Essential Trip Information — Central Asia
Passports, visas and entry requirements
You’ll need a valid passport to travel internationally and most countries require your passport to have a minimum of 6 months validity, so remember to check the expiry date.
We need your passport information to get everything ready for your trip so it’s important that the information on your booking matches your passport exactly. Please take care to provide the correct details. We recommend carrying a copy of the photo page of your passport while travelling and leaving a copy at home with family or friends.
VISAS & ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
Many countries require a visa and obtaining the correct visa for your trip and any countries you may transit through is your responsibility. We recommend you check your visa requirements as soon as you have booked your trip. This will ensure you have time to prepare your documents and for your visa application to be processed. You can check the entry requirements for your nationality on your government's foreign travel advisories, consular websites.
Many nationalities, including Australia, Germany, USA, Canada, United Kingdom and New Zealand do not require a visa for stays of up to 30 days. Please check with your local consulate for the most up to date requirements.
If you may require a visa for Kazakhstan, you will need a Letter of Invitation issued by their government. Our local team can support this. Please contact your booking agent if you need it. It'll take approximately 10 working days for the government to process and cost 70 USD per application. Please note that the issuance of the LOI will be entirely up to the discretion of the Kazakhstan Foreign Affairs office.
Most nationalities do not require a visa to travel to Kyrgyzstan for up to 60 days, including Australia, Belgium, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, USA and Switzerland. Other nationalities can check this website first about applying for an E-visa: https://www.evisa.e-gov.kg
Otherwise, please check with your nearest embassy and obtain a visa in advance if required. Please contact us should you need any supporting documents for your visa application.
Many nationalities no longer require a visa for stays of up to 90 days, including most European countries, Great Britain, Australia & Canada. You can check if you are eligible for the visa free scheme here: https://e-visa.gov.uz/main
For nationalities not included in the visa exemption list, including US citizens, an e-visa is available. The e-visa is issued for a period of stay in the territory of Uzbekistan up to 30 days with a single entry and is valid for 90 days from the date of issue. Travellers must submit an online application for a visa at least three working days before the planned date of travel to Uzbekistan. The consular fee for processing and issuing an e-visa is US$20 to be paid online. Please check if you are eligible for an e-visa and apply here: https://e-visa.gov.uz/main
INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR E-VISA APPLICATION
- Address of your joining point hotel
- You will need to have a scanned PDF copy of your passport to upload for your application
- You will need to upload a passport photo that meet the standard of ICAO - you can check here for the standards of the photo http://www.cgiistanbul.org/frontEnd/userfiles/files/ICAO%20Guidelines%20...
- Your passport will need to be valid for at least three months after you’ve entered Uzbekistan to obtain a visa.
REGISTRATION IN UZBEKISTAN
All visitors to Uzbekistan must register with the local department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs within 3 working days after arrival. When staying at a hotel, you will be registered automatically. Please ensure you keep any registration documents issued by the hotel until you exit the country.
Some medications available over the counter or by prescription in other countries, such as sleeping tablets, may be illegal or restricted in Uzbekistan. You should declare all prescription medications and other restricted items on arrival in Uzbekistan, and carry a copy of the prescription with you.
Medical and health information
All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. For the safety and wellbeing of yourself and others, if you are unwell prior to travelling, please stay at home and contact us to make alternative arrangements.
When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to manage and enjoy our style of travel. Please note that if in the assessment of our group leader or local staff a traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, we reserve the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements in their original packaging as they may not easily be obtained while travelling. If you are carrying medication, ensure you check your government's foreign travel advice for any local restrictions or requirements.
The safety and well-being of our travellers, leaders, crew, staff, and suppliers continues to remain our highest priority as we travel. We have no specific vaccination, testing or vaccination requirements, however please be aware that some parts of the world still require COVID-19 vaccination or testing as part of their entry requirements and may have their own quarantine or isolation protocols. Please check for any additional requirements on your government's foreign travel advice website.
