Last Modified: 02 May 2013
Silk Road Journey
Trip code: CBSK
Validity: 01 Jan 2013 to 31 Dec 2013
Journey through the fascinating heart of Central Asia, an area which is only just opening up to foreign travellers. From Beijing to the heartlands of beautiful Kyrgyzstan and exotic Uzbekistan, let the legends of the Silk Road come to life as you tread this ancient trading route that once linked the mighty civilisations of the East and the West.
Table of Contents
- Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Days 1-3 Beijing
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6:00pm on Day 1.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
We will also collect copies of your passport, visas and migration cards.
The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places to go that will give you a great insight into the nation's ancient past as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture.
If you arrive early, a great way to get started is a metro ride out to the Summer Palace, once an imperial residence, or visit the Silk, Pearl or Panjiayuan markets for some bargain hunting. Beijing's food is a highlight too, from the famous Beijing Roast Duck to dumplings or noodles in a tiny backstreet eatery to some of the best international dining in China there is no chance you will go hungry while here! We definitely recommend arriving a few days early to make the most of Beijing's sights and experiences.
Other things you may like to do during your time here include:
Catch a performance of the world renown Beijing Acrobats.
A trip to the 798 Art District on a Beijing Art and Architecture tour will give you a taste of where art is heading in today's China as you wander the multitude of galleries housed in this old factory complex.
A metro ride can take you to the Summer Palace, once an imperial residence and the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China.
The Temple of Heaven Park is one of the most popular in Beijing and at any time of the day is full of people of all ages taking part in traditional pastimes such as tai chi, fan dancing, diablo, kite flying, water calligraphy and more.
Visit beautiful Yonghegong, or Lama Temple, which was built in 1694 and is the largest and best-preserved Tibetan style monastery building in Beijing.
The fantastic "The Legend of Kung Fu" is said to be a must-see production in Beijing for Kung Fu lovers.
We take an early morning trip to the Mutianyu Great Wall (approx 2 hrs drive from Beijing). An incredible piece of engineering, it stretches 6,000 km westwards from the mountain ridges north of Beijing. It was originally constructed to protect Chinese empires from the 'barbarians' of the north and even though it failed in this purpose, it is still without a doubt one of the country's most remarkable achievements, and an iconic destination. It's a 30 minute climb up some steep steps to the wall itself but well worth the effort! There is also the option of taking a chair lift or cable car to the top and back if you are after a more leisurely experience and great views. We'll have a few hours to explore the winding wall before heading back to the city for the afternoon. Please note that the wall is quite steep in places so make sure you have some appropriate footwear for this activity.
Explore Tiananmen Square - apparently the largest down town square in the world. Framed by the Gate of Heavenly Peace with its Mao portrait, Mao's Mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People and the National Museum it's a place of pilgrimage for Chinese tourists who consider it the heart of their nation.
Depart on our overnight hard sleeper train to Xi'an (approx 12 hrs).
Train travel in China may not be entirely luxurious but it's certainly one of the best ways to come face to face with the country and its people as it's the main form of transport for locals. We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys. These are not as rough as they sound - compartments are open-plan, clean, with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment). Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. Safe hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals. We recommend bringing a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (as these are not provided in cabins) Basic bathroom facilities are situated at the end of each carriage with toilets and washbasins. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals are available three times a day, and there are often snacks available on the train along the way.
- Great Wall - Mutianyu section
- Beijing - Tiananmen Square
- Acrobat show, Beijing - CNY250.00
- Beijing Art & Architecture Urban Adventure, Beijing - CNY590.00
- Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure, Beijing - CNY480.00
- Kung Fu show, Beijing - CNY180.00
- Lama Temple, Beijing - CNY30.00
- Great Wall - Cable car, Beijing - CNY80.00
- Summer Palace, Beijing - CNY40.00
- Temple of Heaven, Beijing - CNY40.00
Hotel (2 nts), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 4-5 Xi'an
The imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many interesting historical sites. A monument pays homage to the fact that this was the start of the famous ancient trading route of the Silk Road and the city is still surrounded by city walls.
Visit Xi'an's most famous site - the Terracotta Warriors. Travel by bus for around 2 hours to reach the site. Once therel hear all about this incredible archaeological find, discovered by farmers digging a well in 1976 after being buried for thousands of years. These clay statues of soldiers, horses and chariots all standing in battle formation were commissioned by the emperor of the Qin dynasty as part of his mausoleum and a number of pits are now on view to the public.
There's a lot to do here in Xi'an and little time so you'll have some tough decisions to make on how to best spend your free time. Some of our favourites include:
For a different view of the city, climb to the top of the Bell or Drum Towers. The Bell Tower is in the centre of downtown Xi'an where the city's four main roads - Bei, Nan, Dong and Xi Dajie (North, South, East and West Avenues) - converge. Originally built in 1582 and restored in 1739, the tower was used to announce the time of day and serve as a watchtower. The previous Bell Tower, dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), stood two blocks to the west.
The Drum Tower marks the entrance to the Muslim Quarter. It no longer contains the giant drum once used to signal the closing of the city gates, though it does retain some good views, including one of the Great Mosque.
One of the oldest mosques in China, the Great Mosque in Xi'an features an unusual blend of Chinese and Islamic architecture. Still in use today, the mosque serves as a place of worship for Xi'an's large muslim population, made up predominantly of the Hui minority. Although non-Muslims are not allowed within the main hall itself, a visit during one of the five daily prayer times adds another dimension of spirituality, no matter what your religion.
