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On the Silk Road in Central Asia

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Road Scholar
Program #18766RJ
19 Days | 18 Nights
ACTIVITY LEVEL: Moderately Challenging
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ActiveFor people who enjoy walking as much as two miles a day, perhaps to explore historic neighborhoods or a nature trail.
Moderately ChallengingFor hardy explorers who enjoy a good physical challenge, spending most of their days on the go.
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Discussion Board

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Martha Hull Jul 23, 2014 at 11:18 AM

As to prices.. it really depends on where you buy things. Remember bargaining is part of the game except in hotels. Silk scarves run from $7 up to very expensive, but $7 to $15 gets you some lovely ones. Folk art runs the gamut; cute figurines can be had for $5 up. We visited several pottery “factories” where small (3 inch) saucers went for $5 but you could buy them from the potter. Larger items more of course. The little caps men wear go from $3 up depending on quality. Lovely wool or fur hats typical of the area run $50 or more. Folding engraved knives and sissors run $15 and up. The knives are worth buying, but may be called weapons at the Turkmenistan border (mine were.. took some talking to get them through but I think it was just an over zealous guard.) You will visit several salons where beautiful fashions or are shown and sold. These can get very pricy, but you know the quality and the artists. Listen to Jama about buying rugs. Small 2 X 3 rugs must have proper paperwork to get into Turkmenistan.
I don’t know about beer or wine prices. I remember someone saying that vodka was cheap but wide range of quality.

Priscilla Sawicki Jul 23, 2014 at 10:54 AM

Well said,Martha! And I would add not to bring more or heavier luggage than you alone can carry through borders and at hotels--a smaller wheeled suitcase and a backpack worked for us. It's a great trip!

Martha Hull Jul 23, 2014 at 10:38 AM

Posted this once before but somehow it didn't get printed. I went this spring – April/May 2014. Hotels were much better than I expected; all had soap, shampoo, towels etc. Hand washing of teeshirts & underwear worked for me. We had NO dress-up type dinners. A clean blouse or shirt would do for any of the dinners. Be sure to have a hat that covers your neck or have a scarf that does. The sun gets very hot. Don’t worry about the “new bills” thing. Just as long as they are not too wrinkled or have been written on, they will be OK. Do NOT change much money; Local money only good for beer or wine at dinner. Every stall, shop, or vender I met up with wanted American Dollars or Euros. Bring plenty of small bills. I never felt worried (although I was careful!) I had a waist type money belt which I wore and carried a small amount of US currency in my purse. I felt safer than I have in many other countries. One thing I wished I had brought was a small fold-up hand fan that I could carry in my purse. GREAT TRIP. Just be patient and polite at borders.
olga werchola Jul 23, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Danna Moore Jul 23, 2014 at 10:45 AM

yes on the other stuff into Turkmenistan, they just don't want other rugs brought in. We had one REALLY good dinner in Turkmenistan. I didn't see any restaurants there. It was one of the things that we noticed. There is a good article on Wiki Travel about Turkmenistan. As to how much to take, I went with the idea of not spending any $, but I did buy a couple of hats, some engraved knives in Bukhara, some Suzanni embroidery and some silk scarves.
olga werchola Jul 23, 2014 at 10:45 AM

Thanks for the information Martha. When you say small bills do you mean $5, 10 or 20's? What are the average prices for beer or wine? What are the average prices for souvenir stuff?

olga werchola Jul 23, 2014 at 05:51 AM

Have just been reading the material I received and it looks like there is a need to bring cash on this trip. Those of you who have already been there - how much should one take? I plan on several restaurant meals and perhaps some purchases of ceramics or possibly a rug. I have no idea of prices in the region. Also - do dollars work in this area or should I exchange for the local currency? Would single dollar bills be useful or is that too small an amount these days to get better service?
Danna Moore Jul 23, 2014 at 09:57 AM

Don't know if other leaders are doing this, but our leader acted as our banker sort of 'under the table'. My info is getting a little dated since I went almost 2 years ago. Each country has its own $. Some of them won't change $ from the other countries. Absolutely have to have brand new bills. I live in a smallish city 250,000 and I have found that there is one bank that keeps the "new" money. When I am getting ready to travel, I get money from my bank and then go to the other one and get new money. I wouldn't take any thing larger than $20 bills. Don't change too much at one time. There weren't any ATMs and we couldn't use credit cards. I doubt that you would be able to find a restaurant where you can eat apart from the group. There were opportunities to buy rugs, but you can't take a rug from another country into Turkmenistan - I am sure they will tell you that.
olga werchola Jul 23, 2014 at 10:08 AM

How much do you think is a good amount to take?
olga werchola Jul 23, 2014 at 10:09 AM

Sorry - hit the wrong key. :) There is at least one night that is on our own for dinner and the reports I have read about the hotel dining in Ashkabad are pretty dismal. Thought I could go out that night for a better dinner.
olga werchola Jul 23, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Danna - can we bring other 'stuff' with us into the other countries? Thinks like felt caps, ceramics, embroidered goods?
Danna Moore Jul 23, 2014 at 10:52 AM

