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1. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5595 posts) 9y

Hi,
Does anybody have any experience of travelling in Central Asia, in particular Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and Southern Kazachstan.
I am looking for a relatively short break (2,5 weeks) to visit this part.

Is Kyrgyzstan a nice country if you don't want to hike or sit on a horse for days on end? I've heard they have a certain system of homestays and all sorts of activities?

Is 2,5 weeks enough for let's say Almaty, parts of Kyrgyzstan and a couple of old cities in Uzbekistan? I am not the type that needs to explore every backstreet by the way.

What city is the best to fly to, that means cheapest?
And travelling around: are there frequent buses, trains etc?

Thanks! Michael

2. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 9y

Looks like I will have to get out my globe, again.
Where the hell are Kyrgyzstan and Kazachstan?
I only found out this week, where Uzbekistan is.
I am also planning to go to Uzbekistan, Turkmanistan, and Azerbaijan.
If u cant find anybody on TP, who had been to the places u listed, then try the following forum. The people there go just about everywhere. I think Thomas(a member of the site) is in Uzbekistan, at the moment. He seems always friendly and willing to answer questions.

http://www.comebackalive.com/phpBB2/profile.php?mode=activate&u=3702&act_key=77f6066

Mel

3. Posted by wouterrr (Travel Guru 3379 posts) 9y

Quoting Utrecht

Hi,
Does anybody have any experience of travelling in Central Asia, in particular Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and Southern Kazachstan.
I am looking for a relatively short break (2,5 weeks) to visit this part.

again a short break, michael?
man, u are only a few days at work and u start thinking about getting a break again. good lifestyle!!!;)

4. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5595 posts) 9y

Quoting Mel.

Looks like I will have to get out my globe, again.
Where the hell are Kyrgyzstan and Kazachstan?
I only found out this week, where Uzbekistan is.
I am also planning to go to Uzbekistan, Turkmanistan, and Azerbaijan.
If u cant find anybody on TP, who had been to the places u listed, then try the following forum. The people there go just about everywhere. I think Thomas(a member of the site) is in Uzbekistan, at the moment. He seems always friendly and willing to answer questions.

http://www.comebackalive.com/phpBB2/profile.php?mode=activate&u=3702&act_key=77f6066

Mel

LOL, yeah I know. Not the most regular countries to travel to, although still more travellers make their way over there. Actually, Kyrgyzstan and Kazachstan are next to Uzbekistan, to the east and north.
You must have heard of Borat...;)

By the way Mel, Turkmenistan is as far as I know not a country where you can get a visa for easily, that is if you travel by yourself. Maybe a transit visa is possible but only for a couple of days. Don't know the exact details.
Maybe let's keep this thread on top of the list as questions about these countries are few and far between in time.

Thanks for the link!

[ Edit: Edited on May 3, 2007, at 7:58 AM by Utrecht ]

5. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5595 posts) 9y

Quoting wouterrr

Quoting Utrecht

Hi,
Does anybody have any experience of travelling in Central Asia, in particular Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and Southern Kazachstan.
I am looking for a relatively short break (2,5 weeks) to visit this part.

again a short break, michael?
man, u are only a few days at work and u start thinking about getting a break again. good lifestyle!!!;)

Yeah, I like it as well;)
But actually, it's either central asia OR morocco (see other thread where you replied), probably not both.
Was looking for other countries as well, but it's either too expensive, or it's wet season (september is wet season almost everywhere in the world...costa rica, belize, nepal..you name it).
But first Ireland this month....;)

6. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 9y

Utrecht
Thanks for the info about Turk.... I will go with the flow. If I can only get a transit visa, for a couple of days, then I will spend a couple of days there.
I dont suppose Lonely Planet has a book covering these countries?!
Have u considered Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia, as possible destinations? I have just come back from Estonia. It is a place where not too many tourists go, yet it has all the conveniences a tourist could possibly want.

7. Posted by wouterrr (Travel Guru 3379 posts) 9y

Quoting Mel.

It is a place where not too many tourists go, yet it has all the conveniences a tourist could possibly want.

hahaha
if that includes riots over a statue,
did u take some piece of traffic light or something as souvenir, mel?

[ Edit: Edited on May 3, 2007, at 9:35 AM by wouterrr ]

8. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 9y

Sorry guys, i missed this one before.

I dont suppose Lonely Planet has a book covering these countries?!

Actually, they do. A Central Asia one, and only (i think) one other publisher does this, which might be Routard, but might not be. However, last I checked - not recently, admittedly - it was about 4years old, and things change rapidly in that part of the world. Check Amazon or the LP site to see if it's been updated recently, as it must be due, at the very worst.

Does anybody have any experience of travelling in Central Asia, in particular Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and Southern Kazachstan.

Aye, though not for a few years. I was last in Kazakhstan in early 2005, since when it's been off my work rota, though i'm due back soon, and the others in 2004.

What city is the best to fly to, that means cheapest?

Work it the other way around. Look at places for flying out of, rather than flying into. Hannover (and to a lesser extent Berlin, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt) has traditionally been the best W Europe departure points for flights to Central Russia and the stans. London has (and probably most other European hubs have) occassional flights as well to Almaty (and the less helpful Astana), Dushanbe, Bishkek and Tashkent though they are probably your only options.