Located about 2 km south of the city wall, the famous Small Wild Goose Pagoda can be found in a scenic area along with the Xian Museum and the ancient Jianfu Temple - built in 684 during the Tang Dynasty.
Try a leisurely cycle on the Xi'an city wall - a distance of 13.74 km. The wall, an ancient fortification situated in the heart of XI'an, was established in 1378 AD.
Start the two-night train journey westwards towards Turpan (approx 36 hrs). For a bit of extra comfort we travel soft sleeper class on this leg. These are closed compartments with two-tiered bunk beds (4 to a compartment) - sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. Luggage storage space is inside the cabins. While we always try to have our groups staying together there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages. If the group number does not divide into four then you can also expect that some group members will be sharing a compartment with other travellers. Stock up at the supermarket before boarding to picnic on board and make sure to bring something extra to share with your fellow travellers, both locals and from your group. Please note that the train can get very hot and dusty as we cross the desert and some trains may not have functioning air-conditioning.
- Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors
- Bell & Drum Towers, Xi'an - CNY50.00
- Great Mosque, Xi'an - CNY25.00
- Small Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi'an - CNY50.00
- Cycling on City Wall, Xi'an - CNY80.00
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Day 6 Silk Road Railway
It's a long journey across the desert and it can get very hot and dusty, but it's a great chance to watch the landscape change as we head to one of the most remote regions of China. Practice your Mandarin, learn some Uyghur with your travelling companions or learn some local card games. Very few foreigners travel this route, so don't be surprised if our group is the centre of attention and locals are excited to try out their English with you.
We follow the path of ancient Silk Road caravans and learn about the unique Muslim Uyghur people of the region. The Silk Road was an interconnected series of ancient trade routes across the Asian continent, namely connecting Xi'an with Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. It extended 8,000 km over land and sea. Trade on the Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the great civilisations of China, Egypt, Persia and Rome, and helped to lay the foundations for the modern world.
Our train follows one of these routes past the ancient cities of Lanzhou, Jiayuguan and Hami. There aren't many stops on the way long enough to get off and stretch our legs but we may be lucky enough to find some vendors on the platforms selling local specialities such as seasonal fruits.
Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 7-8 Turpan
Once an important staging post on the Silk Road, Turpan is an attractive oasis town famous for its vineyards, stone fruits, melons and the nearby Flaming Mountains. The country roads on the outskirts are lined with poplars and lovely old mud brick dwellings of the Uyghur people, while the modern 'inner' town has shiny new buildings, spacious streets and public squares.
We visit some of the town's many attractions. Depending on the season, these could include the ruined city of Jiaohe, the Bezeklik Buddhist caves and the ancient Karez underground irrigation system, which still provides water for the agricultural needs of the area. We also vist the old Uyghur village of Tuyoq where we enjoy a family-style lunch. The grape trellises draped around the city provide welcome shade in the summer months - temperatures can easily reach 45C here!
In free time during the evening, choose to join the locals on the square for socialising or visit one the night market for all the flavours of the region and plenty of interaction. There's also a cultural show held at a nearby hotel where you can witness the fast-paced drumming and dancing traditional to the Uyghur people (and don't be surprised if you are asked to join in!)
Check out the Emin Mosque with its monumental minaret, the tallest in China.
Jump on a bike and pedal off to see backstreet mosques and markers, vineyards and farm in the quiet country lanes on the outskirts of the city.
Return to the station to take our next train journey to Kashgar (approx 24 hrs). Please note that while this is a hard sleeper train journey, the carriages used are often double-decker with compartments for four people. The compartments are smaller than on our previous trains with little luggage storage space so bigger bags will need to be kept on your bed.
- Turpan - Guided local sights tour
- Turpan - Tuyoq Village
- Emin Minaret, Turpan - CNY50.00
- Bike hire, Turpan - CNY10.00
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 9-10 Kashgar
Kashgar is very much a frontier town, quickly developing to take advantage of its geographical location right in the heart of Central Asia. From Kashgar, roads lead into Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and beyond. There are few signs that you are still in China - other than the the country's largest Chairman Mao statue, that is. This once ancient city is quickly modernising. In 2011, the Chinese government started rapid demolishing of the Old Town of Kashgar due to being overcrowded, with poor drainage and vulnerable to earthquakes thus relocating Uighur families to newly built apartments. It’s hard to predict what will be left in this area in the coming years.
The town's main landmark is the Id Kah Mosque and its surrounding square, from which dusty old lanes lead off, crammed full of shops, food stalls and Uyghur locals living a lifestyle virtually unchanged for a hundred years.
Take advantage of the proximity to Pakistan by having a meal of curry and chapattis at a Pakistani café, play a round or two with the lads handing out at the open door pool tables on Id Kah Square, get lost meandering down lanes and alleyways, stopping at stalls selling tandoori-baked bagels or mulberry juice, learn some funky moves at a Uyghur disco or visit some of the city's holy sites.
Kashgar's main attraction is undoubtedly the Sunday Bazaar, which we'll visit during our stay. Now much modernised, it's divided into two sections - the Downtown Bazaar, which sells clothing, household goods, produce and everything else you could imagine, and the Animal Bazaar just outside the city. We travel by private van, first to the Animal Bazaar to see the frantic bargaining and bustle of local herdsmen and farmers trading and bartering for sheep, goats, cows and even taking donkeys for a 'test drive'. Then return to the city to visit the main bazaar and mingle with the traders and shoppers at your own pace, bringing the legends of one of the world's great trading towns to life.
