These are the top 10 questions travelers ask us. If you have other questions, please contact us.
1. How do I get a visa for Central Asian countries?
Visa procedures for Central Asian countries tend to be similar: Steppe Journeys can facilitate the issuance of your visa either in your home country if there is an embassy, or at the airport on arrival. Visa fees can vary depending on your nationality and length of stay. Often a Letter of Introduction (LOI) is required, which we can arrange on your behalf.
The list of the countries who can enter without a visa and stay up to 30 to
Uzbekistan: at an Uzbek embassy or at Tashkent airport, if there is no Uzbek representation in your home country. Uzbek visas cannot be issued at land borders into Uzbekistan.
Kazakhstan: Effective 1 January 2017, 48 nationalities are now visa exempt if the stay is less than 30 days in Kazakhstan. View exempt nationalities here. Otherwise, obtain your visa at a Kazakh embassy (there are many in Europe) or at Almaty airport. Kazakh visas cannot be issued at land borders.
Kyrgyzstan: Visas are not required for citizens listed here, for stays of up to 60 days.
Turkmenistan: at Ashgabat airport on arrival. Visas can also be issued at the land border provided you have a letter of introduction.
Tajikistan: Tajikistan now has an online visa system, for stays of up to 30 days, for all nationalities. Apply here.
2. How difficult is it to cross land borders in Central Asia?
Each border has different conditions as follows:
Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan: All tourists must cross the ‘no man’s land’ section of the border alone. This means that the driver and guide from one country will drop you at the customs point where you complete customs and visa formalities individually. Guides and drivers are not allowed to accompany you during the process. There is a neutral zone between the two customs stations of each country, about 1.5 km, and you must walk this, with your luggage, alone. No transportation is permitted.
When you leave Uzbekistan you should have your customs declaration form with you (which you filled in when you entered Uzbekistan). Every tourist must complete 2 copies of this customs form when you enter, then when you leave Uzbekistan you should fill in one more copy and at the same time show your copy of the first customs form filled upon arrival. You must declare all your cash.
There are no customs forms for Turkmenistan either on entry or departure.
Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan: The procedure of border crossing is the same as above, except that you do not have to complete a customs declaration form for Kyrgyzstan if you have less than USD 3000 cash with you. You will change the car and driver at the border.
Uzbekistan -Kazakhstan: The procedure of border crossing is the same as above. If you have more than USD 2000 you should fill in customs form for Kazakhstan. You will change the car and driver at the border.
Uzbekistan-Tajikistan: The process is the same as Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan, but you should fill in customs form for Tajikistan, regardless of the amount of cash you are carrying. You will change the car and driver at the border.
Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan: You can have the same transport when you cross the border between these countries. You don’t change car and driver; the driver or guide will be with you while crossing the border. No walking is required. If you have less than USD3000, then no customs form is required.
3. What is the weather like in Central Asia?
Uzbekistan has a strictly continental climate: summer is hot and winter is cold. The best time to travel there is spring, summer, and autumn; if you like a dry cold with a snowy winter then please visit in winter as it can be very beautiful.
The temperature in March, April, and May (spring) is between 15 -25 C warm with some rain. In summer (June, July, August) it ranges between 25 -35 C: in mid-July, it can reach 45 C. In autumn (September, October, November) the range is between 20 -15 C with some rain in October and November. Winter is usually about 0 -10 C, though the temperature can drop to -10 C.
Turkmenistan’s climate is the same as Uzbekistan’s. Likewise Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan’s and Tajikistan’s climates are cooler than other Central Asian countries as most of the area is covered by mountains: the rainy season starts earlier and lasts longer than in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
4. How do I change money and what are the local currencies?
Only four currencies are convertible in Central Asia: US dollar, Euro, UK pounds and Japanese yen. There are exchange offices located at airports on arrival, hotels and local banks. Uzbekistan’s currency is ‘soum’, Kazakhstan ‘tenge’, Kyrgyzstan ‘sum’, Tajikistan ‘somoni’ and Turkmenistan ‘manat’. We recommend you bring cash not travelers’ cheques.
5. Can I use a credit card?
Visa and MasterCard are accepted for service charges at 4 and 5-star hotels. Cash withdrawals may be available in major cities at bank and hotel exchange offices. However, you must check with your bank in your home country first. Merchants prefer cash.
6. What’s the local language?
Throughout Central Asia, Russian is the ‘second language’ and people in the service and tourism sectors often speak English and other European languages.
Official languages are Uzbekistan = Uzbek, Kazakhstan = Kazakh, Kyrgyzstan = Kyrgyz, Turkmenistan = Turkmen. These all belong to the Turkish language group. In Tajikistan, they speak Tajik and Farsi.
7. Is tap water drinkable?
We recommend you only drink bottled water, which is readily available and inexpensive.
8. What is the voltage and pin type so I can use and charge my appliance?
Voltage throughout the region is 220-250 V. In most of the hotels there are European-style sockets with 2 round pins. You may need an adaptor if yours is different: these are readily available in supermarkets and bazaars.
9. Can I use my mobile phone? And internet access?
Yes, you can use your GSM mobile phone with international roaming – beware, you can run up very high bills. Or, provided your phone is unlocked, you can buy a local SIM card from local cell phone companies. They will need copies of your passport and hotel registration.
Wifi access is usually available in hotels and there are many inexpensive internet cafes.
10. Is there a dress code?
Generally speaking, dress as you do in your home country and respect the protocol of the countries you visit. Only when entering active mosques during sightseeing are women recommended to cover their heads with a light scarf. (Usually available at mosque entries).
Shorts for women is not appropriate. In rural areas, more conservative than the cities, please dress modestly.