Beijing to Istanbul Trip Notes

Beijing to Istanbul

Last Modified: 11 May 2016
Beijing to Istanbul
Trip code: KDOYC
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2016
Get ready for a massive Overland adventure from the metropolitan mammoth of Beijing to Istanbul’s bustling bazaars. Travel through some of Asia’s most remote, wild and unique wildernesses along the legendary Silk Road from China. See Istanbul’s famous blue mosque; pass through Uzbekistan’s soaring mountain vistas; tour Xi’an’s famous Terracotta Warriors; and discover secluded sections of the snaking Great Wall of China. From Beijing to Baku and beyond, this adventure encompasses the very best of Central Asia and the Middle East. If you're longing for an epic overland odyssey, away from the tourist crowds, Beijing to Istanbul is just for you.
Table of Contents
StyleAccommodation NotesFinish point description
ThemesMeals introductionEmergency contact
Why we love itMealsVisas
MapTransportWhat to take
ItineraryMoney mattersClimate and seasonal information
Itinerary disclaimerGroup leaderHealth
Physical ratingSafetyTravel insurance
Important notesJoining pointA couple of rules
Group sizeJoining point descriptionResponsible Travel
Your fellow travellersJoining point instructionsThe Intrepid Foundation
AccommodationFinish pointFeedback
Style
Basix
Themes
Overland
Why we love it
- Wander through Beijing’s Forbidden City
- Explore the temple and pagoda studded Kongtong Mountain
- Climb deserted sections of the Great Wall of China
- Marvel at the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an
- Admire the Buddhist art at the Mogao Caves
- Cross the infamous Torugart Pass from Kyrgyzstan to China
- See the dramatic glaciers adorning the Ala Archa Canyon
- Admire quaint Karakol
- Meet local shepherds on a yurt stay
- Explore the historic town of Bukhara
- Walk the ancient walls of Khiva
- Discover the romance of the Silk Road in Samarkand
- Explore the hub of East and West in Istanbul
Map

Itinerary
Day 1-2 Beijing
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
Border information: If you are starting in Beijing, enter China at Beijing.

Welcome to Beijing: There will be a group meeting at 18:00hrs in our good quality hotel in Beijing.

Hotel for the night: Hu Guo Si Hotel

In the morning we will take you on a guided tour of the Forbidden City. The afternoon is free to explore the many sights, sounds and flavours of Beijing. The difficulty will be deciding just what to do.

Accommodation again is in a very comfortable hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 3-4 Chengde
Today we set off on our drive to Chengde. Whilst here we will visit the Puning Temple and Bishu shanzhuang, or better known as the Imperial Summer resort.

We spend the next 2 nights in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 5 Jinshanling
This morning we drive to the Great Wall. This afternoon there will be time to explore.

Overnight in a local hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 6-7 Datong
Today we will drive to the city of Datong in China’s Shanxi province. Here we will visit the remarkable Hanging Monastery and Yungang caves.

Accommodation for the next 2 nights is in a comfortable hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 8-9 Wutai Shan
This morning we make out way to the stunning Mountainous area known as the five terrace Mountains or Wutai Shan. Tomorrow we will have a full day to explore he area.

Accommodation for the next 2 nights will be in a comfortable hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 10-11 Pingyao
Today we drive to China's best-preserved ancient walled town of Pingyao. There will be plenty of time to explore this ancient town during our time here.

We stay in a comfortable hotel for 2 nights.
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 12 Lijiashan
Today we visit the ancient Village of Lijiashan famed for settlement of cave dwellers and still home to more than 600 families.

We stay overnight in a cave room (Please note that some caves include a traditional 'Kang Stove bed'. The Kang bed is a hollow platform made from bricks that is used both as a bed and as a work area, these are common in remote villages in Northern China. In winter a coal fire can be lit under the bed, providing a huge amount of warmth day and night and it is very common for the whole family to sleep on one large bed. This means there may be times that members of the group may have to share 1 large bed with others in the group.
Accommodation
Cave house (1 nt)
Day 13-14 Yan'an
Today we make our way to Yan'an. Yan'an is famous for being the final resting place for those on the Long March and became the CCP headquarters for a brief period. During our time here we visit the Revolution museum and the Headquarters site.

Overnight in a local hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 15-18 Xi'an
In the early morning we will set off on our drive to Xian. We will arrive late in the afternoon and check-in to our comfortable hotel right in the heart of this ancient city. The evening is free to explore this diverse and multi cultural city. A good option is a walk to the night market to buy some last minute souvenirs or catch a cultural show over a dumpling banquet.

We spend the next 2 nights in a great, centrally located hotel.

In the morning we will take you on a guided tour of the remarkable Terracotta warriors. The afternoon is free to explore Xian, Possibly cycle around the ancient wall or visit the Bell and Drum towers.

Again accommodation is in a comfortable hotel
Accommodation
Hotel (3 nt)
Day 19 Pingliang
In the morning we set off towards Pingliang in China's Gansu Province.

The main reason to visit Pingliang is Mount Kongtong, during our time here we will have the opportunity to explore the mountain.

Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 20 Lanzhou
Today we drive 240kms to Gansu’s capital, Lanzhou. Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 21-22 Xiahe
In the early morning we head to the enchanting Tibetan town of Xiahe. We will arrive in the early evening and settle in to our rustic guesthouse.

Today is free to explore this beautiful town and surrounding grasslands. Options include a guided visit to the Labrang Monastery where Tibetan monks can be seen doing their daily rituals and chants. There may also be a chance to go horse riding in the surrounding grasslands visiting Tibetan families and perhaps trying the local yak butter tea.
Accommodation
Guesthouse (2 nt)
Day 23 Liujiaxia
Today we continue our journey to Liujiaxia visiting the Binglingsi Caves en route.

Overnight in a comfortable hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 24 Zhangye Bush Camp
Today we will drive to towards Jiayuguan wild camping en route.
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 25 Jiayuguan Great Wall
Full day drive to Jiayuguan.

Jiayuguan is the location for the western end of the Great Wall. Tonight will be spent Wild camping at the Great Wall of China.
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 26-27 Dunhuang
In the morning we will visit the Great Wall and the old fort. Once our visit to the wall is complete we will then head off in the truck towards Dunhuang. This is the perfect base to explore the amazing Mogao Caves tomorrow. Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel.

We begin our day with a visit to the Mogao Caves. The afternoon is free to explore this amazing town and it’s surroundings, options include a camel ride along the sand dunes or perhaps a bicycle ride out to the White Goose Pagoda. Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 28 Hami Bush Camp
We set off in the truck in the early morning and drive approximately 7 hours towards the oasis town of Turpan we will bush camp en route.
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 29-30 Turpan
We arrive into the oasis town of Turpan in the early evening, the rest of your evening is free. Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel.