- Kashgar - Sunday & Animal Bazaars
- Id Kah Mosque, Kashgar - CNY20.00
- Tomb of Abakh Hoja, Kashgar - CNY30.00
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 11 Tash Rabat
Depart by private bus for a big journey into the seldom-travelled country of Kyrgyzstan, a nation that still embraces nomadic traditions and extends some of the warmest hospitality you'll find anywhere in the world. Depending on the border and road conditions be travelling between 10-12 hours , including at least 8 hours of driving, plus border formalities which require a plenty of patience while we wait.
Cross the breathtaking Torugart Pass (3572 m) high in the Tian Shan, claimed as one of the most exciting routes into Central Asia. Take note of the changing landscape between China and Kyrgyzstan, and drive down to Tash Rabat (3100 m), a beautifully preserved 15th-century caravanserai. We meet our Kyrgyz guide and driver at the Kyrgyzstan side of the border, they will be with us all the way until we leave for Uzbekistan. There's very little public transport in Kyrgyzstan, and poor road conditions, so to make the most of our time here we have a private van for our journeys. It can be a rough ride in places and often gets quite cold as we ascend higher into the mountains, even in mid summer, so make sure you bring some warm clothes.
Stay in our first yurt camp. Yurts are the traditional dwellings of the Kyrgyz people, made of felt and tarpaulins on a round frame. Sleeping arrangements are on a multi-share, mixed gender basis with mattresses on the floor. It can get very chilly in the evenings so there's a stove for heating and plenty of blankets. Our dinner and breakfast are taken in the local caretaker's home - sitting on the floor at the low tables that are customary in this region. There are no bathroom facilities save for the outdoor toilet and the icy mountain stream nearby for an invigorating morning splash!
Look out for marmots popping up from their burrows on the surrounding hillsides and take a hike to the top of the hills for a view of the magnificent openness of the virtually uninhabited landscape around us. Welcome to Kyrgyzstan!
Yurt (1 nt)
Day 12 Song-Kol Lake
Take the short walk to the caravanserai with our guide to learn about the Silk Road and its travellers who once came through here many years before us.
Then board our bus for the ride to Song-Kol Lake, one of the largest lakes in the country (approx 7 hours, 280 km).
The roads in Kyrgyzstan see little regular maintenance so even short distances can take a full day and the pass to Song-Kol is not open all year round. When the road to Song-Kol is impassable we will travel to a different destination today - your leader will confirm this with our local partners on arrival in Kyrgyzstan. All driving times are approximate - weather, road conditions and stops along the way will all vary from trip to trip.
On the way to Song-Kol we stop for an optional lunch at Naryn, one of the few sizeable townships in the area. Parts of our drive stay at around 3000m above sea level and, like most of our journeys in Kyrgyzstan, offer sensational views and landscapes. As we have our own private van and driver we can stop at the best photo opportunities and really enjoy the ride to the maximum!
We arrive in Song-Kol in the late afternoon. This beautiful alpine lake is considered a sacred place for many Kyrgyz people as well as one of the best summer pastures for nomadic herders. In mid summer you will see many flocks of sheep, goats and herds of horses watched over by nomadic herdsmen and their families.
Tonight we stay in traditional Kyrgyz yurts once more. Our dinner tonight is included and we share it together banquet style in our yurt.
Yurt (1 nt)
Day 13 Bishkek
This morning we have breakfast together at our yurt camp.
Then board our bus and descend from the mountains to the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek (7 hours)
Enroute stop at Kochkor, a town famous for its traditional felt crafts including hats, carpets and more modern accessories such as ipad covers. We visit a local women's cooperative to learn a little about how felt is made and it is one of the best opportunities for picking up some Kyrgyz souvenirs.
Once in Bishkek, we need to visit the Uzbekistan Consulate to finalise our visas, which will be picked up the following day.
Bishkek is a relaxed city of wide streets and handsome houses, and locals boast that it has more trees per person than any other Central Asian city. With plenty of parks and gardens to shelter its inhabitants from the intense summer heat, and many monuments from the country's Soviet past, a walking tour with our local guide is a great way to experience the contemporary face of an ancient nation.
TsUM Department Store in the city centre is renowned for having the best range of Kyrgyz souvenirs for some final shopping. If nightlife is your thing, brave the bouncers to join the throngs of young people at one of Bishkek's raucous night clubs. Check out the National Museum, which can't hide from the fact that it used to be the National Lenin Museum - the upper floors with the collections of Soviet memorabilia and murals are a clear giveaway.
Bishkek is the only chance for internet access in Kyrgyzstan, and hopefully hot showers in our hotel just outside of the city centre.
- National Museum - KGS45.00
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 14-15 Chong Kemin National Park
After checking out of the hotel and collecting our Uzbek visas we then have a short walking tour of the city centre with our local guide.
After lunch in the capital we continue our explorations of this magic country and set off to the Chong Kemin National Park (150 km east from Bishkek 3hours). Chong Kemin Valley is a famous for its perfectly preserved ecosystem, which is confirmed by the incredible number plants and animals inhabiting the territory. We will pass several villages and beautiful meadows which bloom spectacularly with flowers in spring.
Tonight we stay in a local guesthouse offering great views of the mountains and traditional home cooked food.
