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Northern Asia Topics specific to Russia, Central Asia (also known as "the 'stans"), Mongolia, Japan and Korea
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  #1  
Old 12 Feb 2007
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Question two girls on pamir highway?

hey all,

we're planning a 6 months ride through the stans this summer and are not really sure yet wether or not we'll include tadzjikistan. we would like to, and up to last year it looked really ok, but given the current hassels in the region we're not so sure anymore...

so:

-firstly: any recent information on the situation in this area? (tadzjik/tibetan border - tadzjik/afghan border)?
we 'd like to ride the full route, so osh to dushanbe. the first part/main route (osh to khorog) is probably ok, but how about the second part? and is it still possible to ride (safely) on the road closer to the afghan border (kharghuz pass-langar-ishkashim-khorog) - (and do you need a special permit for this one?)?
-the permit(s): we assume you still need one (or more than one). is it possible to get in anywhere else then in dushanbe? (we'd probably enter from kyrgystan via the kyzyl-art pass) and then take the pamir highway to dushanbe - and it would be easier not to have to make the permit-detour first).
-how about safety (given the fact that we're two girls) on this road? and will we be able to find sleeping accommodation of any kind (not having access -i guess- the 'men only' sleeping-sollutions)?
-apparantly there are many roadblocks and control posts on this route but no hassle if your papers/permits are ok. is this still true?

thanks in advance
g&T (and the two dr's)
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  #2  
Old 12 Feb 2007
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one more question

since i forgot:

how about the (non)road conditions?
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  #3  
Old 12 Feb 2007
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Smile Turkmenistan

Quote:
Originally Posted by trui_gaea
hey all,

we're planning a 6 months ride through the stans this summer and are not really sure yet wether or not we'll include tadzjikistan. we would like to, and up to last year it looked really ok, but given the current hassels in the region we're not so sure anymore...

so:

-firstly: any recent information on the situation in this area? (tadzjik/tibetan border - tadzjik/afghan border)?
we 'd like to ride the full route, so osh to dushanbe. the first part/main route (osh to khorog) is probably ok, but how about the second part? and is it still possible to ride (safely) on the road closer to the afghan border (kharghuz pass-langar-ishkashim-khorog) - (and do you need a special permit for this one?)?
-the permit(s): we assume you still need one (or more than one). is it possible to get in anywhere else then in dushanbe? (we'd probably enter from kyrgystan via the kyzyl-art pass) and then take the pamir highway to dushanbe - and it would be easier not to have to make the permit-detour first).
-how about safety (given the fact that we're two girls) on this road? and will we be able to find sleeping accommodation of any kind (not having access -i guess- the 'men only' sleeping-sollutions)?
-apparantly there are many roadblocks and control posts on this route but no hassle if your papers/permits are ok. is this still true?

thanks in advance
g&T (and the two dr's)
As far as I know, Turkmenistan imposed a ban on independent travellers a few months ago. You have to go in a big herd of other tourists. So that knocks biking on the head. Check it out.....

Good luck and have a good time when you go. I fancy that trip myself one day.....
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  #4  
Old 12 Feb 2007
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I don't know how much travelling you have done in eastern europe so appologies if i'm teaching you to suck eggs. with regards to the 2 girls travelling alone thing, be wary of the men. emancipation has not really taken hold yet and the men are stuck in a time warp. sexual harassment is common and largely accepted. according to my belarussan girlfriend being gropped at work is an accepted part of the deal. thats why she is self employed!! offers of 'payment in kind' from taxi drivers etc are not uncommon either. Other than that, sounds like a great trip!!
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  #5  
Old 12 Feb 2007
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T & G,

My wife and I are in the depths of planning a trip from Europe, through Central Asia and into China. We will leave on 1st August 2007 and will be in Turk/Uzbek/Tajik and Krygy from mid September to late October. From what I have attained so far I can tell you the following;

1 The Pamir highway itself is in reasonable nick, however if you wish to travel the southern lap be prepared for some harsh conditions.
2 the weather in that region and at that hight can be extreme at any time of year and September/October will only compond the problem. We will travel completely selfsufficiantly, i.e. decent camping equipment and four days rations. I have ridden my GS with wife onboard in a foot of snow in the Atlas mountains, possible but not fun!
Incidently we intent to be in Tibet in November, where a complete lack of precipitation will make it very cold, but snowless. Hopefully!
3 You will need a letter of invitation and a GBAO permit for the Tajik visa and for travel in the Pamirs. Both available through Stantours. We will collect ours in Ankara.
4 You are mad to travel without camping equipment, we always do. There for an emergency and far more civilised that a smokey mud hut.
5 This Turkmenistan situation must be new one, I will investigate. Possibly travel together?
6 I think if you have the correct permits and smile you will be fine at the roadblocks. I deploy my wife.

