Last Modified: 25 Apr 2016
Mountain Kingdoms of Kyrgyzstan
Trip code: KDOC
Validity: 01 Jan 2011 to 31 Dec 2016
Get right off the beaten track on this challenging tour into Central Asia's mountainous hinterland. Beginning in Bishkek, we travel through Chong Kemin and the imposing Kyrgyzstan mountains. From the high country we head through Jeti-Oghuz Valley, experiencing local life on a homestay and exploring the lush pastures of the Fergana Valley, before finally reaching the quirky capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. If an outside-of-the-box travel adventure through 'the Stans' is what you're after - then this is it.
Table of Contents
Why we love it
- Wander the wide streets of Bishkek
- Camp among apple orchards and haystacks in Aksai Village
- Camp by the serene shores of Issyk-Kul Lake
- Soak up the charming atmosphere of Karakol
- Go hiking in Jeti-Oghuz Valley
- Live the nomadic life and overnight in a yurt
- Admire the imposing Kyrgyzstan mountain
- Shop for Soviet memorabilia in Tashkent
Day 1 Bishkek
Border Information: if joining in Bishkek, you will most likely enter Kyrgyzstan
at Bishkek Manas International Airport.
There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting. The rest of the day is free for you to explore this relaxed and atmospheric city. In Bishkek we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
Hotel for the night: Hotel Asia Mountains
Hotel Asia Mountains (Отель Горы Азии)
1a Lineinaja St (Улица Линейная 1А, (на пересечении с улицой Гоголя))
Tel: +996 312 690 235 or +996 312 690 234
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2-3 Chong Kemin Valley & Ala Archa Gorge
Learn all about the 20th-century history of Kyrgyzstan at the Mikhail Frunze museum, dedicated to the Bolshevik genera whose name Bishkek bore until the city was renamed after independence
Explore the vast Osh Bazaar, Bishkek's largest market
Stroll around the Soviet-built Panfilov Park in Bishkek
Explore Bishkek's past at the State Historical Museum on Ala-Too Square KGS 150
Visit the 9th-century Burana Tower outside of Bishkek, the minaret that is all that remains of the ancient
Karakhanid city of Balasagun
About Bishkek: Bishkek is the relaxed capital of Krygyzstan with a pleasant laid-back atmosphere. The city centres around Ala-too Square, previously known as Lenin's Square under the previous Soviet zegime. Lenin used to stand in his concrete overcoat in the middle of the square, proudly gesturing towards the mountains. For those interested in their Soviet memorabilia, a larger than life Frunze can also be found still sitting on a bronze horse facing the train station, though his name plaque has been removed - and you can still visit the museum built over Frunze's birthplace. A pleasant place to watch the world go by is Dubovy (Oak) Park, where you'lll find a few open air cafes, perfect spot to sit and have a drink and soak up the atmosphere. The century old oaks here and all along Freedom Avenue make Bishkek one of the greenest cities in Central Asia.
The next 2 days will need to be fairly flexible. Many 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 general guide, we will most likely spend our first night camping in stunning mountainous Ala Archa National Park near to Bishkek. We will then return to Bishkek on Day 3 in order to submit our visa applications. Once this is process is
complete we will continue to Chong Kemin National Park, where we will have free time to explore and hike in this beautiful area, or to get involved in an optional white water rafting excursion if time allows
In Chong Kemin and Ala Archa we will wild camp. If it is too cold or simply preferred by the group, we may choose to camp in the grounds of a guesthouse in Ashu, a village in the Chong Kemin valley, where there could be the possibility to upgrade to rooms.Drive times - 4-5 hours each day (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!).
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nt)
Day 4 Karakol
Get off the beaten track with 3 nights wild camping and a leisurely overland journey through the stunning mountains and National Parks of Kyrgyzstan Included in Kitty
Explore the beautiful Chong Kemin valley on horseback (if helmets available) KGS 300
Head out on a white-water rafting adventure through the stunning Chong Kemin valley KGS 1800
Walk around the incredible scenery of the Chong Kemin valley. Enjoy a stunning day of wild camping and hiking in the beauty of the Ala Archa Gorge
About Chong Kemin Valley:
Chong Kemin lies within the Tian Shan mountain range seperating Kyrgyzstan and Kazakstan. Their peaks reach above the legendary threshold of 7000 m elevation in its ruggerd run towards China.
