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Info & FAQ


Climate Medical Money Customs
Security Clothing & Practical Communication  

Climate

Stretching over 3 time zones of the former Soviet Empire, Central Asia, covers several continental climate zones - from the Siberian climate of northern Kazakhstan, over the arid Steppes and sizzling desert zones in the south to to alpine pastures of the Tien Shan and Pamir mountains. Winters are severe in the north with temperatures dropping as low as -30°C while the southern cities of Bukhara and Ashgabat have relatively moderate winters with temperatures seldomly dropping below 0°C. Summers are the other extreme with temperatures reaching easily reaching 40-45°C. The best months for moderate temperatures are April and May for beautiful blossoming deserts and mountains in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, while the mountainous areas of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan should be travelled in July and August. September and October are great for an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables due to the harvest season.

Medical & Health

Medical care in Central Asia is sometimes limited, in particular in the rural areas. Due to the partial privatisation of pharmacies, availability of non-prescription drugs has increased, but there is still a shortage of some medicines. There are western style clinics in all capital which can conduct consultations and / or operations performed by foreign specialists.

Travellers are advised to take medical insurance. No vaccinations are obligatory, although Hepatitis vaccinations are recommendable.

Money

Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are largely cash-only economies, while credit cards and ATM machines have become widely available in Kazakhstan and some parts of Kyrgyzstan. However, several new hotels in Ashgabat and a few restaurants accept credit cards. Some banks cash traveller's checks and accept Visa, Master Card and Eurocard for USD cash advances charging a percentage of the amount for this service. Travellers are advised to take only new, clean U.S. dollar bills (1993 and newer) with them. The exchange rates for other currencies such as Euros or Pounds are not favourable in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Each state has its own currency freely exchangable throughout the country at a variable market rate which in the cases of Turkmenistan is 3-4 times the official exchange rate. It is not recommendable and illegal to exchange money on the street.

Customs

Upon arrival and departure from each Central Asian country you are requested to fill out a Customs Declaration in duplicate. You should declare the exact amount of foreign currency you are taking in/out of each country as well as all electronic items carried (cameras, telephones, computers, etc) and valuable souvenirs bought before or during your trip (especially rugs and handicrafts). You should keep one copy of the stamped declaration for exit or onwards travel within the Central Asia and the CIS in order to facilitate smooth customs procedures throughout your trip.

X-rays at the the international airports are film-safe; for other airports and borders you should keep your film and camera in a special bag or present them for visual check.

Security

Central Asia largely remains a safe place for travellers. Nevertheless, all foreigners should carry their passport with the valid visa at all the times. While travelling overland and at airports & railway stations you may become subject to routine police registration checks. Please respect that you should not take any pictures at police controls, customs facilities, airports, railway stations and bridges.

Clothing & Practical

All Central Asian states are Muslim countries and it is advisable to wear long sleeved clothes for both men and women especially in rural areas of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Nevertheless women are not expected to wear headscarves (let alone veils), but a head covering and sunglasses (bring a spare pair!) become essential during summer. When trekking wearing high boots is preferable to sandals as a protection from snakes, spiders and the sun. On off-road trips bring a light scarf to protect against dust and bring dust-proof bags for your cameras.Bottled water and soft drinks are freely available throughout the country and you should drink as much as possible to avoid dehydration. In rural areas check the seal on plastic bottle lids to ensure the bottles have not been refilled and do not drink tap water unless boiled.

There is good and safe restaurant fare available throughout the capitals and at some restaurants in the larger cities. Otherwise it is preferable to eat cooked food (as is local custom) and to avoid unpeeled fruit and vegetables. Hepatitis A&B immunisations and plenty of mineral and vitamin substitutes are strongly advised. As a rule carry toilet paper, wet napkins and a small flashlight for some of the less attractive toilet facilities and preferably use the countryside on overland trips. Most foodstuffs and toiletry are available in the capitals, and a few basic items throughout the country. Nevertheless you should rely on your own batteries and film.

Communication

The local mobile phone networks work throughout the most city areas, but some international GSM systems may not work. Long distance calls are available from the better hotels, some private homes and at the post / telegraph office. Public phones are scarce in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and usually not suitable for international calls while Kazakhstan has normal western card phones and calling card systems. There are internet-cafes available in most larger cities, but the speed is not yet up to western standards.
© 2001-2010 STANtours last modified May 25, 2005