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Uzbek transport advice: Khiva, Ayaz Qala, Bukhara, Samarkand

New York City, New...
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Uzbek transport advice: Khiva, Ayaz Qala, Bukhara, Samarkand

Hi,

We're a couple of independent American travelers going to Uzbekistan as part of a larger five week trip in late April and May, also involving Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. We speak a little bit of rudimentary Russian, and we have experience traveling in the Caucasus, northeast Asia, and Eastern Europe.

Our plan is to fly into Tashkent, acclimate for a few days and then fly one way to Urgench in order to visit Khiva. We would then work our way east over land via public transport.

A few transportation-related and logistical questions:

From Khiva, what's the the best way to see the various old fortresses in the desert, such as Ayaz Qala? I image it's necessary to hire a driver, either a taxi or a 4x4? What should this cost and what's the most economical way to do it? Which are the most interesting fortresses to visit in a day of sightseeing? Is it possible to do this with only two people in an affordable manner?

What's the best/quickest way from Khiva to Bukhara over land? I'm assuming a taxi to Urgench and then a marshrutka to Samarkand? Approximately how long will this take? Anything we should see in between?

What's the best/quickest way from Bukhara to Samarkand over land? Train or marshrutka? We'd prefer not to travel overnight, and we've also heard that the trains fill up fast.

Finally, what's the best/quickest way to get from Samarkand to Osh? Can this even be done in one day of travel, or would it be better to break up the journey and stay for another day or two in Tashkent? Best to go via marshrutka, or via train, then marshrutka?

Finally, would you recommend using Osh as a route into Kyrgyzstan in terms of scenic interest, or would it be better to go north, via Kazakhstan (we will have a visa)?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Tel Aviv, Israel
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1. Re: Uzbek transport advice: Khiva, Ayaz Qala, Bukhara, Samarkand

Hi there I cant help you specifically on your route as mine was quite a bit different but I can answer you in general. Firslty Uzbekistan is by far the easiest. There is a well developed train network and its easy to buy tickets. In fact if you know your traveling times you can purchase your tickets at tashkent station regardless of where your journey starts and ends. I was in Ubekistan the end of sept which is peak tourist season and the trains were not packed solid and on the whole its a cheap and easy way to get around. Dont worry about night trains. I did one and it wasnt too bad at all. Tashkent itself has a really good transportation system. The metro is great and easy to use. Do not try and take pictures or you could be in trouble and make sure you always have your passport as the metro is guarded and you will often be asked to show it. They are polite about it so its really no bother. They just want to check your visa is in order. The local buses are also good and there are plenty of local buses that go to and from the airport if you want to use public transport. Local taxis are about $1.50 - $2. The other two ways to get around are by Marshtutka or it seemed more commonly by shared taxis. On the whole they are cheap. You are never sure if you are really paying the right amount or being ripped off but its still cheap so it doesnt really matter. Here again the shared taxis go between all the major cities. I had a choice timewise between Khiva and Nukus and in the end went to Nukus as I was interested in the igor savitsky museum and more so in the aral sea, which was one of the biggest enviromental disasters of the 20th century and I was also feeling a bit meddresahed out from bukhara and samarkand (and they are both amazing). The big trip from nukus is to moynak so as an example i did a one day tour shared with one other person and i paid $150 for an english speaking guide and a taxi for the whole day. It was one of the real highlights of my trip to uzbekistan so you may want to consider it as another option. I also did an authentic Nuratau mountain village stay which I would also recommend. I heard osh was very interesting. I was heading for Tajikistan and as i didnt have a visa to enter tajikistan overland from Kyrgsztan and there were no flights from osh i had to give it a miss. Kyrgsztan is amazing. Bishkek is a really laid back city. Ok its not paris or london but its compact and has its fair share of attractions. The country is very mountaneous so there is not much of a rail network but here again there are a lot of shared taxis. I took one from bishket of kochkor and it was very straightforward. You dont even need to look for the taxi from the depot in bishkek as they will find you. If you go in the summer then a yurt stay is a must. Kazakhstan also has a very large rail network. I was only in Almaty so cant tell you too much about it but from what i gather you could very easily get a train from almaty to astana.

Hope it helps

have a great trip

angie

www.angietravels.com

New York City, New...
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2. Re: Uzbek transport advice: Khiva, Ayaz Qala, Bukhara, Samarkand

Thanks so much, Angie. Quite relieved to know that the Uzbek trains probably won't be selling out in April. Also good to know that the police aren't too intrusive as long as we have our papers in order.

Cool that you liked Bishkek, as well. Some people have told me it's boring, but it seems like your opinion differs, so we'll look forward to the city.