This spectacular valley is famed for it's natural beauty, abundant wildlife and rich, varied flora. This is the reason why Chong Kemin Natrional Park was founded in 1977. The valley offers several trekking possibilities from easy short walks along the Chong Kemin River to adventurous and tough hikes over 4000m passes, ceratinly not for the faint hearted. Recently white water rafting has become a popular
activity for visitors in the area, However if it's a more relaxing experience you are after, exploring this stunning valley on horseback is a great alternative. Today we will drive to the northern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul and visit the ancient petroglyphs at Cholpon-Ata. We will then continue to the Russian-style town of Karakol, where we will have a free evening to explore and relax! In Karakol we will stay in a decent local hotel. Drive time - 7-8 hours.
Journey around the whole of Lake Issyk Kol via the Russian-style town of Karakol Included in Kitty
Explore the ancient rock petroglyphs at Cholpon Ata on the northern shore of Issyk Kol Lake Included in Kitty
Kara-Kol is a picturesque town surrounded by orchards and mountains, with a delightful Russian church and gracious colonial houses on tree-lined streets sloping up towards glaciers and pine forests.
About Cholpon Ata:
Issyk-Kul Lake is one of the biggest natural water reservoirs in the world at 170kms long and 70km wide. Issyk-Kul means "warm lake" in the local language; a combination of extreme depth, thermal activity and mild salinity means the lake never freezes. On the shores of the lake is the small town of Cholpon Ata, a favourite holiday spot with the locals. The area has a number of health resorts and spas and there are also some interesting rock inscriptions dating back to 500BC close nearby - however most people come here for the beaches. These may not be the virgin, palm fringed beaches of other destinations, but they are unique in their own right and a great place for a spot of rest and
relaxation in this land-locked mountain kingdom.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 5-6 Jeti-Oghuz Valley
Today we drive up into the mountains to the alpine trekking region of Jeti- Oghuz. The next day we will have a free day to hike in the incredible scenery here, or take an optional horse ride with some of the local nomads! In Jeti-Oghuz we will camp close to a local family yurt. Drive time - 5 hours. Please note that on trips in the low season we may not be able to camp in Jeti- Oghuz due to low temperatures. If this is the case, we will take a stunning and incredible drive up a mountain in a Russian 4x4 truck to Altyn Arashan, a hot spring development in a stunning alpine setting, staying in dormitory accommodation. We will then stay for 1 night in a local hotel at the base of Jeti-Oghuz Valley (allowing time for some day walks).
Trek into the wilds of the stunningly-beautiful Jeti-Oghuz Gorge on the edge of the Tian Shan mountains Included in Kitty
Explore the incredible mountain landscapes of the Jeti- Oghuz valley by horseback (if helmets available) KGS 800
About Jeti-Oghuz Valley:
Seven spectacular red sandstone cliffs stand guard over the entrance to the Jeti-Oghuz Valley. Local tradition says that the cliffs were once wild bulls, immobilised by the gods to stop them terrorising local yurt dwellers. The base of this stunning canyon lies on the northern slopes of the Terskei Ala-Too range,
surrounded by a broad valley and majestic snow-capped mountains. The valley is a fantastic place for camping and hiking, exploring the valleys and canyon by foot you'll be able to admire the unusual rock formations and alpine peaks.
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nt)
Day 7 Kochkor
Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, where we stay in local familyrun guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality! En route we will have an included demonstation from a local 'eagle hunter'. 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. We may also have the opportunity here to see some excellent local musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz folk music and to see how a yurt is put up! In Kochkor we will stay in family-run guesthouses, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.
Drive time - 7 hours.
