Responsible tourism: Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan holiday
We work with our local suppliers to highlight best practice in terms of environmental issues, an important effort in a country where the environment is often taken for granted and green thinking is largely absent.
Tajikistan does not see the same numbers of visitors that many other countries experience and as such some practices which we take for granted in other parts of the world may not be found here. We work closely with our suppliers to introduce concepts of environmental responsibility to the communities that we travel through. This can include asking hotels to implement practices such as asking guests if they need fresh cleaned towels each day, and reminding guests to turn off lights when they leave the room small things that are standard practice in many places in the western world but not necessarily elsewhere.
Where appropriate and feasible we will always incorporate walking tours of cities rather than being reliant on private transportation - not only reducing our carbon footprint but we believe leading to a more enjoyable and intimate experience for our clients.
This tour travels through some of the worlds most remote regions, away from the well beaten tourist trail. Our guides will brief travellers on appropriate behaviour, both cultural and environmental, and we make a point of ensuring that we leave no permanent traces of our stay behind, taking all rubbish with us.
Our philosophy is to only use small and locally owned suppliers, meaning that the income remains within the country and creates a real economic contribution. We also feel that the passion inherent within such suppliers means that your experience will be enhanced. We also try to engage with our suppliers on an equal basis getting the lowest possible price usually isnt the best outcome for local communities and is ultimately unsustainable. We aim to always treat our suppliers fairly and with respect; they are after all part of the key to our success and to us working together is much more than just a business arrangement, but an ongoing relationship that we aim to ensure truly benefits everyone involved.
We believe that tourism is a double edged sword that needs to be wielded very carefully. Our philosophy is to have a limited amount of departures usually between one and three a year - for each of our itineraries. By limiting our presence in areas where local culture can be quite fragile, we hope to avoid as much as possible the phenomenon whereby an area changes in character due to repeated and prolonged exposure to tourism. We want to visit an area as friends, not intruders and to ensure that what we see will also be there for others to enjoy for many years to come.
We only employ local staff and unlike many operators we believe that to send a foreign Tour Leader along to accompany your trip is an unnecessary burden on your wallet and our carbon footprint. We believe that locals know best. Our local operators only use locally owned accommodation. This means your money stays in the area to benefit the local community. When possible we use local transport, (i.e. rail or bus) and we always use local restaurants, markets and shops and encourage our clients to interact both financially and socially with the communities that they are passing through. In doing this your travels are supporting and encouraging the development of local services.
We only work with operators who are as committed as we are to putting something back into the communities we visit. This may include giving a percentage of the profits from each tour to a foundation to help street children or local conservation projects.
This tour travels through some remote communities that often do not have much exposure to the wider world, and where opportunities for employment are extremely limited. We make use of local guides from such communities where possible this contributing towards local income, and we spend many nights in homestays - not only does this help small communities see some benefits from tourism but we believe it does much to promote cultural understanding and ultimately leads to a more enjoyable experience for our clients.
Our groups average only six clients, and many tours operate on a private basis with just two travellers. This has much less impact when travelling through rural areas, reducing our environmental and social affects. Finally to emphasise our commitment to Responsible Tourism all clients will receive a copy of our Travellers Code of Conduct with their travel documents.
Reviews of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan holiday
You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.
I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
Reviewed on 27 Jul 2013 by Peter Jackson
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
This trip visited Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The most memorable bit was the journey along the border of Tajikistan and Afghanistan where the river runs in a gorge, with the snow-capped peaks of Afghanistan across the river. And how fascinating to travel along a river like that with no bridges across it. However, at the end as we headed north towards Kyrgyzstan the tour leader decided to stay at the last town in Tajikistan (where it was rumored he had friends) rather than cross and use the advertised stop at Sary Tash (which we just drove through). I have forgotten the name of the Tajik town, but it was a dump with nothing to do and of no scenic interest. The trip north through Kyrgyzstan was interesting, but we went first to Bishkek and then made a side trip across to lake Issyk Kul staying at Cholpon Ata rather than Chichkan as advertised: this was a complete waste of time: 6 hours travelling each way and nothing worthwhile when we got there. On the last day back in Bishkek we visited a nearby valley (I think the Alamdin Gorge). This was quite beautiful and would have been worth at least half a day to allow more time for less fit people like myself to get up to the waterfall. We had a local guide (Eve!) who was excellent, more informative than Januschek (or whatever his name was) who was our main guide: this should be included in the trip, it was great evening out. The Kyrgyz part of the trip needs to be sorted out between yourselves and your local agents to make it better. The tour leader had designs on setting up a local travel business, but he needs better English to attract an Anglo-phone clientele.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Some of the home stays were crowded (18 people) and facilities limited (1 loo, only washing facilities the local stream). You will see wonderful scenery, but a lot of travelling.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
I hope that some locals benefitted from our stays by being paid for the facilities we used. I don't think our visit would have had a positive environmental impact or helped conservation.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Mixed: 4 stars Tajik, 2 stars Kyrgyz part.
Read the operator's response here:
Thank you for your comments regarding your recent tour to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Feedback of any sort is very important to us as it helps us to maintain the standards we strive to achieve, as well as pointing out any areas that may need improvement.
I am pleased that on the whole you found the trip very enjoyable, with the 10 days you spent in Tajikistan being the highlight. Clearly, the second leg and your time travelling in Kyrgyzstan was less successful and this part of the itinerary needs our immediate attention. Accordingly, we are reviewing the itinerary with our local partner and in particular the guiding arrangements. It is unacceptable that the guide should make changes to the advertised overnight stops without good reason. We have instructed our local partner to discuss the matter with the guide concerned. If necessary we will ask that a different guide is used in the future.
As for the actual itinerary and places visited, some valid points are raised. Although some long and on occasions uncomfortable road journeys are inevitable when travelling in this region, these should only be necessary in order to enhance the programme. With this in mind we are taking a look at the itinerary to see where improvements can be made.
Regarding the homestays, these are generally a popular part of any adventure type tour. But on occasions given the limited accommodation options available, we may have no alternative but to use a homestay that is of a lower category than we would like. Nonetheless, on this tour any discomfort and the need to accept basic conditions allows travellers to get off the beaten track and take in some wonderful scenery as you say.