This should be of interest and I may see you on route.
P.S. Are you planning to go to China?

Any dramas please email me at foulerton@hotmail.com

Nick
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  #6  
Old 12 Feb 2007
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turkmenistan: elections

hey nick,

thx for your info. we haven't really decided on which route to take... we might ship the bikes to
mongolia and ride home, or ride up to kyrgystan through the caucasus and back via the stans...
we're planning to leave 1st of june and have 'till mid december... so i think we're likely to bump
into each other somewhere along the route. i'll keep an eye out for a GS and a smiling wife. ;-)

1 harsh conditions as in no accomodation, no food, no water, or as in a really bad road?
2 the weather/the camping: we plan to make it to tadzjik august latest, so that should be ok. and we will travel with camping equip+water&food, don't worry... it's just that tadjikistan has the reputation of being the hardest stan to travel in for unaccompanied women... hence our concern...
3 good news that the permit can be obtained abroad. is that one permit or do you need an extra one for the borderroute?
4 the Turkmenistan situation: as far as i know, it was never different. you can get a seven days transit visum without invitation and trouble (though not at the border) and otherwise you have to travel 'organised' and even then your route and movement is restricted... however things might change rapidly there, for as far as i know, elections were held yesterday and results will be public by wednesday.

as for china... we are thinking about tibet (kasgar and chinese part of the KKH - entering via kazachstan and out the same way?), but we don't
want to go through the (financial) hassle of license plates, insurance, etc etc ... and above all, the 'guide trouble'... so our first idea was to 'try and see' if we could get in (and out) with just a visum (two border posts with a relatively high succesrate have been quoted on this forum)... but we're not sure... it will depend on our route and the possibility of succeeding. how
are you going to do it anyway?

thx
g
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  #7  
Old 12 Feb 2007
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I travelled Pamir Highway and the border route through Ishkashim last September. I don't think safety there is affected in any way by the situation in Afghanistan. There is just one border crossing in the area (Ishkashim) and it looked well locked when we were passing. Tajikistan itself was very safe in eastern part and ... well ... pretty safe around Khorog. I remember many teenagers and alike that tried to frighten us by screaming or shaking sticks but it never ended up serious. I'd go there once more if I had a chance.
You don't need any special pass for the border route except for the GBAO permit like for the whole region. There are two other problems though. The are lacks gasoline and you will need big extra cans to travel it safely. We travelled east-west and we hardly bought gasoline even in a pretty big town like Ishkashim. The other problem is poor road condition in the upper, eastern part. You know off-road riding, right?
You should be able to find safe accomodation every night if you plan well in advance. There are many people trying hard to make living and tourists are welcomed in many places.
Yes, there are plenty of roadblocks indeed but it shouldn't be a concern as long as you have your GBAO permit and you made OVIR registration.

Will post more tomorrow, have to go to sleep now. Ask questions if I missed something.

Kris
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  #8  
Old 13 Feb 2007
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Hello Girls,

The chap above has answered most of your questions, however we only intend to use a transit visa for Turkmenistan which we will collect before departure.

After much research I think we have cracked the Chinese situation without going for the turn up and hope option. Once this is concrete I will post the details and it will not cost the earth.

It sounds like the Pamir highway has not changed much since Younghusband plotted his wits against the Russians, although he did not have heated grips on his reins. We will certainly go prepared as the weather is never predictable in this region. I organised a race on six Enfields from Delhi to London a few years ago, tempretures dropped to -10 degrees in Turkey and we did not have tents. It is amazing how many blokes you can get in a sleeping bag when it is cold!

Best of luck,

Nick
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  #9  
Old 15 Feb 2007
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The Rocky Horror show

We loved the Pamir highway and long may it remain the bumpiest piece of real estate on earth.

The Journey across Kyrg and Tajik are the most outstanding sections of our trip so far.

We found diesel (4x4)in small towns by the bucket.. literally

I agree with everything that has been said so far and when we go back that way i will cross into Afghanistan at Ishkashim and travel up the Wakhan corridor....

