Feedback on the Central Asia (second edition, April 2000) Guidebook
of Lonely Planet Publications

Compiled by Pierre Flener & Esra Bayoglu,
based on a journey made in July/August 2000

Emailed to Lonely Planet on 25 September 2000

Send comments and additions to Pierre Flener


p.76, Weather: Mention that the Kyrgyz mountains can be quite rainy in July, so that (self-supported) trekkers need to be equipped (and mentally ready) for this. The same holds for p.346 (When to Go), and p.385 (When to Go).

p.84, 72-Hour-Rule: Kazakstan stopped honouring this agreement on 1 April 2000. This means, for instance, that an actual transit visa is required for those going to Kyrgyzstan from a flight to Almaty, or those travelling on motorway M39 between Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) and Tashkent (Uzbekistan). The corresponding passages on p.179 (Transit Visas), p.364 (Air), and p.364 (Bus) are therefore also invalidated.

p.89, Money: You should not give Uzbek (and Turkmen) prices in US dollars worked out at the black market rate: it may be dangerous practice to do so (the Uzbek police may check whether your hard-cash belongings tally with your receipts and the bank annotations to your personal copy of your customs declaration!), and it is currently (since summer 2000) no longer worth the risk anyway, because the Uzbek government (temporarily) re-aligned the bank rate (for foreigners) with the black market rate (though the latter is at the time of writing already 10% ahead), in addition to abandoning the sum-only policy in favour of forcing foreigners to buy flight tickets and the like in dollars. The corresponding passages on p.159 (Fares), p.274 (Buying Tickets), and p. 320 (Air) are therefore also invalidated.

p.96, Internet: Please add my Independent Travel Guide to Uzbekistan & Kyrgyzstan, available at It has been up since 1995 and has enormously helped (according to emailed feedback) hundreds of grateful travelers since!

p.161, Buying Tickets: Everybody we met agreed that buying long-distance bus-tickets in Tashkent is very easy & safe (now)! No trace of OVIR (at least to all of us). The corresponding passage on p.275 (Bus) is therefore also invalidated.


In general, the Uzbek chapter has a way too negative tone (according to us and everyone we met)!!! Things are much better (now) than portrayed to be! Some of us did still have run-ins with the police, but the police mostly had a "point" in these cases (photography in Tashkent subway stations, black market usage, ...). It is of course nice to warn of dangers, but be sure that they are not freak incidents that may happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. If you just warn of (one?) rape in a certain park of Bishkek, or of (one?) pickpocketing in a certain bus station in Uzbekistan, then the hidden message could be that your readers may have their guards down about such basic security items in the other sections of town! Why don't you just put all those risks that we even face at home in one nice chapter at the beginning, and urge your readers to be vigilant, just like at home, plus a little bit more? You can then warn of real, unusual dangers where necessary, without falling into gloom. With readers reporting mostly negative news on security items, we want to initiate the converse trend of positive reporting: please add 2 to the count of those who met with no unfairness in Uzbekistan!

p.256, When to Go: The yearly "saraton" [spelling?] heat-wave is worst (in Bukhara) from mid-June to mid-July (not from mid-July to mid-August).

p.258, Uzbek Embassies: Maybe add that the Uzbek Embassy in Germany is (currently) not very welcoming (in the sense that they want to play the UzbekTourism game), but that the one in the UK is (currently) very supportive (visa support from Uzbekistan suffices, see below for new details on online visa support contacts).

p.258, Money: According to our Uzbek sources, the US dollar never reached 1300 sum on the black market! (In early August 2000, it was 740 sum, with the bank rate being 675 sum.)


p.259, Dangers & Annoyances: Officials at Tashkent Int'l Airport are (now) very professional.

p.263, Map: #48 (the THY office) has moved to Navoi 11 (one block west of #30, which is the main post office). Also fix this on p.274 (Buying Tickets). Their phone number is 136 79 89 now.

p.264, Tourist Offices: The UzbekTourism office in Hotel Tashkent is (now) very friendly (though not totally competent: they got the closing days of the museums wrong).

p.268, Amir Timur Museum: It is not true that Timur and Karimov "battle for attention in the murals": do not exaggerate nor do condescending reporting. By the way, entry is about $1 in sum (at the official foreigners' rate).

p.269, Hotel Bakht: Apparently doesn't accept foreigners, and cannot do the OVIR registration anyway.

