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Transportation

Unless travelling with a comfortable group tour with a double-decker air-conditioned bus, transportation in Central Asia may well be anything from a donkey cart to a Soviet AN2 biplane hopping the mountain villages at 180 km/h.

Standard transportation for individual travellers will largely be the more or less well-developed bus systems of the various countries where services have been steadily improving throughout most of Central Asia considering the period of independence. Nevertheless - air-conditioning ceases to work at 45 degrees Celsius and also below that unfortunately there seems to be a common understanding that unlike in South-East Asia cold air is bad for you, and unless you hired a car for yourself and made sure the system works before you left, you should try to accept and stick to alternative chilling methods.

The same seems to apply to many of the private vehicles which for various reasons are not quite maintaned for western standards. Anyhow - since you are hiring friendly drivers who usually will take charge of the entertainment on the lengthy overland rides try to accept the occasional break-down or tea break at a police stop as part of your adventure. In any case please bear in mind that the car you get is what you pay for and that transportation with 100% western standards is certainly always available. Sometimes it may be worth spending a few bucks more on a ride for yourself, where you can stop for a photo and make sure the car has some suspension.

Bringing dust masks or a scarf is certainly recommended for most some of the sandy off-road territory. Make sure your driver stays awake and gets a break once in a while for your own safetly.

Airtravel in Central Asia is adventurous too, in particular with the few remaining routings still using those nostalgic AN24 Propeller planes the noise of which blows your ears right out and makes you wish to return to the throaty sounds you just escaped at the bazaar. Anyhow - also planes are steadily getting better - most international flights to western destinations are now performed by Boeings and Airbuses, many popular local flights in Uzbekistan and recently Turkmenistan are now using western planes too. Airports and ticketing are a whole chapter by itself. Turkmenistan has the lowest local airfares perhaps in the whole world.

Rail travel remains highly local business and there has not been too much effort to return the state of affairs to the appraised Soviet standards (where the Railway was the largest single employer in the world). There have been a few attempts to introduce Orient Express style tourist trains in Uzbekistan, one more comfortable train is running in Kazakhstan, but unfortunately most of the system remains cheap, but very low standard. If you go for the venture - your best friend should be the provodnik who will try to make sure that your basic needs are taken care of. Anyhow - stock up on food and drink in advance, bring your own sheets / sleeping bag, try to get a compartment to yourself and do not take the 'platzkartny' carriages.

For boats - check out the Turkmenistan Transportation section on the Baku-Turkmenbashi Ferry across the Caspian. We apologise if most of the transport pages are under costruction or contain just a few indications of what is actually available. Please contact us for additional information.
© 2001-2010 STANtours last modified May 25, 2005