- Chong Kemin NP - Jeti-Oguz & Barskoon Gorges
Guesthouse (2 nts)
Day 16 Cholpan Ata
Issyk-Kul is one of the biggest natural water reservoirs in the world at 170 km long and 70 km wide. Issyk-Kul means "warm lake". A combination of extreme depth, thermal activity and mild salinity means the lake never freezes. Its moderating effect on the climate plus abundant rainfall have made it something of an oasis down through the centuries. Cholpon Ata is one of the small towns on the banks of Lake Issyk-Kul. It is definitely a favourite spot with the locals, who use it as a holiday resort. The area has a number of health resorts and spas and there are some excellent rock inscriptions dating back to 500BC, however most people come here for the beaches. These may not be the virgin, palm fringed beaches of other destinations, but are a great place to relax while visiting this mountain realm.
- Karakol - Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral
- Karakol - Przhevalskiy Museum
- Cholpan Ata - Petroglyphs
- Dungan Mosque, Karakol - KGS40.00
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 17 Tamga
Today we continue our journey around the massive alpine lake of Issyk Kul (4 hours). The southern part of Issyk Kul is less developed than the north with its many resorts, boarding houses and vacation homes being much more tranquil with wild beaches and undisturbed views.
On the way we will stop for lunch in Bokonbayevo village and then continue to the "Valley of Fairytales". This valley is characterised by weirdly colourful clay, sand and rock formations. Tonight we stay in a simple but clean local guesthouse in Tamga Village. Tamga is where Soviet cosmonauts used to come to recuperate after their journeys into outer space!
Get out on the water for an hour or so on an optional boat trip.
- Tamga - Valley of Fairytales
- Boat trip, Tamga - KGS2800.00
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Days 18-19 Tashkent
A 250 km drive (5 hours) will bring us back to Bishkek where we’ll stop for farewell lunch with our guide and driver. We then head to the airport (40 minutes).
Bishkek Manas airport is uniquely home to both the country's main international airport and a US military base so don't be surprised to see US airforce planes parked side by side with commercial carriers.
Fly to Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan (approx 1 hr). After going through the lengthy immigration and customs procedures we take taxis for the short ride to our hotel.
The largest city in Central Asia with a population of over 2 million, Tashkent is a mix of Russian and Uzbek style, an indication of the fact that for many years it was a key city of the USSR. Extravagant mosques, both ancient and new sit alongside modern highways and Soviet monuments.
Whereas the highlights of Kyrgyzstan are its landscapes and nomadic culture, Uzbekistan's gems are in its architecture and ancient civilisation. The country has strong links to Persia which are visible in the Islamic buildings that we'll see here and later on our trip.
On our Tashkent city tour will be accompanied by a local guide for to learn more about the city's fascinating history and see some of the key sights. As well as visiting the museum complex that houses the worlds oldest Koran we also travel by metro to Chorsu Bazaar. This extensive market spills out of the photogenic trading domes into the surrounding streets and squares, with all kinds of goods on sale from fresh produce, to spices, dried fruit and nuts, dairy products, cooked food stalls, household goods, clothing and hot bread.
Some recommendations for things to see in your free time are the Applied Arts Museum for those interested in the carpets, ethnic costumes, embroidery and other traditional arts of the region; the Amir Timur (Tamerlane) Museum which depicts the story of this national hero's life and curiously displays what are claimed to be his actual eyebrows; a tour of the opulent Opera and Ballet Theatre and maybe staying on to see one of the performances in the evening; or exploring the maze of dusty streets with their small mosques and mud brick houses in what's left of Tashkent's Old Town.
- Cholpan Ata - Petroglyphs
- Tashkent - Chorsu Bazaar
- Tashkent - Guided city tour
- Museum of Applied Arts, Tashkent - UZS1200.00
- Amir Timur Museum, Tashkent - UZS3000.00
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 20-21 Samarkand
Today we can leave our main luggage behind at the hotel and pack a smaller bag to carry for the next 5 days until we return to Tashkent.
Take taxis to the station to board a local train to Samarkand (approx 4 hrs).
Please note that due to train schedules, the order of visiting Samarkand and Bukhara may be reversed on some departures.
One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Samarkand remains one of the most attractive in Central Asia despite a turbulent history of war and earthquakes.
The city blossomed under Amir Timur, known in the west as Tamerlane, a tyrannical 14th-century ruler. A lover of art, Timur was responsible for the colourful domes and exquisite minarets that now form the city's skyline. Although Samarkand fell into disrepair during the Soviet days, restoration is slowly progressing and the sights here are a photographer's dream.
Join a local guide for an in-depth tour of Samarkand's sights, first heading to the incredibly extensive Shah I Zindah Mausoleum complex - a holy site for local Muslims and where the Prophet Mohammed's cousin is buried. From there we walk to the massive Bibi Khanum Mosque, no longer functioning but impressive in its proportions and extravagance. We cover the short distance to the Guri Amir Mausoleum by taxi to see Amir Timur's final resting place before finishing at the most spectacular of all - the Registan.
The Registan is probably the most recognisable of all Central Asia's monuments. The facades of the two medressas facing the central square are decorated in elaborate mosaic, tiles and intricate geometric brickwork, flanked by towering minarets and topped by azure-hued domes. The interior of some of the buildings are just as impressive and there's so much to explore, including the many handicraft and souvenir stalls in the courtyards and rooms. We see some of the main rooms and have a chance to ask our local guide for interesting insights before having time here on our own to marvel at our own pace.
In your free time here you may like to:
Visit the ruins of the ancient observatory built in the 1420s by the Timurid astronomer Ulugh Beg. It is considered by scholars to have been one of the finest observatories in the Islamic world at the time and the largest in Central Asia before it was destroyed in 1449.
Gain an overview of the region's history and local art & handicrafts at the State Museum near the Registan.
Marvel at the rate which the remains of the Old Testament Prophet Daniel are believed to continue to grow after death. He now occupies an 18m long tomb!