Some medications available over the counter or by prescription in your home country, such as sleeping tablets, may be illegal or restricted in Central Asia. Ensure you have a copy of any prescriptions as well as a letter from your doctor and be prepared to declare any prescription medication at customs.
Travel in forested areas brings the risk of exposure to tick-borne diseases. Ticks are very common in country areas and are most active from spring to autumn. Take precautions against insect bites, including the use of insect repellent.
Medical facilities are limited in Central Asia, with doctors and clinics often requiring payment in cash prior to providing services, even for emergency care. Standards in remote areas will be very basic.
The diet and hygiene standards of Central Asia may be very different from what you are used to so please take care with washing hands before meals etc and bring some medication/re-hydration salts etc should you experience stomach problems.
Giardia intestinalis, a parasite that can cause diarrhoea, is reported from time to time in the water supply and which may not be eradicated by purification methods such as tablets or iodine are used. For this reason we recommend against drinking unboiled tap water in all Central Asian cities.
Malaria is endemic in the southern and western parts of the country bordering Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, particularly in Batken, Osh and Zhele-Abdskaya provinces.
Medical facilities in Kazakhstan are generally below Western standards. Most clinics and hospitals will require payment in cash, regardless of whether or not you have travel insurance.
Ticks are common in forested areas in spring to autumn and may carry tick-borne encephalitis. When walking in countryside areas take precaution against being bitten by insects, including the use of insect repellent.
Some medications available over the counter or by prescription in your home country, such as sleeping tablets or medication containing codeine, may be illegal or restricted in Kazakhstan. Carry a copy of any prescriptions along with a letter from your doctor and declare all prescription medication on arrival.
Malaria is endemic in the southern and western parts of the country bordering Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, particularly in Batken, Osh and Zhele-Abdskaya provinces. Travel in forested areas brings the risk of exposure to tick-borne encephalitis. Ticks are very common from spring to autumn. Ensure you take precautions to prevent insect bites, such as covering up and using insect repellent. Medical facilities in Bishkek are limited and in remote areas the standard of medical services is very basic.
Food and dietary requirements
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. If you have dietary requirements and/or food allergies, please let your booking agent know prior to departure.
The Central Asian diet relies heavily on meat based dishes. There are options available for vegetarians, however these may at times be limited to plain noodles, bread, fruit, nuts, yoghurt, cheese, eggs etc. Those with particular dietary needs may choose to supplement meals with supplies bought from home or stock up at markets and supermarkets as you travel.
OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (subject to availability), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget an appropriate amount for things like optional meals, drinks, shopping, optional activities, and laundry. Make sure you have read the itinerary and inclusions thoroughly so you know what is included in the trip price and what you may need to pay for while travelling.
We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. We reserve the right to change an itinerary after departure due to local circumstances or a Force Majeure Event. In such emergency circumstances, the additional cost of any necessary itinerary alterations will be covered by you. Please note we are not responsible for any incidental expenses that may be incurred as a result of the change of itineraries including but not limited to visas, vaccinations or non-refundable flights. Make sure you have access to an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last-minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result, there may be some extra costs involved. The recommended amount is listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers, however, local currency may be needed once in the country to cover these costs.
The official currency in Kazakhstan is the Tenge (KZT). ATMs are common and credit cards are accepted at many shops, restaurants and hotels in larger cities. In smaller towns and in markets and street kiosks or cafes you will need local currency in smaller denominations. Currency exchange counters can be found in main shopping areas of cities or near markets and are likely to accept USD or EUR as the main currencies.
The official currency of Kyrgyzstan is the Kyrgyzstan Som (KGS). This can only be obtained within Kyrgyzstan. Conversion of KGS back into other foreign currencies may prove difficult, even in neighbouring countries. Kyrgyzstan is primarily a cash economy. ATMs are available for major cities and towns. Your leader will advise on the best places and times to withdraw or exchange money and suggest suitable amounts. EUR and USD are the best currencies to bring for exchange.
