CENTRAL ASIA OVERLANDING

Overlanding in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia

What is overlanding?

Home to incredible landscapes, diverse cultures and the ancient Silk Road, Central Asia is a vast region that’s made for overlanding. Travelling aboard large, purpose-built trucks, with all camping and cooking equipment onboard, overlanding is all about the journey and not just the destination. Driving times vary, with shorter journeys lasting several hours and longer driving days also to be expected. However, there are breaks of a day or two to enjoy each destination and take part in activities along the way.

Overlanding brings you the must-see highlights of each country, whether that be the stunning monasteries of Armenia, the mountain scenery of Tajikistan or the Silk Road cities of Uzbekistan. But they’re far from just sightseeing tours, with plenty of activities to get involved in. You could be wine tasting in Telavi, hiking the beautiful Fergana Valley or even white-water rafting. All while sharing a great travel experience with other like-minded adventurers.

Is overlanding for me?

If you’re an open-minded, adventurous traveller, who would be happy to spend the night in a yurt in the desert rather than a luxury hotel, then overlanding is a great choice for you.

A desire to participate fully in the trip is essential, as is the ability to be flexible. The routes, places visited and activities on overland itineraries are meant as a rough guide only. Central Asian countries are often unpredictable and, as exact night stops and activities cannot be guaranteed, overland itineraries need to be flexible. Changes to itineraries can be for a variety of reasons, including climatic, road or bureaucratic conditions.

Overland travel can be demanding, so you’ll need to be of good health and physically fit in order to fully participate. There will be some early morning starts, long travel days and dusty conditions, as well as plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking. You’ll be doing your bit to help out in everyday activities too, including cooking, washing up and setting up your tent. In addition, although the step into the overland vehicle isn’t overly high, you’ll need to be able to climb in and out of the truck up to 10 times each day.

What will the group profile be?

Your fellow travellers play a big role in your Overland Adventure and life-long friendships can be formed on these journeys. Overlanding groups in Central Asia typically have between 19 to 22 travellers, with an average group size of 16. They are also made of people of many different nationalities and ages, with a fairly even split between males and females, couples, groups of friends and solo travellers.

Around 33% are aged 25 to 44, with 42.5% between the ages of 45 to 64 years old. Although there is a minimum age of 18, any adventurous travellers who are passionate about exploring Central Asia are welcome. However, those over the age of 65 are required to have a medical certificate and complete a Tour Suitability form before a booking can be confirmed.

Overlanding camp at sunset, Central Asia

What does it involve?

One of the biggest aspects of overlanding in Central Asia is group participation. Together with your fellow travellers, you’ll be expected to set up camp, prepare meals and generally help out. During the trip, you’ll be assigned a truck job such as sweeping out the truck or loading the back locker. When camping, a rota system is used for meals included in the kitty. You’ll be divided into teams of three to four people, who take it in turns to plan the meal, buy ingredients and prepare the food. Overall, travellers tend to find that the more they put into a trip, the more they get out of it.

What's the food like?

Typical camp breakfasts might include toast with spreads, fruit and cereal, with tea and coffee. If there’s time, there may also be hot dishes such as pancakes or eggs. Lunches tend to consist of sandwiches with a variety of fillings and lots of salad, whereas dinner may be pasta, risotto or a BBQ. We also have the chance to try some local cooking too.

If you have any specific dietary requirements or food intolerances, the variety of dishes available may be limited in comparison to what’s available for the rest of the group. Whilst we can try to cater for this, it may not always be possible and if there’s anything you particularly require it’s best to bring this from home. It’s also worth noting that the cuisine of many countries in Central Asia has a strong focus on meat, so vegetarians and vegans will have few options in some of the places visited.

Overland camp with tents, Central Asia

Camping

Depending on the overland itinerary, there is a range of accommodation varying from camping and homestays to basic hotels and even yurts. Homestays are a great opportunity to experience what life is like for the locals and in Kyrgyzstan you can help put up a yurt yourself, which is without doubt a quintessential Central Asian experience.

Each overland truck is fully equipped with dome-shaped or A-frame tents with integrated mosquito nets, as well as camping and cooking equipment. You’ll just need to bring a sleeping bag, pillow and sleeping mat with you. On the first night of camping, you’ll have a full briefing about setting up so it can be a quick and easy process. In many destinations we will be wild camping, meaning that we will have no access to any toilet or bathroom facilities. This offers the opportunity to get truly off the beaten track and connect with our surrounds.

Whether camping or staying in a basic hotel, Overland Adventures in Central Asia are designed for shared accommodation and do not involve a single supplement. Instead, solo travellers are paired with a person of the same sex. Check the inclusions to see the ratio of accommodation on each trip.

Expedition vehicles

Overland vehicles are sturdy, Mercedes Benz trucks which have been specially modified in the UK to include custom features. Known for their durability, they have long range fuel tanks and a unique integrated cab so that travellers and crew can easily communicate. Camping stools and tables are stored onboard, with a side awning offering protection from the sun.