- Samarkand - Guri Amir Mausoleum
- Samarkand - Shakh-I-Zinda Mausoleum Complex
- Samarkand - Registan
- Samarkand - Bibi Khanum Mosque
- Ulug Beg Observatory, Samarkand - Free
- State Art & History Museum, Samarkand - UZS2400.00
- Tomb of the Prophet Daniel, Samarkand - UZS1200.00
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 22 Shakhrisabz
Travel by private transport to the town of Shakhrisabz (approx 3 hrs).
Shakhrisabz is the birth place of Tamerlane and while not nearly as spectacular as Samarkand in terms of sights, the ruins of the once immense Ak-Saray Palace will challenge our imaginations to envisage what a truly powerful leader he once was.
Climb to the top of Ak Saray's remaining entrance portal for views of the neatly-laid city stretching into the distance.
Our stay here is a great chance to see typical Uzbek town life as we take a walk around the shady streets and spend time with a local family. We stay in a large family home in the centre of town and while only limited English is spoken, their warm welcome crosses any language barrier. Rooms here are multishare and we share the basic bathroom facilities with the family.
We also try our hand at some Uzbek cooking, joining our hosts in preparing the evening meal - perhaps some plov (rice cooked with meat, spices and carrots) or dolma (rice and meat wrapped in vine leaves). Enjoy our meal in the family courtyard and sip green tea as the sun goes down.
- Shakhrisabz - Cooking class
- Shakhrisabz - Ak Saray Palace ruins
- Kok-Gumbaz Mosque, Shakhrisabz - UZS2400.00
- Ketab Observatory, Shakhrisabz - UZS60000.00
Homestay (1 nt)
Days 23-24 Bukhara
Take our private van further to Bukhara (approx 4 hrs) - a favourite Silk Road city for many travellers.
We may have the option to meet and talk with our friends from Bright Beam Women's Crisis Centre at a local restaurant. The ladies of Bright Beam do amazing work promoting human rights for women in difficult family situations in the face of tremendous obstacles from the government and cultural tradition. We have the chance to learn about their work, perhaps buy some handcrafts from the women they support and contribute to their cause while having a home-cooked meal together.
After our walking tour with a local guide there's plenty of time to explore the artisan shops and wander the narrow twisting streets and alleyways on your own. This is one of the best places to pick up some local handmade souvenirs such as embroidered hangings and cloth, silk, carpets, pottery, woodwork, miniature paintings and jewellery. Don't expect it to be cheap however as each item takes painstaking labour to create and many of the sellers are the artists themselves.
Other things to do here include:
Stop in at the Ark, the old royal town that is Bukhara's oldest standing structure. Inside you can find the Zindon jail where spies of the Great Game era were imprisoned.
Climb to the top of the towering Kalon Minaret for views over the Old Towns rooftops and domes.
Get soaked and scrubbed within an inch of your life in a traditional hammom. You'll feel relaxed afterwards.
In the evening you can join the locals and other travellers around Lyabi Hauz, a pool of water surrounded by ancient mulberry trees in the Old Town's centre. Have a meal here of shashlyk (roasted meat on skewers) with non bread and green tea, head to the charming puppet show in the theatre nearby or see tradition meet contemporary culture at the nightly fashion show across the plaza.
- Folklore & Fashion show, Bukhara - UZS5000.00
- Ark, Bukhara - UZS2400.00
- Hammom, Bukhara - UZS25000.00
- Traditional Puppet Show, Bukhara - UZS5000.00
- Zindon, Bukhara - UZS1200.00
- Kalon Minaret & Mosque, Bukhara - UZS3000.00
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 25-26 Tashkent
Travel back to Tashkent by day train (approx 7 hrs).
Arriving back in Tashkent we check back into our hotel and have the option of heading out for a final optional group dinner at a local restaurant chosen by your leader to celebrate the completion of our incredible journey.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.
Please note that your visa will be valid for a maximum of two days after your trip finishes so unless you have booked additional accommodation through Intrepid at the time of your trip booking, you'll need to depart Uzbekistan by that time.
Hotel (1 nt)
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
- CBSK Soft Sleeper Train Upgrade (CBSK)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
- Silk Road and Beyond (CBSR)
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. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
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 comforts of home are more of a rarity. English isn't common and the food will be quite different to home. It's important to observe some of the local customs to not cause offence. Many of the locals’ standard of living may be confronting.
This is a demanding trip, which is suitable for the experienced traveller. The affects of altitude, long days of travel overland in cramped conditions over extremely rough roads, accommodation in shared home stays and yurt that vary in quality from the basic to the very basic and the possibility of severe and sudden climate changes means that this is definitely not a trip for the armchair traveller. Be prepared for no showers for several days and possible itinerary changes should weather or local events require. You will be travelling through countries that speak little or no English, where transport often runs only when it is full (and often overflowing), where hotels and restaurants have very different ideas of service and amenities, where the plumbing can sometimes be temperamental and the power will often just vanish. Many of the places we visit are not used to people travelling outside of large coach tours so they will be uncertain of how to deal with us. Bureaucracy is rife and border crossings sometimes seem never-ending. This is a very challenging trip covering a wide range of peoples, cultures, religious and political beliefs. If you are able to bring with you a lot of patience and a huge sense of humour, then your experience will be greatly enhanced.
This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
You need to have a good level of fitness and be in excellent health to take part in this trip. It's important that you are able to carry your own luggage (pack light!) as there is a lot of local transport on this trip and you will need to be able to take it on and off vehicles and trains as well as negotiate steps and train platforms etc.