We spend the day exploring the surrounding sites including the famous Jiaohe ruins. Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 31-32 Heavenly Lake
In the morning we drive towards the Tian Shan mountain range, and onto Heavenly Lake. Accommodation at the lake is in Yurts with basic facilities for 2 nights. This is a great opportunity for some relaxation time and there may be an opportunity for horse riding in the area.
Accommodation
Yurt (2 nt)
Day 33-34 Bayanbulak & Aksu Bush Camps
We leave Heavenly Lake and begin our 2-day overland journey skirting the edge of the Taklamakan Desert towards Kashgar, wild camping en route.
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nt)
Day 35-37 Kashgar
We arrive into Kashgar early in the morning. There is free to explore and we visit the animal market just outside of town and then the famous Kashgar Sunday Bazaar. You will have plenty of free time to explore the town, perhaps heading off to the main landmark of the town, the Id Kah Mosque and its surrounding square. Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (3 nt)
Day 38 Karakol
For those of you are continuing to Kyrgyzstan there will be quick pre-departure meeting in order to explain the next 6 days and collect kitty.

We then set off on a stunning journey along the Karakoram highway, our destination is Lake Karakul. This beautiful lake and its surrounding mountains are a highlight on this short trip. We will camp overnight if conditions allow.
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 39 Kashgar
The morning is spent at Lake Karakol. Optional activities include horse riding around the lake or short hikes in the surrounding mountains. In the afternoon we will drive back to Kashgar arriving in the early evening in order to prepare for the border crossing tomorrow. Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 40 Tash Rabat
Border Information: Exit China at Torugat , enter Kyrgyzstan at Torugat.

Today we overland approx 625Kms along the Silk Route through the Tian Shan Mountains and over the 3752m Torugart Pass crossing into Kyrgyzstan.

Our destination is Tash Rabat, a key staging post on the Silk Road close to the Kyrgyz/China border. During our time here we visit an ancient caravanserai. Tonight we will camp in the area.
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 41 Kochkor
Today we will drive approximately 235 Kms to Kochkor. Here we will stay for the night with a traditional Kyrgyz family, living with them and finding out about their daily life, food and family patterns. Accommodation is in home stays, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.
Accommodation
Homestay (1 nt)
Day 42-43 Bishkek
This morning we will drive approximately 80Kms to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. We will arrive in time for the 10:00am pre departure meeting for the next section of this trip, Bishkek to Tashkent. Accommodation tonight is in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

The afternoon is free to explore. Overnight in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Hotel for the night: Hotel Asia Mountains
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 44-45 Chong Kemin Valley & Ala Archa Gorge
The next 2 days will need to be fairly flexible. Most of the group will apply for Uzbekistan visas in Bishkek. However, the Uzbek Embassy opening times will often vary and therefore our itinerary will need to remain flexible over the next 2 days to accommodate this.

As a guide we will most likely spend our first night camping in Ala Archa National Park (or the surrounding area). We will then return to Bishkek in order to submit our visa applications. Once this is process is complete we will continue to Chong Kemin National Park where activities such as white water rafting will be available if time allows.

We will be camping for 2 nights.

Please note that trips running in May to mid-June, October and November will not camp in the Chong Kemin Valley if temperatures are too low. Instead we will stay in a small village called Semyenovka and overnight in yurts. We will need to remain flexible with these itineraries as temperatures can vary.
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nt)
Day 46 Karakol
Early start as you set off for your drive around the Northen shore of Lake Issyk-Kul to the Russian-style town of Karakol. You will visit the Petroglyphs near Cholpon-Ata en route. Overnight in a local hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 47-48 Jeti-Oghuz Valley
Today you'll drive to the alpine trekking region of Jeti-Oghuz. You spend 2 nights here to give you time for valley and canyon hikes. You will camp overnight.

Please note that trips running in May to mid-June, October and November will not camp if temperatures are too low. Instead we will stay for 1 night in Jeti-Oghuz in a local hotel and then spend the second night in Altyn Arashan, a hot spring development enroute to Karakol again in a local hotel. We will need to remain flexible with these itineraries as temperatures can vary.
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nt)
Day 49 Kochkor
Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor where we stay in local homes and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality. Whilst here we will visit a small museum and women's felt making cooperative that produces 'shyrdaks', the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned.

Accommodation is in home stays, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.
Accommodation
Homestay (1 nt)
Day 50-51 Song Kul Lake
Morning drive to Song-Kul Lake where you spend the next two nights. The afternoon and tomorrow is free to explore the area; Options include hiking, riding on horses or watching a game of goat polo! Tonight we stay in felt yurts.

Please note that trips running in May to mid-June, October and November will not visit Song-Kul Lake as temperatures will be below freezing. Instead we will stay in yurts on the Southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul. We will need to remain flexible with these itineraries as temperatures can vary.
Accommodation
Yurt (2 nt)
Day 52-54 Kyrgyz Fergana Valley
You'll spend the next 3 days overlanding through the stunning Kyrgyz Fergana Valley camping en route.

Please note that trips running in May to mid-June, October and November will not camp if temperatures are too low. Instead we will stay in local guesthouses along the route. We will need to remain flexible with these itineraries as temperatures can vary.
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (3 nt)
Day 55 Arslanbob
Today we drive to Arslanbob in Kyrgyzstan's Ferghana valley. There are many opportunities for hiking in this area.

We stay overnight in a local guesthouse.
Accommodation
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 56 Fergana City
Border information: Exit Kyrgyzstan at Dustlik, Enter Uzbekistan at Andijon.

This morning youn will cross the border and enter Uzbekistan. Site-seeing this afternoon in Kokand and visit Kokand's Khan's Palace and Mosque.

Overnight in a hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 57 Tashkent
Today we travel in cars to Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent.

Overnight in a hotel

Free time in Tashkent.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 58 Tashkent
Border Information: Welcome to Tashkent: If joining in Tashkent, enter Uzbekistan at Tashkent Airport.

Joining meeting at 10.00 hrs in our hotel in Tashkent.

Afternoon free to explore the city. Staying overnight in comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Hotel for the night: Grand Orzu Hotel
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 59-61 Samarkand
This morning we drive to Samarkand where we will be staying for the next 3 nights. Whilst in Samarkand we stay in a small friendly hotel.

Today we will explore Samarkand in the truck, exploring the majestic buildings, monuments and bazaars of this romantic silk route city. Second night in small friendly hotel.

