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If You’re Reading This August Is Over & I’m In Tajikistan!

This is my first monthly round-up in, well, months. I’ve been too lazy to write one. I think I did one in April last? Maybe in March? Continuing with the lazy theme… I can’t be bothered to go back and look either. I’m actually writing this at home in Alaska before I left. Do you actually think this would get done if I waited until I made it to Tajikistan to write it? Ha.

Right now as you’re reading this I’m in Dushanbe, probably waiting in line at the Turkmenistan Embassy turning in my papers to get the ball rolling for my visa. Or I might be trading currency on the black market… I know that sounds cool and all, but I’m not that cool in real life, don’t worry. Apparently, you get a much better exchange rate on the back market than you get at the ATM, weird. Or maybe I’m stuffing some plov in my face because we all know how I love food. At the time of this writing, I haven’t tried plov yet, but I hear it’s good. But if the food in Central Asia turns out to be terrible, I’ve been carrying hot sauce in my bag long before Beyonce started writing about it in her songs. Hot sauce can turn the inedible into something tolerable, trust me. *I may have an ulcer, and I now get heartburn sometimes. I never turn down a spicy food or a hot sauce, even though it might hurt later. Is this what it’s like to be an adult?

Maybe I’m wandering around looking at some strange ex-Soviet stuff too, who knows. Or if you wait a few days after I posted this to be reading this I’m probably in the Fann Mountains somewhere.

But getting back to the point of this being a monthly round-up and all I’ll talk about August.

I wrote three posts this month. Yup a whole three. I’m hoping this month’s new location will make more motivated. No promises.

I finally answered all the questions as to what photography gear I lug around the world with me. Although I did forget to add two items on there because I’m a scatterbrain. One is a wireless remote, I need to get a nicer one with a bigger distance but right now I just have some cheap $25 one from Best Buy. The second item is a photography backpack, it’s what I cram all that shit into. It’s no-frills and nothing fancy but it does the job.

I finally got around to writing something about my South America adventure this month. I went photo-essay on this one because I was feeling more visual than I was wordy and articulate- so I came up with 10 photos that will make you book a ticket to Bolivia.

Otherwise, what have a done in August? I mostly prepared for my upcoming trip. Spent a weekend with my dental hygiene class from college has it been 5 years already? Ohhhh! And I’m currently taking my online PADI open water class, finally! I will most likely be taking my actual dives to complete the certificate when I’m in the Philippines in November. But otherwise this month, I worked- You know since money usually helps in terms of traveling. I probably did some other stuff too, but I can’t remember. But mostly I’ve been dealing with the odds and ends of prepping to leave. Especially since it’s for three months this time.

It’s weird, as time goes on and the more and more I travel, the more and more anxious I get about it. You’d think the more I’ve done this, the easier it would be to leave, but nope! Once I get to where I’m going I’m always fine though.

Ok, well I’ll hopefully be on here to update you some more in September…. of course whenever I do get a chance to get on the internet which may be few and far between!

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2 thoughts on “If You’re Reading This August Is Over & I’m In Tajikistan!”

  1. Telma I Blank Canvas Voyage

    Hi Nicole,

    Wow girl, you have a hell of an adventure coming your way! We are following your adventures very closely because you are about to travel into an area of interested to us.

    After commenting on your tweet about Tajikistan I had to visit your website for more information. I have a zillion questions, but I guess you have just started your adventure, so I will wait for all the fantastic updates regarding this!

    But in the meantime shall I ask just a few?

    – Out of the 4 countries you are visiting which ones require to visit through an tour operator?
    – Is camping the only option? If yes, how easy is to camp out there? do you need a permit? can you camp anywhere?
    – How long are you planning on staying in each country? and do you need a out-of-the-country-date in order to enter?

    Ok ok, I will stop for now.

    We have been following Manouk on Instagram, those images are do die for! Cant wait for yours 🙂


    1. Hi Telma!
      It’s been a crazy adventure so far, and I am so glad you have an interest in coming over here, it really is an amazing corner of the world.

      To answer you questions…

      #1 Of the ‘Stans I’m visiting (mind you, this is all coming from a US passport holder) Turkmenistan is the only one that requires a pre-booked tour. Of course that pre-booked tour will issue a LOI that you will need in order to apply for your visa. There is a loophole to this in that you can apply for a ‘transit visa’ without a booked tour but my understanding is that it’s very very heavily limited as to where you’re allowed to go. Turkmenistan didn’t earn the nickname ‘North Korea of Central Asia for no good reason haha. I don’t have much info on the transit visa as I booked a tour, however most of the info I do know of it I actually read on Goats on the Road’s blog (I believe they are Canadian, but I think their website would be worth having a look at, regarding it). Otherwise Tajikistan was an easy e-visa, no LOI and no required tour to visit, Kyrgyzstan is visa free, I actually finished up Tajikistan a few days earlier than I Expected and I crossed through Kyrgyzstan (where I’ll be returning through in a few days for some sight seeing around the country) and I turned up in Almaty, Kazakhstan today which also at the moment went visa free. Uzbekistan I had to get a visa, but no LOI was required for me or tour and was a quick, painless (although kinda expensive- $160 visa) process.