You also need to be able to cope with extremes in temperature as we will be experiencing varying climates from extreme heat (up to 45C) to altitudes of over 3000m. Travel days and border crossings can also be long and hot.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
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 for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
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.
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 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.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is 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. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: - we suggest 5% to 10% of your bill, however check if a service charge has already been added. In China tipping in restaurants is not common practice.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$1-2 (Central Asia), CNY5-10 (China) per person per day for local guides with the amount adjusted accordingly for guides who are with you for less than a full day.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest RUB30-50 (Russia)/US$1-2 (Mongolia, Central Asia)/ CNY5-10 (China) per person per activity day for local guides. Adjust the amount accordingly for guides who are with you for less than a full day.
Porters: In some hotels in China a porter may offer to carry your bag to your room. We suggest CNY5 per bag for porters.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of RUB50/US$2 (Russia/Mongolia/Central Asia) or CNY5 (China) per person per day is generally appropriate. Adjust the amount accordingly for drivers who are with you for less than a full day.
Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline $US3-5, or the equivalent in any currency used on the trip, per person, per day can be used.
Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
CHINESE NATIONAL HOLIDAYS:
Please note that China's national holidays are the peak travel season for Chinese nationals. During this time, literally the whole country is on the move - that's over a billion people. Although these are fascinating and exciting times to travel in China, please be aware your group will almost definitely experience transport delays and massive crowds at tourist attractions and train stations. It's common for there to be difficulties in securing train or flight tickets at our preferred times, hotels become overbooked, traffic chaotic and changes to the itinerary are often necessary as a result. If clockwork organisation is important to you we advise you book outside of the weeks of the extended Chinese New Year in January/February, in the first week of May and the first week of October. If you decide to travel during this period please come with an open mind and be prepared for changes on the ground.
REGISTRATION IN UZBEKISTAN:
Please note that immigration in Uzbekistan requires all travellers to register at each point of stay in the country. You will be given a small registration slip at each hotel which you must keep for presentation when exiting the country if requested. Failure to do so may result in delays at the border or possible fines.
CENTRAL ASIAN IMMIGRATION & CUSTOMS:
As Central Asian immigration and customs officials are notoriously strict, please make sure you keep all forms for when you exit the country. A lost customs or immigration form could arise in a fine or being detained at the border. You must also declare ALL currency when entering and exiting the country; keep all currency exchange slips or ATM receipts.
Please ensure that you provide a clear scanned copy of the personal details of your passport to Intrepid or your agent at the time of booking. This copy is used to process the letter of invitation necessary for to obtain your Uzbekistan visa en route as well as to book the flight from Bishkek to Tashkent. If we do not receive this when you book your trip there is a risk that you will be unable to have your visa issued or secure your flight ticket with the rest of the group.
Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
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. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit:
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own room (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Hotel (14 nts), Guesthouse (4 nts), Overnight sleeper train (4 nts), Yurt (2 nts), Homestay (1 nt)
OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
Please note that at our homestays you might be required to share a room with people of the opposite sex, or with your leader. Because we stay at real people's homes, beds might be pull-out couches or mattresses on the floor, or even a yurt in their backyard. Some of the accommodation along the way is very basic, staying in local guesthouses, yurts and homestays with limited facilities. Some facilities are shared and some accommodation has cold water only or no bathroom facilities.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we are arriving prior to normal check in time. However this is not always possible which means we will not be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination. If you have purchased pre or post trip accommodation, you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
HARD SLEEPER TRAINS CHINA:
We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys. These are not as rough as they sound - compartments are open-plan, clean, with padded berths (6 to a compartment), sheets, a blanket and hot water available. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet as the quality/cleanliness of sheets may not be what you are used to. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals or snacks are available. While we always try to have our groups staying together there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages. While railway services are rapidly being modernised in China, some train journeys in particular between less visited destinations may use older rolling stock and the carriages of a more basic standard.
SOFT SLEEPER UPGRADE:
An optional upgrade from a hard sleeper to a soft sleeper berth (4 travellers per compartment with a lockable door) may be available for some overnight train journeys on this trip for those who are after a little more comfort. Travellers who are interested in purchasing this upgrade should be aware of the following:
- Soft sleeper carriages are often at the other end of the train from hard sleeper class where those travellers who have not booked the upgrade, along with the group leader, will be staying. If you've purchased the upgrade it's likely that you'll be away from the other members of the group and without the services of your group leader while on the train.
- At many railway stations in China, soft sleeper passengers board the train separately from those in other carriage classes. If you have purchased the upgrade it's likely that you'll need to board the train on your own. Your group leader will give you instructions but may not be able to assist you in boarding and alighting the train.
- Soft sleeper compartments have 4 berths. If you've purchased the upgrade you'll be sharing a compartment with locals or other travellers. Compartments are not segregated by gender so please be aware you could be sharing with members of the opposite sex.
- While we aim to book tickets for all travellers who have purchased the upgrade in the same carriages and compartments, please note that we aren't able to guarantee this due to high demand for tickets on some routes and at peak times.
- We are unable to offer the upgrade during the busy times for train travel in China including New Years, May National holidays, Summer holidays and October national holidays.
- This service is only available for travellers who have purchased the upgrade prior to joining the trip. On rare occasions it may be possible to upgrade to a different carriage class once on the train itself for an additional cost paid to the train conductor but this can't be guaranteed and and shouldn't be relied on as an option. If you would like to ensure you travel soft sleeper class on all train journeys you will need to purchase the upgrade at time of booking your trip.
