Silk Route between Istanbul and Bishkek (IKY)

Istanbul to Bishkek 54 days, departing 25 Apr 2013

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

Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan has an incredibly rich history as the country has suffered a multitude of invasions from north, south, east and west. It was a melting pot of different peoples and religions but became dominated by successive waves of Turkish (who came form Central Asia, not Turkey), Arabic and Persian invaders. The Islamic heritage is obvious and today it has a strong Muslim culture.

Georgia

Georgia is a mountainous country with spectacular Caucasus scenery, and warm generous people. It is a strongly Christian country and has some of the most historic Christian monuments on the planet. The age and condition of the churches and monasteries, many dating back to the Fifth Century, is staggering. Being such a small country it is possible to see and do a great deal in a short time and yet, because of its geographical and cultural isolation from the West, it is seldom visited by Western travellers.

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.

Turkey

Turkey is a rapidly modernising and western orientated secular state with a free enterprise economy. Historically it has its religious routes firmly entrenched in Islam, and the majority of Turks are Muslim. However, the religion does not dominate the country as it does in some of Turkey's neighbours. The Turks are friendly to visitors, the cuisine is a savoury surprise, and the cities are dotted with majestic old buildings. Turkey's topography ranges from Mediterranean coast to the high rugged mountains of Eastern Turkey. The country combines stunning scenery, immense history and wonderful beaches.

In the capital of Ankara lie many archaeological sites. Theatres, temples and Roman Baths all create an interest as people want to know about Turkeys illustrious history. Ankara is the capital but Istanbul is the life and soul of country. There are restaurants, galleries, bars and clubs that scatter across the city. It is full of life and there is always an activity available to take part in. Find the markets and you will probably find traditional Turkish food and music. With many ranges of Turkish delights and kebabs it might be difficult to pick just one, but the cuisine has so much more to offer. Try a Sigara borek. This is melted cheese wrapped in a light pastry.

In the heart of Cappadocia is the town of Goreme. Known as the Enchanted Valley, this is a fantastic region of cones, needles and columns fashioned by nature from the soft volcanic tuff rock. It is honeycombed with caves scooped out to make churches and dwellings that are known as fairy chimneys and castles. The most interesting are the rock chapels and frescoes of Goreme, the monastic complex of Zelve and the fairy chimneys of Avcilar. Nearby are the remains of underground cities, the most extensive of which housed up to 50,000 people at any one time.

Goats and Sheep roam about the lower mountainous areas of the country, whereas in the Coruh Valley the home of over 250,000 wild fowl. With quite a lot of these birds of prey, it makes them the largest collection of migrating birds in the world.

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan has some of the remotest scenery on Earth. Most of the country is covered by the inhospitable Karakum Desert. The indigenous people are the Turkmen, who mainly live outside the urban centres. The cities and towns are occupied by other peoples of the region. Most Turkmen still live a nomadic or semi-nomadic way of life. Their existence revolves around carpet weaving. They are immensely hospitable people whose culture and way of life has altered little in hundreds of years. The route we take through the country will allow us to get off the main route and into the desert to meet the nomadic Turkmen in their traditional yurts.

In the capital of Ashgabat lies beautiful marble palaces and gleaming golden domes. is a unique modern city that has been extensively rebuilt in the last ten years since independence. Its futuristic and outrageous public buildings are an extraordinary sight. Little is left of the original Russian Imperial city that was destroyed by a massive earthquake in the 1940s.

Relax with some traditional Turkmenistan music and hear how most people sing a-Capella or sometimes with the aid of lutes and dutars. The sounds are incredible and as the singers act as healers or magicians, the style of folk music is revealed.

The majority of Turkmen food isn't spiced but is flavoured by cottonseed oil to give it a distinct taste. Shashlyk is a skewered grilled meat and is often served in restaurants or on the streets of Turkmenistan. Plov is one of the main dishes in the country and it consists of portions of mutton carrots and rice all fried together. This dish is eaten everyday as well as been served on special occasions.

