Istanbul to Bishkek Trip Notes

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Last Modified: 30 Oct 2012
Istanbul to Bishkek
Trip code: EDOKC
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Dec 2012
Get off the beaten track and explore the ancient cultures and modern cities of the Central Asia and the Middle East. Beginning with the bustling bazaars of Istanbul, this Overland quest follows the ancient silk road across desert landscapes, mountain kingdoms and remote valleys. See the Persian splendour of Persepolis, navigate Uzbekistan’s mountain passes and explore futuristic Ashgabat - this remote part of the world is brimming with surprises. From Turkey to Turkmenistan and beyond, this adventure will challenge perceptions and broaden horizons.
This trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Dragoman shares Intrepid's ethos for adventure travel and has many years' expertise in overlanding.
Table of Contents
StyleImportant notesEmergency funds
ThemesGroup sizeVisas
MapYour fellow travellersIssues on your trip
ItinerarySingle travellersWhat to take
Itinerary disclaimerAccommodationHealth
Culture shock rating Meals introductionSafety
Physical ratingMealsTravel insurance
Physical preparationTransportResponsible Travel
Included activitiesGroup leaderA couple of rules
KittyJoining point The Intrepid Foundation
Optional activitiesJoining point descriptionResponsible Travel projects
Money ExchangeJoining point instructionsCarbon offset
Spending moneyArrival complicationsFeedback
TippingFinish point
Departure taxEmergency contact
To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures so your leader and the composition of your group may change.
Style
Basix
  • The best value journeys on the planet! On a Basix trip you can expect amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions that you may not want. Which means budget (1-2 star) accommodation, plenty of free time, activities that are optional and the freedom to choose meals to suit your budget. On some trips you may be camping and required to set up your own tent. You'll also have access to a group leader to offer advice and help you uncover the region's hidden gems. On a Basix journey, the way you travel is all a part of the adventure. Depending on the destination and the itinerary, you could find yourself travelling on anything from a donkey to a bus or a private safari vehicle. These trips are ideal for first-time travellers seeking fun and independence with the support of a group leader. They're also ideal for independent travellers looking to make the most of their travel time with minimum hassle and maximum experiences.
Themes
Overland
Map
Istanbul to Bishkek
Itinerary
Days 1-2 Istanbul
Hosgeldinz! Welcome to Istanbul.
The trip starts at 10am with an important welcome meeting.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If your flight arrives too late, we recommend that you consider arriving a day early and book a night's accommodation prior to the trip so you are able to attend. If you are going to be late please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your kitty, insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all details on hand to provide to your leader.
Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, so it will come as no surprise that this vast metropolis is home to a beguiling mix of different cultures and traditions, blending the influences of both east and west. Originally founded by Greek settlers over 2000 years ago, Istanbul originally went by the name of Byzantium, then Constantinople when the Romans made it the capital of their eastern empire. Today, intriguing Istanbul is a bustling mega-city with a population of over 12 million people and a rich history and food scene waiting to be explored.
Our second day here is free to explore Istanbul. Perhaps take an optional walking tour of the city.
Optional Activities
  • Istanbul - Basilica Cistern - TRY10
  • Istanbul - Aya Sofya - TRY25
  • Istanbul - Blue Mosque - Free
  • Istanbul - Topkapi Palace (incl. harem) - TRY35
  • Guided walking tour - USD33
  • Istanbul - Bosphorus boat cruise - TRY10
Accommodation
Hostel (2 nts)
Day 3 Tuz Golu/Bush Camp
A relaxing final morning spent in Istanbul, in the early afternoon we head East towards Goreme, stopping at Tuz Golu en route. Tonight we will be wild camping en route.
Lake Tuz is the third largest lake in Turkey, and the phrase "Tuz Golu" means "Salt Lake". In the summer there is up to 30 cm of a salt layer on the dried lake, but as the winter months come in, it is dissolved by the waters of the lake that are fed from channels and streams around the area. The salt is important to the Central Anatolia Region, because it can be extracted and sold in local markets.
Included Activities
  • Visit to Lake Tuz
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Days 4-5 Goreme
Today we will drive approximately 330 km to Goreme staying overnight in a well-equipped campsite.
In the heart of Cappadocia, the town of Goreme lies in a fantastic region of cones, needles and columns, fashioned by nature from the soft volcanic tuff rock. It's honeycombed with caves scooped out to make churches and dwellings that are known as fairy chimneys and castles. In times of peace, the people in this region lived on the land but in times of war or persecution they took to living underground.
More modern attractions include a local winery and the workshops of local craftsmen who produce skilled onyx carving and pottery. In Urgup, near Goreme, you can also enjoy a traditional Turkish bath, sip tea while playing backgammon with the local men, or enjoy a walk through the unique scenery. We can also arrange a group evening out perhaps to one of the underground nightclubs hollowed out of the soft rock. Entertained by local Cappadocian folk dancers, you can sample traditional foods washed down with some of Turkey's excellent wines, beers and Raki.
The next day is a full day to explore Goreme, including a guided tour of the enchanted valley of Cappadocia. Second night staying at campsite with good facilities.
Included Activities
  • Goreme - Guided Goreme Valley tour
Optional Activities
  • Hot Air Ballooning - EUR120
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Days 6-7 Bush Camp
Heading, east, we overland through rural Turkey, bushcamping en route overnight.
The next day we continue our overland journey through rural Turkey, heading towards Dogubayazit. Second night bush camping en route.
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nts)
Day 8 Dogubeyazit
This morning we drive the remaining 422 km drive to Dogubeyazit, situated at the foot of Mount Ararat. Visit to Ishak Pasha palace, and also Turkish baths if time permits. Accommodation is in a good quality hotel.
Dogubayazit is a small town in eastern Turkey situated at the foot of Mount Ararat, where Noah’s Ark reputedly came to rest after The Flood. On a hill behind Dogubayazit, is the Ishak Pasha palace. This fortress was built from 1685 and was home to a Kurdish chieftain. In its heyday, it stood complete with huge golden gates, which remained in place until a Russian raid in 1917. They are now housed in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.
Included Activities
  • Ishak Pasha Palace
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 9 Kandovan
Today we cross the border into Iran and continue onwards 340 km. Tonight we wild camp in Kandovan, an ancient volcanic village.
Kandovan is one of Iran's hidden gems. The landscape around Kandovan has been shaped by volcanic eruptions and is similar to the more famous Cappadocia in Central Turkey. In this unusual spot, locals live within the caves and it is certainly one of Iran's more off the beaten track destinations.
Included Activities
  • Guided walking tour
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 10 Zanjan
Today we will drive roughly 360 km to Zanjan. We will wild camp overnight.
Zanjan is located in the north-west of Iran in a region known locally as the 'Iranian Azerbaijan'. Zanjan city is the provinces capital and lies roughly 330Km of Tehran. This thriving town is know throughout Iran for its beautiful handicrafts such as knives, traditional sandals called charoogh and malileh. Zanjan is also known for its stainless and sharp knives and can be found today in the lively bazaar and its many shops along the main streets. However perhaps its most famous exports are the stunning carpets that come from this region. Many villagers are traditional carpet weavers so this certainly would be a great place to bargain for that Persian rug you have always dreamed of.
