Helpful travel tips

Useful tips for traveling around Central Asia 

Make sure to sort your visas out 

Although most of the countries in Central Asia offer visa free stays, you need a visa to enter Tajikistan for example. If you already know which date you want to enter Tajikistan, apply for a visa as soon as you can. Although most people usually don’t have a problem with the visa, and the normal waiting time is between 1-2 business days, I had to wait for more than 10 business days to get my visa. I underestimated the time to get the visa so I planned to go to Tajikistan within 4 days after I had applied for the visa. Was that possible? No. Instead, I was stuck in Uzbekistan in a small city, just sitting and waiting for my visa. Apparently a lot more people experienced having issues with this so it could be wise to sort out your visas in good time. 

Pack wisely 

If you’re going to hike a lot in Central Asia, bring good equipment with you. Although you can almost always rent equipment such as hiking poles, tents and sleeping bags, it’s always wise to have a pair of really good hiking shoes (don’t come with sneakers), rain jacket (since it will guaranteed be raining) and thicker clothes that will keep you warm at night. You should also pack more modest clothes with you since it’s a bit more conservative in some places in Central Asia such as Uzbekistan for example. I brought more long pants, long sleeve shirts, etc., instead of shorts and tops. I didn’t use my shorts until I got to Almaty and Bishkek. 

Don’t bring MasterCard

Believe it or not, but this was one of my main problems in Central Asia. I read somewhere that it was best to travel with a Visa card, but since I didn’t have time to sort it out, I decided to just let it be. But I really regret not sorting that out before I left because it’s quite hard to find an ATM in Central Asia that accepts Mastercard, especially in Uzbekistan. There were times when we were walking for 2 hours looking for an ATM that accepted Mastercard. It’s not impossible to find one, but it’ll save you so much time and effort if you travel with a Visa card. 

Learn a bit of Russian or local language 

Although no one expects you to be an expert in Russian, it’s quite useful if you learn a bit of the language. If you’re haggling for prices for example, it could be good to know numbers and asking “how much?” or simply be able to say “thank you” in the local language. You’ll come far with body language, but the locals really appreciate it when you learn a bit of the local language. Besides that, it could be really useful if you comprehend the cyrillic alphabet. 

Backpacking challenges

What I hate about backpacking 

The first time I backpacked, I was 19 years old, going to Southeast Asia. It’s the most cliché story, but I loved it when I was that young. I thought everything about backpacking was thrilling and I promised myself that I’d never travel in another way. Flashforward 9 years and 6o countries later and you have a very tired backpacker. Although there’s still so many things I absolutely love about backpacking, there’s also a ton of stuff I now hate. Here’s what I hate about backpacking. 

Staying in dorms in hostels 

Although there’s a lot of pros about staying in hostels, there’s so many cons too, especially if you’ve kind of grown out of it. One of the most annoying, and obvious, things is the snoring. If you’re staying in a 12 bed dorm, you can be sure that at least one person will be snoring and that you’ll, yet again, be losing one night sleep because of it. Although you can buy earplugs, it’s sometimes so loud that nothing helps. Something that’s also annoying with staying in dorms is that you never know who you’ll be staying in the same room as. Some people start packing their bags in the middle of the night, turns on the lights (usually several times), comes back drunk and starts shouting, or is just loud in general. 

Partying every single day 

Some people travel for culture, some for food, and others for… boozing. Unfortunately, backpacking has been associated with partying every single day. You’ll notice this especially if you go to Southeast Asia for example, where every single thing turns into a party. Oh, you thought you were doing a language class? Well, it includes lots of alcohol too. It’s fun to party from time to time, but I hate the fact that backpacking has become an excuse for young people to go abroad, get drunk, sleep and do it all over again. And God forbid if you’re one of the people in the hostel who doesn’t want to party – then you’re ‘that’ weirdo. 

Always having to be present 

Sometimes you just want to be unsocial, and yes hostels might not be the best idea then but it’s also usually the cheapest alternative, but if you’re too unsocial then people will think there’s something wrong with you. But if you’ve traveled for months and just need a little break from everyone and everything, it can get really frustrating when you always feel like you need to be present. 

Gaining weight 

Let’s face it, we all gain a bit of weight when we backpack. It’s all the delicious food, the alcohol, the laying on the beach 24/7 and doing nothing. But I hate the fact that my body always changes when I backpack and that sometimes you can be really healthy and other times, you just have to adapt and will turn into a walrus within weeks.