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: Istanbul

Thu 25 Apr 2013

Border Information: If Joining in Istanbul, enter Turkey at Istanbul Airport.

Pre-departure meeting at 10.00 AM. The evening is free to explore Istanbul, the only city in the world that straddles two continents. Accommodation is in a Hostel with good facilities

Hotel for the night: Orient Hostel

Orient Hostel

Akbiyik Caddesi no:13

Sultanahmet

Istanbul

+90 212 517 9493

Activity Approximate Cost

Aya Sofya, Istanbul

USD 12

Guided city tour of Istanbul

USD 33

Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

USD 6

Topkapi Palace (incl. harem), Istanbul

USD 12

Turkish Hamam (incl. massage), Istanbul

USD 56

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul

USD 6

Chora Church, Istanbul

USD 8

Time to explore historic Istanbul and its markets

Included in Kitty

Istanbul

Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, so it will come as no surpise that this vast metropolis has is home to a beguiling mix of different cultures and traditions, blending the influences of both east and west. The city has a rich and intriguing history, originally founded by Greek settlers over 2000 years ago, Istanbul originally went by the name of Byzantium, later renamed Constantinople by the Romans who made it the captial of their eastern empire. Today the city is the largest in Turkey, a bustling mega-city with a population of over 12 million people in total.

The old town is a good place to start you explorations. The Grand Bazaar is a paradise for souvenir hunters and you may well find yourself drinking tea with the shopkeepers whilst haggling over prices. Then there's the Topkapi Palace and Harem, Istanbul's iconic Blue Mosque and the incredible ancient church of Aya Sophia. The Archaeological Museum which contains the tomb of Alexander the Great is also worth a look. After all that sightseeing, take a stroll down to the waterfront and maybe take a boat ride up the Bosphorus, this is a great relaxing way to experience the city from a different angle, with excellent views of the minarets and towers that give the city its distinctive skyline. You might also like to visit an authentic Turkish bath, where attendants will pummel your body as though it was a lump of meat and walk over your back as a form of massage. Just around the corner from the baths is the  'Pudding Shop', infamous amoung travellers embarking on the hippie trail back in the 60's and 70's, a great spot to relax, recover and chat to other travellers at the end of the day.

Day 2: Istanbul, Tuz Golu

Fri 26 Apr 2013

A relaxing final morning spent in Istanbul, in the early afternoon we head East towards Goreme, stopping at Toz Golu en route. Tonight we will be wild camping en route.

Tuz Golu

Lake Tuz is the 3rd largest lake in Turkey, and the phrase "Tuz Golu" means "Salt Lake". In the summer there is up to 30cm 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.

Day 3: Goreme

Sat 27 Apr 2013

Today we will drive approximately 330 Kms to Goreme staying overnight in a well-equipped hostel.

Please note that dorm bed are sometimes used here.

Activity Approximate Cost

2-3 nights to discover Cappadocia's Goreme Valley and underground troglodyte cities and caves

Included in Kitty

Goreme

Goreme is a small town in the heart of Cappadocia in Turkey. Known as the Enchanted Valley, the cones, needles and columns fashioned by nature from the soft volcanic tuff rock found here form a unique and surreal landscape. The area is riddled with caves, scooped out of the rock to house churches and dwellings that are known as fairy chimneys and castles. Perhaps the most interesting are the rock chapels and frescoes of Goreme, the monastic complex of Zelve and the fairy chimneys of Avcilar. Nearby you can also see the remains of a number of underground cities, the most extensive of which housed up to 50,000 people at any one time. These cities could be shut up in the event of an invasion and the population kept safe below ground until the invaders departed.

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.