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Days 11-12 Tehran
Today we have a 480 km drive to Tehran. We stay overnight in a comfortable hotel. We will take a walking tour of Tehran’s old town, visiting the Historic Square and national museum, either this afternoon or tomorrow morning.
Iran's capital is exciting, noisy and chaotic. Home to 15 million people, Tehran is where the country's true national identity is found. Expect to see women wearing full-length chador competing for space with young and hip girls in figure-hugging manteau and headscarves. Also expect to be stopped by friendly locals who love nothing more than to chat with you about anything and everything.
The second day here is free to explore the city.
In your free time you shouldn't miss the Golestan Palace, this extravagant fairytale of a building was historically the royal Qajar complex, the seat of the Shahs of Persia. The many museums here are also well worth a visit if you're interested in learning more about the history and culture of Iran, in particular the National Museum, Carpet Museum of Iran and Niavaran Palace Complex. Tehran is also home to the Iranian Imperial Crown Jewels, also called the Imperial Crown Jewels of Persia, claimed to be the largest, most dazzling and valuable jewel collection in the world. The collection includes crowns and thrones, 30 tiaras, jewel-studded swords and shields and a vast number of loose precious gems, including the emeralds, rubies and diamonds. The Jewels are on display in the Iranian Central Bank. For a completely different perspective on Iran today, The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art features the works of great artists such as Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.
Included Activities
  • Tehran walking tour
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 13-15 Esfahan
Most of this morning will be spent travelling as we drive from Tehran to the friendly and awe-inspiringly beautiful city of Esfahan. We will be staying here for 3 nights allowing us plenty of time to explore, basing ourselves at a friendly local hotel.
Esfahan, the pearl in the Persian crown, is quite simply one of the finest places in the Islamic world and a visit here will leave you breathless. A 16th-century rhyme called it 'half the world' and after spending a few days here, you might agree. There's an abundance of fine Islamic buildings, most of which are covered with the blue mosaic tiles Iran is famous for. There's also an enormous bazaar, which is perfect for shopping for exquisite Persian carpets, tranquil gardens, picturesque bridges and superb palaces.
A good place to start your explorations is Imam Square, with the Imam Mosque, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Ali Qapu Palace and Chehel Sotun Palace all located nearby. From the Ali Qapu Palace you can get excellent views of the bustling Meidun-e Emam Square and Esfahan's enormous covered bazaar that houses over 5km of narrow winding alleyways. The bazaar is famous for its brass work, miniature paintings, block-printed cloth and, of course, carpets. Other sights worth seeking out are the Friday Mosque and the many magnificent river bridges.
The next day we will tour the main sites in the city with our local guide. We will visit the Blue Imam Mosque, Ali Qapu Place and Jameh Mosque and Bazaar.
The third day is free to see anything you may have missed on the first two days, or to do some souvenir shopping at the souqs and bazaars.
Included Activities
  • Iman Mosque entrance and guided tour
  • Esfahan walking tour
  • Jameh Mosque
  • Ali Qapu Palace
Accommodation
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 16-17 Persepolis/Shiraz
We set off early in the morning for Shiraz visiting Persepolis en route.
Darius I built the city of Persepolis around 500 BC as the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid empire; and its wealth and opulence became legendary. It was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BC, but even today its past splendour is easily appreciated from the ruins that remain. In ancient Persia, Persepolis was called Parsa which means "The City of the Persians".
After a guided tour of the ruins we continue our drive to Shiraz. We will be staying here for two nights at a friendly local hotel.
The very name Shiraz evokes images of ancient Persia: exotic, tranquil gardens, lavish mansions, colourful woollen rugs, art, philosophy, poetry and of course, the famous Shiraz red wine (although it's no longer found here).
Shiraz is also a renowned centre of learning and boasts many of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country. Known as Iran's cultural capital, this city was home to two of Persia's most famous poets in the 13th and 14th centuries, Hafez and Saadi, whose mausoleums are found here.
If you're interested in seeing the work of some young Iranian artists, stop off at Khan-e Zinat ol-Molk, near the Orange Garden, as many of the beautifully decorated rooms here are used as galleries. Wandering the streets here can be an enjoyable way to discover the city, getting lost in the bazaar and admiring the impressive architecture, particularly some of the incredible mosques and shady gardens.
The next day is free for you to explore Shiraz, with the possibility of visiting the King of the Lamp Tomb and the Vakil Bazaar. Wandering the many markets and bazaars here will also give you a wonderful insight into the Iranian way of life.
Included Activities
  • Guided tour of ancient ruins of Persepolis
Optional Activities
  • Vakil Bazaar - Free
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 18 Zein-o-din Caravanserai
We set off very early this morning as we travel to the Zein-o-din Caravanserai, arriving late in the afternoon. Overnight in curtained off rooms in this traditional-like building.
Situated in the desolate Dasht-e Lut desert, Zein-o-din is a classic small caravanserai built during the 16th century under the orders of Shah Abbas, who was reported to have constructed 999 such hostels to promote business. The constantly mobile Silk Road travellers had a frequent need for places of rest and shelter in areas between widely spaced cities and towns. This led to the construction of many such caravanserais. Their main function was to receive travellers and store merchandise, so they were designed to be spacious enough to shelter guests, as well as goods.
A night's stay in a caravanserai is a wonderful chance to relive the age when merchants travelled the remarkable Silk Road. Most of the rooms remain unchanged from days gone by, with carpets covering raised brick floors, and heavy curtains rather than doors separate rooms from the hallway. Like Silk Road travellers before us, we'll experience a rich red sunset while the night sky fills with stars.
Meals Included
1 Breakfast
Accommodation
Caravanserai Zein-o-Din (1 nt)
Days 19-20 Yazd
This morning we have a short drive to Yazd. This beautiful, tranquil old town is the home of Iran's oldest religion, Zoroastrianism. We visit the famed tower of silence en route. We will be in Yadz for 2 nights, staying in a friendly local hotel.
The ancient desert city of Yazd was a major stop on the caravan routes to Central Asia and India during the Silk Road period - Marco Polo visited the city on his way to China - and it retains a rustic feel. It's also the heart of the Zoroastrian religion. This religion, which dates back over 4000 years, is one the world's oldest and was Iran's state religion before the arrival of Islam.
Yadz is unique for its intriguing architecture, which has been perfectly adapted to the harsh weather conditions of the surrounding desert. Wind towers, or badgirs, are a feature of most of the buildings in the old city - they trap even the gentlest of draughts and direct them into the houses below for cooling.
The next day is free in Yadz to explore the town and surrounding area. Perhaps gain an insight into this ancient town with an optional walking tour including the Jame mosque, the water museum and the Amir Chaghmagh Complex.
Optional Activities
  • Yazd walking tour including entrance to sights - Free
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 21 Dasht-e Kavir Desert/Khoor
Today we drive 305 km into the heart of the desert. We may have the chance to visit Mesr or Aroosan villages and the surrounding sand dunes along the way.
