Silk Road travel advice

Silk Road travel advice


Tips from our friends along the Silk ROAD

Shopping advice


Marianne Grimshaw from our supplier, Wild Frontiers shares her shopping tips: “The Fergana Valley is a little visited area of Uzbekistan and is a good place for shopping with silk factories to visit where you can watch and learn about the full silk making process. All round Uzbekistan you can buy locally produced pottery and ceramics that are painted by hand and are very beautiful souvenirs. And of course, everywhere in Central Asia is big on their carpets although Turkmenistan is the home of the original Turkmen rug. The carpets can be handmade depending on how much you want to pay and some tourists choose to have them sent home after their trip; you can spend thousands of pounds on a on a carpet if you want to.”

Advice on coping with road travel


Marianne Grimshaw from our supplier, Wild Frontiers shares her advice on coping with road travel: “The roads in Central Asia are very bad and travelling between places by mini bus or private car can be a bit hell raising although your driver will be very adept at swerving around pot holes. You will keep to a schedule because lengthy road journeys will be taken into account and extra time allowed for by your tour operators, but people should be aware that the roads are bumpy and uncomfortable, so it’s best to keep calm and be patient.”

Food advice


Linda Maguire from our supplier, Undiscovered Destinations shares her advice on coping with the food: “The food in Central Asia is best summed up as simple. There is a lot of grilled lamb and the national dish, ‘plov’, which is stew with mixed vegetables is very traditional and is served everywhere. The food isn’t stodgy, but there is very little variety and it’s not the most exciting. We ate a lot of cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs and the ingredients are very fresh, so it does taste delicious, but I wouldn’t say that vegetarians are well catered for as the rice that is available is often cooked in meat stock, so they could struggle after a few days surviving on salad and bread.”

Packing advice


Linda Maguire from our supplier, Undiscovered Destinations shares her packing advice: “It’s pretty warm and fair during the day, but it’s always best to carry a light waterproof because you can get caught in a spell of rain and it can get chilly in the evening, so you’ll need a layer then. There isn’t a big issue regarding covering up and T-shirts are perfectly acceptable when visiting sights, but I would recommend longer skirts and trousers to save you feeling out of place. I didn’t encounter anywhere where we were advised to cover our heads up or take hats off, so if you prefer a sun hat to keep you cool during the day that’s fine too.”

Health & safety


TRAVEL SAFELY oN THE SILK ROAD

Health


  • Visit your GP or travel clinic at least 6-8 weeks before departure to ensure you have all the necessary vaccinations and that they are up to date.
  • Medical care is generally good in China’s major cities, though some hospitals can be very crowded. Outside major cities, the standard of healthcare is variable. Healthcare is not provided free of charge in China and medical bills can be high. Medical evacuation from China is very expensive. Make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance covering healthcare for the duration of your stay.
  • Getting hold of medicines in rural China can be difficult, it’s worth taking a first-aid kit with you. Include bandages, plasters, painkillers, rehydration sachets, medication for upset stomachs and antiseptic cream.
  • The quality of medical care in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan is generally poor. Most hospitals are badly equipped and unhygienic, with a limited supply of drugs. There is no guarantee that equipment will have been properly sterilised, especially in rural hospitals. You should avoid all but basic treatment or essential treatment in the event of an emergency.
  • The most common health hazards along the Silk Road are the cold and flu infections and diarrhea, usually in a mild form while your stomach gets used to unfamiliar food. In both instances, get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, and replace lost salts with rehydration sachets. This is especially important with young children.
  • Tap water along the Silk Road is generally not safe to drink. You should drink only bottled water and only accept ice that you know is from a safe source.
  • Don’t underestimate the strength of the sun during spring, summer and autumn. Temperature and humidity can take time to adjust to, so apply sunscreen regularly, wear loose clothing and drink lots of water.

Safety


Fortunately, travel in China is very safe and still largely free of the major banes of travel in other parts of Asia: theft and begging. It’s never a bad idea to stay as safe as you can and there are ways to ensure your trip is as enjoyable and trouble free as possible.

Bar the odd bag snatching, petty crime is not commonplace in western China. However, it’s always best to exercise the usual precautions and avoid having valuables on show.

One of the most dangerous things you can do in China is cross a road: most motorists pay little attention to pedestrian crossings and a green light for you to cross still means that cars are permitted to turn in to or out of the road. Add to this bicycles, rickshaws and loads of other people and you have dangerous combination – keep your wits about you.

Turkmenistan is heavily policed and generally safe; incidents of mugging, theft and pick pocketing are rare, but take sensible precautions and keep valuables out of sight.

There have been occasional incidents of mugging and petty crime in Uzbekistan, but the streets are well policed. Policemen, or sometimes those pretending to be policemen, may seek to impose an on the spot fines for seemingly bizarre reasons. If you are any doubt you should ask for ID and pay any fines at the nearest police station.

Politics is a very sensitive issue in Central Asia and it’s advisable not to involve yourself in conversations about or speak out against the government as it is considered a crime.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and is punishable by up to two years in prison. It’s advisable that same sex couples act discreetly at all times.

For further information on health and safety along the Silk Road, please visit the FCO or the CDC websites.
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Silk Road tips from our travellers


Recommendations from those who have been there

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Silk Road travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday - and the space inside your suitcase.
Relax and enjoy the people and country but make sure your drivers and guides understand your itinerary and interests.’
Dominic Long: ‘Take your own tonic it is not available anywhere in the country!’
- John Bird

Go with an open mind and remember you are travelling as part of a group. That means you must consider the other people in the group.’ - Simon Emery

Pack for all eventualities especially weather related. The travelling is tough but the reality is never as bad as expected.’ - Colin Nelson

Pack and then throw out half! Carrying a heavy pack in the heat is a bore.’ - Jane Cooper

Be prepared for long days driving - often on very bumpy roads. However, nature's spectacles compensate for the travelling inconveniences.’ - Jayne Hanlin

Apart from in China, the food was not great. Bring plenty of energy bars and snacks to keep you going.’ - Karen O’Driscoll

‘Hopefully anyone booking this holiday will have some experience in remote locations and will be well prepared. I think everyone needs to be warned to be a bit more cautious about food and drinks including water.’ - Sue Noble
Written by: Polly Humphris

Photo credits: [carpets/shopping: Dave Proffer] [plov2: Ramón] [yurt: Allan Grey] [local people: Arian Zwegers]
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