Tour companies in Central Asia
Hi all. I’m going to be traveling in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan this fall and want to use a Central Asian company for visa and hotel arrangements, and possibly some local guide work in areas that are a bit off the beaten path. Four that have been recommended by friends are: Advantour, Emir Travel, Steppe Journeys, and East Site Travel. Many thanks to anyone with knowledge and advice on these that they can share.
Stantours (stantours.com) in Kazakhstan is well-regarded and very responsive to requests for travel support in Central Asian countries.
On the other hand, you can organise your visas for Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan yourself, because most companies that provide visa support for these countries will insist on you purchasing a hotel or tour package in exchange for visa support. I’m assuming you’re from the US — you can apply for a visa for UZ without a letter of introduction if you apply before you leave your country. For TM you have the choice of a transit visa (usually issued for 5 days, you need visas for the countries on either side of the transit, and don’t mention ‘tourism’ in your application) which does not require you to travel with a guide, or you can apply for a standard tourist visa which requires that you have a guide accompanying you everywhere outside Ashgabat. This can work out to be quite expensive. But once you make this decision getting the visa is relatively straighforward as long as you have the necessary documents (visas for neighbouring countries or tour booking) to support the application.
You no longer need a visa for Kyrgyszstan if you are in the country as a tourist for no more than 60 days.
@emmeff, thanks, that’s great information. Have you used Stantours yourself?
No, I haven’t. My travel around Kyrgyzstan, to Dushanbe in Tajikistan, and across southern Kazakhstan to China occurred in a random, disorganised manner. As usual. I aim to get to UZ and TM this year as an independent traveller, and no doubt it will be more of the same.
But there are plenty of testimonies for Stantours across different travel forums. There are quite a lot of tour companies in UZ and during peak season you may find yourself sharing the major destinations with large tour groups from western Europe.
I’m not sure if you’ve gone with someone else, but Battuta Travel: www.battutatravel.uz/ come recommended in Uzbekistan.
I haven’t used them myself but have travelled extensively in Uzbekistan and come across their representatives, and people who have travelled with them (who were impressed by good working English, friendly and entertaining).
I looked them up again for the purpose of your comment and was impressed by their website too – informative, up-to-speed on visa requirements etc. Enjoy your trip!