The Dasht-e Kavir Desert or Great Salt Desert lies in the middle of the Iranian plateau. The desert is part of a protected ecological zone and is named after the salt marshes located there.
Our destination is Khoor, where we spend the night.
Khoor is a small village located in the central desert of Iran, (known as Dashte-Kavir in Persian). Close by are the central mountain ranges of Iran which create for a stunning and isolated landscape. The town’s only water supply and therefore lifeline comes from a spring that flows out of the foothills of the mountains quite close to the heart of the village. This is the only source of life for the beautiful gardens and date palm orchards that make this oasis such a special place. The oasis has an old world feeling to it - as if live has been the same here for several hundreds of years.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 22 Damghan
We drive 384 km towards Damghan. There is an optional visit to the Jamrh mosque, one of the oldest in the world. Accommodation for tonight is in a comfortable hotel.
Damghan was an important city in the Middle Ages, capital of the province of Qumis. Today it is a sleepy, historic town. It's main attraction is the claim to have what may be Iran's oldest surviving mosque - the Tarikhaneh Mosque that was constructed in the 1st century after arrival of Islam. There are also several ancient minarets and tomb-towers in Damghan, similar to those built in Mazandaran province, across the Alborz Mountains to the north.
Optional Activities
  • Jamrh Mosque - Free
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 23 Shirvan
We have a 202 km drive to Shirvan. Accommodation is in a comfortable but basic hotel.
Shirvan is famed for its natural beauty due, in no small part, to the presence of a Atrak river. This gives life to the tranquil gardens, small waterfalls and natural springs. Shirvan has a long history, Zoroastrian graves show that it was habitable before Islam, However, the city has been reconstructed according to new architectural styles in recent years. Due to its proximity to Iran's northern borders the town has Turkic influences of both local dialect and customs.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 24-25 Ashgabat
We set off early in the morning towards the Turkmen border. Once we have crossed we continue driving to Ashgabat, arriving late in the afternoon. Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
Ashgabat is a unique modern city that has been extensively rebuilt over the last ten years since the country gained independence. Little is left of the original Russian Imperial city as most of it was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1948, today the centre is a unique mix of futuristic and outrageous public buildings that are an extraordinary sight. The earthquake affected every family in Ashgabat and is ingrained in the psyche of the local people. The Earthquake Monument and Museum are well worth a visit, as are the Carpet and the National Museums. If you are into carpets, Turkmenistan is the country to visit, and if you are in Turkmenistan, Ashgabat's Sunday Market is the place to buy them. This wonderful market stretches for hundreds of acres into the desert. Carpets, camels, clothes, pigs, jewellery, goats, cars, chickens, hats and ex soviet military paraphernalia are readily available.
Today is free to explore Ashgabat's infamous Sunday market. This wonderful market stretches for hundreds of acres into the desert. Carpets, camels, clothes, pigs, jewellery, goats, cars, chickens, hats and ex soviet military paraphernalia are all readily available. The rest of the afternoon is free to explore this unique modern city.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary, meet your new fellow travellers, and collect the next part of your kitty.
Included Activities
  • Ashgabat - Sunday Market
Optional Activities
  • Carpet Museum - USD5
  • National Museum - USD10
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 26 Darvaza
After breakfast we drive out into the Karakum Desert. If time allows we will make a side trip to see the amazing Darwasa Gas Crater. We spend the night near Darwasa where we will bush camp.
From Darvaza, it's possible to hire local vehicles to visit the incredible open gas crater that's located nearby. It's a truly breathtaking sight; imagine a huge crater approximately the size of a football pitch, ablaze with a fire fed by natural gas vents, or failing that try to envisage what the entrance to the Underworld would look like, and chances are you'll be pretty close!
Optional Activities
  • Gas Crater - USD10
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 27 Bush Camp
Most of today will be spent travelling as we continue our overland journey across the Karakum. Second night bushcamping en route towards Kunye Urgench.
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Days 28-29 Khiva
In the morning we visit to Kunye Urgench ruins.
Konye-Urgench is situated on the shores of the Amu Darya River and was once the capital of the Khorezm region, which was part of the Achaemenid Empire. The old town is brimming with historic buildings dating back as far as the 11th century, including a mosque, mausoleum and towering 60m high minaret.
Later in the morning we have a short drive to the border with Uzbekistan. Crossing the border around lunchtime, we then continue on to Khiva. We stay in Khiva for 2 nights in a comfortable hotel.
The small historic town of Khiva in Uzbekistan was once the capital of Khwarezmia and the Khanate of Khiva, a central Asian state that existed from the 1500s right through until 1924, when it was fully incorporated into the Soviet Union. The city's long history is fascinating and fortunately much of the magnificent architecture has been incredibly well preserved. The ancient walls that used to provide sanctuary for the travellers on the Silk Route are intact, as is the old town that the walls were built to protect. Many of the buildings are beautifully decorated in classic turquoise tiles. As well as exploring the streets of the old city, make sure you visit the Kukhna Ark & Juma Mosque, Pakhlovan Mahmus Mausoleum and Islam Hodja Madrassa.
The following day is free in Khiva to explore.
Included Activities
  • Khiva - Guided city tour
  • Konye-Urgench - Ancient City ruins
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 30-32 Bukhara
Leaving Khiva, most of today will be spent travelling. Our destination is the fascinating city of Bukhara where will spend the next 3 nights in a comfortable local hotel.
Bukhara is an atmospheric city alive with its history. Exploring the streets, you get the feeling that this is how Central Asia was before Soviet domination. Bukhara was once a very powerful Khanate, controlling most of Turkmenistan and the surrounding area in years gone by. This has left the city with a rich and interesting history and many of the buildings here are spectacular.Today the government has invested a considerable amount of money into the city, in order to preserve the architecture here, as some of the buildings are considered to be the finest in all of Uzbekistan.
On our second day we will have a tour of Bukhara and the surrounding area, including the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Kalon Mosque, Zindon Prison and Ark Fortress.
The third day here is free for you to explore more of Bukhara and the surrounding area, or to just kick-back and take it easy for the day.
Included Activities
  • Bukhara - Guided walking tour
Accommodation
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 33 Nurata
In the morning we drive to Nurata in the Kyzylkhum Desert. In the afternoon there is the option of a camel ride. We spend the night in a desert yurt camp amongst the dunes.
Nurata is home to the Nurata mountains and is famous for its old circle patterned Suzani which sell for thousands at auctions. Dating back to the Bronze Age, you can see how amazingly historical this place is with so much knowledge to be gained here. The history doesn't stop there, as there are tenth century mosques and the place where the Chashma Springs formed.
Accommodation
Yurt (1 nt)
Days 34-36 Samarkand
Morning exploring the Nurata Hills with the option of taking a dip in Lake Ajdar Kul. Afternoon drive to Samarkand where we will stay for the next 3 nights in a small friendly hotel.
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.
The next day is free to explore the great sultanate of Timur, Samarkand.
On our third day we will explore Samarkand in the truck, exploring the majestic buildings, monuments and bazaars of this romantic silk route city.