Second full day in Samarkand. Free time for you to explore the great sultanate of Timur as you please. Third night in small friendly hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (3 nt)
Day 62 Nurata
Morning drive to Nurata in the Kyzylkhum Desert. After lunch there is the option of taking a swim in Lake Ajdar Kul or going for a local camel ride. Overnight homestay with local Uzbek families in their desert yurt camp amongst the dunes.
Accommodation
Yurt (1 nt)
Day 63-65 Bukhara
Morning free to explore more of Nurata. In the afternoon we drive on to the fascinating city of Bukhara. We spend the next 3 nights here, staying in a comfortable local hotel.

Today we will explore Bukhara and the surrounding area, including the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Kalon Mosque, Zindon Prison and Ark Fortress. Second night in a comfortable local hotel.

Today is free for you to explore more of Bukhara and the surrounding area, or to just kick-back and take it easy for the day. Third night in comfortable local hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (3 nt)
Day 66-67 Khiva
Most of today will be spent travelling as we drive from Bukhara to Khiva. We stay in Khiva for 2 nights in a friendly, rustic hotel.

This morning we have a guided tour of this ancient city. The afternoon is free to explore this wonderfully preserved Khanate town. Second night in friendly, rustic hotel.
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 68 Konye-Urgench
Border Information: Exit Uzbekistan at Nijazov, enter Turkmenistan at Shovot.

Morning drive from Khiva to the border, crossing into Turkmenistan around lunchtime. Afternoon visit to Kunye Urgench ruins. Wildcamping overnight.
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 69 Darvaza
We drive across the Karakum Desert. If tme allows we will make a side trip to see the amazing Darwasa Gas Crater. Second night wildcamping.
Optional Activities
  • Gas Crater - USD10
    Accommodation
    Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
    Day 70-72 Ashgabat
    Morning drive to Ashgabat, normally arriving mid-afternoon. Whilst in Ashgabat we stay in a comfortable local hotel.

    Morning visit to Ashgabat's famous Sunday market. Afternoon free to explore Ashgabat as you choose. Second night in comfortable hotel.

    Border Information: If finishing in Ashgabat, exit Turkmenistan at Ashgabat Airport.

    Free time in Ashgabat.
    Accommodation
    Hotel (2 nt)
    Day 73 Geok-Depe
    This morning we have some time to explore Ashgabat. This afternoon we drive (approx 100kms) to the spectacular Kow Ata underground Lake. We will have some time this afternoon to explore this superb lake of clear water naturally heated to about 36°C.

    Tonight we will wild camp in this area.
    Day 74 Turkmenbashi
    This morning we set off for our drive to Turkmenbashi (approx 470kms). Our itinerary in Turkmenbashi and the Caspian Sea must be flexible as it is very much determined by the sailing times of the local ferries. These are notoriously unpredictable and we must adjust our times both in Turkmenbashi and Baku if the ferry is delayed.

    We overnight in a comfortable hotel
    Accommodation
    Hotel (1 nt)
    Day 75 Overnight Ferry
    From Turkmenbashi we take the ferry across the Caspian Sea to the Azeri Capital, Baku. The boat docks at the city of Baku. Ferry is perhaps a rather misleading word for those used to comfortable holiday boats. Rusty, old and tub are words that might spring to your lips, but there is only one way across the Caspian Sea and beggars can't be choosers.

    Overnight in a local hotel.

    Please note that if the ferry is delayed we will spend tonight camping near Turkmenbashi.
    Accommodation
    Overnight ferry (1 nt)
    Day 76-78 Baku
    Free days in Baku to explore the city.

    Overnight in a comfortable hotel

    Please note that this nightstop may change depending on when the ferry from Turkmenistan departs to Baku port.
    Accommodation
    Hotel (3 nt)
    Day 79 Qobustan
    Today we have a short drive to Gobuston. Whilst here we visit the Rock art and mud volcanoes that this area is known for. This afternoon we will continue driving visiting local villages along the way.

    Tonight we will wild camp overnight.
    Accommodation
    Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
    Day 80 Sheki
    Today we continue our drive to Sheki (approx 2010kms). Whilst here we will visit the exquisite Khan's Palace and the Museum of History.

    Overnight in a hotel.
    Accommodation
    Hotel (1 nt)
    Day 81 Lagodekhi
    Border information: Exit Azerbaijan at Balakan, Enter Georgia at Ladodekhi.

    Today we cross the border into Georgia. Once the border formalities are over we continue our drive into the lush Alazani valley.

    We will wild camp tonight.
    Accommodation
    Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
    Day 82-83 Telavi
    Today we head for the beautiful town of Telavi. The afternoon is free to explore this beautiful region famous for it's local white wine.

    Overnight in a home stay.

    Today we visit the Sixth Century Shaumta Monastery, which is beautifully located on an isolated forested hilltop. There are hundreds of different grapes grown here, and every village has its own particular variety. We will hopefully see some of the local traditions, including grape harvest, wine making, and most importantly, the keipi (banquet), and also visit some of the local vineyards.

    Second night in a comfortable homestay.
    Accommodation
    Homestay (2 nt)
    Day 84-85 Tbilisi
    A short drive brings us to Georgia's capital, Tbilisi. This afternooon is free to explore.

    Overnight in a comfortable hotel.

    Today we will have a guided tour of Tbilisi’s old town, sites include the National Museum, Metekhi Temple and the Sioni Catherdral.

    Second night in comfortable local hotel.
    Accommodation
    Hotel (2 nt)
    Day 86 Kazbegi
    Today our journey begins with a beautiful drive to the spectacularly located town of Kazbegi.

    Either this afternoon or tomorrow morning, we will take a trek up to the Tsminda Sameba Church (the Church of the Holy Trinity), a beautiful small church nestled in the mountains.

    In Kazbegi we will stay in a local hotel or family-run guesthouse.

    Drive time - 4 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions - however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, borders and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).
    Day 87 Kazbegi - Mtskheta
    We spend this morning in and around Kazbegi, where we can trek to the Tsminda Sameba Church if we haven't done so already.

    This afternoon we have a beautiful drive to the UNESCO world heritage site of Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia. Whilst here we will explore the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.

    We will stay overnight in a local guesthouse.

    Drive time - 5 hours
    Accommodation
    Homestay (1 nt)
    Day 88 Gori - Kutaisi
    This morning we drive to Gori, the birthplace of Stalin - here we will have a guided tour of the city and the Stalin Museum.

    We then make our way to the ancient town of Kutaisi. This afternoon we will visit the medieval Bragrati cathedral and the Gelati monastery.

    In Kutaisi we will stay in a local hotel or a family-run guesthouse.