Stay at an overnight homestay at a traditional rural Kyrgyz village Included in Kitty
See the traditional felt workshops or Kochkor and learn about how Kyrgyz carpets and hats are typically made here Included in Kitty
Visit a folklore demonstration near Kockhor where you can learn all about the handicrafts of the area, see a fantastic outdoor concert of traditional music and help to erect a yurt! KGS 1000
See an incredible demonstration from a traditional eagle hunter near Kochkor Included in Kitty
About Kochkor Homestay:
Kochkor is a sleepy little Kyrgyz village and looks very much like the paintings of traditional Kyrgyz life seen in various museums and art galleries throughout the country. 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. The Kyrgyz have embraced Responsible Tourism and actively encourage travellers to stay in the homes of local people. There is an excellent local animal market and a traditional felt making enterprise which we usually visit. Here they make a variety of the different felts used for making yurts, rugs, carpets and souvenirs.
Homestay (1 nt)
Day 8-9 Song Kul Lake
Today we will drive to the incredible Song-Kul Lake, where we will spend the next two nights. We will have free time here to explore the area, and to enjoy some optional activities including hiking, horse-riding or watching a game of goat polo! At Song-Kul we will stay in traditional felt yurts. Drive time - 6-7 hours. Please note that trips during the low season will not be able to visit Song-Kul Lake, as temperatures will be below freezing, the road will be snowed over, and there will be no yurts to stay in! Instead we will likely stay in yurts on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.
Yurt (2 nt)
Day 10-12 Kyrgyz Fergana Valley
Experience a slice of the daily life of the Kyrgyz mountain shepherds at Song Kol Lake Included in Kitty
Witness the unbelievable game of mountain polo, traditionally played with a goat's head (if available) USD 20
About Song Kol Lake: Song Kol lake is one of the loveliest spots in central Kyrgyzstan. The lake and
shore are part of the Song Kol zoological reserve. All around the lake are lush pastures favoured by local nomadic herders, who come here in the summer with their animals. On Dragoman overland trips we spend a couple of days staying in felt yurts, learning about the local culture and traditions. We might get to see the local men play a game of "ulak-Tartys" (goat polo) or have a chance to ride out with the shepherds on their small hardy ponies, or you might prefer to explore the surrounding area on foot, hiking in the hills. Song Kol really is a sublime and unique spot, it is a truly magical place where you are guaranteed to have travel experiences that you will never forget. We will spend the next 3 days overlanding through the stunning and remote Kyrgyz Ferghana Valley, stopping often to admire the views and perhaps take some impromptu hikes in the hills and countryside. During these days we plan to wild camp en route. Please note that trips running in low season (May to mid-June and October to November), we may not be able to camp if temperatures are too low, in which case we will stay in local guesthouses along the route instead. Drive times - 4-8 hours per day.
Get off the beaten track with 3 nights wild camping and a leisurely overland journey through the stunning mountains and National Parks of Kyrgyzstan Included in Kitty
Bush camp (no facilities) (3 nt)
Day 13 Arslanbob
Today we will complete our drive to Arslanbob in Kyrgyzstan's Ferghana Valley - if we have had a slow journey in the previous days with lots of stops, we may choose to stay in the closer town of Jalalabad instead. In Arslanbob we will stay overnight in a local family-run guesthouse. Drive time - 6-7 hours
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 14 Fergana City
Border information: Exit Kyrgyzstan at Dustlik, enter Uzbekistan at Andijon. Today we will have a full day's drive across the Uzbek border to the eastern city of Ferghana. In Ferghana we will stay in a basic local hotel Drive time - 8 hours.