Day 4: Goreme

Sun 28 Apr 2013

We now have a full day to explore Goreme, including a guided tour of the enchanted valley of Cappadocia. Second night staying at our hostel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Guided tour of Cappadocia's Goreme Valley, and underground cities and caves

Included in Kitty

Take a hot air balloon flight over Cappadocia

EUR 130

Day 5: Zara

Mon 29 Apr 2013

Today we leave Goreme behind us and drive approximately 340kms North West. We may stop in Zara en route to shop for supplies before driving on to our wild camp for the night.

Day 6: Sumela

Tue 30 Apr 2013

Today we will reach Sumela after driving roughly 300kms (or in colder conditions we will make our way to a hotel in Trabzon - 350kms). This afternoon or tomorrow morning we will visit the beautiful Sumela Monastery.

We will camp overnight if conditions allow.

Sumela

Set in the cliffs is the beautiful monastery of Sumela.  The monastery clings to a sheer rock wall high above evergreen forests and a rushing mountain stream.

Day 7: Batumi, Sumela

Wed 01 May 2013

Border Information: Exit Turkey Sarp & Enter Georgia at Sarpi

This morning we will visit Sumela Monastery (if we have not yet visited). We then continue to the border and cross into Georgia. Our first night will be spent in the port town of Batumi (approx 230kms) in a comfortable hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Exploration of the Black Sea mountain monastery at Sumela

Included in Kitty

Batumi

Situated on the black sea coast Batumi has the feel of a resort town, nicely situated between the sea and the green hills. It is a great place to relax and there are plenty of cafes where you can enjoy a Turkish coffee and watch the world go by.

Day 8: Kutaisi

Thu 02 May 2013

After a relaxing morning we leave the port town of Batumi behind us as we make our way to the ancient town of Kutaisi (approx 140kms). This afternoon we will visit the medieval Bragrati Cathedral and the Gelati monastery. 

Tonight we stay overnight at either a homestay near the city or a local hotel.

Kutaisi

Kutaisi is one of the cradles of Georgian civilisation and the people here are renowned for their hospitality. Kutasi is home to the Bagrati Cathedral which sits high on a hill overlooking the town. This immense building was started by Bagrat III in 1003.  It is in a state of ruin, but is still an impressive Christian monument. 

Whilst visiting Kutaisi we organise a traditional homestay with local families which gives us a good insight into local life.

Day 9: Gori

Fri 03 May 2013

This morning is free to explore the charming town on Kutaisi. This afternoon we make our way to Gori (approximately 150kms). This afternoon we will have a guided tour of Gori that includes the Stalin museum. 

Overnight in a local hotel.

Gori

At Gori we will visit Stalin's House and Railway Carriage.  The museum houses many photographs, some documents, some furniture and gifts presented to the dictator.  It also houses Stalin's death mask.  Outside the museum is the railway carriage which Stalin used for 12 years.

About 10kms outside the town is the cave town of Uplistsikhe, one of the oldest places of settlement in the Caucasus. Here we will find another ancient monastery and city with a Second Century Roman theatre and a more recent Ninth Century church.  The site was started as a trading centre on the famed Silk Route in the Fifth Century.

Day 10: Kazbegi

Sat 04 May 2013

An early start this morning for a beautiful drive to the spectacularly located town of Kazbegi (approximately 190kms). Either this afternoon or tomorrow morning we walk up to the Tsminda Sameba Church or the Church of the Holy Trinity.

Overnight at a either a homestay or at the Alpine Ecology Research Institute in Kazbegi. 

Activity Approximate Cost

Hike to Tsminda Sameba Church (approx 1.5 hrs), the 14th-century Holy Trinity Church above Kazbegi

Included in Kitty

Kazbegi

Kazbegi is a small town in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region of north-eastern Georgia, an area famed for it's natural beauty.

Day 11: Tbilisi

Sun 05 May 2013

Border Information: Welcome to Tbilisi: If Joining in Tbilisi you will enter Georgia at Tbilisi Airport.

There will be a group meeting at 18.00 hrs. The rest of the evening is free to explore.

Overnight in a comfortable hotel.