    Drive time - 5 hours
    Accommodation
    Homestay (1 nt)
    Day 89 Batumi
    This morning we will continue to the port town of Batumi, where we will have a free afternoon to explore.

    In Batumi we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

    Drive time - 6 hours.
    Accommodation
    Hotel (1 nt)
    Day 90 Sumela
    Border Information: Exit Georgia at Sarpi, Enter Turkey at Sarp.

    Today we cross the border into Turkey and continue out drive towards Sumela which is approximately 235kms drive (or in colder conditions we will make our way to a hotel in Trabzon - 205kms).

    We will camp overnight if conditions allow.
    Accommodation
    Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
    Day 91 Zara
    This morning we will visit the beautiful Sumela Monastery and then drive approximately 340kms South East towards Goreme. We may stop in Zara en route to shop for supplies before driving on to our Wild camp for the night.
    Accommodation
    Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
    Day 92-94 Goreme
    Today we will drive approximately 330 Kms to Goreme staying overnight in a well-equipped hostel.

    Please note that dorm beds are sometimes used here.

    We have 2 full days to explore Goreme, including a guided tour of the enchanted valley of Cappadocia.
    Accommodation
    Hostel (3 nt)
    Day 95-96 Istanbul
    Today we will have a full day's drive west to arrive in Istanbul, the only city in the world that straddles two continents, Europe and Asia.

    Whilst we are here we stay in a friendly local hostel with good facilities.

    There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
    Accommodation
    Hostel (1 nt)
    Itinerary disclaimer
    ITINERARY CHANGES Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.

    We must emphasise that the routes, activities and places visited described in these trip notes are intentions and are meant as a rough guide only. We intend following the route detailed but exact night stops cannot be guaranteed. It sometimes happens that we decide to make a change to our basic planned itinerary. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, road or bureaucratic conditions may demand it. Or it may be because we find a better, more interesting route. While actually en route, unexpected hospitality, a local festival or a great place to chill out can determine our exact route and itinerary on any given trip. Overnight stops and driving distances each day may vary to best suit the needs of the group.

    OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
    Physical rating

    In these parts of the world you'll need to be healthy enough to cope with extremes of climate; from hot deserts through to the cold of high mountain areas.

    Overland travelling can be demanding - long, rough travel days and dusty conditions can be challenging to some. You'll need to be fit enough to help every day with the camp chores (cooking, washing up, general camp set up) as well as putting up, and taking down your own tent. There are some long driving days and some early morning starts. The step-up into the overland vehicle, while not overly high, can become tiring. You need to judge if you are physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down the step at least 8-10 times a day.
    Important notes
    1. This trip visits multiple countries for which visas can be difficult and time consuming to obtain. Please ensure that you have enough time to apply for all visas you require before booking this trip.
    2. Some destinations visited on this trip do not have consulates in Australia and New Zealand. We recommend that travellers from these countries book the WESTBOUND itinerary of this trip where some visas can be obtained en route.
    3. Please note that this trip requires minimum numbers to depart, and may be cancelled up until 56 days prior to departure. The places showing on the dates and availability page are an indication only so please contact Intrepid to check if your preferred date will depart before making any final arrangements, such as booking non-changeable flights.
    4. Combination trip. Please see Trip Notes (Important Notes) for more details.
    5. Local Partner: Please note this Intrepid trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Your departure will be run in a Dragoman vehicle with a Dragoman crew.

    Group size
    Maximum of 21 travellers per group.
    Your fellow travellers
    GROUP TRAVEL
    As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
    Accommodation
    Bush camp (no facilities) (20nt), Camping (with facilities) (1nt), Cave house (1nt), Guesthouse (3nt), Homestay (6nt), Hostel (3nt), Hotel (51nt), Overnight ferry (1nt), Yurt (5nt)
    The type and variety of accommodation is determined by conditions on each of our routes. Each route is different - on some we use a mixture of campsites and wild camps; on others we also use hostels or hotels. Where it's not practical to camp (ie: in towns and cities), we use hostel or hotel accommodation and eat out in local restaurants. The frequency and regularity of hostel and hotel stops depends on the route and area.

    Campsites will range from rather basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and bars. In some cases it may also be possible to upgrade locally to bungalows, lodges or even tree-houses. One of the highlights of overlanding is that in more remote areas we will wild camp. This allows us to get far away from the tourist crowds to some beautiful, secluded spots. On some of our trips we are able to stay in villages or local homestays, which allows us to get close to indigenous populations and ensures our money stays within local communities.

    Please note that camping is participatory, which means you will be expected to set-up and pack down your own tent.
    Meals introduction
    While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.

    Your kitty covers the cost of any meals while staying at camp sites.
    Meals
    No meals included
    Transport
    Overland vehicle, Overnight ferry

    Roads can be very rough which makes for long, slow travel days. It's all worth it however for the spectacular scenery and novelty of truck travel.
    Money matters
    On this trip it's compulsory to contribute to a kitty. The kitty is an on-ground payment put into a central fund and overseen by travellers and the crew. It helps fund accommodation, camp meals and all included activities. Kitty amounts are subject to change to reflect local price increases.This Kitty price indicated on the trip notes below is indicative only. Please refer to the 'Check availability' page on the website for the up-to-date amount 48 hours prior to your trip commencement.

    Your kitty will be collected when you arrive for your trip, either on day 1 or, if on a combination trip, in stages throughout your trip.

    You may pay your kitty in a mixture of US Dollars cash and the rest in local currency (amount and type of currency to be agreed by the leader at the start of the trip). Most of our travellers chose to bring a cash passport with them for withdrawing local currency (you can visit www.cashpassport.com for further information on these). This is a very secure way of carrying your money whilst travelling. You treat them exactly like an ATM card and draw out local currency from an ATM to give to your leader within each country.

    If you do choose to pay part in local currency your trip leader will confirm the current exchange rates with you so you will know exactly how much to hand over.

    Travellers cheques have become increasingly difficult to change around the world with passengers and our leaders experiencing huge frustration and numerous hours spent trying to find a bank which will change travellers cheques. For this reason we no longer accept them on our trips.

    Kitty does not cover food while staying in hotels and hostels.

    KITTY CHANGES:
    We constantly monitor local price changes and exchange rate fluctuations that could affect kitty expenses. Final kitty contributions are likely to be different from those quoted in the brochure or at the time of booking so you must check the final amount just before departure.

    The official currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY, although prior to 2005 the currency code was TL).

    ATMs are common throughout the main cities and these are a safe and convenient way to withdraw money. Credit cards are also widely accepted. Cash in any of the major currencies (EUR, GBP and USD) is easily changed. Travellers cheques in major currencies (EUR, GBP and USD) can be changed at selected local banks but it can be time consuming and subject to high fees.