Visit the beautiful and ornate Palace of Khudayar Khan in Kokand UZS 3000
Explore the impressive 19th-century Juma Mosque in Kokand in the stunning Ferghana Valley UZS 1000
See the silk-weavers of the Ferghana Valley at the Yodgorlik Silk Factory
About Ferghana City:
Similar to the Uzbek capital Tashkent, Ferghana is a modern city, far-removed from the ancient Silk Road cities of Bukhara and Samarkand. The town is located in the Fergahana Valley, a broad bowl thousands of kilometres wide surrounded by far off mountain peaks. Nearly 90% of people who live here are indigenous Uzbek's and the communities here are typically very welcoming and hosptiable. A very fertile area, the land is highly cultivated and used to produce fruit and vegetables and cotton. The textile industry thrives here and there are some exceptional craftspeople weaving beautiful fabrics. It may be possible for you to visit a local factory or workshop where you will be able to see how silkand other fabrics are still hand-woven and dyed here.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 15 Tashkent
This morning we travel in local transport to Kokand, where we will have the oppurtunity to visit the Khudayar Khan's Palace and the nearby Margilan Silk Factory before completing the journey over the Kamchik Pass to Tashkent, the Uzbek capital. The truck must pass over the Kamchik Pass without passengers and will rejoin us this evening in Tashkent. In Tashkent we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities. Drive time - 6 hours.
Tashkent was once the fourth largest city in the Soviet Union. Whilst the historic cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva still retain much of the atmosphere of the ancient Khanates, Tashkent is very definitely a Soviet city, because old Tashkent was largely destroyed by a series of earthquakes and
Soviet planners. Having said that, it is still a great place to visit. The city has a clean, modern feel and there is some unusal contemporary architecture here, which makes it an interesting contrast to many other places along the Silk Road. The city markets (especially the Chorsu Bazaar) are well worth strolling around, you can get some excellent souvenirs here as there is a huge amount of Soviet ephemera on sale, ranging from entire Soviet stamp collections, old paintings of Lenin, through to Military uniforms. You should also try to plan a journey that involves a trip on the metro, so you can take in the impressive architecture and decoration of the Tashkent underground. Then after a busy
day sightseeing, you might like to head out for a meal at one of the old Imperial Russian style nightclub/restaurants which often put on some unbelievably risqué cabaret
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 16 Tashkent
Border Information: if finishing in Tashkent, you will most likely exit Uzbekistan at Tashkent International Airport. Today we will have free time to explore Tashkent. Please note that if you are
leaving in Tashkent, today is the last day of the trip and there is no accommodation included tonight.
Explore the delightful traditional farmer's market at the Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent's Old Town
See the grand 16th-century Kukeldash Madrassa and the city's principal Juma Mosque in the Old Town
Visit the religious centre of Tashkent at Hast Imam Square and see the Uthman Koran, believed to be the world's oldest extant copy of the Koran
Take in an opera performance at the neoclassical Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theater
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.
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.
In Central Asia you will need to be healthy enough to cope with extremes of climate, from hot deserts through to cold of the high mountains. Overland travelling can be demanding - long, rough travel days and dusty conditions can be challenging to some. You will 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. By and large, our Central Asia trips have a good range of hotel accommodation mixed up with camping, so that life is not too rough.
1.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.
2. 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.
Maximum of 22 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.
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 accommodation (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.
Bush camp (no facilities) (7nt), Guesthouse (1nt), Homestay (1nt), Hotel (4nt), Yurt (2nt)
Dragoman overland trips are designed for shared accommodation, whether camping or staying in hotels, ranging from twin to multishare. 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 hotels.
In Asia it is often not practical to camp when staying in towns and cities, so we use hotel accommodation and eat out in local restaurants. The frequency and regularity of 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. We will also arrange as many village or local homestays as possible, allowing us to get close to indigenous populations and ensures our money stays within local communities.
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.
On an overland journey you are more than just a passenger, you’re part of the crew - pitching in to set up camp, shopping
for food, cooking and generally helping out. We operate a rota system, dividing the group into smaller units of 5 or 6 people,
so that these duties are shared equally amongst the group. These jobs will include things like collecting water and
firewood, loading the back locker, supervising the kitty and food stores etc. While camping on overland journeys, all
meals will be included in the kitty and this means that you will be working as a group to prepare meals and cook for
your group. If you have any dietary requirements please tell us at the time of booking and also remind your crew
at your welcome meeting.
