From April to July 2016 we travelled with our Landcruiser from Switzerland across Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan to Kirgizstan. Approximately 15’000km. For more ample details and pics see our respective blogs.
Kindly note all information given is based on our personal perceptions and observations. Of course you might experience it in a different way.
Procurement of Visa
Still complicated. In most cases, when applying for a visa the respective earliest entry respectively exit dates are fixed. Hence,with several countries involved, leading to a very limited flexibility.
Iran: was planned initially. Application through König Tours in Brühl/Germany. However, the girls and boys completly failed . Therefore, we had to cancel the southern route to Uzbekistan.
Ukraine: your passport will be stamped upon entry
Russia: Sibiriak, Berne/ Switzerland. Fast and uncomplicated. 1 week and CHF 210, that’s it. Has to be requested in the country where you are living (residence). Exception: Osh/ Kirgizstan for citizens of Schengen countries.
Kazakhstan: Easy, stamp upon entry, validity 15 days.
Uzbekistan: Spomer, Bad Honeff/ Germany. Company ok. Approx. 4 weeks because of Uzbek administration. 105 EUR.
Kirgizstan: Easy; Stamp upon entry. 90 days validity.
Tajikistan: Consulate in Bishkek. Approx. 50 USD + 1000 Som for the GBAO Permit (Pamir) for 30 days. Ready the same afternoon (with some persuading).
Ukraine: quite unorganised upon entry and exit. Missing coordination between different authorities was leading to 3-4 identical checks. Requires some patience, otherwise without any problems. Knowledge of some Russian is an advantage. No fees. TIP is issued.
Russia: well organized. However, waiting time due to long procedures and lengthy electronic data capture. Even at the Western border only Russian is spoken. Sketchy car check. TIP for 1 year issued – theoretically valid for the customs union Russia, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan. Staff helpful, especially if your knowledge of Russian language is not that perfect.
Kazakhstan: Very quick entry. Passport stamped, no car check, normally no new TIP necessary (see Russia). Non-sufficient computer-skills lead to considerable delays. Upon exit Russian TIP had to be handed in. Got a copy of it with handwritten confirmation ,signature and stamp, that it still would be valid.
Uzbekistan: very bureaucratic. Border-crossing from Kazakhstan (Beyneu – Nukus) catastrophic (for more details see our Roadside Tale The World’s Slowest Border – the Fast Way to Cross it). Principally only feasible with queue-jumping, discussions with everybody und tremendous patience. Car and luggage were not really searched. Departure was easier.
Kirgizstan: No problem at Osh border. Passport stamped. Environment tax 1000 Som. But did not get a Kirgiz TIP. From what we heard, this could end up in indecent demands upon exit – but luckily not with us. It’s not clear to what extent the Russian or the Kazakh document will be acknowledged. Best is to insist on a TIP for 12 months. Exit no problem – careful: the environment tax slip will be checked.
Tajikistan: Quick entry on Pamir (Kyzyl-Art Pass), but $25 for TIP and 20 USD for 3 documents – what they are good for is not too clear to us. Rip off? Got wrong information on how long the TIP is valid – 30 days. When leaving the country, we learn that the TIP is valid for only 15 days. No problem, was solved pragmatically and without “Fee”. But probably depends on friendly conversation.
On the road:
First of all: we had to pay only once 3 EUR, because we overran a stop sign in front of a police station. We talked with the friendly officials with the help of our limited Russian knowledge. The widespread insider tip just to act dumb and only speak a few languages no one else can understand does not prove successful in our opinion.
Ukraine: no problem; speed controls; police made us aware of our missing dimmed headlights.
Russia: lots of police. Many controls and speed traps. Better stick to the proper traffic laws. No negative experiences. Overrun stop signal was solved non-bureaucratically.
Kazakhstan: infested with all kind of “custodians of the law”. Strictly adhere to the rules, regardless of how senseless they are. No negative experiences. However, there is the impression that foreign cars are under special observation. According to our information, there is no reason to engage in expensive solutions for the settlement of violations. The fines seem to be quite low, except if you as a foreigner get intimidated and are looking for a personal solution.
Uzbekistan: Police at every corner, at regular intervals the whole traffic has to drive through control posts – similar to Italian toll stations. No negative experiences, were hardly stopped. Registration at check points only near to borders. The most important violation seems to be exceeding the speed limit in front of control posts (20km/h).
Kirgizstan: On main roads many police checks (documents) and regularly speed traps. We’re controlled once but this reminded us strongly to circumstances in Central Africa. Escaped with lots of patience and resistance. There is the impression that violations rarely are punished, or only when needed/ if required.
Tajikistan: “Custodians of the law” were only seen outside of Pamir. No encounters made. On major roads occasionally speed traps.
Other bureaucratic highlights:
Only in Uzbekistan.
Hotel registration still mandatory. Done directly by the hotel, not by any other authority (e.g. OVIR). Accommodation in Tashkent often only accept guests who can provide a complete set of all previous registrations – preferably without any gaps. Upon departure nobody controlled our registrations – seems to work according to the random principle.
Money in Uzbekistan: Black or White Market? The ratio is more than 2:1. Declared hard currency at the border, then changed on the black market, no questions/ enquiries when leaving the country. Hotel bills only rarely can be paid with “black soms”. Especially GHs often calculate their prize in som with the higher black market rate. In Tashkent better pay with credit card, otherwise you often are asked a horrendous amount. Kind hotel managers change USD according to the black market rate and accept the payment of the hotel bill with the (lower) official rate.
Diesel in Uzbekistan: It’s a well known problem. Only available on the black market and worst quality. However, we always found a petrol station with diesel south of Nukus. Seems to depend on the season.
Below a list of roads with better/ worse condition than expected:
Lake Aral basin: Crossing A340 (N43 28.857 E58 06.466) – Moynaq: newly paved road starting below escarpment (N43 44.778 E58 20.095) up to the village of Sorok. Sorok – Moynaq: tar with potholes.
Main connection Nukus – Taschkent: Nukus – Bukhara: first part newly paved, afterwards slightly bumpy tar road.
Road A364 Barskoon – Kumtor gold mine: perfect track, permanently maintained and watered (against dust). Good track up to Suök Pass, did not go much further.
Track Tosor – Tosor Pass: very bad and big stones, we turned back.
Road Khalai Kum – Dushanbe: after Khalai Kum newly paved along Panj River up to approx. N37 49.872 E70 10.869 and after Danghara up to Dushanbe.
Anzob Pass: mountain pass road buried by rock-/ landslides.
Anzob tunnel: road newly paved, but tunnel still very dark, with obstacles and also water in parts of it.
Road Ayni – Penjikent: newly paved.