p.270, Hotel Tashkent: Doubles are $40 (in $), not $50, including breakfast.

p.274, Air: Int'l departures at Tashkent Int'l Airport are not (any more) from a grimy building. Also, the flight to/from Bukhara may take as little as 50 minutes now, if you get onto a modern (RJ) aircraft. The same holds for p.320 (Air).

p.275, To/From the Airport: You can (of course) also take bus 67.

p.276, Metro & Local Transport: Rides now cost 25 sum, and 50 sum for express buses.


p.293, Post & Communications: There is a long-distance phone office near #21 (Univermag) on Tashkentskaya. It is cheaper than the official telephone offices, but make sure they know that you know how long your calls were!

p.294, Registan: Drop these annoying references on how long the walk is to everywhere from Hotel Samarkand! (Did you copy from the Blue Guide?!) Same for p.295 (Main Bazar), etc.

p.294ff, Registan, Bibi Khanym, Shahr-i-Zinda, Gur-i-Amir, Ulugh-Bek Observatory: These all cost $1 in sum now.

p.296, Ulugh-Bek Observatory: The little museum is not only about Uzbek astronomers, but also about other distinguished Islamic scientists who happened to work in what is now Uzbekistan.

p.299, Bus: The long-distance bus-station of Samarkand offered no problem to us.

p.300, Getting Around: There are almost no local buses anymore in Samarkand, with "marshrutnoe" (usually Daewoo microbuses) now doing the bulk of public transportation, along the usual bus lines.


p.313, Travel Agencies: p.314, Labi-Hauz: The old men rather play dominoes, not (so much) chess.

p.316, Kalon Mosque: It (now) seems legal to also ascend the Kalon Minaret, when visiting the mosque. Don't fall for any of the young men outside the mosque who propose to take you up the minaret: their fee is of course higher than the entry to the mosque, and their service adds nothing to what you can do anyway.

p.317, Chashma Ayub: The little exhibit on the ancient waterworks is gone now.

p.318, Homestays: There is much more competition now in Bukhara, as you announced, with prices thus indeed falling, so consider the printed prices upper limits when negotiating, especially that these fortunate listed B&Bs get many more visitors anyway until the next edition of your guidebook. For instance, the "Bukhara Visit" travel agency will soon open their own B&B (between #48 and #49 on the map p.310): ask them by email (see p.313) or monitor their homepage (see link above).

p.319, Labi Hauz B&B (Labi "House" actually, sic): Their rooms are anything but plain, but at least on a par with the other B&Bs we visited.

p.321, Getting Around: Marshrutnoe #6 goes from the long-distance bus station down Nizami boulevard, and is thus also convenient for getting downtown.

p.321, Emir's Palace: We are not so sure about the adequacy of calling this "kitsch" and "tastelessness", especially that you give no example thereof and that we didn't see any such thing! Also, recent research (including the interview of a 105-year-old Bukharan who was on the last emir's harem!) revealed that the pool was not used by frolicking harem women; also, the emir would have had to be quite skillful to toss an apple to the chosen bedmate over that distance!


p.338, At a Glance: Issyk-kul (lake) is of course not the second-highest lake in the world, but rather the second-largest altitude lake in the world.

p.348, Trekking Permits: It is nowadays not so easy to get one, simply because it is hard to find someone who can issue one! All things considered, it is probably best not to bother and to buy one only if "caught", using the difficulty of getting one as an excuse. Considering the apparent non-maintenance of the trails and bridges, the $8/30 are probably not going into the right coffers anyway.

p.349, Money: In July 2000, 1US$ was 47 som.

p.351, Orientation: Actually, in Kyrgyz, "street" = "köchü" (not "köchüsü"), "avenue" = "prospekt", "boulevard" = "bulvar", etc, because the "sü", "isi", "y" suffixes just denote the definite article ("the") or a genitive case ("of"). We understand there is a choice to make all over this book, and especially in its Language section (p.549ff) and Glossary (p.562ff), but the more adventurous readers may want to construct their own sentences and should thus not be misled: "street" = "köchü" and "the street" = "köchüsü" or "Manas street" = "Manas köchüsü".