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.
17 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 7 Dinners
Budget for meals not included:
There are some simple breakfasts included on this trip which usually comprise bread, butter, jam, coffee/tea and juice (or similar).
The Central Asian diet relies heavily on meat based dishes. There are options available for vegetarians, however these may at times be limited to bread, fruit, nuts, yoghurt, cheese, eggs etc. Vegetarians or those with particular dietary needs may choose to supplement meals with supplies bought from home or stock up at markets and supermarkets as you go (ie protein bars, dried fruits, etc)
Train, Bus, Minibus, Taxi, Minivan, Overnight sleeper train, Plane, Private Bus, Metro
LONG TRAVEL DAYS
There are some long travel days and some of the transport can be quite cramped and without air-conditioning.
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
KaiChuang Golden Street Business Hotel 北京凯创金街商务酒店
32 Baishu Lane
Joining point description
Centrally located in downtown Beijing's Wangfujing District, the Kaichuang Golden Street Business Hotel is close to many historical and cultural landmarks, including the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. The hotel is also within easy reach of the CBD and Financial Street and a few minutes walk to the nearest subway stations. The hotel offers comfortable rooms including ensuite, TV & AC. Hotel rooms may include a vanity pack which are not complimentary. You will be charged at checkout if you open or use the vanity pack.
Joining point instructions
Beijing Capital International airport is located north-east of Beijing, 25 km from the city centre. One of the biggest airports in the world, it is relatively easy to navigate and many signs are written in English. Most international flights arrive at Terminal 3.
An arrival transfer from the airport is available if arranged at the time of booking. Transfers cannot be arranged on arrival. Please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your departure. If you plan to arrive earlier, this arrival transfer can only be offered in conjunction with pre-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid.
If you have pre-purchased an arrival transfer, our local operator, Ms Qi (Ms Chee), will have sent a driver to the airport who will be holding a sign with the Intrepid logo and your name on it. If you arrive at Terminal 2, please meet your driver at the entrance/exit #7 after you go through the baggage claim area. Please note that Beijing Airport is very crowded so please be patient. If you have any problems finding the driver go to the information desk at door #7 and ask them to call Ms Qi on her mobile. If you arrive at Terminal 3, please meet your driver in front of the white jade screen wall with the dragon pattern, after you walk through Exit B. Exit B is the only international arrival gate in Terminal 3. If you have any problems finding the driver go to the information desk on the right side of Exit B and ask them to call Ms Qi on her mobile (+86) 13671299816.
If making your own way to the hotel:
By bus, take airport bus route 2 (CNY16) to Dongzhimen or route 3 to Beijing Railway Station, then it's a short taxi ride to our joining point hotel (CNY 15, approx 10 minutes.
By subway, Take the Airport Express to Dong Zhi Men Station. Change to Line 2 at this station, then to Line 5 at Lama Temple. From Lama Temple station, take the train to the direction of Songjiazhuang, and get off at Dengshikou Station. Turn left from Exit A, and take the first left at Baishu Hutong, which is a narrow lane. Walk down this lane for about 200m, you'll see the Kaichuang Golden Street Business Hotel on your left (Hotel name is on the top of the building in Yellow )
Metered taxis are available outside the airport terminal building. The taxi ride from the airport to our starting point hotels takes about 45 minutes and should cost around CNY80-100 (plus CNY10 for the airport expressway toll). Show the taxi driver the address of the hotel in Chinese characters as shown below. **PLEASE AVOID TAXI TOURS THAT TELL YOU THEY HAVE A METERED TAXI PARKED OUTSIDE THE AIRPORT**
Check-in time is 2pm.
Please note local language address for Kaichuang Golden Street Business Hotel below which is useful to show to a taxi driver or to ask for directions:
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, following the Joining Instructions in these Trip Notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
45 Мusakhanov street
Amir Timur Square
Phone: +998 (71) 113 1111
Finish point description
Hotel Uzbekistan is a mid-range 16 floor hotel located right in the centre of Tashkent near the Amir Timur metro station. The Navoi Ballet & Opera Theatre is in walking distance as are a number of shops and eateries. The hotel is 10 km from Tashkent International Airport.
Finish point instructions
We are unable to offer pre-booked departure transfers as Tashkent International Airport is close to the hotel and it's simple to organise a taxi through the hotel. Expect to pay US$5-10 for the trip. There is also public bus №67 (UZS500) to the airport - the bus stop is approx 5 min walk distance from the hotel near to the Town Hall. Please note that the public bus schedule is not reliable and there can be long delays between buses.
Please note that only EUR and USD are accepted at the airport shops and cafes.
Check out time from the hotel is 12 noon. If you are departing later luggage storage can be arranged at the hotel.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
CHINA - SILK ROAD:
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance
When filling out the visa application form, please list the hotel in China specified in the start, continuing or finishing point listed in the Trip Notes as the "company or person to visit in China". You require a single entry visa to complete this trip.
As this trip travels to Xinjiang province, a politically sensitive region of China, we recommend that you only list Beijing and Xi'an as the destinations to be visited on your Chinese visa application. Once you have obtained your visa there are no restrictions on visiting the destinations outside of these cities when on your tour.
If submitting your visa form in person with your local consulate, please check beforehand whether you need to make an appointment.
KYRGYZSTAN - SILK ROAD
Australia: No - not required
Belgium: No - not required
Canada: No - not required
Germany: No - not required
Ireland: No - not required
Netherlands: No - not required
New Zealand: No - not required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: No - not required
United Kingdom: No - not required
USA: No - not required
The Kyrgyz government recently changed its laws to allow citizens of many countries to visit Kyrgyzstan without a visa for a duration of up to 60 days.
