I have just returned from 2 amazing trips to Uzbekistan, and am now looking forward to our trip next October. The plans for this trip are progressing well and I want to share some of those plans with you. I also need some additional information from you to make all the bookings we require.
I have posted a lot of additional information online over the past year. I highly recommend that you read all of the post posts at: http://www.jewishjourneysltd.com/extra-information to make sure you are aware of all the details of the trip.
Here are some of the points I would like to emphasise.
You will need a visa to enter Uzbekistan. I have posted information about the visa requirements on the website at: http://www.jewishjourneysltd.com/extra-information/your-visa-questions-answered It usually takes about 2 weeks to get the visa. You can apply for a visa from 3 months in advance of a visit, so you should plan to do this any time from the beginning of August.
It is also time to start looking at flights.
I checked group flight options, but these are so restrictive that they won’t suit enough travellers to allow me to arrange group flights. You will need to book your own flights.
There are several flight options
Option 1: Regular Trip (No Extension)
The simplest flight combination is with Uzbekistan Airways. There is a flight out from London on Tuesday evening and a return flight a week later on Tuesday afternoon. The trip is coordinated with these flights, and you will be collected from the airport in Tashkent and brought to the airport at the end of the trip in time for the return flight.
If you choose this option your flight dates are:
Out: Tuesday 13 October 2015 – Return: Tuesday 20 October 2015
Option 2: Extended trip – Return on Friday.
If you are doing the Khiva extension, you will return to Tashkent late Wednesday night at around midnight.
As there is no return direct flight to London on Thursdays, and the simplest way to return home is to stay an extra day in Tashkent, and to return to London with Uzbekistan Airways on Friday. Please note that this flight gets in to London on Friday night, and is not suitable for those who observe Shabbat. You will need to ask for an extra night in Tashkent if you choose this option.
Flight dates for this option are:
Out: Tuesday 13 October 2015 – Return: Friday 23 October 2015
Option 3: Extended Trip - Return on Thursday.
Those taking the trip extension and who wish to return on Thursday have a few options. Uzbekistan Airways does not offer a flight to London on Thursday, but it is possible to return to another European Airport including Frankfurt, Milan, Istanbul and Riga. You can choose any of these options that you wish. You will then need to book a separate one way flight from that airport back to London.
Please note that you will be flying on 2 separate tickets, and that you will not be able to check your luggage all the way through to London. You will need to collect your suitcase in the transfer airport and then check in again. Also, if you miss you connecting flight, the airline will not take responsibility. If you fly via Istanbul you will need a visa to clear customs in Istanbul in order to collect you suitcase and check it in again. This costs around $20 USD and can be done online.
All this means that to avoid difficulty, if you aren’t flying directly you should allow plenty of time for your transfer. Flights leave very early Thursday morning (around 5:00 am). In my experience, Frankfurt airport is fast and efficient and in the EU so the transfer is easy. The other airports are less efficient, but it comes down to a matter of personal choice.
If you choose this option your flight dates are:
Out: Tuesday 13 October 2015 – Return: Thursday 22 October 2015
Option 4: Other Airlines
Finally, if you wish to fly to Uzbekistan on different airline the choice is yours. The only European Airline flying into Tashkent is Turkish Airways. This is a world class airline, and I have flown with it several times. It flies to Uzbekistan via Istanbul. If you fly with them you will be able to book your luggage all the way through. For more details go to their website.
Please note that several people used Turkish airlines on the trips in April and May, and on one occasion the people missed their flight connection in Istanbul, due to a late departure from Heathrow. If you take this option it is advisable to leave plenty of time in Istanbul to make your connection.
You do not need to book your flight immediately, but should not wait too long as the cheapest fares go early – and there are a limited number of seats on each flight.
I now need to confirm the flight bookings for the internal flights in Uzbekistan. In order to do this I need to include a copy of the front page of the passport of each passenger. Please send me a scan or photocopy of the picture page of your passport. If you have any difficulty please let me know as soon as possible so I can assist you. This needs to be a clear scan that includes the numbers that are printed along the strip at the bottom of the passport. I need this relatively quickly because without the copy I cannot confirm your internal flights.
Please note that there are a limited number of places on the flight from Tashkent to Bukhara. Depending on availability when I get your passport scan, I may need to divide the group between 2 flights. Some people will fly to Bukhara late Thursday night and others on Friday morning. Regardless of which flight you are on you will get to see all the sites in both cities.
Just a few additional notes and observations based on my experience of the trips in April and May.
Walking: Some people have asked me about how much walking is involved in the trips. I have posted about this in the website. I would add that in addition to walking, there is a fair amount of standing and listening to explanations about various sites. I always aim to stop at places where there is shade and it is possible to sit – but it doesn’t always work out. Some people found a small folding chair/walking stick to be useful.
Vegetarian Food. In my earlier posts I mentioned that it was difficult to find vegetarian food in Uzbekistan. It was actually not as difficult as anticipated, and there were tons of fresh fruits and vegetables in the markets. It could be that this is a seasonal thing.
Tips. There are many places where we are expected to leave tips from porters, drivers, guides etc. To make this simpler I will collect £10 from each participant at the beginning of the trip to cover all tips – and will tip as appropriate as a group. This will not include the tip to the guide who will be with us throughout the trip. You will be able tip our main guide at your discretion at the end of the trip.
Please note that many sites charge a ‘camera fee’ if you take pictures. The charge depends on how popular the site is, and ranges between 50p to £1 per site.
First Payment: I will shortly be sending out your first invoice for the trip. The invoice records your booking as well as any extra services (such as extra nights) that you have requested. Please check the invoice carefully and make sure that your booking is correct and that any extra services are listed. If you have any questions please contact me directly at: email@example.com. The first payment of £400 per person is due by 15 June.
Finally: There are several people on a waiting list for this trip. If you have changed your plans and do not intend to join the trip, please let me know as soon as possible so I can allocate your place to someone who is waiting.
I will be sending more information in due course. I look forward to receiving a scan of your passport in the coming days, and hearing details of your flight information when you make your bookings.
Rabbi Chaim Weiner