The currency is the Uzbekistan som (UZS). UZS cannot be obtained outside of Uzbekistan, so you will either need to bring USD or EUR with you to exchange or use an ATM to withdraw. We recommend bringing both cash and a card for times when you cannot access an ATM or they are out of money. Visa cards are said to be the most accepted for ATM withdrawals as some Mastercard holders have reported issues. ATMs can be found within many high end hotels in Tashkent and some other cities as well as some banks. Cash can be exchanged at the Currency Exchange at Tashkent Airport or at banks. The "black market" is now obsolete and illegal following currency reforms in recent years. 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. As of 2018 it is no longer necessary to declare all cash in all currencies when entering the country. It is difficult to exchange UZS into other currencies outside of the country, so ensure you budget well or exchange at a bank before departure.
If you are happy with the services providing a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Please check the bill and if there’s an addition of service charge, there’s no requirement for tipping. Otherwise, around 5-10% of the bill is appropriate for tipping.
At local markets and basic restaurants: Leave the loose change.
Local guides and Driver: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$1 - 2 per person, per day for local guides and driver.
Your leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline US$2-3 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible and make sure that you are able to carry and lift your own luggage, and walk with it for short distances.
Many travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller suitcases or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry or handles. A lockable bag or small padlock is useful as your luggage may get stowed separately and unattended while you travel on public transport or trains.
Below are some ideas and helpful tips on what you specifically need for this trip.
- Day pack: for carrying essentials when exploring destinations like water, camera, snacks, jacket, etc.
- Lightweight clothing: A mixture of covering lightweight clothing and some warm layers (depending on the season) are recommended. It is best to check the weather and seasonal information before travelling. Please also bring clothing that covers arms and pants/skirts that go past the knee for entry into local religious sites. For women travellers, a light scarf is also a good idea for covering shoulders and arms.
- Comfortable shoes for full day walking/trekking: Closed-in shoes will help to protect your feet from cuts and scratches when walking through cities as well as bush/grass-lands, and will also act as a barrier protection in rare cases against bites or stings
- Wind and waterproof jacket
- Sun protection: hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and lip balm
- Personal medical kit: we recommend you carry items such as mild pain killers, electrolytes, Band-Aids and insect repellent.
- Water bottle: We recommend at least a 1.5 litre capacity. 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.
- Spare batteries. Our trips have access to power to recharge batteries for phones and cameras most days but we recommend you take spare batteries for your camera.
- Electrical travel adapter plug
- Inner sleep sheet/bag for trains or overnight stays in yurt
- Money belt
- Torch or flash light
- Hand sanitizer
- Ear plugs to guard against street noise and snorers.
- A good book, a journal and music player for overnight train rides and longer drives.
- Images from home: During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and talk with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos / postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.
Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables, and use your hotel safe. We strongly recommend that you photocopy all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, etc. and keep the copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a photocopy makes it very much easier to obtain replacements if necessary.
Temperatures can get very low overnight in Kyrgyzstan. Please ensure you have adequate warm clothing, including to sleep in during our yurt stay.
All group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. We endeavour to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense, you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious, and social aspects. We aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you are interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
Most national governments provide regularly updated foreign travel advice on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all destinations and activities on your trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, flight tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however, during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests or relax and take it easy. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your itinerary, and makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
Kazakhstan is generally a safe country to travel in, provided you follow normal safety precautions. There have been occasional reports of foreigners being targeted by pickpockets in tourist or busy shopping areas or on public transport. Thieves posing as police officers or unsolicited 'meet-and-greet' drivers at airports have robbed travellers. Official taxi drivers and police officers have identification. If approached, ask to see credentials. Avoid taking unofficial taxis or taxis that have other passengers. Be careful when crossing streets as cars may not give way to pedestrians. Carry your passport or a copy of it, with appropriate registration, at all times.
