I returned from my solo trip to Central Asia last week and since then I had a strong urge to write about my experiences in the region. So much to write and So much to share. As an Indian traveler, I can say without a hint of doubt that I had a far better experience in Central Asia than USA and Europe. I felt a special connection in Central Asia and for the first time ever, I’m missing some foreign land. Their warmth took over my cynicism and proved me wrong several times. This trip has changed my travel style for good. It made me less of an impatient traveler 🙂
DAY 1: Mumbai to Delhi via Jet Airways Flight
DAY 1: Delhi to Almaty via Air Astana Flight
DAY 3: Almaty to Tashkent via Air Astana Flight
DAY 4: Tashkent to Chimgan and Return via Road
DAY 5: Tashkent to Samarkand via Train
DAY 5: Samarkand to Bukhara via Night Train (2 hrs Journey)
DAY 6: Bukhara to Tashkent via Overnight Train
DAY 7: Tashkent to Kokand via Train
DAY 8: Kokand to Margilan via Train
DAY 9: Margilan to Andijan via Road
DAY 9: Andijan to Uzbekistan-Krygyzstan Border known as Dostlyk Border via Road
DAY 9: Border to Borbash via Road
DAY 11: Borbash to Osh Airport via Road
DAY 11: Osh to Bishkek via Pegasus Airlines(Air Manas) Flight
DAY 12: Bishkek to Ala Archa National Park and return via Road
DAY 13: Bishkek to Karakol via Road
DAY 14: Karakol to Jeti Oguz and return via Road
DAY 15: Karakol to Cholpon Ata via Road
DAY 17: Cholpon Ata to Bishkek via Road
DAY 18: Bishkek to Astana via Air Astana Flight
DAY 19: Astana to Burabay and return via Road
DAY 20: Astana to Delhi via Air Astana Flight
DAY 21: Delhi to Mumbai via Jet Airways Flight
It all begins with World Nomad Games. I read about the event online and were quite fascinated by it. Then, I searched the location and it turns out to be Kyrgyzstan. I had no clue where the country is located. Yes, I was ignorant like some or most of you. After looking at a map, I find out it is not so far from India. As I checked there is no direct fight to Kyrgyzstan from India. Most flights are via Kazakhstan. After doing a bit of research I find out about this Kazakhstan Visa Free Regime for Indians. Basically, till the end of this year Indians are entitled to 72 hrs visa free visit to Almaty or/and Astana if they are going to a third country or returning from a third country via Air Astana Or any Kazakh Airlines. A little more research leads me to Uzbekistan. I had no idea that Babur, The First Emperor of Mughal Dynasty in the Indian Subcontienent, was originally from present day Uzbekistan. It intrigued me. Also, the country has recently launched an e-visa facility which was icing on the cake. Kyrgyzstan too offers an e-visa facility. For the first time, while planning a solo foreign trip, I don’t have to arrange bundles of documents and complete endless formalities.
Note: Please check Foreign Ministry Websites of these countries to know about the rules of Police Registration (OVIR).
Uzbekistan: I bought a UMS Tourist Sim card @ 5 USD with 5 GB Data from UMS Head Office in Tashkent. Validity: One Month.
Kyrgyzstan: I bought a Megacom Sim card @ 35000 Uzbekistani som with 20 GB (divided into three parts of a day) Data from a street vendor after crossing the Dostlyk Border. Validity: One Month.
Kazakhstan: I bought a Beeline Sim card @ 700 Kazakhstani Tenge with 4 GB Data from Astana Bus Station. Validity: One Week.
Note: Sim card bought in Uzbekistan won’t work in the Neighbouring countries. Same goes for Kyrgyzstan & Kazakhstan.
Metro is an option to commute in Tashkent though it is not spread throughout the city but I highly recommend to use it at least once. Buses are also available in Tashkent.
Almaty: Metro is a good option to travel but not spread throughout the city. Bus is the cheapest option to commute. Uber is available in the city with Cash only option.
If you compare the region with India, for an analogy, I would say Russian is English of Central Asia but In India chances are less that Older people know English but in Central Asia its the opposite.
|Clockwise: Naan, Gazli Suv(Sweet Soda Water), Tea, Shashlik|
|Fried Bread Filled With Potatoes|
|PLOV- One Of The Main Dishes Of The Region|
Options for a vegetarian are quite limited. The only veg thing I found is their Naan(Bread) which is very different from Indian Naan but not sure how you can eat hard, thick Central Asian Naan alone. Maybe with a tea;) I met few vegetarians on the road and they were living on fruits, salads, snacks, snickers or by visiting supermarkets in search of something vegetarian!
I ate this fried bread(miniature version of bhatura) filled with Kartoshka(Potatoes) but find out later that even the bread is made with eggs. It comes with Cabbage filling too. Good option for an eggetarian.
For Indians: Beef is used in most of the dishes. Sure, you’ll find Chicken(Kuritsa in Russian) and Mutton too but make sure to ask before ordering a dish in a restaurant. Shashlik is pretty similar to Seekh Kabaab. Available in Chicken and Lamb.
Tea(Without Milk) is the most famous drink in the region. You’ll find it anywhere and everywhere!
|Uzbek Som- Kazakh Tenge- Kyrgyz Som|
INR is not acceptable in any of the three countries for money exchange. USD is widely accepted for money exchange. You will find money exchange outlets easily in the cities. If you want to exchange large sum, head to a nearest bank for best exchange rate. Some banks ask for a passport to exchange money.
Many exciting posts about my experiences in Central Asia are coming soon. Can’t wait to share them with you-all. Stay tuned!