Up on the plateau the weather was sunny but very windy and cold -10c in May. We were well stocked up with provisions and camped by lakes and river on mountain sides...fantastic.. but you could do it without...but why.

Road Dushanbe to Khorog is very bumpy with deep sand much harder than it looks on the map!!!

Sorry im rambling but Central asia is worth all the hassle
Tim
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  #10  
Old 16 Feb 2007
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Regarding camping, IMO camping gear is totally unnecessary in Central Asia as you can pretty much stay in any town in someone's house for next to nothing. Just show up and ask where you can stay, its that easy. Its a great cultural exchange too, especially when the vodka starts flowing. We ditched our camping gear before we got to the Stans, no regrets.

There is always a spot for truck drivers or other travellers to crash in many villages, for a few dollars a person, you will get food and a safe place to sleep, they will have plenty of warm blankets for you too. Most all teahouses double as places to sleep. Don't expect luxury, but you will be comfortable, much more so than the old, overpriced Soviet style hotels in the region with plumbing that hasn't been repaired since the fall of the Soviet Union. And most of these places are run by women, so you shouldn't have any problems.

Regarding safety, I would be a bit nervous camping as some of these areas are very remote and you could be an easy target, remember that this is a very poor part of the world. Nevertheless, many travellers have camped without problems. But with the amount of places to stay, I think camping is unnecessary.

Tajikistan was our favorite Stan, although it was the most difficult and had the worst roads. Food is generally terrible, especially in the Pamir. But you won't starve, just remember that most people get their caloric intake with mutton fat and so will you! The Stans have not been the easiest places I have travelled, but they have certainly been the most memorable. You will have an amazing experience!

For more info, check out our blog here on HU...
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  #11  
Old 18 Feb 2007
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Dushanbe

Hi, Just wanted to throw out an invitation for folks who may be coming through Dushanbe this fall. My wife, daughter and I will be living there starting September 5, 2007 for a couple years and should have a place big enough for guests. I don't check this board too often so email me if you're interested --- trevorolson9999@hotmail.com. Cheers!
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  #12  
Old 18 Feb 2007
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I travelled with mdmystko on Pamir Highway. Our route was the same you plan to ride. From Osk through Murgab then Langar to Khorog and then Dushanbe...
As to your questions:
- there is a safe place, you don't have to worry about political situation in GBAO region.

- roads: between Osh to khorog mostly tarmac, gravel only on high passes. We rode to Langar through Kharguz pass and the road was little difficult. Nothing special, just sandy... Wakhan (Langar etc.) is absolutely most interesting area in Tajikistan we visited.
You need only GBAO permit but you should told (write) where you are going to travel and be sure that they will write Ishkashim on your permit! You will need special permit (about 50 USD) if you are going to visit lake Zorkul.
- you can get scan of your permit and you will print it. It is ok and you will have no problems on control posts. There is a lot of posts and you will be stop on everyone as we did
You can sleep on this route in Sary Tash, there is also home stay in Karakul and Murghab (about 10 USD).You can sleep in small but nice hotel in Langar (10 USD). Safety? Well, I never felt I was in danger in Tajikistan but I am not a girl... But I have no reason to say that this area is unsafe for woman. And you will not travel in short skirts...
Tent in my opinion is recommended, especially if your bike will broke in the middle of nowhere (for example somwhere near Kharguz pass). You can wait few days for a car... Warm sleeping bag is essential.
Some pictures from our ride you can find here:
Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Pamir Highway, afghan border etc... - ADVrider
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  #13  
Old 22 Feb 2007
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Smile

Hi,

I am planning to traverse the stans as well this summer, my primary interest is in tajik and kyrgyz, then on to China if possible.

Planning on getting to moscow or kiev around may 15th. Will have to then buy and outfit a bike.

eMail me if you want to correspond or hook up for a section or two.

cheers,
neal

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  #14  
Old 22 Feb 2007
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Visas for the Stans

Can someone offer some advice on this problem.
Can the route be done with transit visas.
Thanks,
Bill.
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  #15  
Old 22 Feb 2007
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Some advice

Bill -

If you want to drive Pamir Highway, forget transit visa for Tajikistan if they exist at all. It simply takes too long. There are sections of really poor quality (200km in 8 hours on a Transalp...).
Transit visa for Kazakhstan is valid just for 72h but nobody cared when I travelled a little longer. Check other visas with STANTOURS - Central Asia Travel Resources, rules are different for different nationalities. I did not need a visa for Kyrgyzstan but you probably do.

Good luck,
Kris
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