Hotel for the night: Hotel Istanbul

 

Hotel Istanbul

148, Agmashenebeli ave

Tbilisi

Georgia

Tel: (+995 32) 911182 / 911183

Fax: (+995 32) 91 11 85

E-mail: info@hotelistanbul.ge

Tbilisi

The city of Tbilisi is very historic. It was founded in the Fifth Century and by the Twelfth Century it had become a very important cultural and economic centre.  Its geographical position gave it control over the Silk Route and hence it became a regional super power.  The Old City is full of churches and ancient wooden houses. It is easy to spend a day wandering around this charming city.  It is also worth visiting the oriental markets and making a visit to the Narikala Fortress, which dominates the city skyline.

Day 12: Tbilisi

Mon 06 May 2013

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

Second night in comfortable local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Guided tour of Tbilisi's old town.

Included in Kitty

Day 13: Telavi

Tue 07 May 2013

This morning we will drive to the Alazani valley and on to Telavi (approx 95kms) where we base ourselves for 2 days in order to explore this facinating region. The afternoon is free to explore the area.

Overnight at a homestay.

Activity Approximate Cost

Overland through eastern Georgia and the wine growing region - time to stock up

Included in Kitty

Telavi

Telavi is the capital of the wine growing region of Kakheti and is situated in the valley of Alazani, near the Gombori Mountains.  Telavi is a charming place and has fine views of the Caucasus. Nearby we visit the Sixth Century Shaumta Monastery, which is beautifully located on an isolated forested hilltop. There are hundreds of different grapes grown here, and every village has its own particular variety.  We will hopefully see some of the local traditions, including grape harvest, wine making, and most importantly, the keipi (banquet), and also visit some of the local vineyards.

Day 14: Telavi

Wed 08 May 2013

Today we drive to an area in Georgia known for its vineyards and wineries. There are hundreds of different grapes grown here, and every village has its own particular variety.  We will hopefully see some of the local traditions, including grape harvest, wine making, and most importantly, the keipi (banquet), and also visit some of the local vineyards.

Second night in a comfortable homestay.

Day 15: Lagodekhi

Thu 09 May 2013

Today we leave the wine region behind us as we make our way towards the Azerbaijan border.

We will wild camp tonight en route.

Day 16: Sheki

Fri 10 May 2013

Border information: Exit Georgia at Ladodekhi, Enter Azerbaijan at Balakan

Today we cross the border to Azerbaijan, once all the border formalities are over we continue our drive to Sheki. Whilst here we will visit the exquisite Khan's Palace and the Museum of History. 

Overnight in a comfortable hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Overnight in an atmospheric converted Caravanserai at Sheiki

Included in Kitty

Day 17: Gobustan

Sat 11 May 2013

Today we drive approximately 210kms to the town of Gobuston. Whilst here we visit the Rock art and mud volcanoes that this area is known for. 

Tonight we will wild camp overnight.

Activity Approximate Cost

Day trip to Gobustan to see the mud volcanoes and the petroglyphs

Included in Kitty

Day 18: Baku

Sun 12 May 2013

This morning we drive the remaining 90kms to the Azeri Capital, Baku. Our itinerary in Baku and the Caspian Sea must be flexible and is very much determined by sailing of the local ferries. These are notoriously unpredictable and we must adjust our times both in Baku and in Turkmenbashi (the port on the Turkmenistan side of the sea).

Overnight in a comfortable hotel

Day 19: Baku

Mon 13 May 2013

Free day in Baku to explore the city.

Overnight in a comfortable hotel.

Please note that this nightstop may change depending on when the ferry to Turkmenistan departs from Baku port. 

Activity Approximate Cost

Guided trip around old town Baku including the Maiden Tower & Shirvan Shakh Palace

Included in Kitty

Explore historic Baku

Day 20: Baku

Tue 14 May 2013

Free day in Baku to explore the city.

Overnight in a comfortable hotel 

Please note that this nightstop may change depending on when the ferry to Turkmenistan departs from Baku port. 

