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Silk Road

Silk Road travel tips

The trans-Asia Silk Road is the stuff of travel legend – whether you plan to follow a small segment or journey all the way from Istanbul to Beijing. Start planning...

Silk Road advice

  • Travel from west to east – many countries at the western end of the Silk Road  (eg Iran, Syria, Turkmenistan) will only issue visas for entry on specific dates so it is best to visit them earlier on in your itinerary.
    Many of the Silk Road countries are Muslim – both sexes should dress modestly; in Iran women will need to wear a headscarf in public.
    Campsites are not common along the Silk Road; assess whether it’s really worth lugging a tent around.
    When you’ve finished your Silk Road odyssey west to east, consider returning home via the Trans-Siberian Railway (Beijing-Moscow) for the ultimate cross-Asia adventure.
    Pack a headtorch, for coping with haphazard electricity supplies and poking into caves.
    Take water purification tablets/equipment – you may not always be able to find bottled water in remote areas.
    Gen up on local etiquette. For example, in many Silk Road countries you will be expected to remove your shoes before entering a house.

When to travel the Silk Road

Most of the Silk Road skirts around or ploughs straight through deserts, so in summer the heat is often fearsome whereas winters can be deadly cold. Two of the main routes – the Torugart Pass and the Karakoram Highway – can be closed by snow from October to March/April.

Although the Silk Road crosses seven time zones, its latitude remains more or less constant, making May and September excellent months to visit all the countries mentioned.

Be aware of religious holidays, particularly Ramadan, on trips to Syria, Iran and Pakistan.

The game of polo originated on the Silk Road and the most spectacular version is played in Pakistan’s Northern Areas. Every July the teams of Gilgit and Chitral play on the 3,700m Shandur Pass. The Gilgit Tournament begins on 1 November.

Silk Road health and safety

No specific vaccinations are officially required for foreign visitors for travel along the Silk Road but check with your doctor before travelling. Come prepared – you may have trouble getting hold of the simplest pharmaceuticals en route.

Water in many of the countries is not safe to drink – stick to boiled water or bottled drinks.

Despite passing through a volatile region of the world, the Silk Road offers a variety of routes, so you should always be able to steer yourself away from potential trouble. Be careful, however, as some non-Silk Road areas of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan are definitely off-limits – check Foreign Office advice before travelling.

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