    The official currency of Turkmenistan is the manat (M). It’s set at a fixed government exchange rate, but traded for far less on the black market. As ATM's are virtually non-existent, you're best to exchange foreign currency once inside the country. Don't bother with travellers cheques - they're not accepted anywhere. The black market is easy and accessible to foreigners, and the only place you’ll get a realistic exchange rate.

    The official currency in Uzbekistan is the Uzbekistan Som (UZS).

    This can only be obtained in Uzbekistan. Conversion of UZS back into other foreign currencies may prove difficult.

    Banks are rarely able to exchange foreign currency so you should ask the advice of your hotel or leader for where to change money. There are also many private money changers in Uzbekistan but if you choose to use them you must be sure to check the rate and your change carefully.

    Major credit cards are rarely accepted in shops and restaurants even in bigger cities. Some banks in Tashkent will allow cash advances against a credit card but cash withdrawals are subject to a 5% or more service charge.

    In Tashkent you may be able to find ATMs that accept international cards and use them to withdraw local currency; however these should not be relied on as your sole financial source. Some souvenir sellers and tourist restaurants may accept USD or EUR as payment but all other purchases in Uzbekistan must be made in local currency.

    Please note that you must declare ALL currency (including travellers cheques) on entry to and exit Uzbekistan. Failure to do so accurately, or exiting the country with more currency than when you entered may result in delays, fines or the additional sums being confiscated.

    KYRGZSTAN
    The official currency in Kyrgyzstan is the Kyrgyzstan Som (KGS).
    This can only be obtained within Kyrgyzstan. Conversion of KGS back into other foreign currencies may prove difficult.
    There are many private money changers in Kyrgyzstan, but if you choose to use them you must be sure to check the rate and your change carefully. Major credit cards are rarely accepted in shops and restaurants even in bigger cities. Some banks in Bishkek will allow cash advances against a credit card but cash withdrawals are subject to a 5% or more service charge.
    In Bishkek you may be able to find ATMs that accept international cards and use them to withdraw local currency; however these should not be relied on as your sole financial source. Some souvenir sellers and tourist restaurants may accept USD or EUR as payment but all other purchases in Kyrgyzstan must be made in local currency.

    The official currency in China is the Yuan or Renminbi (CNY). 1 renminbi (yuan) = 10 jiao (mao).

    We strongly advise against bringing travellers cheques as in China they can be extremely difficult or impossible to change.

    ATMs are widespread, so the easiest way to access cash on your trip is to bring a credit card. Please check with your bank about overseas withdrawal fees before you depart. Some banks will allow a cash advance against a major credit card which will incur a service charge of 5% or more.

    Currency exchange is available at major banks and some hotels. The easiest foreign currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, however please be aware of the security risk of carrying large amounts of cash. In any case, some money should be taken as cash in case of emergencies - we recommend around US$400 per person. Commission is sometimes charged for currency exchange. Check the rate before you exchange and carefully check the amount you are given and ask for a receipt.

    Please note that due to restrictions on currency conversion for foreigners in China it may not be possible to change left over CNY back into foreign currency, so please plan your budget and spending money well by withdrawing/exchanging what you need as you go.

    SPENDING MONEY
    When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).

    If you're happy with the service you receive, providing a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.

    All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.

    Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.

    EMERGENCY FUNDS
    Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
    Group leader
    On all of our Dragoman-operated Overlanding trips you will be accompanied by two Western crew members who are responsible for the group and the overall organisation of the trip.

    While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad knowledge of the places visited and to offer suggestions of things to do and see. Dragoman trips use local guides who may stay with us for just a few hours or will actually travel with us for some or all of the journey. In these cases they become a third crew member and are able to offer their local knowledge as well as a real insight into the lives of the local people. Our crew are chosen for their leadership skills, and most importantly have a passion for the region and its people.

    We endeavour to provide the services of an experienced leader and crew; however, situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders

    On any Overland trip, there are a number of tasks that need to be done. Our overland trip leaders will organise the group into smaller groups of two or three who will take turns in the daily shopping and cooking, vehicle cleaning, disposing of rubbish, etc. There are also a number of other jobs that need doing e.g. collecting water and firewood, luggage loading, supervising the kitty and food stores, which may be assigned to particular people or on a rota system according to group size, make-up, and so on. You must come prepared to 'pull your weight' and share in these duties; you will become very unpopular with other group members if they have to do your share. The more you put into a trip, the more you'll benefit.
    Safety
    Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.

    We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.

    Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.

    For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:

    http://www.intrepidtravel.com/safety

    PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
    While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.

    TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
    Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!

    FIRE PRECAUTIONS:
    Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.

    TRAVEL ADVISORY:
    Where we use a local partner to fully operate one of our itineraries, we use the travel advisory of the country where that operator is based rather than the Australian DFAT advisory. This itinerary is operated by our local partners Dragoman, and as such will follow the British Government (FCO) Travel Advice. To view these travel advisories please log on to:

    http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/travel-advice-by-country
    Joining point
    Hu Guo Si Hotel
    125 Huguosi Street
    Beijing
    CHINA
    Phone: +86 10 6618 1113
    Joining point description
    In the ancient part of the city close to Gong Wang Fu prince garden, Bei Hai Park and the Forbidden City.

    All rooms have private bathroom, air-conditioning and TV. There is also a restaurant on site.
    Joining point instructions
    From the airport you can take the shuttle bus to Xidan. The full route takes about 10 minutes and costs CNY16. From the stop you can walk approximately 2km north to the hotel, or take a taxi.

    Alternatively you can take a taxi. It is recommended that you take an authorised taxi from a taxi station, which are located outside terminals 1 and 2. A taxi should cost up to CNY100.
    Finish point
    Orient Hostel
    Akbiyik Caddesi no:13
    Sultanahmet
    Istanbul
    Istanbul
    TURKEY
    Finish point description
    The Orient Hostel Istanbul is ideally located close by to the Topkapi Palace, Saint Sophia, The Blue Mosque, Yerebatan Cistern, Hippodrome, numerous museums are only 200m away, the Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, Cemberlitas, and Beyazit are an easy walk. It is also in a easily accessible location to transport and public services. Please note the rooms are small at this hostel.
    Emergency contact
    Dragoman have a dedicated 24 hour telephone number which should only be used once you have left home and in the event of a real emergency. Should you need to call the number, we will do what we can to help but please bear in mind that real progress or action may not be possible until normal office hours.

