7 Things to Know When Riding in Russia & Central Asia
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Have you always wanted a grand bike adventure? How about taking a trip around Central Asia in the countries close to Russia?
I’ve been working there for five years and I can tell you it’s one of the most beautiful areas I’ve seen. That said, it’s also one of the most controversial ones as well.
You’ll love the sights but you may also stumble upon some of these challenges when having a motorcycle tour in Asia:
1. Finding Fuel
For all motorbike travelers, this will be an extreme challenge. Since you’re traveling with a motor vehicle, you’ll have many difficulties finding the right fuel for your motorcycle.
These countries in Central Asia still use propane gas and there aren’t stations to get the regular gas that your motorbike needs. For this, you’ll either have to bring enough fuel with you, trust people in this area who can get you the fuel or try the black market.
Sadly, the latter is the most likely option, so be careful. Most of the time, these dealers are good people just looking to feed their families you, but you might also stumble upon a tricky dealer who can see an opportunity in you. Try to fill your tank in bigger cities to reduce the uncertainty.
2. Cultural differences
As you pass Western Europe and move further east, you’ll experience a lot of cultural differences. You’ll see the modern, advanced and privileged sights fade slowly as you move towards Eastern Europe. You’ll find some countries that still have some Soviet influence and most of the signs are in Cyrillic. You’ll see Soviet monuments and many small villages that look as if they’ve time-traveled from the early 1900s.
As you move towards Moscow, Russia the sights will further change. It will be colder and less populated. Moscow will give you a beautiful historic experience as well.
However, the biggest change will happen as you go South and into Central Asia. The terrain ranges from desserts to steppe to steep mountains. You’ll see savaged countries and people living in tents or having a nomadic lifestyle. These countries will amaze you but they will also be a lot different than what you might be used to.
I must admit that even though I’ve seen some awful things here, most people are nice and helpful. They are incredibly kind, they’ll share their last piece of bread with you, offer you accommodation and help you in any way possible. That said, any tourist should be careful.
3. Things to watch out for
The roads in these countries are not quite good. They often have a lot of debris and trash and auto parts. Drive carefully and be safe. Not all areas are like this but there are many dangerous roads where you should be careful.
Don’t’ take any risk. The safest way to travel these roads is to go on a guided motorcycle tour around Asia.
If you want to get from Bishkek to Dushanbe, you need to take the only existing mountain road. Now, while quite a large portion of this road is excellent, you’ll stumble upon some parts that are not so great. Local media even call some parts of the region “Death Roads”.
Also, come prepared for different terrains. You’ll travel the steppe, the mountains - which can get quite cold - the dessert and so on. Bring enough things with you so you don’t have to spend extra money on clothes and equipment.
4. Complications at customs
Keep in mind that you’re visiting countries that are not quite as developed as the Western or even Eastern Europe. You’ll find some corrupted people at customs and they’ll possibly create some issues for you.
Most officials are kind and honest and will help you have a seamless experience, but there is a possibility of some complications which you should be aware of and prepared for.
It’s best to get everything ready for your trip and keep it as clean as possible or go with a bike tour guide which would probably be the best solution for you.
5. Busy city roads
While some areas have little to no traffic, others are quite busy, especially in cities. Expect small and big animals crossing the road, carriages, people and some other surprises as there is really not much order in some places.
I was a bit surprised by this but I soon got used to it - it’s a normal thing here, but you have to be careful.
Another thing you should know is that some roads are not paved. Most of them are but there are areas you should keep in mind and drive carefully in order to avoid damage to your motorbike or even to yourself.
6. Driving at night
Driving at night isn’t recommended since some vehicles don’t have the lights and you might have an accident. Find a nice place to rest during the night and continue in the morning. Driving in the night is not recommended anywhere, really. If you can avoid it, please do.
7. Finding places to rest
This really isn’t much of a challenge. You can find places both in the city and in the less inhabited areas so this is something you don’t have to worry about. There are also decent hotels and hostels.
I managed to find a place to stay the first day I got here - a nice lady at the market offered to give me her spare room for a night. People are really hospitable here.
Central Asia is a beautiful area and certainly attractive to all bikers. I’ve lived here and I know how to deal with most of these things. However, my personal recommendation is to go on a motorcycle tour with more people; you’ll just have fewer challenges to deal with.
Avoid the hassle of traveling around Central Asia and book a motorcycle tour in Russia! It’ll be way easier and safer for you.