Yes on bringing other 'stuff' into Turkmenistan - it is the rugs that are the problem. I went with the idea of not spending much $. However I did buy hats, some engraved knives in Bukhara, Suzani embroidery and silk scarves. There is no problem bringing in those things, only the rugs into Turkmenistan. As to meals, I just reread my diary and one of the best meals we had was at a Chinese restaurant in Ashkabadt. There were some marginal meals, but I don't know that you would know which weren't going to be good unless you ask before you go. We bought some olives in a soft pouch at the Frankfurt airport (large grocery inside the airport itself, but outside of security). We rationed them to ourselves! If you drink wine, buy it when the guide says to as you might not ever see a bottle resonably priced again! We rationed that too!! Vodka is plentiful!
Danna Moore Jul 23, 2014 at 10:55 AM

Well, I have trouble on this site and now can't delete, sorry I posted some things twice!

Premium Email Subscriber Jul 23, 2014 at 12:36 AM

I'm wondering if any other Canadians are going on the October 23rd trip and the extension to Iran. It seems that the visa process is not the same as the one for those travelling on a US passport...

linda alley Jul 21, 2014 at 05:55 PM

Who is going on the Sept 24th 2014 Silk Road trip?
I am flying a day early on the 23rd out of Los Angeles to Frankfurt on Lufthansa. I will stay the night in Frankfurt at the airport hotel to rest up; board the airplane to Almaty with most of you the next day at 1:30PM on the 25th of Sept and arrive in Almaty at the regular scheduled time around midnight. Would like to meet some my fellow travelers ahead of time! I am retired, travelling solo, am 67 yrs old, well travelled, love to laugh, walk most mornings early, and am a tough old bird!

Kathleen Steinle Jul 20, 2014 at 02:21 PM

Thank you for the helpful "shoes" comments.
1. Any thing you wished you had left home or wish you had brought?
2. I have a "slash proof" fanny pack that would be "exterior"--will this be a security problem? Sound like small backpacks are "out" and shoulder bags are "in" for water/sunhat/camera etc?
Angier Peavy Jul 20, 2014 at 06:06 PM

I don't think that we ever felt any security concerns or threats. Some had backpacks; some had shoulder bags; some had regular bags; i had a multi-pocket vest. You can leave stuff on the bus when you are out touring, and many of the hotels had safes if you wanted to leave things in the hotel.

Kenn Charlton Jul 20, 2014 at 01:43 PM

I have read several comments regarding the unusual border crossings. Can anyone elaborate on the difficulties experienced with travel from one Stan to the next.
Irma Honda Jul 20, 2014 at 02:21 PM

We did not experience any difficulties, mainly because Jama, our tour director, prepared us for them in excruciating detail. The land crossings consisted of no man's land of varying distances (the longest one was between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan). After going through customs and immigration of the country we were leaving, we had to carry our luggage through the no-man's land to the immigration and customs of the country we were entering where we were met by our new local guide. Jama made sure that our visas were in order (correct dates, etc.) and that the forms we had to fill out were properly completed. Officials might or might not ask questions, but mostly did not since they did not speak English. My advise, follow the tour director's instructions, be prepared to be patient, pack lightly, and be flexible.
Kenn Charlton Jul 20, 2014 at 02:56 PM

Thank you Irma that is reassuring.
Carolyn Carlson Jul 20, 2014 at 03:09 PM

We also truly appreciated Jama's expertise at border crossings. However, we happened to be crossing into Uzbekistan at a time when the border had been unexpectedly closed just a day or two before we arrived and the brand new border guards were reluctant to allow the tour to enter. Jama saved the day. We understand that there are now taxis available to take people on the longest walk we did between borders (Uzbekistan to Turkmenistan). We agree that border crossings benefit from patience, small rolling suitcases and a sense of humor.
Kenn Charlton Jul 20, 2014 at 04:14 PM

Thank you Carolyn. My main concern is that Officials are not overly zealous like and interrogation or wondering what's in a persons shampoo bottle. But it seems all good now.
Carolyn Carlson Jul 20, 2014 at 04:44 PM

Hope it is smooth sailing for you. Have a wonderful trip. It is a fascinating tour.
Danna Moore Jul 20, 2014 at 05:06 PM

Rolling suitcases - NOT spinners.
Catherine Cloud Jul 22, 2014 at 12:31 PM

Just be cool, there are heavily armed guys everywhere at these crossings, they may or may not inspect your personal stuff. Don't take any photos of anything Jama tells you not to. They opened my husband's tablet computer and looked at photos (they got the stock ones of flowers & stuff which was funny) but Jama smooths the way as others have said. They know him at these borders and it's just a matter of being patient and tolerant of delays, paperwork and keeping close track of your documents. I once washed a vital entry doc that I had to have on the way out. When it dried it was still legible. When I presented it I made a washing pantomime and they all laughed about it. BUT if I'd really destroyed this piece of paper it would have been a significant hassle for Jama.

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at no additional cost on this date ...
17 nights of accommodations
48 meals: 17 breakfasts, 16 lunches, 15 dinners
2 Expert-led lectures
27 Field trips
2 Hands-on experiences
4 Performances
2 Flights during the program


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