TURKMENISTAN VISA NOTE: As the Caspian Ferry crossing can be very unpredictable, we advise you to get your Turkmenistan visa issued with at least 2 flexible days either side of your predicted enter/exit to Turkmenistan. So for entry in this direction please get a visa valid from Today.

Activity Approximate Cost

24 hour ferry crossing of the Caspian Sea. Don't read too much into the word 'ferry'

Included in Kitty

Day 21: Overnight Ferry

Wed 15 May 2013

From Baku we will take the ferry across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan. The boat docks at the city of Turkmenbashi.  Ferry is perhaps a rather misleading word for those used to comfortable holiday boats.  Rusty, old and tub are words that might spring to your lips, but there is only one way across the Caspian Sea and beggars can't be choosers.

Overnight in cabins on the ferry.

Day 22: Turkmenbashi

Thu 16 May 2013

Border information: Exit Azerbaijan at Baku, Enter Turkmenistan at Turkmenbashi.

Today we enter Turkmenistan. We will be either camping or staying at a local hotel tonight.

TURKMENISTAN VISA NOTE: As the Caspian Ferry crossing can be very unpredictable, we advise you to get a Turkmenistan visa issued with at least 2 'flexible' days either side of your predicted enter/exit to Turkmenistan

Day 23: Geok Tepe

Fri 17 May 2013

This morning we have some time to explore Turkmenbashi. This afternoon we drive (approx 450kms) to the spectacular Kow Ata underground Lake. We will have some time either this afternoon or tomorrow morning to explore this superb lake of clear water naturally heated to about 36°C. 

Tonight we will wild camp in this area.

Activity Approximate Cost

Explore Turkmenistan's unique underground Lake and swim in crystal clear waters natually heated to around 36°C 

Included in Kitty

Geok Tepe

At Geok Tepe we will visit the Sapar Haji Mosque. This ancient site housed a great fortress, little of which now remains, but the new mosque is now being built to the tune of $65 million.

Day 24: Ashgabat

Sat 18 May 2013

This morning we have a short drive to Turkmenistan's bizarre modern capital, Ashgabat. This afternoon is free to explore.

Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Activity Approximate Cost

Overland from Turkmenbashi via the stunning underground lake at Bakharden to Ashgabat

Included in Kitty

Ashgabat

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.

Day 25: Ashgabat

Sun 19 May 2013

Border Information: Welcome to the amazing city of Ashgabat: If joining in Ashgabat, enter Turkmensitan at Ashgabat Airport.

Today there will be a group meeting at 10:00 Hrs.

In the afternoon we make a visit to Ashgabat's famous Sunday market. Tonight we stay in a good quality hotel in Ashgabat.

Hotel for the night: Ak Altyn

Ak Altyn Hotel

141/1 Magtymguly ave.

 Ashgabat

744000

Turkmenistan

Tel: +99312-363700

Fax: +99312-363494

Activity Approximate Cost

Discover the bizarre modern city of Ashgabat with its great hotels and restaurants

Included in Kitty

Explore, shop and haggle at the vast Tolkuchka Sunday Market

Included in Kitty

Day 26: Darwasa

Mon 20 May 2013

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. Overnight near Darwasa where we will wildcamp.

Darwasa

From Darwasa, 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!

Day 27: Kunye Urgench

Tue 21 May 2013

We continue our overland journey across the Karakum. We will visit the Kunye Urgench ruins en route to our wildcamp for the night.

Kunye Urgench

Kunye Urgench is situated on the shores of the Amu Daria 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 60-m high minaret.

Day 28: Khiva

Wed 22 May 2013

Border Information: Exit Turkmeistan at Shovot, enter Uzbekistan at Nijazov.

This morning we 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.

Khiva

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 1500's 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, you should make sure you visit the Kukhna Ark & Juma Mosque, Pakhlovan Mahmus Mausoleum and Islam Hodja Madrassa.