Citizens of the following countries require a visa (maximum stay up to 90 days) which can be obtained at the Embassy without an invitation letter - Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Cyprus, Indonesia, Israel, Macedonia, Mexico, Montenegro, Oman, Philippines, Romania, San Marino, South Africa, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey, Venezuela.
Foreign nationals of other countries not listed should check their requirements at their nearest embassy.
If you do require a visa we strongly advise that you obtain your visa in advance. Visas are valid for 3 months prior to the arrival date. Some nationalities may need to present an invitation letter - please contact us should this be required.
UZBEKISTAN - SILK ROAD JOURNEY and THE SILK ROAD BEIJING TO MOSCOW
Australia: Yes - on arrival
Belgium: Yes - on arrival
Canada: Yes - on arrival
Germany: Yes - on arrival
Ireland: Yes - on arrival
Netherlands: Yes - on arrival
New Zealand: Yes - on arrival
South Africa: Yes - on arrival
Switzerland: Yes - on arrival
United Kingdom: Yes - on arrival
USA: Yes - on arrival
You will apply for your individual tourist visa for Uzbekistan while on the trip at the consulate in Bishkek so you do not need to obtain the visa prior to joining the trip. Visas will be valid for the period of the tour plus 2 days. This can only be extended to longer if you book additional accommodation through Intrepid at the same time you book your trip. Otherwise you will need to arrange your departure from Uzbekistan within two days of the tour finishing. Visa extensions are not available.
You are required to provide a scanned passport copy and reference letter from your employer (or place of study) to Intrepid at the time of booking so we can apply for the required visa invitations - we also use this information to assist with the visa applications while on the trip. Please also bring 2 passport photos for the Uzbekistan visa. No employment reference letter is required if you are retired, but please let Intrepid know when providing your passport copy. If you are self-employed please provide a letter stating this on a business letterhead.
While Intrepid assists with the application process, travellers are required to pay the relevant visa fees once on the trip which can vary depending on nationality of the traveller.
At the time of publishing the cost is approx US$100 for the Uzbekistan visa.
Issues on your trip
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.
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 and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
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.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
TRAVELLING ON LOCAL TRANSPORT:
It's important that your bags can be locked, as on local transport it may be necessary to store your luggage separately (and unattended) from the group. The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers, for when it comes to travelling on local buses and trains it's often only the smaller bags that will fit into the storage areas. If your bag does not fit in these areas then often the only place to put it is on your bed or seat. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.
Where Intrepid covers the cost of luggage storage for included day trips, we allow for one bag/backpack only, so it's advisable that you travel lightly and keep luggage to a limit of one item (plus your day pack). Extra luggage storage will be at your own expense.
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
IMAGES FROM HOME:
During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and talk with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos / postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.
The diet and hygiene standards of Central Asia may be very different from what you are used to so please take care with washing hands before meals etc and bring some medication/re hydration salts etc should you experience stomach problems.
Giardia intestinalis, a parasite that can cause diarrhoea, is reported from time to time in the water supply and which may not be eradicated by purification methods such as tablets or iodine are used. For this reason Intrepid recommends against drinking unboiled tap water in all Central Asian cities.
There have recently been a number of isolated cases of Bird Flu in Asia. While the risk to travellers is very low, we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of local authorities and the World Health Organisation. WHO recommends basic hygiene practices to limit the risk of infection:
• Avoid visiting live animal markets and poultry farms
• Avoid contact with surfaces contaminated with animal faeces
• Do not eat or handle undercooked or raw poultry, egg or duck dishes
• Do not attempt to bring any poultry products back
• Do not pick up or touch dead or dying birds
• Exercise good personal hygiene with frequent hand washing
For further information please visit: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/avian_influenza/en/index.html
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. 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 group 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 group 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:
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.
Some hotel balconies don't meet UK standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
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!
Pay attention on all roads, even small streets and alleyways. Vehicles find their ways into impossibly small passages leaving no room for both you and the traffic. Traffic can be very noisy and horns are used to signal turning, overtaking and to announce going through intersections.
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in the western world or from your home country and not all the transport which we use provides seat belts.
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 and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
HORSE RIDING: Horse riding is an option available to groups on this trip. Please note however that horse riding is usually not covered by your travel insurance and helmets are not always available. If riding without a helmet is a concern then you should bring our own.
You may stay at hotels with unfenced pools and no life guard on duty.
SCAMS IN CHINA
While China is generally a very safe city to travel around, there are a couple of scams to avoid, especially in major tourist cities. If any young people (usually in couples) around tourist sites claim to be Art Students and want to take you to their "special exhibition", they may end up aggressively selling overpriced prints in their 'showroom'. Also, if you find you are approached by young people who say they want to practice their English, be wary if they suggest going to a Chinese tea ceremony or go for a drink, where a few small cups of tea/coffee/beer may end up costing you several hundred US$. Always ask the prices before agreeing to any service. And if you are to refuse, just say no gently and firmly, avoid eye contact and quickly walk away.
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 group 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.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
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:
We recommend that you dress respectfully at all stages of the trip especially when in and around religious sites. In Central Asia both men and women generally dress very conservatively by covering their legs and shoulders. Women are advised to cover their heads when entering functioning Orthodox churches and mosques, while men should remove their hats.
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 has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
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$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Carbon Offset C02-e 1244.00 kgs per pax.
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