p.352, Registration: The bank for those at the "Salima" or "Sary Chelek" now is #15 on the map p.357, now called "Bank Kyrgyzstan". You can go there directly, thus saving the initial trip to OVIR: buy a 50 som cheque (for a fee of about 7 som), with the clerks being quite helpful in filling out the forms for you. Then head to the nearby OVIR, for the usual rest of the operation.

p.357, Legend: Chaykhana #32 is not mentioned in the text, but is seemingly the only place (with #53) where one can drink a (traditional) tea, i.e., not get a fancy cup with an expensive tea-bag or not forced to buy an icecold softdrink. Similarly for p.361 (Cafes & Chaykhanas).

p.359, Budget Places to Stay: Some receptionists at the "Salima" are quite rude and will not settle for anything less than $10 in $, rather than the $6 in som, if not considerably more. Considering this and that the disco music at the nearby Panfilov Park no longer stops at 10:30pm, this place is no longer the best bargain in town. "Hotel Semetey" is much better value, and even lower priced.

p.361, Cafes & Chaykhanas: "Nayuz Cafe" seems gone. "Chaykhana Jalal-Abad" also has plov, samsa, soup, etc.

p.364, Air: There are now more than 2 flights a week to Tashkent.

p.365, To/From the Airport: There are also marshrutnoe doing the haul of bus 153, for twice the fee.


p.376, Tourist Offices: The "Helvetas" office is now open.

p.377, Trekking Permits: As said on p.348, $8 buys up to 3 days (not 3 days or more), and $30 buys up to 30 days (not 30 days or more).

p.377, Communications & Travel Agencies: There is a new agency, called "Asia Tourism", near #20 on the map p.376, with travel as well as internet/phone services.

p.379, Hotel Karakol: The buckets of hot water are actually free of charge.

p.379, Places to Eat: It's no longer "nearly impossible to find food in the evening in Karakol": there are a lot of convenient restaurants now.

p.380, Getting There & Away: We paid no luggage charge on the bus to Bishkek.

p.382, "Around Karakol" map: If you want the trail indications to be helpful, then note that from Jeti-Oghuz Sanatorium until about 1cm below it on the map, one should be on the right bank of the river; also, on the way from Teleti Pass to Karakol, the (4WD-worthy!) trail remains on the left bank of the river for all but the last few kilometers.

p.385, Dangers & Annoyances: As the trails seem unmaintained, you have to be prepared to wade across fast-running ice-cold rivers, should you come to washed-away or crumbling bridges!

p.386, Getting There & Away: The 10am bus from Karakol to Jeti-Oghuz seems discontinued; while the 1pm bus only goes to that village, but not to the same-named sanatorium, to where only the 4pm bus goes.



p.469, Budget Places to Stay: I'm happy to see that "my" friendly "fools" at the psychiatric institute south of Tikinsky bazar are still running the best deal in town! I stumbled over this place in 1994 and immediately recommended it to Lonely Planet...


p.562, Abbreviations: Isn't Uyghur a Turkic language?!

Besides, what do you mean by "Turkic languages (T)": that all words of Turkic origin are marked with "(T)", or that all words used in Turkic-speaking areas are marked with "(T)"? We suspect the latter, but it isn't made clear. If the former, then it's wrong, because "aviakassa", "avtobiket", "bulvar", "kulinarya", "marshrutnoe", "militsia", and probably "-abad" are not Turkic.

p.563, "eivan": They are not necessarily study-halls, nor in a medressa. It's just a terrace, or an "open-air room".

Typesetting, Typos

p.134, Turkish Food: The "i" in "patlican" and "cacik" should have no dot; the "u" in "sutlaç" should have an umlaut ("ü").

p.144, Uzbek Airways (HY): The Turkey office is in "Elmadag" (one word; "elma" = apple, "dag" = mountain).

p.159, Jigsaw Borders: The promised transit agreement is nowhere to be found in the book!?

p.356, Map: Bank #15 is now called "Bank Kyrgyzstan" and should have a $ icon rather than just a black-dot icon.

p.562, CE: There is a missing "o" in "common era".

p.562ff: As explained above, it is "bulvar" (not "bulvary"), "hammom" (not "hammomi"), "hiyobon" (not "hiyobon"), "köchü" (not "köchüsü"), "köshe" (not "köshesi"), "kucha" (not "kuchasi"), etc.

p.565, "samsas": Make it a singular, "samsa - baked envelope of meat".