Included Activities
  • Samarkand - Guided city tour
Optional Activities
  • Visit to Shakhrisabz city - USD60
Accommodation
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 37-39 Tashkent
This morning is free for you to explore more of Samarkand, or take it easy and have a lazy start to the day. In the afternoon we will drive on to the old soviet city of Tashkent.
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 unusual 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.
The next two days here are free to explore.
Perhaps visit the traditional Chorsu Bazaar. This is a great place to try local food cheap, or even free.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary, meet your new fellow travellers, and collect the next part of your kitty.
Optional Activities
  • Tashkent - Chorsu Bazaar - Free
  • History Museum of the People of Uzbekistan - UZS3000
  • Museum of Applied Arts - UZS1200
  • Art Gallery of Uzbekistan - UZS400
Accommodation
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 40-41 Zhabagly-Aksu National Park
Today we cross the border into Kazakhstan. Once over the border we begin our 2-day overland drive via Aksu National Park. The first evening is spent in the small village of Zhabagly.
Zhabagly is a farming village of around 2,000 and is located just north of the Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve. This small village will give you an incredible insight into Kazakhstan's rural life, especially since you will be staying with them in their homes for the night.
On our second day we will visit the Aksu-Zhabagly National Park. There will be opportunities to hike in and around the nature reserve and visit the nearby canyon. We will camp tonight either around the village or the National Park.
Kazakhstan's National Park, Aksu-Zhabagly, is the last exclave of the wild country in the mountains of South Kazakhstan Oblast and is the oldest in Central Asia. A large proportion of the National Park is covered by forests of Central Asia juniper, high mountain lakes, rivers, and glacier reservoirs and well-preserved flora. The park offers a wide range of activities including numerous short hikes with a break at the Aksu river canyon, one of the deepest in Central Asia and where the views are spectacular.
Accommodation
Homestay (1 nt), Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 42 Bishkek
Today we cross the breathtaking Tian Shan mountain range into Kyrgyzstan and continue to Bishkek. The evening is free to explore this diverse city.
Bishkek is the relaxed capital of Kyrgyzstan with a pleasant laid-back atmosphere. The city centres around Ala-too Square, previously known as Lenin's Square under the previous Soviet regime. 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'll 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.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 43-44 Chong Kemin National Park
Early in the morning we set off towards the Chong Kemin Valley National Park where we will spend our nights camping.
Chong Kemin lies within the Tian Shan mountain range separating Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Their peaks reach above the legendary threshold of 7000 m elevation in its rugged 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 National 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, certainly not for the faint hearted. Recently white water rafting has become a popular activity for visitors in the area.
The following day is free to explore this stunning area, including opportunities for short hikes and possibly the chance to meet nomadic Kyrgyz families in the surrounding area.
Optional Activities
  • Whitewater rafting - USD25
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nts)
Day 45 Cholpon Ata/Issyk-kul Lake
This morning we drive to Cholpon Ata. We spend the afternoon at the beach, with an optional visit to the nearby petroglyphs. At night we sleep in local cottage accommodation.
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.
Optional Activities
  • Cholpan Ata - Petroglyphs - USD1
Accommodation
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 46 Karakol
Drive to picturesque town of Karakol, with time to explore in the afternoon. Overnight in local hotel.
Karakol 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.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 47-48 Djety Oguz Valley
This morning we will drive to the alpine trekking region of Djety-Oguz. We spend 2 nights here to give you time for valley and canyon hikes. We will camp tonight.
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.
The next day is free in Djety Oguz for hiking and other activities. Again we either bush camp or stay in yurts.
Included Activities
  • Jeti-Oghuz - Hiking
  • Animal market
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Day 49 Kochkor
In the morning we drive to Kochkor village. While here, we visit a small museum and women's felt making cooperative that produces 'shyrdaks', the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned.
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.
Included Activities
  • Kochkor - Regional Museum
  • Kochkor - Women's Felt Co-op
Accommodation
Homestay (1 nt)
Days 50-51 Song-Kol Lake
After a morning driving, we should reach Song-Kol Lake around lunchtime. The afternoon is free to explore the area with options including hiking, riding on ponies and playing goat polo. Tonight we stay with local shepherds in their felt yurts.
Song Kul Lake is one of the loveliest spots in central Kyrgyzstan. The lake and shore are part of the Song Kul zoological reserve. All around the lake are lush pastures favoured by local nomadic herders, who come here in the summer with their animals.
The Kyrgyz have embraced Responsible Tourism and actively encourage travellers to stay as guests in the homes of local people here. We spend a couple of days staying with these shepherds in their felt yurts, learning about their culture and traditions and experiencing their way of life first hand. 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.
The next day is a full free day at Song-Kul lake for further activities. Second night staying in yurts.
Please note that trips running in May to mid-June, October and November Will not visit Song-Kul Lake as temperatures will be below freezing. An additional night in Jeti-Oghuz, additional night at a Homestay in Kochkor or wildcamping between Karakol and Kochkor are alternative options. We will need to remain flexible with these itineraries as temperatures can vary.
Accommodation
Yurt (2 nts)
Day 52 Bush Camp
Today we start our trip back to Bishkek, stopping en route tonight to set up a bushcamp in an area famed for its natural beauty.
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Days 53-54 Bishkek
Free morning for hiking and exploring the area. Late afternoon we have a short drive to Bishkek where we stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
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.
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.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
      Itinerary disclaimer
      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.
      Culture shock rating

      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.
      Physical rating

      This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
      Physical preparation
      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.
      Included activities
      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.
      Kitty
      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 some included activities. Kitty amounts are subject to change to reflect local price increases. Please check our website for the up-to-date amount 48 hours prior to your trip commencement.
      Your kitty will be collected when you arrive for your trip, either on day 1 or, if on a combination trip, in stages throughout your trip.
      You may pay your kitty in a mixture of US Dollars cash and the rest in local currency (amount and type of currency to be agreed by the leader at the start of the trip). Most of our travellers chose to bring a cash passport with them for withdrawing local currency (you can visit www.cashpassport.com for further information on these). This is a very secure way of carrying your money whilst travelling. You treat them exactly like an ATM card and draw out local currency from an ATM to give to your leader within each country.
      If you do choose to pay part in local currency your trip leader will confirm the current exchange rates with you so you will know exactly how much to hand over.
      Travellers cheques have become increasingly difficult to change around the world with passengers and our leaders experiencing huge frustration and numerous hours spent trying to find a bank which will change travellers cheques. For this reason we no longer accept them on our trips.
      Kitty does not cover food while staying in hotels and hostels.
      KITTY CHANGES:
      We constantly monitor local price changes and exchange rate fluctuations that could affect kitty expenses. Final kitty contributions are likely to be different from those quoted in the brochure or at the time of booking so you must check the final amount just before departure.
      As our kitty is flexible the indicated amount is indicative only. Follow the link below to view the kitty amount for your departure date.
      Optional activities
      A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are 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.
      Money Exchange
      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 of Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY, although prior to 2005 the currency code was TL).