Day 29: Khiva

Thu 23 May 2013

This morning we have a guided tour of this ancient city. The afternoon is free to explore this wonderfully preserved Khanate town. Second night in a comfortable hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Guided tour of the UNESCO heritage site of the old walled city of Khiva

Included in Kitty

Day 30: Bukhara

Fri 24 May 2013

Leaving Khiva, most of today will be spent travelling. Our destination is the fascinating city of Bukhara where will spend the next 3 nights. Overnight in comfortable local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

3 nights to explore the historic and amazingly beautiful city of Bukhara

Included in Kitty

Wander the historic bazaars and markets of Bukhara where unbelievable bargains can be had

Bukhara

Bukhara is an atmospheric city alive with it's 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, particularly the Ark Fortress, Ismail Samanid Mausoleum and the famous Kalyan Minaret (also known as the Death Tower). 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.

Day 31: Bukhara

Sat 25 May 2013

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

Activity Approximate Cost

Guided city tour of Bukhara, including the Ark Fortress, Death Tower and Ismail Samanid Mausoleum

Included in Kitty

Day 32: Bukhara

Sun 26 May 2013

Today is free for you to explore more of Bukhara and the surrounding area, or to just kick-back and take it easy for the day. Third night in comfortable local hotel.

 

Activity Approximate Cost

Wander the historic bazaars and markets of Bukhara where unbelievable bargains can be had

Included in Kitty

The Prison 'Zindon'.

USD

Day 33: Nurata

Mon 27 May 2013

Morning drive to Nurata in the Kyzylkhum Desert. Afternoon optional camel rides. Overnight in a desert yurt camp amongst the dunes.

Activity Approximate Cost

Overnight in the Kyzylkum Desert staying in yurts.

Included in Kitty

Nurata

Nurata is home to the Nurata mountains and is famous for it's 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.

Day 34: Samarkand

Tue 28 May 2013

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. Staying in a small friendly hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

3 nights discovering the majestic splendour of Samarkand

Included in Kitty

State Art Museum.

USD 1.5

Guri-amir Mausoleum.

USD

Hazrat-Hizr Mosque.

USD 0.5

Bibi Hanum Mosque.

USD

Samarkand

In the 14th century the city of Samarkand was the capital of the great sultanate of Timur. Thanks to it's cemtral location along the Silk Route, the town originally grew propserous as a crossroads between East and West, creating a melting pot of different cultures and traditions whose influences are still very much apparent event today. Samarkand is perhaps the most romantic and evocative of the Silk Road cities, and crowned by the decorative domes and minarets of the many beautiful buildings here it certainly looks the part.  The must-see's include Registan Square, which feels like the centre-point of the city, home to a group of impressively decorated Madressas, Guri Amir and the Shah-i-Zinda mausoleum.

Day 35: Samarkand

Wed 29 May 2013

Today we will have a guided tour of Samarkand and the surrounding area, including The Registan, Ulugbek Medressa, Bibi-Khanym Mosque and Shah-I-Zinda.

Second night in a comfortable local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost

Guided visits to Shakh-I-Zinda, Registan Square & Tamerlane's Tomb in Samarkand

Included in Kitty

Day 36: Samarkand

Thu 30 May 2013

Free day to explore the great sultanate of Timur, Samarkand.

Activity Approximate Cost

Visit to Shakhrisabz city

USD 60

Day 37: Tashkent

Fri 31 May 2013

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. Whilst in Tashkent we stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Activity Approximate Cost

One night to explore Urban Tashkent

Included in Kitty

Art Gallery of Uzbekistan.

USD 0.3

Museum of Applied Arts.

USD 0.6

History Museum of the People of Uzbekistan.

USD 2

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 38: Tashkent

Sat 01 Jun 2013

Free day to explore the old Soviet city of Tashkent. Second night in comfortable hotel.