Few travellers will experience any safety issues in Kyrgyzstan if general precautions are followed. Take care if you go out after dark. Keep large amounts of money hidden at all times and be wary of strangers offering help or being over-friendly. Be particularly aware of your surroundings when using currency exchange offices. Thieves posing as off duty police, uniformed police or unsolicited 'meet and greet' drivers at airports are known to target travellers. Avoid walking alone at night and don’t travel in unofficial taxis. Carry your passport or a copy of it, at all times.
Uzbekistan is generally a very safe place to travel. Petty crime targeting foreigners and tourists sometimes occurs in Uzbekistan. A regulation has been introduced allowing only licensed taxis (with certain colour and signs and card payment equipment) to operate in Uzbekistan. However, unlicensed taxis continue to operate. You should use official taxis where possible. There have been reports of robberies by individuals posing as police officers. Avoid obvious displays of wealth, particularly in rural areas. Crime levels are higher at night. Avoid walking alone.
It is illegal to photograph government and military buildings, and also public transport infrastructure, including metro stations. This may result in confiscation of equipment or detention. Check before taking photographs of government or security infrastructure.
You should carry your passport with you at all times as this is a legal requirement in Uzbekistan. The police often carry out checks.
There is a ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco to those under 20.
Homosexuality is illegal under Uzbek law and is still very much frowned upon socially. You should take care over public displays of affection.
A couple of rules
We like to think our travellers are all connected by a love of adventure and passion for seeing the world in a different way. We've laid down a few non-negotiable rules to ensure everyone feels connected, comfortable and safe on our trips.
We ask that you respect your fellow travellers, group leader, and local people and places we visit in all circumstances. We don't tolerate any forms of violence and expect that you follow the local laws, customs and regulations in any destination we travel to. Any behaviour contrary to the above, including any behaviour that prevents our staff from performing their duty of care or continuing the itinerary as planned, may result in travellers being removed from the trip.
If you consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking and expect you to abide by local alcohol laws.
To ensure the well-being of everyone on the trip, all decisions made by group leaders and ground staff are final.
Romantic relationships between travellers and group leaders are not permitted while on trip.
By travelling with us, you agree to comply with these rules and the laws and customs of all countries visited.
If something is concerning you during your travels with us, please speak to your group leader or local guide immediately.
Travelling on a group trip
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons, we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
The beauty of our style of travel is that it caters to travellers who are travelling solo and who want to meet and share experiences with like-minded people.
On our trips rooming is organised on a twin-share basis. We pair up solo travellers with another traveller of the same gender as per the gender marker on each of their passports.
As a responsible tour operator, we strive to create a safe and inclusive environment for everyone. In the case that your gender identity differs from what is indicated on your passport, please contact us so that we can discuss rooming options with you.
We also have an optional single supplement available on most trips for travellers who prefer to have their own room. Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour. Pre-trip and post-trip accommodation booked through us will be on a single room basis.
Travel insurance is compulsory on all our trips for those travelling internationally. We require that at a minimum you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. If you are travelling within your home country or region please confirm before travel that you are entitled to access the public medical system easily should an accident occur. We strongly recommend all travellers have a policy that also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage or personal effects. For international trips, you will not be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24-hour emergency contact number has been sighted by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number, and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and your credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
For travellers who reside within the European Union, Switzerland or USA the requirement to purchase travel insurance cannot be compulsory. However the purchase of travel insurance is still highly recommended, and travellers from these regions who decline travel insurance when travelling outside of their home region must sign a Travel Insurance Waiver Form at the Group Meeting, recognizing personal responsibility for emergency medical and repatriation costs should they arise.
Problems and emergency contact information
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
Please do be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is completed, so informing us while still travelling will give us the opportunity to resolve the issue in real-time.
Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays, or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in-country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any such changes once on tour.