A question for you (and we're posting this in the Kazakhstan forum, too): We're flying out of Almaty. I've heard that the eastern border crossing btw. Kyrgyzstan's Issyk Kul region and Almaty is still closed. So we will go to Almaty from Bishkek, after having visiting Karakol and the lake. Is there anyplace cool to stop off in between Bishkek and Almaty? Also can you recommend any interesting daytrips from Almaty? I've read about a lake and an observatory. Also about some petroglyphs, although those seem quite difficult to reach via public transport.

Thanks again!

Tel Aviv, Israel
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3. Re: Uzbek transport advice: Khiva, Ayaz Qala, Bukhara, Samarkand

I booked my trains at tashkent station. It looks a bit confusing but I was in and out within 15 minutes and the lady spoke excellent english although I was willing to give my russian a go. Apparently there used to be a lot of problems with the police claiming your papers werent in order and then trying to bride you for money. This has been pretty well wiped out. I thought it was quite amusing to be asked for my passport and they were always nice about it. I think they do it just becasue they can. I flew between Almaty and Bishkek so I dont know there is much to see on the way. Day trips from almaty. The main ones are to the Big almaty lake which is actually quite small. I wanted to go to the observatory but i was on an organized tour and had a flight in the evening so couldnt hang around. For some reason there was some military presence when I was there. I dont know if that is usual but they were not that pleasant.. A kazakh girl said there had been a major shooting incident at another lake a little while ago and that could have been the reason. The shooting was gang related and not aimed at tourists. The lake does not have any direct transport. You can only go so far and then you have to walk which might be a bit of a distance. The other very popular day trip from almaty is to the charyn canyon. Here again its not very accessible by public transport and a tour might save you a lot of hassle. If you look up english tours you will find they cost a fortune. I ended up taking russian tours which cost a fraction of the cost and as there were a lot of us there were several people who were able to translate. I used the CBT office. I will try and track down there website for you.

Tel Aviv, Israel
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4. Re: Uzbek transport advice: Khiva, Ayaz Qala, Bukhara, Samarkand

Her is the website link. The guy that runs it is great and will answer all your questions

http://eco-tourism.kz/eirc_eng.html

Australia
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5. Re: Uzbek transport advice: Khiva, Ayaz Qala, Bukhara, Samarkand

Maybe too late to help as I have just got back from Uz, but will answer a few points.

1. We stayed in a yurts at Ayaz Qala. Its the only place to stay in but a great experience. They provide all meals. It was about a 2-3 hour drive from Khiva. You would need to rent a driver and car (no need for a 4x4). One night would be sufficient. Definitely worth a visit. (as is the museum in Nukus)

2. Khiva to Bukhara. About a 9-10 hour drive depending on road conditions. Some of the road is terrible but other parts have newly concrete. Nothing much to see between the two.

3. always need your passport on you at all times as there are numerous police road blocks.(and to buy train tickets)

Ithaca, NY
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6. Re: Uzbek transport advice: Khiva, Ayaz Qala, Bukhara, Samarkand

Just read a post from another BB that said the ride from Khiva to Bukhara was more like 5 hours? Wad6x, when did you do the trip and was it by bus or taxi or???

Edmonton, Canada
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7. Re: Uzbek transport advice: Khiva, Ayaz Qala, Bukhara, Samarkand

Eddie,

We did the drive last Sept and it took us between 8 and 9 hours in a new car with a very motivated professional driver. The tourist bus took exactly 12 hours. I know because we spoke with the passengers. A taxi will probably take closer to the 10 hours mentioned above. You will know why once you see an Uzbek taxi. You'll probably spend at least an hour of your time waiting at checkpoints depending on how busy they are and how much money they feel they have to extort on that day.

Ithaca, NY
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8. Re: Uzbek transport advice: Khiva, Ayaz Qala, Bukhara, Samarkand

Thanks. Apparently (?) the road construction is complete or close to it allowing for the faster times reported on the other post.

Edmonton, Canada
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9. Re: Uzbek transport advice: Khiva, Ayaz Qala, Bukhara, Samarkand

I doubt it very much. Construction was at a standstill and had been for quite a while. It's only been six months (winter) since we were there. Apparently the German and I believe Korean companies hadn't been paid for their work so they left.

Lahore, Pakistan
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10. Re: Uzbek transport advice: Khiva, Ayaz Qala, Bukhara, Samarkand

We 04members group in May,14 would be traveling from OSH(Kyrgystan) Fergana,Samarkand,Bukhara,Khiva(Uzbekistan)- what would be the preferred traveling tools and costing??