    If your flight is delayed or cancelled, please let us know and then make your way to the joining hotel as instructed in these trip notes. If you cannot get through leave a message and a contact number as these will be regularly checked and the crew informed if necessary.

    Emergency Number: +44 (0) 7985106564

    For further contact details please use the following page:

    For general contact details please use the following page: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/contact/

    While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.

    We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.

    You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.

    Dragoman: +44 (0) 1728 86222
    Visas
    Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.

    CENTRAL ASIA VISAS (DRAGOMAN):

    This trip visits multiple countries for which visas can be difficult and time consuming to obtain. Please ensure that you have enough time to apply for all visas you require before booking this trip.

    You will need to plan very carefully how and where you will obtain your visas as some Central Asian destinations may not have an embassy in your country. Some countries also require a Letter of Invitation (LOI) in order to apply for your visa. Specific information about visas for each destination on this trip can be found in the Trip Notes. Please remember that while Intrepid, Dragoman and The Visa Machine are able to provide some advice about visas, it is the responsibility of the individual traveller to ensure that all correct and necessary information and documents are supplied on time for their own Letters of Invitation and visa applications. While it is possible to apply for visas independently, some travellers choose to use a visa service or agent for the process. Your booking agent can advise of a reputable service.

    We strongly advise booking this trip on its own or taking it at the beginning of your broader travel plans as the already complicated visa process will only be further complicated by trying to get visas on the road.

    LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI)
    This trip travels to one or more countries which may require a Letter of Invitation (LOI) in order to apply for your visa. Please check the country specific visa information below to see if this requirement affects you and your trip.

    In order for Dragoman to apply for the LOI on your behalf through our partners The Visa Machine you will need to do the following immediately after booking:

    1. Complete & submit the following form: http://dragoman-visa-support.thevisamachine.com/

    2. Email the following documents tomailto: visasupport@thevisamachine.com with your full name in the subject of the email followed by "Dragoman LOI":
    * Clear, colour scanned copy of your passport (+ passport PHOTO scan for Turkmenistan LOI)
    * Letter of Employment or Study (Uzbekistan LOI). This must be a letter from your employer or place of study on a business letterhead that states clearly that you are travelling for tourism purposes only. If you are retired or self-employed, please indicate this on the form above.

    Submitting this information for your LOI is the responsibility of the traveller. Please complete the Visa Support form as soon as possible after booking. Any delays in returning this form, along with the associated documents, will have a knock on effect to the amount of time you have in applying for the actual visa.

    Please be aware that LOIs can take up to 30 days to be processed and can only be applied for 3 months before entry in order to remain valid. The Visa Machine will be able to advise you on the expected time frame in which you will receive your LOI. You must indicate where you will apply for your visa on the above form and any changes in this information will result in your LOI being delayed so please plan carefully.

    Once the LOI has been processed a copy will be sent to you. You can then begin the process of applying for your visa. LOIs are valid for a 3 months period so you must apply for your visa within 3 months of the LOI being issued.
    LOIs are generally included in the trip price unless otherwise indicated, however remember that these are NOT the actual visa. Visas are the responsibility of the traveller and separate from the trip price. Costs will vary depending on your nationality and place of application.

    VISA REJECTIONS
    On occasion visa applications or LOIs may be rejected. The reasons for the rejection may or may not be disclosed. While Intrepid, Dragoman and The Visa Machine have no control over such situations and cannot be held responsible, should this occur we will do what we can to help you continue your trip or arrange alternative travel plans.

    AZERBAIJAN (DRAGOMAN OVERLAND):

    LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI):
    Most nationalities require a visa to visit Azerbaijan. Most also require a LOI in order to apply although this can depend on where your application is made. Visa rules for Azerbaijan are constantly changing and embassy staff often find it hard to keep up with or know how to interpret them. We recommend checking the following websites for reports and up to date information: http://azerbaijan24.com & http://caravanistan.com.

    The following information was current at the time of writing. You will need to check with the embassy where you will apply for specific information and costs.

    VISA ON ARRIVAL:
    It is no longer possible to get a visa on arrival at Baku Airport or at any land border into Azerbaijan. All travellers must apply for their Single Entry Tourist Visa to Azerbaijan in advance.

    APPLYING FOR AN E-VISA:
    From March 2013 Azerbaijan has introduced an e-visa system. This is an online process, with the visa emailed to you as a PDF attachment that you will need to print out. This visa enables entry to Azerbaijan at any border point, land or air and is issued strictly for the dates your documents show only. The e-visa costs US$100 and takes up to 15 days to be processed and requires submitting the following documents:

    *Clear, colour copy of passport in JPEG format
    *Clear, colour copy of applicant’s photo size 3x4 cm in JPEG format
    *Flight reservation details if arriving or departing by air
    *Confirmation of hotel booking – This can be requested from Dragoman by emailing centralasiavisas@dragoman.co.uk
    *Completed e-visa application form in WORD format

    Please note that while this is a very new service, we advise all pax to apply for the e-visa rather than applying at an embassy.

    There are 2 options for obtaining the e-visa:

    1. The Visa Machine
    The application process can be started by going to the following address:
    http://dragoman.thevisamachine.com/visa/1040/azerbaijan/tourist-e-visa/single-entry.
    The application cost is $80US plus £20 admin fee.

    2. Direct to an Azeri travel agent
    An alternative option is to use Azerbaijan24, an Azeri travel agent. Please follow the link to find instructions on completing the application form independently:
    http://azerbaijan24.com/azerbaijan-visa-support.html
    The application will cost $100US.

    INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
    Organisation, juridical or physical person inviting you to Azerbaijan:
    Mirvari Travel Ltd.
    Istiqlaliyyet str. 23
    Baku
    +994 12 492 09 45

    Address of the place of your stay in Azerbaijan:
    Azeri Hotel
    Icheri Sheher
    Asif Zeynally street 39
    AZ1000, Baku
    (unless otherwise indicated on your LOI)

    DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
    * Letter of Invitation (LOI), additional official documents depending on the embassy
    * Photocopy of your passport
    * Passport size photos (up to 4)
    * Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements

    CHINA (DRAGOMAN OVERLAND):

    VERY IMPORTANT - Dragoman will require a scan of your passport photo page as soon as possible after booking for all trips in China, please send this to us as soon as you can.

    Citizens of the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and all EU countries will need a visa to enter China as a tourist for up to 90 days.

    You will need a Letter of Invitation from a Chinese agent in order to make the visa application, and you must obtain the visa in advance. You cannot obtain the visa at the border in any circumstance.

