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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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EasyFor people looking to exercise their minds more than their bodies. There’s minimal walking and not too many stairs.
ModerateThese programs get you on your feet and include activities such as walking up to a mile in a day through a city and standing in a museum for a few hours.
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.
ChallengingGet ready to keep up with our highest-energy group. These demanding — and rewarding — programs are for seasoned outdoor enthusiasts.
Discussion Board

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Kathleen Jul 24, 2014 at 10:34 PM

So jealous of you who are leaving now! Great discussion and help with preparation.

If there are any of you who went in late October/early November, how chilly was it?

I know layering is a good idea but will fleece + lightweight jacket be overkill? Not enough?

Catherine Cloud Jul 25, 2014 at 03:46 AM

The October/Nov trip was perfect, never too hot or too cold. I took a microfiber pullover, a light but very warm jacket, also synthetic and a gortex type rain jacket with hood, used them all. There were days where short sleeved travel shirts were fine. My advice is to be prepared for a wide range of situations with the lightest possible stuff.
crazyquilter Jul 25, 2014 at 08:32 AM

I was on the trip with Catherine in late October/early November and agree you need to bring some warm clothes. There was sleet for one border crossing, and the next was during a wind that made it feel much colder than it really was. After that it got warmer, and short sleeves were very comfortable. Just bring layers. Fleece plus a jacket are definatly not overkill; there are also some high elevations which will be cooler no matter what the season.

Martha Hull Jul 23, 2014 at 03:05 PM

If it doesn't take space might be nice.I think one or two hotels had pools. We didn't have much time. Full Days!!! Jama's favorite saying "Road Scholars is not a shopping trip!" Evenings were for rest and doing laundry etc.

Marilee Wells Jul 23, 2014 at 02:53 PM

Very helpful discussion!
I'm going on the trip Sept 3. I'm thinking of packing a swim suit for the hotels with pools. Did anyone in your RS group go swimming?
Carolyn Carlson Jul 23, 2014 at 05:00 PM

Several people in our group used the pools in three or four hotels. As noted, there isn't too much free time, but sometimes taking a dip before dinner was refreshing after a long day of travel as it was quite warm on our Sept. 3rd trip last year.

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.
olga werchola Jul 25, 2014 at 06:22 AM

Thanks. That's just what I wanted to know.

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!
Dorothy Baker Jul 23, 2014 at 02:23 PM

I think your statement about luggage can't be reiterated enough. I thought I had packed lightly, but Ididn't think so after that mile walk between borders!!

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?
crazyquilter Jul 25, 2014 at 08:38 AM

We brought a stack of $20's. I have heard that ones are just about worthless. Also heard that in some places $100's are much more desirable, but we did not spend that much in any one country. I did ask my bank beforehand to save me new crisp bills.
olga werchola Jul 25, 2014 at 08:49 AM

Thanks. Will go with $20's with maybe a couple of $50's thrown in. Don't expect to buy anything expensive but then I say that for every trip and often give my credit card a workout. :) Remember the old days when I would go with a stack of 100 $1's. Guess those are gone for good.

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...

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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
30 Field trips
1 Hands-on experiences
2 Performances
2 Flights during the program


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