Obviously there are also a chunk of options via Moscow (and places like Ekaterinburg, which is not neccessarrily obvious, but via Ekaterinburg is often cheapest and it has good German connections), though they can involve extra visa complications - Moscow it can be tricky to fly in and out of the same airport wthout having a long/overnight wait, as many of the old Stans (used to, anyway) use Domodoyevo, whereas most International have used Sheremeteyvo [BA at least have the odd flight to Domo, and all Stans used to be reachable at least daily from Shere, so it should be possible if you plan it well] and airport transfers require real (not airport) transit visas's.

Obviously needing a Russian visa and all it entails, can take the total cost above the savings.

Is 2,5 weeks enough for let's say Almaty, parts of Kyrgyzstan and a couple of old cities in Uzbekistan? I am not the type that needs to explore every backstreet by the way.

Yes, I suppose so. You should be ok with that, with the following provisio:
That assuming you have all the visa's before you leave (getting visa's for anywhere, anywhere in that area can be, erm, time consuming and frustrating, shall we say). Border crossings range from straight forward and relatively efficient, to maybe they'll let us through this month, maybe they won't. We once, quite infamously, spent a night camped out in no-mans land between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan due to a slight complication and oversight on the part of a colleague....
Though i'm obviously not the expert or one to ask here, Flying can be hit and miss. Airlines have interesting fleets of planes, delays and breakdowns fairly frequent. Most of them seem to get you there eventually though.ยด

Basically, it's not an area to travel around needing to be on a tight schedule (to meet flight connections, or whetever). Always build in extra days where possible to help guard against transit problems, and don't be afraid to cut out a city/country if you are running out of time.

Also, think it through carefully from visa points of view. Double entry tourists visa's can be tricky or impossible to get (something to bear in mind if you are returning back to, for example, Tashkent, for your return flight) and you DO NOT want to be attempting to get visa's in those countries in any kind of hurry.

Railways in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are decent enough, in Kyrgystan there aren't many useful ones, and there are also enough cross border services to get you around. Though like much of the old Soviet Union, trains tend to be very long distance, don't always run every day and can split multiple times, and demand can be reasonably high, so try and book a couple of days in advance where possible. Buses are normally dirt cheap and can be interesting. There are still a fair number of checkpoints around, especially out in the mountains, and they aren't used to (not ex Soviet) foreigners, which cane delay things. Weather can also play it's role.

Also, because they were built in Soviet/Russian times, some roads/railways cross borders on internal journeys - East to West Uzbekistan, for example, by direct train goes through a part of Turkmenistan (i don't think they gap in the - much longer - avoiding line through the centre of the country is anywhere near built yet, but i haven't checked recently) meaning you need a Turkmeni and Double entry Uzbek visa for the trip. In Kygystan you need to be very careful not to get caught out. This type of thing happens in several places, due to the political and physical geographical boundaries not usefully matching at all.... [off-topic, but this is one of the reasons why the Trans-Siberian route is now longer and passes through Ekaterinberg and not Chelyabinsk as it used to, because the route from Chel goes via Petropavlovsk and a short stretch of track in what is now Northern Kazakhstan]. There are also a handful of interesting, but very awkward enclaves dotted about, for which the beurocracy involved aren't really worth the effort.

Samarkand is great, and you can easily loose a few days there. Bishkek is actually quite nice as well (i really like it, couldn't tell you why), Tashkent is probably the best hub to use and easiest city to get around and the metro is unusually clean and efficient, and fine enough (especially if you like Soviet architechture) though there isn't huge amounts of ancient stuff there - they've had not so much fun with Earthquakes; Almaty has also had earthquake issues and is trying to make a name for itself internationally with Olympic bids and the like, but whilst being big, isn't the most exciting city in the world. It can also get a bit smoggy. It's a good base to get up into the mountains though. In all 3 countries, the countryside (yes, including horseback riding ) is a big selling point - to me, anyway - though to get to most special places, you will need transport and a local guide.

Oh, and also check for Religious holidays around your dates - whilst interesting (especially if you get adopted by local families) these can cause a total shut down of more or less everything, an inability to find food &/or an inability to travel, and you can easily get stuck for 10days or so if you are unlucky.

Any of that any use?

9. Posted by Mancunion (Full Member 128 posts) 9y

Good reply Gelli.

I am actually thinking of visiting UZ this summer too.

Mel, Thomas was helpful.... :)

My route was Tehran > Tashkent (about 7 days) > Urmqui. I heard there is a train service through to Urmqui via Kazakhistan, which sound appealing.

Be sure not t mention Borat duing your stay in Kazakh

I Am still planning mine but things are moving along. I heard for Kazakh, being a Brit I dont need a LOI, only a letter explaing thte purpose for my visit and they should issue me with a visa.

CANT WAIT!!

10. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 9y

Quoting wouterrr

Quoting Mel.

It is a place where not too many tourists go, yet it has all the conveniences a tourist could possibly want.

hahaha
if that includes riots over a statue,
did u take some piece of traffic light or something as souvenir, mel?

No, i did not need to bring back any souvineers, because there were plenty of journalists there, to take travel photos, for me. I cut one out of a newspaper here in Munich, and stuck it on my wall.