      ATMs are common throughout the main cities and these are a safe and convenient way to withdraw money. Credit cards are also widely accepted. Cash in any of the major currencies (EUR, GBP and USD) is easily changed. Travellers cheques in major currencies (EUR, GBP and USD) can be changed at selected local banks but it can be time consuming and subject to high fees.
      The official unit of currency is the Iranian rial (IRR), but locals almost always talk in terms of tomans, a unit equal to 10 rials.
      Iran is very much a cash economy. This means travellers can rarely use debit or credit cards or travellers cheques while in Iran. There may be rare occasions in tourist-orientated shops that credit cards are accepted, otherwise cash is the main method of trade in Iran.
      US dollars and euro notes are the only hard currencies accepted by Iranian banks and money changers (please don't bring British pounds as it's very difficult to find banks that will change them). Having those notes changed into Iranian rials is a fairly simple exercise. Please make sure that all the bills are unmarked and undamaged in any way and were printed since 1996. New and fresh notes are preferred in most banks. You'll get a slightly higher rate for larger notes (50 and 100 notes) but also bring plenty of smaller denominations (5, 10, 20 etc).
      Upon arrival at the Tehran airport there are a few places where you can change money. However we do not recommend that you change your money in the Airport because the rate you will get is dramatically different to what you will get at a money exchange downtown. If you need to, change just a small amount at the airport on arrival and the rest at a money changer in the city. There are quite a few located along the main street near the hotel. Ask your leader to take you to one.
      Please note that if you run out of money while in Iran it can be difficult, expensive and time consuming to find banks that can transfer money over to you. Before leaving for Iran, calculate how much money you think you'll need in either US dollars or euros and take that with you, plus a bit extra. This should cover all optional activities, meals, special clothing requirements, some souvenirs and other items. If you're a big shopper (and there are so many great things to buy in Iran, especially carpets) we recommend you bring more. Please take into consideration the safety issues of carrying so much cash with you - bringing a money belt with you is absolutely essential. Thankfully Iran is one of the safest countries that you'll probably ever visit and crime against foreigners is virtually unheard of.
      Banks and money changers can be found in most of the places that we visit throughout the country. The largest Iranian rial note is the IRR20,000 note (approx US$2) but the IRR10,000 notes (approx US$1) are far more widely used. Thankfully new 'Iranian travellers cheques' make dealing with such large numbers of rials much easier. It's a lot safer and easier than carrying around huge wads of notes. It's especially useful for people who may need to spend up big on that special gift (carpets!). These cheques are available in 1 million and 500,000 rial denominations and can be organised easily in most Iranian banks. Changing them back into Iranian rial notes is trouble free. Note: you can't change Iranian rials into hard currency outside of Iran.
      The official currency of Turkmenistan is the manat (M). It’s set at a fixed government exchange rate, but traded for far less on the black market. As ATM's are virtually non-existent, you're best to exchange foreign currency once inside the country. Don't bother with travellers cheques - they're not accepted anywhere. The black market is easy and accessible to foreigners, and the only place you’ll get a realistic exchange rate.
      The official currency in Uzbekistan is the Uzbekistan Som (UZS).
      This can only be obtained in Uzbekistan. Conversion of UZS back into other foreign currencies may prove difficult.
      Banks are rarely able to exchange foreign currency so you should ask the advice of your hotel or leader for where to change money. There are also many private money changers in Uzbekistan but if you choose to use them you must be sure to check the rate and your change carefully.
      Major credit cards are rarely accepted in shops and restaurants even in bigger cities. Some banks in Tashkent will allow cash advances against a credit card but cash withdrawals are subject to a 5% or more service charge.
      In Tashkent you may be able to find ATMs that accept international cards and use them to withdraw local currency; however these should not be relied on as your sole financial source. Some souvenir sellers and tourist restaurants may accept USD or EUR as payment but all other purchases in Uzbekistan must be made in local currency.
      Please note that you must declare ALL currency (including travellers cheques) on entry to and exit Uzbekistan. Failure to do so accurately, or exiting the country with more currency than when you entered may result in delays, fines or the additional sums being confiscated.
      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.
      We strongly advise against bringing travellers cheques as in Central Asia they can be extremely difficult or impossible to change.
      ATMs are not widespread and may only dispense small amounts of local currency so you should not rely on your credit card for accessing cash. Cash advances over the counter at the bank may also prove difficult and may incur large bank fees.
      You should bring the majority of your spending money for Central Asia in cash. The easiest foreign currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, however please be aware of the security risk of carrying large amounts of cash and ensure you carry it securely. We recommend bringing around 400 USD per person as an emergency fund as given the nature of travel in the region changes can often arise.
      You will have difficulty in obtaining USD once on the trip so we recommend bringing it from home.
      Spending money
      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.
      Tipping
      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.
      Tipping is entirely voluntary. The Dragoman crew may be travelling with you for many weeks and usually they become good friends with most members of the group. It is sometimes easy to forget that they do work hard to ensure that you do have a great trip. If you feel you would like to tip them, they certainly would appreciate it. On a number of our trips, we also use a local guide as well as our own Dragoman crew. These guides live and travel with you through their home country and it is usual to tip them when they leave. We recommend USD10 to USD15 per person.
      Departure tax
      Please allow approximately US$10 for departure tax from Kyrgyzstan.
      Important notes
      Due to a British government travel warning, from September 2012 this itinerary will no longer be able to visit Iran. It will instead travel from Turkey to Georgia and then through Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan. Passengers already booked to travel in 2012 have been notified. The new itinerary for 2013 will be published by November.
      LOCAL PARTNER:
      Please note this Intrepid trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Your departure will be run in a Dragoman vehicle with a Dragoman crew.
      MINIMUM AGE:
      The minimum age for this trip is 18 years old and bookings for minors, even if accompanied by a parent, cannot be accepted.
      IDENTITY DOCUMENTS:
      You should carry an identity document at all times while in Tashkent and in Ashgabat. Requests to produce proof of identity, for example by the police, are frequent.
      EXPORTS / IMPORTS:
      An export certificate is required to take carpets and anything else considered antique out of Turkmenistan. Export certificates are available from the Carpet Museum or this can be arranged through the seller. It is also important to catalogue and declare to Customs any carpets or anything antique looking - even if clearly from a different part of the world - that you bring into Turkmenistan with you.
      RAMADAN & THE EID UL-FITR FESTIVAL (BAYRAM) 2011:
      In 2011 the important month of Ramadan will be in progress from the 1st August through till the 30th August, and the Eid ul-Fitr festival will be held directly at its conclusion for 3-4 days. Ramadan is a festival of sacrifice where the devout refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours. During Ramadan business hours are shortened, including opening hours at some tourist attractions. Alcohol is not permitted during daylight hours and many restaurants will be closed. While you should expect some delays and inconveniences during this period, the month is a fantastic opportunity to travel in a Muslim country and witness this unique period, particularly the nightly celebrations when the sun sets and the fast is broken. Please note that although the Eid ul-Fitr festival can also be a fascinating time to travel it is a period of National holiday. Most government offices and businesses will be closed and some tourist site opening hours may be impacted.
      CHANGE TO ITINERARY:
      Please note that the itinerary for this trip has changed since the brochure was released. Unfortunately due to government travel warnings we are unable to visit the southern region of Kyrgyzstan including Osh on our itinerary, which will also mean us missing the Fergana Valley in Uzbekistan. The itinerary will now concentrate more on the Northern region of Kyrgyzstan. Instead of exiting from Uzbekistan direct to Kyrgyzstan we will now visit Kazakhstan for 2 nights en route to Kyrgyzstan finishing this section in Bishkek as per our itinerary. This does mean however that a Kazakh visa will now have to be obtained for this trip.
      Group size
      Maximum of 19 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:
      www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
      Single travellers
      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.
      Accommodation
      Hotel (29 nts), Bush camp (no facilities) (10 nts), Camping (with facilities) (5 nts), Yurt (3 nts), Hostel (2 nts), Homestay (2 nts), Caravanserai Zein-o-Din (1 nt), Guesthouse (1 nt)
      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.
      Where it's not practical to camp (ie: in towns and cities), 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.
      HOMESTAYS:
      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.
      Meals introduction
      While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
      Meals
      All meals when camping
      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.
      USD 1100.00
      Your kitty covers the cost of any meals while staying at camp sites.
      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)
      Transport
      Overland vehicle
      Roads in Asia can be very rough which makes for long, slow travel days. It is however all worth it for the spectacular scenery and novelty of truck travel!
      The step up into the overland truck, while not overly high can become tiring and you need to judge yourself to be physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down at least 8-10 times a day, as can the constant setting and packing up of camp.
      SECURITY WHILE TRAVELLING:
      Occasionally you may experience armed security and convoys between select towns or regions. Convoys are used to ensure all travellers are transported safely and, in many cases, tourists are only allowed to travel in scheduled convoys of buses and jeeps. On rare occasions you may have an armed guard in your vehicle. We want to warn you so you are not alarmed. This is a practice designed to keep tourists safe, although at time it can appear a little overkill.
      Group leader
      On all of our Dragoman-operated Overlanding trips you will be accompanied by two Western crew members who are responsible for the group and the overall organisation of the trip.
      While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad knowledge of the places visited and to offer suggestions of things to do and see. In East and Southern Africa we will also have an African camp master/cook who is in charge of running the camp and organising all of the meals. Their knowledge of the local produce makes shopping at the markets great fun and you will learn how to prepare and cook some unusual dishes. In the rest of Africa, South America and the majority of Central Asia and China we 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.
      Joining point
      Orient Hostel
      Akbiyik Caddesi no:13
      Sultanahmet
      Istanbul
      Istanbul
      TURKEY
      Joining point description
      The Orient Hostel Istanbul is ideally located close by to the Topkapi Palace, Saint Sophia, The Blue Mosque, Yerebatan Cistern, Hippodrome, numerous museums are only 200m away, the Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, Cemberlitas, and Beyazit are an easy walk. It is also in a easily accessible location to transport and public services. Please note the rooms are small at this hostel.
      Joining point instructions
      Ataturk International airport is situated 25 km west of Istanbul's city centre. The airport has several banks, and ATMs open 24hrs for either withdrawals or cash advance. The quickest and easiest way to the hotel is by taxi - there are ranks outside the arrivals terminal. Insist they use the meter. The fare during the day should be approx. TRY30 but up to double that for a night time journey. Airport buses leave every 30 minutes between 6.00 and 23.00 but only go as far as Aksaray (10ytl). From here you could catch the tram into Sultanahmet or you could hail a taxi.
      Arrival complications
      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.
      Finish point
      Hotel Asia Mountains Отель Горы Азии
      1a, Lineinaja Street Улица Линейная 1А, (на пересечении с улицой Гоголя)
      Bishkek
      KYRGYZSTAN
      Phone: +996 312 69 02 34
      Emergency contact
      Dragoman 24 HOUR EMERGENCY NUMBER Tel: +44 (0) 1728 862 222 This is an answer-phone. If calling outside UK office hours for non urgent questions, please leave a message. There is a number provided to call for a 24 hour manned mobile, in case of genuine emergency. For further emergency contact details go to:
      Emergency funds
      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
      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.
      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.thevisamachine.com/visa-support
      2. Email the following documents tomailto:visasupport@thevisamachine.com with your full name in the subject of the email followed by "Dragoman LOI":
      * Clear, colour scanned copy of your passport (+ passport PHOTO scan for Turkmenistan LOI)
      * Letter of Employment or Study (Uzbekistan LOI). This must be a letter from your employer or place of study on a business letterhead that states clearly that you are travelling for tourism purposes only. If you are retired or self-employed, please indicate this on the form above.
      Submitting this information for your LOI is the responsibility of the traveller. Please complete the Visa Support form as soon as possible after booking. Any delays in returning this form, along with the associated documents, will have a knock on effect to the amount of time you have in applying for the actual visa.
      Please be aware that LOIs can take up to 30 days to be processed and can only be applied for 3 months before entry in order to remain valid. The Visa Machine will be able to advise you on the expected time frame in which you will receive your LOI. You must indicate where you will apply for your visa on the above form and any changes in this information will result in your LOI being delayed so please plan carefully.
      Once the LOI has been processed a copy will be sent to you. You can then begin the process of applying for your visa. LOIs are valid for a 3 months period so you must apply for your visa within 3 months of the LOI being issued.
      LOIs are generally included in the trip price unless otherwise indicated, however remember that these are NOT the actual visa. Visas are the responsibility of the traveller and separate from the trip price. Costs will vary depending on your nationality and place of application.
      VISA REJECTIONS
      On occasion visa applications or LOIs may be rejected. The reasons for the rejection may or may not be disclosed. While Intrepid, Dragoman and The Visa Machine have no control over such situations and cannot be held responsible, should this occur we will do what we can to help you continue your trip or arrange alternative travel plans.
      TURKEY (ALL TRIPS):
      Australia: Yes - on arrival
      Belgium: Yes - on arrival
      Canada: Yes - on arrival
      Germany: No - not required
      Ireland: Yes - on arrival
      Netherlands: Yes - on arrival
      New Zealand: No - not required
      South Africa: Yes - on arrival
      Switzerland: No - not required
      United Kingdom: Yes - on arrival
      USA: Yes - on arrival
      Visa costs can change depending on the political climate of the region. For Turkey, an entry visa is required for citizens of the following countries (not limited to this list):
      - USA (US$60),
      - Canada (US$60 on arrival; CAD$75 for advance application)
      - U.K. (US$60; GBP45 for advance application)
      - Australia (US$60 on arrival)
      - Austria, Belgium, Canada, Holland, Ireland, Israel, Portugal & Spain (varies from US$10-100)
      The visa costs can change at any time and with little notice depending on the political climate of the region.
      A valid passport is sufficient for citizens of most other countries including New Zealand, Argentina, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland for stays up to 3 months. All other nationalities please check with your nearest Turkish embassy.
      Generally visas can easily be attained on arrival although sometimes the lines for these can be quite long. Visas obtained on entry must be paid in cash in US$ or EUR so ensure you have some on hand. It is also possible to pay by Credit Card however passenger feedback suggests this is not very reliable. Depending on your nationality, visas are either valid for 3 months or 1 year.
      IRAN: Iranian visas are issued in a two step process:
      1. An authorisation code for your visa must be issued by the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
      2. A visa for your passport must then be obtained at an Iranian Embassy once the authorisation code has been issued.
      For your nearest Iranian Embassy please check the Iranian Ministry of Foreign affairs of Iran website: www.mfa.gov.ir
      Authorisation code/Visa Approval number and Iran Invite Number all have the same meaning but can be displayed as different names on different forms
      Step 1- How to apply for your authorisation code:
      Please immediately fill in the visa authorisation form sent to you by our sales team at the time of booking. If you are arriving early or staying on afterwards this needs to be written on your application form. As you are technically the responsibility of our Intrepid operator for your entire stay, only Intrepid-booked activities/accommodation are able to be nominated as part of this visa application. If you don’t receive this form at the time of booking please enquire with your agent. We recommend your flight to Iran should be as close to the starting date as possible. We also recommend your flight dates should be changeable in case of delays at the embassy issuing the visa. Return the visa authorisation form together with a scanned copy of the first page of your passport via email to iran@intrepidtravel.com and pretrip@intrepidtravel.com immediately.
      Please ensure all details are correct before sending. Any errors may result in your visa being denied or delayed. It’s vital that you provide us with an email contact at the time of booking. On occasions our local operator may contact you directly regarding the information provided for the authorisation code processing. Our local operator in Iran will process visa authorisation applications with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Visa authorisation generally take 3-5 weeks depending on your nationality (up to two months for US citizens).
      When approved, your visa authorisation code will be faxed to the Iranian embassy processing your visa (nominated on the authorisation form). Our Iranian operator will also notify you of your authorisation code via email. Once the code is received please apply for your visa directly with the nominated Iranian embassy (see Step 2 for further instructions). The process is complete once your passport is returned with the Iran visa stamped inside.
      While not common, there are occasions where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejects a visa application for a variety of reasons (usually unknown to us). Unfortunately we have no control over the success of your application and have little recourse if it’s rejected.It’s not uncommon for Iran authorisation codes to be submitted very close to the actual time of travel. Obviously this can be an anxious period but again unfortunately we have little authority to speed up the process. If you haven’t received your authorisation code within 10 days of trip departure contact us to make alternative travel plans
      Step 2 - How to obtain your visa stamp:
      Once you have received your emailed authorisation code from our local operator, immediately apply for your visa with your nominated Iranian embassy. You’ll need to provide a visa application form (usually you can download it from the embassy website), your passport, the visa fee, photos and insurance policy. Some consulate may have different requirements that you must check out beforehand. The cost of an Iran visa varies between US$60-80 depending on your nationality. Please check with your nominated embassy for visa costs. For women we recommend they provide a photo with their hair covered by a headscarf (not a hat). If you wish to personally collect your visa at the designated embassy you must also arrive wearing a headscarf. In order to collect your visa from the consulate, you must carry your travel insurance policy that covers you whilst in Iran. In our experience the turnaround time for your visa to be stamped in your passport and returned to your home address is normally within a week, but can take longer. Please check with your nominated Iranian embassy for their opening times and processing times for visas (some embassies will say that it takes up to a month). Please note that Iran embassies and consulates worldwide may only open for 3 or 4 days a week and have very limited opening hours. If possible, visiting the embassy personally can speed up the process (even to one day). Visas are valid for three months from the time of issue. We will do our best to secure your authorisation code, however the final decision rests with the government of Iran, therefore we cannot guarantee when and if a visa will be granted. If you have any questions regarding this process, please feel free to email iran@intrepidtravel.com.Important Visa Notes:
      Please check that the embassy issues you with a tourist visa and not a business visa (the stamp in your passport must state that the visa is a tourist one). If you’re issued with a business visa, hotels will charge you the business travellers rates which are often far higher than the tourist rates.
      2. A visa will be flatly refused if your passport contains evidence of travel to Israel. Note: this is not confined to just an Israeli stamp in your passport. You will be refused an Iranian visa if there’s an Egyptian entry or exit stamp from the Egyptian/Israeli border (at Taba or Rafah) or a Jordanian entry or exit stamp from the Jordanian/Israeli border (at Wadi Araba near Aqaba, Sheikh Hussein bridge or King Hussein bridge, otherwise known as the Allenby bridge) in your passport. Even without actually having an Israeli stamp in your passport, these exit or entry stamps prove that you have visited Israel and entry into Iran will be disallowed.
      3. Upon arrival in Iran, women not wearing an Islamic headscarf, long sleeves, covered shoes and a loose fitting skirt or pants may be refused entry into the country (to avoid this problem bring a thin full-length raincoat with you if you choose to buy a manteau after you arrive). A manteau is a loose-fitting trench coat that comes down to just above your knees and is required by law to be worn by all women in Iran. Men must also be conservatively dressed, wearing long trousers upon arrival, or they too may be refused entry.
      4. The Iranian Foreign Ministry usually closes over the Iranian New Year period (approx 12 March to 2 April) and will not receive visa applications over this time. Please have your visa application in well before this date.
      Where to obtain your visa:
      It is recommended that you state that you are obtaining your visa beforehand. This could be at any Embassy or Consulate of Iran that is convenient for you. UK citizens must provide fingerprints when collecting your Iran visa. We recommend that you obtain your visa Istanbul.
      USEFUL INFORMATION FOR COMPLETING THE VISA FORM
      Purpose of visit – Tourism
      Name of Host: Intrepid Iran, Shiraz, Iran, Tel +989177142602.
      Email: iran@intrepidtravel.com, info@uppersia.com
      Your address & telephone number in Iran: - Parastoo Hotel, No 15 Sahid Mohamad Baig Alley, Jomhoori Avenue, Tehran. Tel: +98 21 667 08571.
      How will you support yourself: - Please tick cash and travellers cheques and enter amount as at least £300 or US$400
      Do you intend to enter Iran with a tour operator: - Yes, Dragoman, Camp Green, Debenham, Stowmarket, Suffolk IP14 6LA Tel: +44 1728 861133.
      TURKMENISTAN (DRAGOMAN OVERLAND):
      LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI)
      All visitors to Turkmenistan require a visa. You will need a Letter of Invitation (LOI) in order to apply for your visa.
      How and where apply for your Turkmenistan visa will depend on how you enter the country.
      VISA ON ARRIVAL - LAND:
      Travellers arriving in Turkmenistan overland on a WESTBOUND itinerary can obtain their visas at the land border on arrival. Please indicate this as the place where you will apply for your visa on the The Visa Machine LOI form. Costs will depend on your nationality (currently US$55-$85) and payment must be in cash. There is also usually a tax imposed on land arrivals of approx US$14.
      VISA ON ARRIVAL - AIR
      Travellers arriving into Saparmurat Turkmenbashy International Airport can obtain their visa on arrival at the airport. 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$85) and payment must be in cash.
      OTHER:
      In all other circumstances you must obtain your visa from an embassy before your travel and must indicate specifically where you will apply on the The Visa Machine LOI form. On arrival in Turkmenistan you will be required to fill out an immigration card which must be kept for your entire journey. Turkmenistan embassies where you may be able to apply for your visa include: Beijing, London, Istanbul, Tashkent, Almaty, Washington, Berlin, Paris. The following website may have useful information and traveller reports about applying for visas at these and other embassies: www.caravanistan.com
      INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
      You will need to apply for a Single Entry Tourist Visa (G)
      Name(s) of Host/Sponsor/Contact:
      Ayan Travel
      Magtymguly Avenue 108-13, 14
      Ashgabat
      +993 12 352914
      Address in Turkmenistan:
      Ak Altyn Hotel
      141/1 Magtymguly ave
      Ashgabat 744000
      +993 12 363700
      DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
      * Letter of Invitation (LOI)
      * Photocopy of your passport
      * Passport size photo (up to 4)
      * Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
      WARNING - TRAVELLING IN OCTOBER:
      Independence Day in Turkmenistan is on October 27th. The government usually imposes restrictions on the issuance of the LOIs and visas during the month of September for all those travelling to Turkmenistan in October. If you are planning to travel to Turkmenistan in October please ensure your visa application is submitted well in advance.
      UZBEKISTAN (DRAGOMAN OVERLAND):
      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.
      VISA EN-ROUTE:
      For those travelling to Uzbekistan overland on a WESTBOUND itinerary (ie. coming from China or Kyrgyzstan) it may be possible to apply for your visa in Beijing or Bishkek. Please ensure you have enough time to apply for the visa in these destinations and check the embassy opening days and hours. The following website may have useful information and traveller reports about applying for visas at these and other embassies: www.caravanistan.com.
      VISA ON ARRIVAL – AIR:
      Travellers arriving into Tashkent International Airport can obtain their visa on arrival at the airport ONLY if there is no Uzbekistan embassy in the country where your flight is arriving from (not your country of residence). You will require a printed copy of your LOI that includes your exact flight details in order to board your flight so please ensure you supply this information to The Visa Machine. Costs will depend on your nationality (currently approx US$100) and payment must be in cash. It is not possible to get a visa on arrival at any land border.
      * Supporting flight documents are required at time of booking for Visa on Arrival for Uzbekistan
      OTHER:
      In all other circumstances you must obtain your visa from an embassy before you travel and must indicate specifically where you will apply on the The Visa Machine LOI form. Uzbekistan visas are date specific, so please check carefully which dates you will enter and exit the country. Normally you are unable to apply for your visa more than 3 months before entry. Uzbekistan embassies where you may be able to apply for your visa include: Beijing, London, Istanbul, Bangkok, Brussels, Washington, Berlin, Jakarta, Amsterdam, Singapore, Paris. Some embassies may have an online visa application form. The following website may have useful information and traveller reports about applying for visas at these and other embassies: www.caravanistan.com
      INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
      You will need to apply for a Single Entry Tourist Visa.
      Address in Uzbekistan:
      Grand Orzu Hotel
      27 Makhmud Tarobi Street
      Tashkent
      +998 71 120 8877
      Inviting Party:
      Golden Travel
      Grand Orzu Hotel
      27 Makhmud Tarobi Street
      Tashkent
      +998 71 120 8883
      DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
      * Letter of Invitation (LOI) – depending on nationality and place of application
      * Photocopy of ALL pages of your passport
      * Passport size photo (up to 4)
      * Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
      WARNING – REGISTRATION IN UZBEKISTAN:
      All visitors to Uzbekistan must register with the local department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs within 3 working days after arrival. When staying at a hotel, you will be registered automatically. Please ensure you keep any registration documents issued by the hotel until you exit the country.
      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.
      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.
      LOCKER SPACE:
      The size of baggage that can be brought on this tour is limited by the locker space on the truck. Different trucks have different sized lockers however to be safe we recommend that your bag be no larger than 66cm deep, 30cm wide, and 30cm high. You will need to bring your own lock for your locker. We recommend a 20-30mm sized padlock with a long shackle.The weight limit for luggage on all trucks is maximum 20kg. Backpacks shouldn't have an external frame unless it can be easily removed and stored separately to avoid damaging other people's luggage.
      SLEEPING BAG:
      Please bring a sleeping bag (4-season is recommended - check what the weather will be like over the dates you are travelling), sleeping mat and a pillow as these items are not provided.
      CLOTHING:
      The climate in this region is extremely varied. As you will be experiencing a range of altitudes and landscapes we recommend that you bring clothes suitable for weather above 30 C as well as some warm clothes for when in the mountains and countryside areas as temperatures can be close to or even below freezing.
      VALUABLES:
      Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables, and use your hotel safe and the safe on the overland truck to store the bulk of your money, passport, and airline tickets. It’s also a good idea to purchase a money belt or pouch that is easily hidden.
      We strongly recommend that you photocopy all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, etc. and keep the copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a photocopy makes it very much easier to obtain replacements if necessary.
      WATER BOTTLE:
      Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Please avoid the purchase of bottled water by using the chemically sterilized water stored in the purpose-built storage tank or in water jerry cans in your overland vehicle. You're free to refill your bottle as many times a day as you like.
      Health
      All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
      You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
      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.
      Safety
      Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. 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:
      TRAVEL ADVISORY:
      Where we use a local partner to fully operate one of our itineraries, we use the travel advisory of the country where that operator is based rather than the Australian DFAT advisory. This itinerary is operated by our local partners Dragoman, and as such will follow the British Government (FCO) Travel Advice. To view these travel advisories please log on to:
      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.
      The vehicle has fully lockable doors and windows, which is an obvious advantage, but it will probably be necessary to guard it at times and everyone should be prepared to share in this responsibility.
      In most areas there is very little to fear from the point of view of violence. But in all areas 'tourists' are a tempting target for pickpockets and con-men. Always be aware of this and be especially careful when leaving banks or money-changers, in any crowded areas, etc. NEVER leave things lying around - they will almost certainly get stolen. We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to always be security conscious and to take all necessary precautions. Great inconvenience and distress can be caused by having your documents or possessions stolen.
      A few of our past group members have had the unhappy experience of having their belongings stolen before the trip starts. Beware of carrying your passport and other valuables around with you in cities. We strongly suggest you deposit your valuables in your hotel safe on arrival.
      SEAT BELTS:
      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.
      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.
      Travel insurance
      Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
      When travelling on a 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:
      Responsible Travel
      We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
      LOCAL DRESS:
      Dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in areas of predominantly hot climate. In many rural areas women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.
      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:
      Responsible Travel projects
      Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Turkey include:
      * Mavi Kalem provides the children of rural immigrants, in the poorer areas of Eastern Turkey, with additional weekly classes through its Children's Education Program. These lessons, by trained teachers in all areas of formal education, give unprecedented educational opportunities in a region where the uneducated face limited prospects.
      Carbon offset
      Carbon Offset C02-e 2337.00 kgs per pax.
      Feedback
      After your travels, we want to hear from you! This is so important to us that we'll give you 5% off the price of your next trip if your feedback is completed online within 4 weeks of finishing your trip.