      #2 depending on where you’re going camping may be the only option in Tajikistan anyways. Up in the Fann Mountains I chose to camp, and you can essentially camp most anywhere out there. However there are some homestays out there. Munira Akilova [email protected] is going to be your guiding light in the Fanns, Zerafshon and Yagnob areas. She is the boss lady over at Zeravshon Tourism Development Association and she can answer every question under the sun for you, book homestays and set up guides, donkeys, provide maps, even rent out camping gear (portable stove, tent, sleeping bags- if needed. AS far as I am aware there is no permit needed for the Fann Mountains, I obviously didn’t have anything of the sort.

      Moving on to the Pamirs, you can camp here as well but there is a pretty extensive track of homestays all along most of the road routes, even some along hikes- like Jizeu. If you arrange a car/driver they’ll know the homestays and you’ll be at one every night. However, if you’re planning to cycle or hitchhike the Pamir Hwy- bring a tent and food/water, you may go stretches where you aren’t going to get to a homestay by night fall and will need a place to sleep. For the Pamir Highway you NEED a GBAO Permit- this one’s easy, you apply for it when you apply for your e-visa- it asks you on there, simple as that. There are other areas that require permits that you must apply for once you’re in the country. I didn’t visit any of these places but the ones I am aware of are: Zorkul (must be applied for at the PECTA office in Khorog), Lake Sarez (must apply in Dushanbe, can take a month to by issued. Usually best bet is to book a tour there, I guess), and Tajik National Park (PECTA in Khorog, again).

      As far as the other places I’m visiting… Kyrgyzstan I will be camping in some areas and homestaying/hoteling/hosteling around- this is all dependent on where you want to visit. Kazakhstan was an unexpected side trip and I will just be in Almaty, so hostels it is. Uzbekistan is one of the more tourist developed countries in the region so camping isn’t exactly necessary and Turkmenistan I will camp at the Door to Hell and stay in a hotel in Ashgabat per the tour.

      #3 My time breakdown is: 2 months total in Central Asia. Tajikistan is the one country I’ve been dying to get to, so naturally that’s why I had set an entire month aside dedicated just for it. However, I did finish up a few days early as I had given myself a lot of extra time for the Pamir Highway just because I really wasn’t sure how much time I needed. Had I known this I would have opted to visit Khujand, Isfara. And Isarfshan up in the Ferghana Valley, or visit further up the Bartang Valley… Or take time the time to apply for the permits for Zorkul and TNP….But I know I’ll be back, so there’s that.

      I will end up spending a whole 4 days in Kazakhstan, obviously it’s a giant country and if you wanted to thoroughly see it, I’m guessing you’d want a month or more (originally why I didn’t include it in my plans).

      Then I will spend the remainder of the second month in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and only 5 days in Turkmenistan (that was the original plan- Turkmenistan’s MFA didn’t give the dates asked for on the LOI, so now will only have 3 days there).

      As far as visas go….
      TJ: 45 day e-visa, however if you plan to stay over 30 days you have to register with OVIR in Dushnabe.
      KG: 60 days without a visa.
      KZ: 30 days visa free (I believe)
      UZ: Standard is 30 day single entry visa.
      TM: ….good luck, haha. At this point in time it’s really more like a lottery than an application and according to Saule and Steven over at Caravanistan the rejection rate is at 70% at the moment.

      Most the countries requiring visas are date specific, however you can enter after the entry date listed on the visa and depart before the expiration date… Just don’t try to enter before the entrance date or after the exit date of course. Always a good idea to apply for a few days before you plan to arrive and a few days after you plan to exit, you know just in case- and this method did come in handy for me in regards to an UZ visa now that I will be having to stay there a few days later than originally planned because of the TM LOI issues.

      Ok, so sorry that this was the longest response ever! But I hope this helps you in planning as this isn’t exactly the easiest region of the world to visit! I do have some photos up on IG so far from Tajikistan (which I absolutely am in love with and is one of my most favorite countries in the world now). And yes I absolutely loved Manouk’s photos over there- she definitely gave me lots of ideas over the last month of my trip planning! Let me know any other questions you have, and of course I will eventually do a thorough post on the how-to’s. But so far I have a post on the Fanns, and posts on days 1 &2 of the Pamir Highway (they’re more of short what happeneds than being informative guides). THanks!


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