Day 39: Tashkent

Sun 02 Jun 2013

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

Day 40: Ferghana City, Fergana Mountains, Fergana Valley

Mon 03 Jun 2013

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 41: Arslanbob

Tue 04 Jun 2013

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 42 to 44: Kyrgyz Fergana Valley

Wed 05 Jun to Fri 07 Jun 2013

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 45 to 46: Song Kol Lake

Sat 08 Jun to Sun 09 Jun 2013

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 47: Kochkor, Kochkor Homestay

Mon 10 Jun 2013

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 48 to 49: Jeti-Oghuz Valley

Tue 11 Jun to Wed 12 Jun 2013

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 50: Kara-kol

Thu 13 Jun 2013

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 51 to 52: Chong Kemin Valley

Fri 14 Jun to Sat 15 Jun 2013

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 53: Bishkek

Sun 16 Jun 2013

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 54: Bishkek

Mon 17 Jun 2013

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.

Turkey

As of January 2014, it is no longer possible to get a visa on arrival in Turkey. Everyone who requires one must obtain an e-visa in advance by applying at the website:    https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/. You'll have to pay for the visa with a Visa/Mastercard credit or debit card. The visas are multiple-entry and valid for 90 days. 

The visa costs can change depending on the political climate of the region; at the time of writing (January 2014) the prices are:

For UK, Ireland, USA, and most EU passport holders - USD20

For Australia and Canada passport holders - USD60

For New Zealand, France, Germany - Exempt from visa

For other passports - please see their website.

Georgia

Citizens of the following countries do not require a visa to Georgia for stays of up to 360 days: All European Union Member States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and United States of America.

All Nationalities should check with the nearest Embassy or Consulate for the latest visa information as this is subject to change at short notice.

Azerbaijan Eastbound

Most nationalities require a visa to visit Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan E-Visa

we recommend you apply for an E-Visa. This is an electronic visa and you will get a PDF visa sent to you once you have made your application online. This e-visa means you do not need to apply at an Embassy and is often cheaper then applying in advance. This process usually takes 15 working days so please make your application as soon as possible. 

Azerbaijan Westbound

Most nationalities require a visa to visit Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan E-Visa

we recommend you apply for an E-Visa. This is an electronic visa and you will get a PDF visa sent to you once you have made your application online. This e-visa means you do not need to apply at an Embassy and is often cheaper then applying in advance. This process usually takes 15 working days so please make your application as soon as possible. 

There are two options for obtaining the E-Visa:

 1.     The Visa Machine

You'll need to fill out an application form. Unfortunately this needs to be done so if you can't face completing another form the Visa Machine have offered to discount their form filling fee by 50% down to £10.00 for this e-visa. If you're not so fussed about 'yet another form' they've made it as simple as possible with a handy how-to-guide to complete it yourself.

The application process can be started by going to the following address:  http://dragoman.thevisamachine.com/visa/1040/azerbaijan/tourist-e-visa/single-entry

The application cost is $80US plus £20 admin fee. 

Any questions please contact the Visa Machine on 0207 148 6402 and on email:

  http://dragoman.thevisamachine.com/contact

2. Direct to an Azeri travel agent

An alternative option is to use Azerbaijan24, an Azeri travel agent. Please follow the link to find instructions on completing the application form independently:

  http://azerbaijan24.com/azerbaijan-visa-support.html

The application will cost $100US.

Please note that the Azerbaijan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a E-visa application link on their website. We have received reports that this option does not work and applications have gone missing. We recommend you use the services of either the Visa Machine or an Azeri travel agent like Azerbaijan24.

Information for your visa application form

When applying for you visa you will be asked to write in the 'Inviting Party' on your application form. Please write the following:

Mirvari Travel Ltd.

Istiqlaliyyet str. 23, Baku, Azerbaijan

Tel:+994 12 492 09 45

Turkmenistan Eastbound

All visitors to Turkmenistan require a visa and this must be obtained in Advance. Visas can only be issued once a letter of Invitation (LOI) has been obtained.

The cost of the visa varies depending on your nationality.

