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