    Firstly you will need to apply for the Letter of Invitation through the online visa support documents application form at The Visa Machine – please make this application at the link http://dragoman-visa-support.thevisamachine.com/ as soon as possible after booking or at least 4 months before your trip departs. This form is used to apply for any Letters of Invitation that are needed for a visa application – the service is completely free of charge. These can take several weeks to issue, and will be emailed to you once they are ready.

    After your Letter of Invitation has been issued, you can use this to apply for the visa in advance at any Chinese Embassy. You can either apply yourself directly to the embassy, or hire The Visa Machine to make the application on your behalf (which is recommended, especially if you are applying for several visas). Dragoman will also provide a letter confirming your participation in the trip and a list of our hotels, which you may need for the application – in some cases the Chinese Embassy may ask for a day-by-day itinerary with the hotels listed, which we can provide when needed.

    It is recommended to apply at the Chinese Embassy in your home country, as your application is far more likely to be approved. Although there is no official reason why you should not be issued a visa at any Chinese embassy, their consular officials are notorious for constantly changing their minds about whether they will approve a visa for ‘nonresident’ applicants, and it depends heavily on the political climate of the time.

    IMPORTANT NOTE - Please NEVER mention Kashgar, Urumqi, Turpan, Lhasa, Xinjiang or Tibet anywhere on your Chinese visa application form – this will almost certainly result in your application being rejected. When filling out your Chinese visa form, please only declare the places that are listed on your Chinese Letter of Invitation once it is issued.

    If you are asked to provide a host in China on your visa form, please use the details of the Chinese agent that issued your Letter of Invitation (this will be printed on the letter).

    You will not need a China visa if you are entering Tibet from Nepal (Northbound Tibet trip), but you will need a China visa if you are going to Tibet from Xi’an (Southbound Tibet trip). Please see the Tibet note for details on the visa requirements for travelling through Tibet.

    Georgia Visa

    Most nationalities do not currently require a visa for Georgia, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UK, USA & all EU member states. Visa free nationalities can now only stay "visa free' in Georgia for 30 days. However, all nationalities should check with the nearest embassy for the latest visa information as this may be subject to change at short notice.
    For any questions regarding visas or supporting visa documents please get in touch with The Visa Machine on the following contacts:

    If you have any trouble with the online form or want to chase up the status of your application for Visa Support Documents please contact The Visa Machine on visasupport@thevisamachine.com or during UK working hours on +44(0) 207 148 6402.
    The Australian Visa Machine office can be contacted about actual Visa Applications (not Visa supporting documents) on gday@thevisamachine.com or on +61 (2) 61 452 265

    Please note the Australian office cannot assist with Visa Supporting Documents and or chasers. These must be directed to the UK office.

    Citizens and stateless persons permanently residing in the countries listed below may enter Georgia without a visa for short-term visit (Not exceeding 90 calendar days in any 180-day period).

    More countries are listed on the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs website - https://www.geoconsul.gov.ge/en/visaInformation

    Canada
    Australia
    Germany
    France
    Japan
    Norway
    Netherlands
    New Zealand
    South Africa
    United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
    United States of America

    KYRGYZSTAN (DRAGOMAN OVERLAND):

    Many nationalities no longer require a visa to travel to Kyrgyzstan for up to 60 days, including Australia, Belgium, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, USA and Switzerland. Other nationalities should check with their nearest embassy. Nationals of other countries not listed should check their requirements at their nearest embassy. A LOI is rarely needed, but should it be required by your embassy please follow the instructions for applying through The Visa Machine. If you do require a visa we strongly advise that you obtain it in advance.

    TURKMENISTAN (DRAGOMAN OVERLAND) 2014/15

    LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI)
    All visitors to Turkmenistan require a visa. You will need a Letter of Invitation (LOI) in order to apply for your visa.

    Dragoman will apply for the letter of invitation on your behalf. In order to do this we need you to complete the Visa support form found here http://dragoman.thevisamachine.com/visa-support. Once you have completed this form we will need you to email the supporting documents to visasupport@thevisamachine.com with your name in the subject of the email followed by 'Dragoman LOI'.

    Please complete the Visa Support form as soon as possible after booking. Any delays in returning this form, along with
    the associated documents, will have a knock on effect to the amount of time you have in applying for the actual visa. Once a letter of support / Letter of Invitation has been authorised a copy will be sent to you. You can then begin the
    process of applying for your visa.

    *If you decide to obtain your visa in a different location, a new letter of invitation will be required
    which will delay you obtaining your visa therefore it is vital that you are clear on where you will obtain your visa.

    *From time to time some visa applications are rejected by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan or incorrect dates given for travel. If this happens, Dragoman will contact you as soon as it is known and we will help you arrange alternative travel plans. Unfortunately Dragoman Overseas Travel cannot be held responsible if your visa application is refused.

    VISAS
    How and where apply for your Turkmenistan visa will depend on how you enter the country.

    VISA ON ARRIVAL - LAND:
    Travellers arriving in Turkmenistan overland on a WESTBOUND itinerary can obtain their visas at the land border on arrival. Please indicate this as the place where you will apply for your visa on the The Visa Machine LOI form. Costs will depend on your nationality (currently US$55-$85) and payment must be in cash. A tax is also payable at the border of approx $14 USD pp. You will need to fill out an immigration card upon entering. Please make sure you keep this card for the entire journey.

    VISA ON ARRIVAL - AIR
    If you are flying into Ashgabat you can obtain your visa on arrival at Saparmurat Turkmenbashy International Airport.
    This will cost approximately US$ 85. A printed copy of your approved Invitation letter will be required at the check-in
    desk for your flight to Ashgabat as proof of visa authorisation. Dragoman will once again apply for this on your behalf
    but please note, Dragoman will require exact details of your intended arrival date and flight details before we can start
    this process.

    OTHER:
    In all other circumstances you must obtain your visa from an embassy before your travel and must indicate specifically where you will apply on the The Visa Machine LOI form. On arrival in Turkmenistan you will be required to fill out an immigration card which must be kept for your entire journey. Turkmenistan embassies where you may be able to apply for your visa include: Beijing, London, Istanbul, Tashkent, Almaty, Washington, Berlin, Paris. The following website may have useful information and traveller reports about applying for visas at these and other embassies: www.caravanistan.com

    INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
    You will need to apply for a Single Entry Tourist Visa (G)

    Name(s) of Host/Sponsor/Contact:
    Ayan Travel
    Magtymguly Avenue 108-13, 14
    Ashgabat
    +993 12 352914

    Address in Turkmenistan:
    Ak Altyn Hotel
    141/1 Magtymguly ave
    Ashgabat 744000
    +993 12 363700

    DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
    * Letter of Invitation (LOI)
    * Photocopy of your passport
    * Passport size photo (up to 4)
    * Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements

    WARNING - TRAVELLING IN OCTOBER:
    Independence Day in Turkmenistan is on October 27th. The government usually imposes restrictions on the issuance of the Letters of Invitation (and therefore visas) during the month of September for all those travelling to Turkmenistan
    in October. Dragoman must therefore have all the requested information and a copy of a passport in August as applications made after this date may not be granted.