Starting any trip in Ashgabat

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

Turkmenistan Westbound

All visitors to Turkmenistan require a visa. It is possible to obtain this visa at the land border on all Westbound trips. Visas can only be issued once a letter of Invitation (LOI) has been obtained. 

The cost of the visa varies depending on your nationality.

Travelling to Turkmenistan in the Month of October 

Independence Day in Turkmenistan is on October 27th. The government usually imposes restrictions on the issuance of the Letters of Invitation (and therefore visas) during the month of September for all those travelling to Turkmenistan in October.

Dragoman must therefore have all the requested information and a copy of a passport in August as applications made after this date may not be granted.

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 that if you decide to obtain your visa in a different location (to that stated on the Central Asis visa form), 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. *

Uzbekistan Westbound

Most nationalities require a visa to visit Uzbekistan.

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 that if you decide to obtain your visa in a different location (to that stated on the Central Asia visa form), 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. *

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,Tashkent

Uzbekistan

Tel: +998 71 120 88 77

 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.

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, 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.

Where to obtain your visas

Eastbound Trips

Turkey - E-visa to be organised in advance

Georgia - On arrival (in advance if required)

Azerbaijan - E-visa to be organised in advance

Turkmenistan - In advance

Uzbekistan - In advance

Kyrgyzstan - In advance if required

Westbound Trips 

Kyrgyzstan - In advance if required

Uzbekistan - Bishkek

Turkmenistan - Border

Azerbaijan - E-visa to be organised in advance

Georgia - On arrival (in advance if required)

Turkey - E-visa to be organised in advance

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.

Pre trip accommodation in Ashgabat

All tourists must register within three days of arrival in Ashgabat with the State Migration Service of Turkmenistan. This registration procedure will be carried out by Dragoman’s local agent in Turkmenistan on arrival at your hotel in Ashgabat (if arriving before the trips start date) or with the group on the first day of your trip.

Due to the registration procedure we ask all clients arriving in Ashgabat before your trip starts to contact Dragoman or you booking agent with full arrival details i.e. flight number, date and time of arrival at Ashgabat airport. We also ask that all clients wishing to book pre trip accommodation do so directly with either Dragoman or your booking agent in order for the registration procedure to be carried out.

For full details and prices of pre trip accommodation in Ashgabat please contact your sales agent.

Taxis / transfers from Ashgabat airport to your hotel

There are licensed taxis in Turkmenistan, which are clearly identified and yellow in colour. Although the taxis have meters to calculate the fare, drivers will usually ask foreign nationals for a set fee of around 5 to 10 Manat (taxis from the airport cost more and they usually ask for US$. Most taxi drivers do not speak much English. It is also possible to flag down ordinary cars from the roadside and negotiate a fee with the driver for the journey to your destination. The British FCO advise against this as there is usually no insurance cover, the servicing of the cars is very likely to be infrequent and of poor quality and they are unlikely to have working seatbelts.

Alternatively transfers from Ashgabat airport to your hotel can be booked direclty through Dragoman or your booking agent in advance. For full details please contact your booking agent. 

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.

Money Exchange

Turkmenistan

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.

Uzbekistan

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 charges.

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.

Money Note

Uzbekistan

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 charges.

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.

 Kyrgyzstan

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.

 

 

 

 

Money Exchange

Turkey

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.

Georgia

The official currency in Georgia is the Lari (GEL). ATMs are common in larger towns and will usually accept MasterCard, Visa, Cirrus and Maestro cards. There are also plenty of exchange offices in larger town where US dollars, Euros and sometimes British pounds can be exchange for Georgian Lari. 

Money Exchange

Azerbaijan 

The official currency of Azerbaijan is the New Manat (AZN). ATMs are common throughout Baku and in most major towns and the majority will accept foreign credit cards. Rates at exchange facilities are excellent for US dollars and pretty good for Euros.  

Turkmenistan

 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 ATMs 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.

 

 

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.