Up to 22 passengers can be seated inside, with comfortable, coach-style seats which are forward facing except for four seats facing backwards around two tables. Other key features include a bookshelf, 12v charging points and audio equipment with an MP3 player connection. There’s a luggage locker and a hidden safe to keep money and passports secure. Large storage areas hold the camping equipment, cooking equipment, utensils and food, with each vehicle featuring an integrated fridge and 250 litre drinking water tank. There’s also an emergency medical kit and a full range of tools and spares in case of mechanical issues.

Please note that the overland trucks do not have WiFi and are not air conditioned. This helps speed up the process of acclimatization to the climate and avoid illness from sudden changes in temperature.

Overlanding truck and yurts

Crew

On all Overland Adventures in Central Asia, we have two western crew members who are trained as both drivers and tour leaders. They ensure the smooth running of the trip, drive and maintain the truck and support travellers when needed. Their preparation involves one of the most intensive training programs of all overland tour operators and they are trained in health and safety.

Alongside these crew, a local guide also travels onboard for the duration of time we are in each country (excluding Turkey and Azerbaijan). In these cases, the local guide becomes a third crew member and can offer their local knowledge as well as a fantastic insight into their country and the lives of the locals.

The crew have a duty of care to all members of the group and the authority to ask you to leave the trip if you are behaving in an antisocial manner, require serious medical assistance or if you refuse to comply with local laws and customs. In ALL matters relating to the trip’s running, their decision is final.

Luggage

Your main bag is kept in the truck’s luggage locker, so you won’t be carrying it for long distances. However, as you won’t be able to access this while driving, you’ll need a daypack to carry your water bottle, camera and any other items you might need during the day. You’ll also be helping load and unload bags onto the truck, so we recommend using a soft bag or backpack as your main baggage rather than a heavy suitcase.

Due to the size of the locker, we recommend bags no larger than a rucksack with a capacity of about 80 litres (approximately 70cm high, 40cm wide and 40cm deep). There is also a weight limit of 20kg. Note that due to the constant vibrations of the truck and dust, your bag will be subject to extreme wear and tear. Please refer to the trip notes for a packing list.

Overlanding truck at sunset, Central Asia

Optional Activities

There are plenty of activities and excursions to choose from on an Overland Adventure. Some of these are included and, if you do not wish to participate, we can’t guarantee that this will be refunded. Optional activities are taken at your own expense.

It’s important to read through the itinerary fully as some activities require a certain level of fitness or have higher risks than you are used to. That way, you can make your own decision about whether you would like to take part and if you have the physical ability to enjoy the trip to the fullest. Please ensure that your personal travel insurance covers you for any activities you plan to take part in.

Whilst the list of optional activities in the Trip Notes demonstrates what is on offer in each destination, it should be seen as a guide rather than a fixed list. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that each activity will be available on your particular visit or that you will have time to do all of the activities listed during your stay.

If you do take part in any optional activities, be aware that prices listed are an approximation and don't include transport or local guides unless indicated. It must also be clearly understood that participation is done at your own risk and doesn't form part of your contract with us. You may need to sign a waiver or optional activity form for some activities.

Local Payment/Kitty

In addition to the price of each Overland Adventure, you’ll be required to pay a local payment, which is referred to as the kitty. Each traveller joining the trip pays their kitty into a central fund which is managed by the crew. This covers the cost of everything that the whole group does, such as included activities, meals, hotel accommodation and campsite fees.

The kitty allows for greater flexibility and is a unique system to overlanding. Kitty accounts can be viewed by everyone throughout the trip so you can see exactly how your money is being spent and ensure you are getting the best value by buying locally. As the kitty is the group’s fund, no profit is made from it. If there is any money left in the kitty at the end of the trip, it is divided between the group and refunded.

The kitty is payable on day 1 of your trip in cash, so bring sufficient cash USD with you. Travellers cheques are not accepted. Alternatively, you can pay in advance via bank transfer 3-4 weeks before your trip (please contact us for instructions). Note that pre-payment is not possible for tours visiting Turkmenistan.

Please ensure your USD notes are undamaged, clean and under 8 years old. If needed, your tour leader can accept some of the kitty in local currency and let you know the local exchange rate. In most countries, you can withdraw local currency from ATM machines using either a credit/debit card or a cash passport. Note that trying to get the entire kitty out from an ATM can be impractical as most cards have a maximum withdrawal amount per day, local ATMs can run out of cash and your bank could block your card despite you warning them of your travel plans.

Exchange rate fluctuations can affect costs and prices can change with no notice. Therefore, the kitty amount can change and the price on our website includes a buffer to cover this. The actual amount you will be asked to pay locally could be less than the amount quoted on your tour voucher or trip notes. Should you pay in advance and the kitty quoted on day 1 of the trip be less than what you have paid prior to arrival, you will be refunded on the same day.

Central Asia Trip Styles