    TURKEY (ALL TRIPS):

    Please note that many nationalities require a visit to enter Turkey:

    Australia: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
    Belgium: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
    Canada: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
    Germany: No - not required
    Ireland: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
    Netherlands: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
    New Zealand: No - not required
    South Africa: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
    Switzerland: No - not required
    United Kingdom: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
    USA: Yes - apply for an e-visa before you go
    Other nationalities should check via your local consulate or embassy.

    To apply for an e-visa, please go to https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/ at least a few weeks before you go.

    The visa costs can change at any time and with little notice depending on the political climate of the region.

    From 01 January 2015, foreigners entering Turkey must carry a passport with at least 60 days validity beyond the expiry date of their visa or residence permit.

    A valid passport is sufficient for citizens of most other countries including New Zealand, Argentina, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland for stays up to 3 months. All other nationalities please check with your nearest Turkish embassy.

    UZBEKISTAN (DRAGOMAN OVERLAND) 2014/15:

    LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI):
    All visitors to Uzbekistan require a visa. Most nationalities will need a Letter of Invitation (LOI) in order to apply for your visa. Citizens of Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, UK & USA do not currently need a LOI to apply for a tourist visa if applying within their home country, however this information is subject to change at short notice so we recommend checking with the embassy before you apply. If applying outside of your country of residency, a LOI will be required.
    How and where you apply for your Uzbekistan visa will depend on how you enter the country.

    Dragoman will apply for the letter of invitation on your behalf. In order to do this we need you to complete the Visa support form found here http://dragoman-visa-support.thevisamachine.com/. Once you have completed this form we will need you to email the supporting documents to visasupport@thevisamachine.com with your name in the subject of the email followed by 'Dragoman LOI'.

    Please complete the Visa Support form as soon as possible after booking. Any delays in returning this form, along with
    the associated documents, will have a knock on effect to the amount of time you have in applying for the actual visa. Once a letter of support / Letter of Invitation has been authorised a copy will be sent to you. You can then begin the
    process of applying for your visa.

    *If you decide to obtain your visa in a different location, a new letter of invitation will be required
    which will delay you obtaining your visa therefore it is vital that you are clear on where you will obtain your visa.

    *From time to time some visa applications are rejected by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan or incorrect dates given for travel. If this happens, Dragoman will contact you as soon as it is known and we will help you arrange alternative travel plans. Unfortunately Dragoman Overseas Travel cannot be held responsible if your visa application is refused.

    VISA EN-ROUTE:
    For those travelling to Uzbekistan overland on a WESTBOUND itinerary (ie. coming from China or Kyrgyzstan) it may be possible to apply for your visa in Beijing or Bishkek. Please ensure you have enough time to apply for the visa in these destinations and check the embassy opening days and hours. The following website may have useful information and traveller reports about applying for visas at these and other embassies: www.caravanistan.com.

    VISA ON ARRIVAL – AIR:
    Travellers arriving into Tashkent International Airport can obtain their visa on arrival at the airport ONLY if there is no Uzbekistan embassy in the country where your flight is arriving from (not your country of residence). You will require a printed copy of your LOI that includes your exact flight details in order to board your flight so please ensure you supply this information to The Visa Machine. Costs will depend on your nationality (currently approx US$100) and payment must be in cash. It is not possible to get a visa on arrival at any land border.
    * Supporting flight documents are required at time of booking for Visa on Arrival for Uzbekistan

    OTHER:
    In all other circumstances you must obtain your visa from an embassy before you travel and must indicate specifically where you will apply on the The Visa Machine LOI form. Uzbekistan visas are date specific, so please check carefully which dates you will enter and exit the country. Normally you are unable to apply for your visa more than 3 months before entry. Uzbekistan embassies where you may be able to apply for your visa include: Beijing, London, Istanbul, Bangkok, Brussels, Washington, Berlin, Jakarta, Amsterdam, Singapore, Paris. Some embassies may have an online visa application form. The following website may have useful information and traveller reports about applying for visas at these and other embassies: www.caravanistan.com

    INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
    You will need to apply for a Single Entry Tourist Visa.
    Address in Uzbekistan:
    Grand Orzu Hotel
    27 Makhmud Tarobi Street
    Tashkent
    +998 71 120 8877

    Inviting Party:
    Golden Travel
    Grand Orzu Hotel
    27 Makhmud Tarobi Street
    Tashkent
    +998 71 120 8883

    DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
    * Letter of Invitation (LOI) – depending on nationality and place of application
    * Photocopy of ALL pages of your passport
    * Passport size photo (up to 4)
    * Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements

    WARNING – REGISTRATION IN UZBEKISTAN:
    All visitors to Uzbekistan must register with the local department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs within 3 working days after arrival. When staying at a hotel, you will be registered automatically. Please ensure you keep any registration documents issued by the hotel until you exit the country.
    What to take
    What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).

    Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.

    Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:

    SLEEPING BAG:
    Please bring a sleeping bag (4-season is recommended - check what the weather will be like over the dates you are travelling), sleeping mat and a pillow as these items are not provided.

    WATER BOTTLE:
    Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.

    http://www.intrepidtravel.com/pdf/trips/packinglist.pdf
    Climate and seasonal information
    EXPORTS / IMPORTS:
    An export certificate is required to take carpets and anything else considered antique out of Turkmenistan. Export certificates are available from the Carpet Museum or this can be arranged through the seller. It is also important to catalogue and declare to Customs any carpets or anything antique looking - even if clearly from a different part of the world - that you bring into Turkmenistan with you.

    IDENTITY DOCUMENTS:
    You should carry an identity document at all times while in Tashkent and in Ashgabat. Requests to produce proof of identity, for example by the police, are frequent.

    IMPORTANT:
    This trip visits multiple countries for which visas are can be difficult and time consuming to obtain. Please ensure that you have enough time to apply for all visas you require before booking this trip.
    Health
    All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.

    You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
    Travel insurance
    Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.

    When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.

    If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.

    http://www.intrepidtravel.com/insurance.php
    A couple of rules
    Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader or local representative has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
    Responsible Travel
    We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller.

    http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/rt/responsibletraveller

    The Intrepid Foundation
    Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.

    The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:

    http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/

    Feedback
    After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.

    http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback