Silk Route between Tashkent and Bishkek (KYR)

Tashkent to Bishkek 16 days, departing 18 May 2014

Ratings for this trip

Comfort Zone: Basic / Adventurous

Basic comfort levels. Expect to rough it every now and again. On OVERLAND TRIPS be prepared to have some nights wild camping, campsites with basic facilities as well as some basic hotels, often on a multi-share basis. Some of the roads we travel along may be poor. On our ADVENTURE HOLIDAYS you will stay in simple, budget (1-2 star) accommodation with some shared facilities. Some accommodation may be on a multi-share basis and transport will be mainly local.

Physical Challenge: Moderate Fitness

MODERATE FITNESS: You will travel through areas that may be physically challenging. For example you may be at altitude some of the time. Depending on the trip, activities may include treks of 3-4 hours across hilly terrain, horse-riding and other adventurous activities. A moderate level of fitness is required.

Countries Visited

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a country surrounded by amazing scenery. The towering mountains and shimmering lakes are the perfect place for trekking and horse riding. Over 90% of the country is unspoilt counrtyside and Song Kul lake is just one of the loveliest spots in central Kyrgyzstan. Among animals found here are a diminishing number of wolves. All around the lake are lush pastures favoured by herders, who come here in summer with their animals.

Kyrgyzstan is a welcoming country, and the nationals like to welcome visitors and treat them with food. Influenced by the countries around them, traditional Kyrgyz cuisine is meat dominated. The national dish of Beshbarmak usually contains mutton and rituals are followed for the meal. Different people at the meal normally eat different parts, and it is up to the most honorable person at the table to decide this. This is normally the oldest person. Shashlik is a meat grilled over coals and is served mostly in restaurants but sometimes in the street, but it is always marinated for hours before hand, giving it a beautiful taste.

With a blend of Russian, Kazakh and Turkmen music, the folk music of Kyrgyzstan is created. The plucked stringed instrument of the Komuz is the national instrument and important part of the country's culture. Culture is important in Kyrgyzstan and the capital city is no different. Bishkek has an interesting history and it is said to have got its name from a local hero who fought for the independence of the country in the 18th century and is buried here.

What Kyrgyzstan lacks in settled history it makes up for in a wealth of nomadic traditions. What it lacks in historical architecture it more than makes up for in Central Asia's finest mountain "architecture" as Kyrgyzstan is a largely mountainous country. It is a mountain paradise surrounded by deserts, and the homeland of nomads whom Soviet power never quite tamed.

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan contains many cultural treasures. This is the land of the great Khanates and Sultanates, the kingdoms that controlled the towns of the Silk Route, such as Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand. This country is the Silk Route at its best.

The capital is Tashkent, and dating back thousands of years, it started life as a little oasis at the hills of the Golestan mountains. As it has come into the present day, it has brought many treasures with it. Explore the city and find statues, museums and art galleries. 

Follow the Silk Road and venture into the city of Samarkand. Samarkand is the great sultanate of Timur. This is the romantic city of the silk route. This is the city of the great Registan Square, where beautiful Medressas are loaded down with ornate majolica and azure mosaics. This city has enough majesty and magnificence to satisfy even the most ardent of culture vultures. 

Next along the silk route is Bukhara, it feels lived in and has a real feel of living history. This is the atmosphere of Central Asia before the Russian domination. The colours of the city are browns, but the buildings are spectacular, especially the Ark Fortress, the Ismail Samanid Mausoleum and the Kalyan Minaret (Death Tower). The third of the main UNESCO sites is Khiva and is the best preserved Khanate. Its long bloody history is fascinating. The walls that used to provide sanctuary for the travellers on the Silk Route are intact as is the old town inside. The old town is beautifully decorated in classic turquoise tiles.

Uzbekistan is covered mostly by the Kyzyl Kum desert and striking mountain ranges. These are home to some of the beautiful wildlife that roams through the country.  Brown bears, deers and the rare snow leopard all can be seen, and it is a world away from the urban areas of the country.

The music in Uzbekistan is similar to Persian classical music. Especially the style of Shashmaqam. This traditional sound makes use of lutes drums and jingles to create poetic love songs. This sound adds to the endless reasons as to why Uzbekistan is an awe inspiring country to visit. 

Daily Itinerary

Day 1: Tashkent

Sun 18 May 2014

Border Information: Welcome to Tashkent: If joining in Tashkent, enter Uzbekistan at Tashkent Airport.

Trip meeting at 10:00hrs in our Tashkent hotel.

The rest of the day is free to explore this old soviet city. Overnight in comfortable local hotel.

Hotel for the night: Grand Orzu Hotel

Grand Orzu Hotel

27 Makhmud Tarobi Street

Tashkent

Uzbekistan

Tel: +998 71 120 88 77

Activity Approximate Cost

One night to explore Urban Tashkent

Included in Kitty

History Museum of the People of Uzbekistan.

USD 2

Art Gallery of Uzbekistan.

USD 0.3

Museum of Applied Arts.

USD 0.6

Chorsu Bazaar.

USD

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 unusal contemporary architecture here, which makes it an interesting contrast to many other places along the Silk Road.  The city markets (especially the Chorsu Bazaar) are well worth strolling around, you can get some excellent souvenirs here as there is a huge amount of Soviet ephemera on sale, ranging from entire Soviet stamp collections, old paintings of Lenin, through to Military uniforms. You should also try to plan a journey that involves a trip on the metro, so you can take in the impressive architecture and decoration of the Tashkent underground. Then after a busy day sightseeing, you might like to head out for a meal at one of the old Imperial Russian style nightclub/restaurants which often put on some unbelievably risqué cabaret.

Day 2: Ferghana City, Fergana Mountains, Fergana Valley

Mon 19 May 2014

This morning we travel in cars from Tashkent to Ferghana via Kokand.

Overnight in a hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Overland through Uzbekistan's Fergana Valley including historic Kokand and Fergana City

Included in Kitty

Ferghana City

Similar to the Uzbek capital Tashkent, Ferghana is a modern city, far-removed from the ancient Silk Road cities of Bukhara and Samarkand. The town is located in the Fergahana Valley, a broad bowl thousands of kilometres wide surrounded by far off mountain peaks. Nearly 90% of people who live here are indigenous Uzbek's and the communities here are typically very welcoming and hosptiable. A very fertile area, the land is highly cultivated and used to produce fruit and vegetables and cotton. The textile industry thrives here and there are some exceptional craftspeople weaving beautiful fabrics. It may be possible for you to visit a local factory or workshop where you will be able to see how silkand other fabrics are still hand-woven and dyed here.


Fergana Mountains

We spend three days driving slowly through this stunning mountain range, stopping at beautiful lakes and streams and meeting the local Takik and Kyrgz people. We camp out in this area, sometimes staying with a local family. This has to be one of the most relaxed and beautiful journeys that Dragoman makes.

Day 3: Arslanbob

Tue 20 May 2014

Border information: Exit Uzbekistan at Andijon, Enter Kyrgyzstan at Dustlik.

This morning we leave Uzbekistan behind as we make our way to the magical kingdom of Kyrgyzstan

Once we have crossed the border we continue our journey to Arslanbob in Kyrgyzstan's Ferghana valley. There are many opportunities for hiking in this area. 

We stay overnight in a local guesthouse.

Day 4 to 6: Kyrgyz Fergana Valley

Wed 21 May to Fri 23 May 2014

You'll spend the next 3 days overlanding through the stunning Kyrgyz Fergana Valley Camping en route. 

Please note that trips running in May to mid-June, October and November Will not camp if temperatures are too low. Instead we will stay in local guesthouses along the route. We will need to remain flexible with these itineraries as temperatures can vary.

Activity Approximate Cost

3 nights wild camping and a leisurely overland journey through the stunning mountains and National Parks of Kyrgyzstan

Included in Kitty

Day 7 to 8: Song Kol Lake

Sat 24 May to Sun 25 May 2014

Morning drive to Song-Kul Lake where you spend the next two nights. The afternoon and tomorrow is free to explore the area; Options include hiking, riding on horses or watching a game of goat polo! Tonight we stay in felt yurts.

Please note that trips running in May to mid-June, October and November will not visit Song-Kul Lake as temperatures will be below freezing. Instead we will stay in yurts on the Southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul. We will need to remain flexible with these itineraries as temperatures can vary.

Activity Approximate Cost

Experience the daily life of the Kyrgyz mountain shepherds.

Included in Kitty

2 nights in Kyrgyz yurts near Song Kul Lake

Included in Kitty

Song Kol Lake

Song Kol lake is one of the loveliest spots in central Kyrgyzstan. The lake and shore are part of the Song Kol zoological reserve. All around the lake are lush pastures favoured by local nomadic herders, who come here in the summer with their animals. On Dragoman overland trips we spend a couple of days staying in felt yurts, learning about the local culture and traditions. We might get to see the local men play a game of "ulak-Tartys" (goat polo) or have a chance to ride out with the shepherds on their small hardy ponies, or you might prefer to explore the surrounding area on foot, hiking in the hills. Song Kol really is a sublime and unique spot, it is a truly magical place where you are guaranteed to have travel experiences that you will never forget.

Day 9: Kochkor, Kochkor Homestay

Mon 26 May 2014

Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor where we stay in local homes and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality. Whilst here we will visit a small museum and women's felt making cooperative that produces 'shyrdaks', the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned.

Accommodation is in home stays, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.

Activity Approximate Cost

Overnight homestay at a traditional rural Kyrgyz village

Included in Kitty

Kochkor Homestay

Kochkor is a sleepy little Kyrgyz village and looks very much like the paintings of traditional Kyrgyz life seen in various museums and art galleries throughout the country. Here we will stay for the night with a traditional Kyrgyz family, living with them and finding out about their daily life, food and family patterns. The Kyrgyz have embraced Responsible Tourism and actively encourage travellers to stay in the homes of local people. There is an excellent local animal market and a traditional felt making enterprise which we usually visit. Here they make a variety of the different felts used for making yurts, rugs, carpets and souvenirs.

Day 10 to 11: Jeti-Oghuz Valley

Tue 27 May to Wed 28 May 2014

Today we drive to the alpine trekking region of Jeti-Oghuz. We spend 2 nights here to give you time for valley and canyon hikes. 

Overnight Camp. 

Please note that trips running in May to mid-June, October and November will not camp if temperatures are too low. Instead we will stay for 1 night in Jeti-Oghuz in a local hotel and then spend the second night in Altyn Arashan, a hot spring development enroute to Karakol again in a local hotel. We will need to remain flexible with these itineraries as temperatures can vary.

Activity Approximate Cost

Trek into the wilds of the Jeti-Oghuz Gorge on the edge of the Tian Shan mountains

Included in Kitty

Jeti-Oghuz Valley

Seven spectacular red sandstone cliffs stand guard over the entrance to the Jeti-Oghuz Valley. Local tradition says that the cliffs were once wild bulls, immobilised by the gods to stop them terrorising local yurt dwellers. The base of this stunning canyon lies on the northern slopes of the Terskei Ala-Too range, surrounded by a broad valley and majestic snow-capped mountains. The valley is a fantastic place for camping and hiking, exploring the valleys and canyon by foot you'll be able to admire the unusual rock formations and alpine peaks.

Day 12: Kara-kol

Thu 29 May 2014

Today you drive to the Russian-style town of Karakol.

Overnight in a local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Journey around the whole of Lake Issyk-Kul via the Russian-style town of Karakol.

Included in Kitty

Kara-kol

Kara-Kol is a picturesque town surrounded by orchards and mountains, with a delightful Russian church and gracious colonial houses on tree-lined streets sloping up towards glaciers and pine forests.

Day 13 to 14: Chong Kemin Valley

Fri 30 May to Sat 31 May 2014

Today 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.

We will camp overnight.

Please note that trips running in May to mid-June, October and November will not camp in the Chong Kemin Valley if temperatures are too low. Instead we will stay in a small village called Semyenovka and overnight in yurts. We will need to remain flexible with these itineraries as temperatures can vary.

Activity Approximate Cost

3 nights wild camping and a leisurely overland journey through the stunning mountains and National Parks of Kyrgyzstan

Included in Kitty

A beautiful journey through the Chong Kemin Valley

Rafting through the stunning Chong Kemin valley, stopping in the most picturesque locations.

USD 25

Chong Kemin Valley

Chong Kemin lies within the Tian Shan mountain range seperating Kyrgyzstan and Kazakstan. Their peaks reach above the legendary threshold of 7000 m elevation in its ruggerd run towards China.

This spectacular valley is famed for it's natural beauty, abundant wildlife and rich, varied flora. This is the reason why Chong Kemin Natrional Park was founded in 1977.

The valley offers several trekking possibilities from easy short walks along the Chong Kemin River to adventurous and tough hikes over 4000m passes, ceratinly not for the faint hearted. Recently white water rafting has become a popular activity for visitors in the area, However if it's a more relaxing experience you are after, exploring this stunning valley on horseback is a great alternative.

 

Day 15: Bishkek

Sun 01 Jun 2014

Free morning for hiking and exploring the area. Late afternoon short drive to Bishkek. Staying in Bishkek in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Activity Approximate Cost

Civilisation again, in the picturesque city of Bishkek

Included in Kitty

Bishkek

Bishkek is the relaxed capital of Krygyzstan with a pleasant laid-back atmosphere. The city centres around Ala-too Square, previously known as Lenin's Square under the previous Soviet 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'lll find a few open air cafes, perfect spot to sit and have a drink and soak up the atmosphere. The century old oaks here and all along Freedom Avenue make Bishkek one of the greenest cities in Central Asia.

Day 16: Bishkek

Mon 02 Jun 2014

Border Information: If finishing in Bishkek, exit Kyrgyzstan at Bishkek Airport.

Free time in Bishkek.

Visa Information:

Most countries we visit on our travels will require visas. Some are best obtained before you leave home and others can be obtained en-route. Whilst the ultimate responsibility for obtaining visas is yours, we will endeavour to assist you wherever possible.

The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. The information provided is given in good faith and we do try to keep the visa information as up to date as possible. Please be aware though that rules do change, often without prior warning, which is why it is important that you check for yourself.

For visas that are needed in advance you can choose to submit the applications directly to the relevant embassy/consulate. However our recommendation is that you use a visa agent to assist you with your applications. While this does increase the cost it will make the process much easier for you. Dragoman have teamed up with ‘The Visa Machine’ to create a safe, secure, hassle-free way of obtaining visas and visa advice. Our unique link within their website is designed to make the visa process as straightforward as possible. Simply go to    https://dragoman.thevisamachine.com and click on your region of travel followed by your trip route and ‘The Visa Machine’ will advise you about not only the required visas but also the dates by which you should apply. ‘The Visa Machine’ can then assist you in the actual visa application thus taking all the worry and hassle out of the process. This should apply for ALL nationalities and countries of residence.

As you will need to submit your passport together with your applications, we recommend that you avoid making any travel plans in the weeks leading up to your departure. However if you do need to travel in this period please let us know as soon as possible so that we can help you work out the options for your visa application process.

Uzbekistan Eastbound

Most nationalities require a visa to visit Uzbekistan. You should obtain a visa in advance.

A letter of invitation is required for most nationalities to obtain an Uzbekistan visa. These are issued for specific dates according to your itinerary.

Some nationalities may not need an Invitation letter if applying for an Uzbek visa in their country of residency (citizens of the US, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, France, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and Latvia). However please note that if you are planning to apply for a visa outside of your country of residency, an Invitation letter will be required. We also advise you to check with the Embassy at which your application will be processed for exact information on documents required.

All nationalities should check with their respective embassies for more information and costs.

Please note: A visa is valid for a period of 3 months from the date of issue. You must enter Uzbekistan within 3 months of your visa being issued.

Uzbekistan Westbound

Most nationalities require a visa to visit Uzbekistan. You should obtain a visa in advance.

A letter of invitation is required for most nationalities to obtain an Uzbekistan visa. These are issued for specific dates according to your itinerary.

Some nationalities may not need an Invitation letter if applying for an Uzbek visa in their country of residency (citizens of the US, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, France, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and Latvia). However please note that if you are planning to apply for a visa outside of your country of residency, an Invitation letter will be required. We also advise you to check with the Embassy at which your application will be processed for exact information on documents required.

All nationalities should check with their respective embassies for more information and costs.

Please note: A visa is valid for a period of 3 months from the date of issue. You must enter Uzbekistan within 3 months of your visa being issued.

How to obtain a Letter of Invitation

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

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

Once a letter of support / Letter of Invitation has been authorised a copy will be sent to you. You can then begin the process of applying for your visa.

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

Letters of Invitation - applications.

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

Where to obtain your visa

Eastbound - It is advisable that you obtain your visa in advance i.e. London, Washington DC, Berlin, Singapore, Jakarta etc

However, If there is NOT an Uzbekistan Embassy or Consulate in your country of residency (e.g Australia / New Zealand) AND your trip starts in; Tashkent – It is possible to obtain a visa at the international arrivals lounge of Tashkent International Airport, if both of the following conditions are met:

• There is no Uzbekistan Embassy or Consulate in the country, where you are originating your flight to Uzbekistan,

• Connecting flight to Uzbekistan, in the country where Uzbekistan Embassy or Consulate exists, does not provide enough time to obtain a visa.

If you wish to obtain your visa in Tashkent on arrival please state ‘Tashkent airport’ on your Asia visa form. You will still require a letter on invitation in order to obtain a visa here.

Westbound -  if you are starting your trip in Beijing, Xian or Bishkek it is possible to obtain your Uzbekistan visa in Bishkek with your trip leaders. Please advise us on the Asia Visa form if you wish to do this. You will still require a letter on invitation in order to obtain a visa here.

Visa Validity

A single entry visa is valid for a period of 1 month. It it advisable when applying for your visa that you state entry/exit dates 2 days either side of the actual entry/exit dates.

The validity of a visa starts from date of issue and is valid for a period of 3 months. Applicants must enter Uzbekistan before the expiration date listed on the visa.

Information to help fill in your visa application form is below.

Name of Host – Please contact your agent to obtain this information.

Tel: +998 71 1208883

Address in Uzbekistan– Grand Orzu Hotel,

27 Makhmud Tarobi Street,TashkentUzbekistan

Tel: +998 71 120 88 77

Kyrgyzstan

Please obtain your visa in advance if a visa is required. We advise you to check this with your nearest Consulate, Embassy or visa agent. 

Citizens of the countries listed below intending to visit Kyrgyzstan for a duration of up to 60 days DO NOT require a visa to visit Kyrgyzstan but we recommend you check this information with your nearest Embassy or Consulate. 

Australia, Austrian Republic, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Croatia, Czech

Republic, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway , Poland, Portugal Republic, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, USA, Vatican.

*A visa is required for above mentioned nationals intending to stay in Kyrgyzstan more than 60 days.

Important Notes

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 planned route 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. By their very nature overland itineraries need to be flexible and the regions that we are travelling through are often unpredictable. We run adventure journeys in off the beaten track areas, often in areas without western infrastructure. You should expect that some these areas do not adhere to western safety standards.

Visa note

Visas for this trip can take many weeks to be issued and it can be a lengthy process. Please ensure that you book early to avoid disappointment. Central Asia visa support letters are included in the trip price. NB: These are not the actual visas but necessary supporting documents, visa costs are a separate to the trip price.

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

Weather Note 

What sleeping bag and clothes should you bring for trip in Kyrgyzstan?

We will be travelling through high remote mountains and the itinerary may have to vary somewhat due to weather or road conditions. When it is is too cold to visit Song Kol Lake or camp (May to mid Jun, October & November) we will run a alternative itinerary which may include a yurt stay on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, a night at a homestay or a night at a hot spring development know as Altyn Arashan.

We will need to remain flexible with these itineraries as temperatures can vary.

Kyrgyzstan

The climate of this mountainous country can vary significantly depending on the time of year and the region. There are four main climatic zones in Kyrgyzstan:

1. The valley zone (from 500-1,000m) is characterized by hot summer temperature, up to 28C (82F) and moderate cool winters. It rarely snows in these areas. Summer temperature generally ranges between 20C (68F) and 25C (77F), winter temperature falls between -4C to -7C (+19 to +25F).

2. The middle mountain zone (from 1,000-2,200m) enjoys a typical moderate climate with warm summer and cold steady snow during the winter. Average summer temperature in July is 18C (64F); average winter temperature in January is around -7C (19F).

3. The high mountainous zone (2,200-3,500m). Summer is cool while winter is cold with a lot of snow. July temperature is about 15C (59F). Winter is long (November-March) with January temperature around -10C (14F). In the highest regions of this zone the period when water is not frozen is only around 3-4 months.

4. Nival zone (from 3,500m and higher) is characterized by a very severe, cold climate. It is a zone of snows, rocks and glaciers. Even in the lower region of this zone the average July temperature does not exceed 7C (45F) and in January temperatures drop to -20C (-4F).

IMPORTANT: In general, the summer months (June, July & August) can be warm during the day but temperatures can drop to 0°C. For this reason we recommend taking warm clothes and a warm sleeping bag for ALL trips in Kyrgyzstan. For trips that run during the colder months (May to mid June & mid September to October/November we recommend you bring extra warm clothing and an all season sleeping bag as it is not uncommon for temperatures to fall to -10C, sometimes colder. 

The climate in China, Uzbekistan and Turkey also can vary significantly depending on the time of Year. We recommend you check local average weather conditions for each country you will be travelling to in order to properly prepare for your trip.

 

Physical Preparation

Physical preparation for Asia Itineraries

In Asia you will need to be healthy enough to cope with extremes of climates from the hot deserts through to the colds of the high mountains. Overland travelling can be demanding - long, rough travel days, 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 and you need to judge yourself to be physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down the step at least 8-10 times a day. By and large our Asia trips have a good range of hotel accommodation mixed up with camping so that life is not too rough.

Altitude

Please note that this trip spends time above 2800 metres/9200 feet where it is possible for travellers to experience some adverse effects on your health due to the altitude, potentially including Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE).

Because of this it is very important that you make yourself aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude and monitor your health during this trip. 

For further information please click here to download our AMS information sheet or check out the following website www.high-altitude-medicine.com

Your leader will also hand you a copy of the AMS information sheet during your trip as well as holding a short meeting prior to travelling to altitudes above 2800m/9200ft for the first time.

If you are starting your trip in a destination above 2800m/9200ft we strongly advise reading this information prior to arrival.

Personal Spending

Based on the range that previous travellers have spent on this trip, we recommend you allow between a minimum of US$15 and a maximum of US$30 per day for Central Asia, China and Burma and between a minimum of US$10 and a maximum of US$20 for India, Nepal and South East Asia.

This will cover individual expenses such as drinks, meals whilst out and also when staying in hotels, souvenirs, tips and personal permits.

Please note:  For trips in Southern India that occur over Christmas and New Year please allow approximately $160USD extra on the kitty for seasonal increases in accommodation costs

What else you need to know

Currencies & Cash

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 trips in Turkey, South East Asia, India and Nepal, a sensible mix of cash 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.

For trips in Central Asia, China, Burma and Mongolia please refer to the money exchange notes.

You should take a mixture of denomination notes. Banks and moneychangers 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 readily available in most 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 USD50.

Pre and post trip accommodation and connecting flights

At Dragoman we believe you should make the most of the places you visit, so if you would like to see more of your joining or finishing point cities, why not book additional accommodation to extend your stay. Dragoman can take away the hassle of time zones and language barriers by making the booking for you. This accommodation is only available at the joining or finishing city of your trip, immediately before or after the trip you are travelling on. 

While Dragoman is happy to assist with booking your pre and post trip accommodation, it is important that you understand you may be able to book your own room at a cheaper rate directly through the hotel or on the internet.  Our additional accommodation prices are based on the hotel’s rate plus an administration fee. Please note our rates do not reflect last minute walk in rates or internet specials.

We can also book arrival airport transfers for you as long as we have your flight arrival details.  These are normally payable in cash upon arrival, however we do have pre paid transfers in a few destinations. 

Please contact our reservations team for details of the accommodation and transfers that we can offer as not all hotels offer this service.

Accommodation on tour

Dragoman overland trips are designed for shared accommodation, whether camping or staying in hotels and therefore do not involve a single supplement. Single travellers will share with people of the same sex for the duration of the trip, in accommodation ranging from twin to multi-share. The type and variety of accommodation is determined by conditions on each of our routes. The campsites will range from rather basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and bars. In some cases it may also be possible to upgrade locally to bungalows, lodges or even tree-houses. One of the highlights of overlanding is that in more remote areas we will wild camp. This allows us to get far away from the tourist crowds to some beautiful, secluded spots. On some of our trips we are able to stay in villages or local homestays, this allows us to get close to indigenous populations and ensures our money stays within local communities. 

Group size?

The maximum group size we take on our overland journeys ranges from 19 to 22 depending on the geographical location, however the average number of passengers is more likely to be around 16. 

Please note that there is an overlap of 2 trips in Zanzibar. This means a group starting a trip in Nairobi for example will visit Zanzibar at the same time as groups starting their trips in Dar es Salaam. In practical terms this means there could be up to 44 group members in Zanzibar at the same time.

Who travels with Dragoman?

Our passengers come from around the world and are always an interesting mix of nationalities and ages. On average there is a pretty even split, males to females and between solo travellers, couples and small groups of friends. We believe that overlanding should be open to as many people as possible and so although we have a minimum age limit of 18, as long as you are fit, healthy and passionate about travel, we are happy to take you, whatever your age is. One of the beauties of group travel is the camaraderie and friendships that are formed along the way and as well as the variety of people that you will meet.

Our Community

At any time before or after you book you can join our community - Dragoland. This is a great place to ask questions before you travel and catch up with your fellow travellers once your trip has finished. You can share photos, videos and stories You can also download a selection of free travel apps. See the home page to sign in, it's free and easy.

We also have a Facebook page where travellers regularly swap info with each other - you can join here

Our crew and guides

Our crew are passionate about travel and always up for adventure. It takes someone special to become a Dragoman leader. Our crew undergo the most intensive training program of all overland companies, spending 10 weeks learning the ropes at our base in Suffolk, UK and then up to six months on the road as a trainee. On all Dragoman overlanding trips two western crew who are responsible for the group and the overall organisation will accompany you. 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. On trips South of Nairobi 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. 

Dragoman endeavours to provide the services of experienced crew however, due to the seasonality of travel, situations may arise where your crew is new to a particular region or training other crew.

Your tour leader has a duty of care to all of their passengers and therefore they have the authority to ask passengers to leave the trip if they require medical assistance, are behaving in an anti-social manner or refuse to comply with local laws and customs. In all matters relating to the trip, the leader's decision will be final and we appreciate your respect of this.

Health

All Dragoman travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully in our trips. 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 leader, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Dragoman reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of the trip without a refund. 

You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information prior to travel, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition. We also advise you to declare any pre-existing medical conditions to your travel insurers upon purchase. 

For trips that travel to areas of high altitude we also require all travellers to complete an altitude questionnaire. The ratings for each trip are a good indication of how challenging they are and in some cases customers should be prepared for some long driving days and possibly limited facilities. We are always happy to give extra advice if you have additional concerns. 

 

Vaccinations

 Recommended vaccinations and other health protection vary according to regions and recent bulletins issued by health authorities. It is essential to get the latest advice on the region(s) you are planning to travel in. It is essential that you check with either your doctor or travel clinic in good time before you travel.

 In the UK we have been working with Nomad travel for many years and their website has comprehensive, up to date vaccination and health information. Dragoman customers will receive a 10% discount off all vaccinations given at Nomad Travel clinics.

A good source of up to date information is the world Health Organisation - http://www.who.int/en/

Malaria

Get expert advice before travelling about types of malaria pills and take them as instructed. Recommended types do change from time to time and from area to area. Consult your vaccination centre for the most up-to-date requirements

The mosquito usually bites between the hours of dusk and dawn and so covering up by wear long-legged and long-sleeved clothing, preferably light coloured and buttoned at the wrists can help. Do not sleep without closing windows, tent doors or, if sleeping out, use a mosquito net. Wear repellent applied directly to the skin or soaked into clothing.

Treating clothes and mosquito nets with a Permetherin solution provides significant protection. It should be available at most travel stores.  Mosquito coils are useful on still nights, in hotel rooms but cannot be used inside the tents.

Meals and group participation

On an overland journey you are more than just a passenger - you're part of the crew. You are expected to pitch in to set up camp, shop for food, cook and generally help out. As part of your trip you will be assigned a truck job which could be collecting water and firewood, sweeping out the truck, loading the back locker, etc.

While camping on overland journeys, all meals are included in the kitty. This means that you will have to work together to cook for everyone in your group. You will be divided into smaller units of 3-4 people and take it in turns to cook for the whole group according to a rota system. When it is your turn to cook you will have to plan the meal, shop for the ingredients in local markets or supermarkets and then prepare the meal for the whole group. The secret to cooking for 20+ people in a basic camping kitchen is to keep it simple! (On trips south of Nairobi we have a cook on board the truck; however you will still be required to help prepare meals).

If you have any dietary requirements please tell us at the time of booking and also remind your crew at your welcome meeting. An example of a typical camp breakfast might be toast with spreads, fruit and cereal as well as tea and coffee. When time allows it will also be possible to serve something hot such as eggs or pancakes. Lunch is almost always a sandwich heaped high with healthy salad and assorted fillings, with fruit to follow. Dinner might be a BBQ, risotto or pasta dish and there is always the chance to try some local cooking. Generally our passengers find the more they put into a trip, the more they benefit from it.

Responsible tourism

Dragoman is committed to ensuring that we have a positive impact on local communities and that we implement policies to minimise any negative impact on the local environment. We are dedicated to making sure that we adopt a responsible attitude to the areas through which we travel and believe that our trips should benefit the local people and their environment. Dragoman recognises that we are guests of local communities and strive to make these communities our partners, so that they benefit directly from our visit. You can find full details of Dragoman’s responsible tourism policy linked from the home page.

A few Rules 

 Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs is not only against the law, 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 Dragoman customers.  It is one of our core values to treat all people we encounter with respect which of course includes all the local people who make our destinations so special.  The exploitation of prostitutes or children 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 or abuse children.  Equally Dragoman will not tolerate any violence or threat of violence towards local people, other group members or any member of our staff. 

 We expect all our customers to obey all the laws of the countries through which we pass.  This particularly applies to the smuggling of contraband and possession of narcotic drugs (as above), firearms, antiquities and ivory. 

Any customer found contravening such laws or customs will be required to leave the trip immediately with no refund of the trip price.

Safety and security

One of the real advantages of overland travel is that the vehicle provides a very real level of security when travelling. There is no doubt that a properly equipped overland vehicle, with safes, fully lockable doors and windows is an obvious advantage when travelling in much of the world. We recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt whilst travelling for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items (although most of these can be locked in the safe whilst you are on the trip) and advise passengers to leave any valuable jewellery, watches etc at home. Generally speaking, you will not be travelling on local public transport and will have the added security of travelling in a group with experienced crew on hand to offer advice.

Please note: Any personal effects that are left on the truck, even if they are stored in the safe, are left at your own risk and Dragoman cannot be held responsible for any damage or theft that may occur.

The safety of our passengers, leaders and operators is a major priority of Dragoman. With this in mind we monitor world events very closely. By the very nature of the adventure travel that we take, there are risks and hazards that are inherent in our itineraries. Dragoman makes operational decisions based on informed advice from a number of sources:

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice

Reports from other travel companies and local suppliers

Leaders reports from off the road

Local contacts we have built up over 31 years of experience

Dragoman has also teamed up with the UK Foreign and commonwealth office (FCO) in their 'Know before you go campaign' www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougoThis website offers straightforward travel advice, top tips, and up to date country information to help you plan a safe trip.

Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. You should always make yourself aware of the travel advice before you book and again before you travel. Below are links to some of the websites

Britain. http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/travel-advice-by-country

Australia. http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

New Zealand. http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

United States. http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html

Canada. http://www.voyage.gc.ca/countries_pays/menu-eng.asp

Dragoman has comprehensive passenger liability protection and tour operator insurance. These policies have total indemnities of £3,000,000 and £10,000,000 respectively. This is in addition to local vehicle insurance and your personal travel insurance.

Emergency contact

We have a dedicated 24 hour telephone number which should only be used once you have left the UK and in the event of a real emergency. Should you need to call the number, we will do what we can to help but please bear in mind that real progress or action may not be possible until normal office hours.

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

Emergency Number: +44 (0) 7985106564.

Insurance

It is a condition of booking that you have comprehensive travel insurance. Without evidence of valid travel insurance you will not be allowed to start the trip.

Whatever policy you choose, you must ensure that it is designed for adventure/overland travel. As such it must cover you for adventure activities such as white water rafting, trekking, horse-riding and that the 24 Hour Emergency Assistance Company must be experienced in handling situations in developing countries – for example they have the ability to arrange repatriation from remote areas such as the Sahara or if you were trekking in the Andes. Please double check if you have annual travel and/or credit card policies to ensure they have the cover you require, as many of these policies are not able to cope with adventure travel to remote areas. We recommend that any policy has the following minimum levels of cover: Medical (incl. repatriation) £5,000,000 Personal Liability £5,000,000 Cancellation and Curtailment £5,000 Loss of Baggage, personal effects, money and other inclusions are down to personal choice.

Issues on the 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 partner 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 may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction. If this is the case please contact our customer relations department on customer_relations@dragoman.co.uk. You may also choose to provide details in your feedback questionnaire which we ask you to complete at 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.

Passports

Check that your passport will still be valid for 6 months after the end of the trip - this is important as some countries WILL refuse entry to anyone whose passport is due to expire. A temporary or "visitor's” passport is not valid on our trips. You will need to provide us with your passport details prior to departing for you trip. If you change your passport please remember to inform us.

Luggage & Kit List

Although you will not have to carry your main bag long distances you will need to help load and unload them onto the truck. For this reason we recommend that you use a backpack or soft bag rather than a heavy suitcase. During your trip your main luggage will be kept in the back locker so you will also need a small daypack. This can be used to carry your camera, water bottle and other personal effects for daily use.

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. The weight limit for luggage on all trucks is maximum 20kg.  Backpacks should not have an external frame unless it can be easily removed and stored separately to avoid damaging other people's luggage.

Your clothes and equipment should be appropriate for the conditions you are travelling in. On overland trips Dragoman will provide all camping equipment apart from sleeping bags and ground mats (except on routes between Nairobi and Cape Town where ground mats are provided).

The clothes and equipment should be appropriate for the conditions you are travelling in, which will vary depending on which part of the world you're heading to. On overland trips Dragoman will provide all camping equipment apart from sleeping bags and ground mats*, so you'll need to bring those with you. Think about the climate and altitude of the areas you'll be travelling to, there's nothing worse than being cold at night so it's worth investing in a decent sleeping bag if it's likely to get cold. And remember even when it's warm during the day, it can often get cold at night, particularly in desert regions.

IMPORTANT: Ground mats are provided on all of our overland trips that run in South and East Africa, between Nairobi and Cape Town. This includes our Family trips between Nairobi and Cape Town.

For a general idea of what you need this list provides a guide:

For a comprehensive kit lists take a look at the Dragoman kit list that Nomad Travel have created.  Dragoman customers will receive a 10% discount on all equipment purchased either online or in store. Click to see the kit lists www.nomadtravel.co.uk/kitlist/overlanders-kit-list

Water

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 are free to refill your bottle as many times a day as you like. You are helping the environment and your hip pocket!

Personal medical kit

All of our trucks have a fully stocked medical kit onboard for use in emergency situations only.  Therefore in addition to this we recommend that you purchase your own personal medical kit. In the UK we have teamed up with Nomad Travel Stores and Clinics to produce the Dragoman Travel Medical Kit. It has been designed in conjunction with the truck kits  and contains everything you would need for any minor accidents. For more details please visit their website:

nomadtravel.co.uk/catalog/view/dragoman-medical-kit

Electrical equipment

Your vehicle will be equipped with a 12 volt socket so to charge your iPod, MP3 player, camera, laptop and mobile phone you will need a DC 12 volt adapter - the type that can be used from a cigarette lighter in your car. Please be aware that only one piece of equipment can be charged at a time and it will not be allowed if there is a risk of running the vehicle’s batteries low. Batteries may also be recharged from hotel room wall sockets and the majority of the campsites we stay at have electricity points so please bring along your normal charging adapters as well. You will need to ensure that you have the correct country adaptor for your specific charger.

For mobile phones, please note that most countries in the Americas operate at 850MHz and 1900 MHz which is not the same frequencies used in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Most modern tri-band and quad-band mobile phones will be able to operate on these frequencies but please check your mobile phone specifications before travelling to ensure that you'll be able to use your phone in the Americas.

The kitty

In addition to the trip price on our overlanding trips you will also be required to pay a kitty specified for your trip. The kitty is payable in instalments at the start of each section of the trip for combination trips, and in full at the start of the trip for individual trips. Each customer joining a trip pays their kitty into a central fund. The fund is managed by the Dragoman crew & kitty accounts can be viewed by all throughout the trip.

The Kitty covers all things that the whole group does, such as:

The kitty system is very unique to overlanding and we believe it allows us to have flexibility & transparency on our trips. You can see exactly how your money is being spent and ensure that you are getting the best value by buying locally. It also helps to keep the costs competitive & save on administration costs so that we can pass the saving on to you. Dragoman makes NO PROFIT on kitties as they are the group's fund. 

We constantly update the kitty prices on our website and the kitty advertised in the brochure is an estimate at the time of printing. Prices can go up or down with no notice and exchange rate fluctuations will affect costs. If there is money left in the kitty at the end of your trip then this is divided between the group and you receive a refund.  Once you book your trip it is very important that you check our website on a regular basis and just before departure for any changes to the kitty amount.

At least half of your kitty should be paid in cash in the specified currency on the website (US Dollars or Euros in West Africa). The outstanding amount can be paid in local currency during your trip; your leader will give you the exchange rate.  Most of our travellers choose 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.

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.

Continuing your trip

Having an amazing trip and met a great group of people? Having too much fun to go home yet?  If on your trip you decide you would like to continue, then why not speak to your trip leader who can advise you of the cost and availability of continuing your journey.

Contingency emergency fund

Sometimes, civil or political unrest, or reasons beyond Dragoman's control (e.g. a natural disaster), can mean that an itinerary is disrupted and we have to make a contingency plan. This may involve hiring alternate transport or even the whole group flying over an area. Although Dragoman will help organise travel arrangements, in circumstances outside Dragoman's control you should be prepared to contribute towards the costs and therefore we ask you to bring along a 'Contingency Fund' of USD400. In almost all cases trips run smoothly and this fund is therefore never used. We also recommend that you take along an internationally recognised credit or charge card with a decent limit in case of emergencies, such as medical treatment en route, or even the need to be repatriated; though these occurrences are rare. Remember that travel insurance policies usually only refund you for expenses after you have already paid out.

Tipping

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.