Driving Conditions in Central Asia

 

The central region of the continent of Asia, Central Asia, also called Middle Asia, is bordered by China and the Caspian Sea on the east and the west, with Russia and Afghanistan sharing borders on the north and the south respectively. Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan come within this region. Afghanistan, western Pakistan, Mongolia, Tibet and Jammu and Kashmir are also included in this region at times.

All these countries have been integral in the movement of goods, people and ideas across the world and have served as crossroads. This region also has the Silk Route, which is the network of trade routes connecting various parts of Asia with Europe and the Mediterranean world. Being an important part of the trade network, the roads of the region are frequented by businessmen from all over the world. Moreover, with tremendous opportunities in this part of the world, it is a fruitful place to invest in.

If you plan to drive on your own, there are cars available on rent in all countries in Central Asia. However, even for the most experienced drivers who have been driving for years in western countries, the roads of this region are challenging and the rules differ vastly from that of the Western world.

• Crossing borders requires a ‘technical passport.’ One can show the car registration papers or other related documents for this purpose. Many countries also require you to buy insurance for your car.

• It is difficult to leave without a car in countries, such as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, while it is relatively easier in Kyrgyzstan.

• In Turkmenistan, it is difficult to get a permit or allowance to drive alone and you may need to get a guide car.

• Procuring visas from all these countries is both time-consuming as well as expensive. One may need to wait for months before receiving a visa.

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• Traffic conditions in Central Asian countries can be chaotic, given the large number of vehicles due to its dense population. However, Uzbekistan is more sophisticated and good with its infrastructure. It is not as populated as some of the other countries in Central Asia, which makes driving here a lot easier when compared to other countries in the region.

• The general driving rule is to the left here, unlike western countries where right is customary. This poses a serious challenge if an individual is driving on these roads for the first time.

• The bad conditions of the roads in most of these countries is challenging for even the most experienced drivers to tackle. Therefore, you cannot expect your car to cruise and must be prepared for a bumpy ride. However, governments of many Central Asian countries are working to rebuild important roads connecting the trade routes.

• It is important to carry a map and study it well if you intend to drive on your own. Lack of signposts may be misleading at times.

• The rigid visa requirements and political system may require you to seek assistance for procuring a visa.

Driving on Central Asian roads is scary for the first-timers. Moreover, you would need to take care of your dress code as well when travelling to these countries. As people in these countries are conservative, you would need to ensure that you carry suitable clothes for your travel. It is good to learn about the local habits and traditions of the country you are planning to travel to. Contacting a local specialist also helps to understand the police registration, customs and other local procedures better. In addition, to support the visa procurement procedure, LOI or Letter of Invitation can also be sought from them.

Central Asia is also emerging as a new travel destination and has a rich cultural history. Taking out time from your business meetings and hectic schedule to explore the archaic monuments and historical places will make your trip an enriching one.

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