lot of time on the train, am planning to go from London as far as I can get by train, so there'll be plenty of time.
I will start my visas in February with a view of leaving in mid-April, in the meantime I bought the guidebooks you suggested:
Odissey guide for Uzbekistan
Traiilblazer for Azerbaijian (and Georgia)
I also got LP Central Asia, Odissey Tajikistan and Bradt Kyrgizystan, again plenty to read...
Thanks again, I'll be in touch nearer the time if required.
Jan 20, 2013 3:43 PM
13Be aware that entry into Turkmenistan can change overnight. We were on a tour to Turkmenistan with Uzbekjourneys in October 2012 and suddenly just days before our departure, Turkmenistan closed its borders. No explanation. Luckily Penelope at Uzbekjourneys and Odil at Steppejourneys revised our itinerary at the last minute.
Query firstname.lastname@example.org at Steppejourneys.com for info regarding visas, transportation, hotels in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and also Turkmenistan.
Feb 11, 2013 12:23 PM
14Hi guys, this post has been very interesting for me while deciding where to go in central asia!
The only problem i'm still facing is time !
It's very difficult to estimate how much time i'll need for my trip ( especially withen pamirs are included )
So i'll write down a potential itinerary
Part A : Tashkent + Samarkand
Part B : Dushanbe ( transit ) + Pamirs
Part C : Kochkor and Song-Köl
Part D : Kashgar + Urumqi
How much time do i need to complete the itinerary from tashkent to urumqi
other possibilities are ( how much time will i save with ... ? )
- starting from dushanke ( no UZ )
- Flying back from bishkek ( No china )
- skipping pamirs ( No tj)
(0 star Hotel)
From US$25.83 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$100.20 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$93.81 per night