A typical camp breakfast might be toast with spreads, cereal and something hot such as eggs
or pancakes as well as tea and coffee. Lunch is almost always a sandwich heaped high with healthy salad and assorted
fillings, with fruit to follow. Dinner might be a BBQ, risotto, pasta dish and there is always the chance to try some local
cooking. Generally our passengers find the more they put into a trip, the more they benefit for it.
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.
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.
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.
It is not really worth trying to buy local currencies before you travel. Do also bear in mind that many countries have strict regulations about the amount of their own local currency you are allowed to import - if you are found with amounts in excess of the allowed amounts, it may well be confiscated!
For obvious security reasons we hesitate to recommend you bring lots of cash with you, a sensible mix of cash, travellers cheques and ATM cards is best. However, most of our past passengers have said they wished they had been told to bring more cash. Apart from the convenience of being able to change money in many more places, you will sometimes get a much better exchange rate for cash. Note that for trips in Central Asia it's virtually impossible to use traveller's cheques or find ATMs. We therefore recommend that you bring cash in US$.
You should take a mixture of denomination notes. Banks and money-changers in most countries will now only accept bills with a metallic strip running top to bottom of the bill and which are dated from 2003 or later. You should not take worn or damaged notes, or any that have been written on. Cash machines are available in some areas but are not always reliable therefore we recommend that you do not rely on them as your only source of cash. Credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express are the most commonly accepted, but be prepared for very high commission charges.
Please do not rely on cards for daily use, as they are not always accepted outside of larger towns and cities. Please bring a mixture of small and large denominations as in more remote areas it can be hard to change amounts over $50.
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.
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 are 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
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.
One of the real advantages of overland travel is that the vehicle provides a very real level of security when travelling. There is no doubt that a properly equipped overland vehicle, with safes, fully lockable doors and windows is an obvious advantage when travelling in much of the world.
Any personal effects that are left on the truck, even if they are stored in the safe, are left at your own risk and Dragoman cannot be held responsible for any damage or theft that may occur.
The safety of our passengers, leaders and operators is a major priority. With this in mind we monitor world events very closely. By the very nature of the adventure travel that we take, there are risks and hazards that are inherent in our itineraries. Dragoman makes operational decisions based on informed advice from a number of sources:
- The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice
- Reports from other travel companies and local suppliers
- Leaders reports from off the road
- Local contacts we have built up over 30 years of experience
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. You should always make yourself aware of the travel advice before you book and again before you travel.
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:
Hotel Asia Mountains Отель Горы Азии
1a, Lineinaja Street Улица Линейная 1А, (на пересечении с улицой Гоголя)
Phone: +996 312 69 02 34
Grand Orzu Hotel
27 Makhmud Tarobi Street
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: email@example.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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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
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
+998 71 120 8877
Grand Orzu Hotel
27 Makhmud Tarobi Street
+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:
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.
Temperatures can be low in the winter months, especially at altitude, so bring a set of warmer clothes including thermal underclothes and a fleece jacket.
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.
Climate and seasonal information
CHANGE TO ITINERARY:
Please note that the itinerary for this trip has changed since the brochure was released. The government travel warning on the southern region of Kyrgyzstan has been lifted and we are again able to visit the Ferghana Valley region. As a result we will no longer be visiting Kazakhstan.
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.
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.
Parts of your trip go above 2800 metres / 9200 feet where it is common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude - regardless of your age, gender and fitness. It even happened to Sir Edmund Hillary!
Before your trip:
Some pre-existing medical conditions are known to severely worsen at high altitude and be difficult to adequately treat on the ground, leading to more serious consequences. It is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition/s with your doctor. We understand certain medications are reported to aid acclimatizing to high altitude. Please discuss these options with your doctor.
During your trip.
While our leaders have basic first aid training and are aware of the closest medical facilities, it is very important that you are aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude, monitor your health and seek assistance accordingly.
Please read the following document carefully and, during your trip, utilise the table on the back daily to record your own perspective of your general health and any symptoms you may experience:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.