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Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

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  • Reviewed July 2019
    John Atherton

    Silk Road cities and sublime scenery

    Cities tend not to be high on my list of places to visit but I was surprised by the many parks and green spaces offsetting the large buildings and wide roads in all the cities visited. Of course the amazing architecture of the mosques, madrassas, minarets, mausoleums, museums and markets were impressive and interesting – with a wealth of information from both our tour leaders and local guides, all of whom spoke excellent English. The train journeys and the brief ride on the Metro in Tashkent made pleasant changes to the coach travel. Good to see family groups enjoying the warm evenings in pedestrianised streets and squares, parks, local cafes and bars, etc. No litter, no noisy groups of youths, just a nice atmosphere. Though the planned overnight train ride to Kazakhstan didn’t happen owing to international cancellation at little notice, the replacement coach was large and comfortable. In the morning traffic to Almaty many more upmarket cars were on the roads, after very few in Uzbekistan. The short drive out of Almaty with the walk up to the waterfall was a welcome change from the city streets. Then the long drive into the Kyrgyzstan countryside was literally a breath of fresh air; with the vast lake, snow-capped mountains, rushing rivers, flower-strewn meadows and leisurely walks. Not forgetting the impressive golden eagle demonstration. I would have preferred more than one night at the Yurt shores of Lake Camp. A couple of days later, an afternoon swim at the “seaside” on the Issyk Kul Lake was refreshing. Inevitable long road journeys were offset by ever changing views, excellent driving, mainly good roads and frequent stops.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The Kyrgyzstan countryside and the happy atmosphere in the city pedestrian areas throughout.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Both Dillshod and Ermek were excellent, knowledgeable and considerate. Different personalities, Dillshod the more experienced.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Drink the local draught beer - it's good and inexpensive. Lots of religious buildings so long trousers/skirt and covered shoulders often expected. Most public conveniences incur a small cost for women and for men, be aware of your currency note value!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    All hotels were clean and comfortable (with good quality loo paper)!
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Sabina Latif

    Minarets, mosques, mausoleums to mountains

    This was a fantastic trip with a real mix of architecture, landscapes and cultures. Lovely tour guides and drivers to help and support. I was astonished by the sheer scale and intricacies of the buildings in Uzbekistan which contrasted with the beautiful snow capped mountains in Kyrgyzstan. My personal highlights were the overnight train and yurt camp experience!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the sheer scale and stamina of the mosques, mausoleums and madrassahs in Uzbekistan including Registan Square.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We had 2 group leaders, one for Uzbekistan (Dilshod) and another for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (Ermeg). Both were great but in different ways. Dilshod was warm and kind and made us laugh, he was very knowledgeable. He did however give us too much information and it would be better if he slowed down and gave bite size chunks. Ermeg was so open and honest with us and shared his knowledge with us at a really good pace with the right amount of info.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It is very hot in certain towns in June and July!... there are two hotels with pools so pack your swimming costume... you will need a torch for the yurt camp... take Tupperware or food bags as we have a lot of picnic lunches and most of the hotel breakfasts were really good buffets!
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Sarah Eddington

    Leave the West Behind

    If you want to leave the west behind until the last city on this incredible journey, then welcome to the former Soviet States that make up the silk road. This trip has everything, religion, wildlife, nomad living and amazing countryside and mountains. Forget McDonalds and Burger King, at times you won't even get social media!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    staying in a Yurt high in the mountains, seeing the nomad people living their lives as they have done for 1000's of years

    What did you think of your group leader?

    our group leader was good, and the local guides and drivers were exceptional

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do not expect western standards, the food is basic at times as are the toilet and shower facilities. There are no home comforts which is what makes this trip what it is. Do not go expecting to get Wifi and social media, it isn't going to happen at times
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Helen Faulls

    The Silk Road

    How special it was to be in the heart of Asia; a world we hear so little of but which is so steeped in history and the cross roads for so many different nationalities. The home of such legendary figure as Timur and Ginghis Khan. The trip explores the wealth of mosques, madrassas, mausoleums, minarets in Uzbekistan and after a brief visit to Kazakhstan (during a curfew due to demonstrations after elections) we journeyed to Kyrgyzstan. Although a poor country it is endowed with the most stunning mountain ranges and the world’s second biggest alpine lake. The elegance of Uzbeki women and the imposing use of space around all the official buildings in the major towns, as well as the spring flowers in the meadows, the bedding roses at Issy Kol and the vastness of the landscape are abiding memories. The brief stroll In the mountains was another rushed lost opportunity. I question the night in the yurt. It was just uncomfortable camping and again no interaction with the hosts. I did laugh at a few hip replacements, pacemakers, westerners’ long legs sprawled across the floor trying to eat. A full day’s walking in the mountains would have been more rewarding. Also scrambling in to a rather apologetic waterfall was also a waste of time. The itinerary was far too tight. Long days were spent in the coach and on a train. We would leave early and not arrive in the next hotel until early evening. Most of the hotels were in the suburbs and combined with the lack of time we had no opportunity to interact with a local people. The area has a wealth of talent in embroidery, weaving, silk work, felt work, and other handicrafts which we had no opportunity to explore in a leisurely manner. This was a huge disappointment both for our own shopping and also the lack of opportunity to support the women who do most of this work. My head is still out there and my reading about the area will continue. I will be back.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Just being in Samarkand and Bukhara.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We had two guides. One for Uzbekistan, one for the rest of the trip. Very different but both brilliant, knowledgeable, kind and thoughtful. Ermek from Kyrgyzstan is a very exceptional young man. I would also like to give a mention to Maxime our driver for the second half of the trip He was kind, thoughtful, mucked in as part of the team and certainly knew how to drive with the utmost consideration for both his passengers and the bus on some appalling roads. In spite of no English.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Yes! We arrived at 3 am and left at 3 am. This is no way to begin and end hard travel. Book your own flights and allow at least an extra day at the start to acclimatise. Take a fold up nylon shopping bag to avoid endless plastic when buying lunches etc. I was horrified to see plastic bags dumped by Morrison’s had turned up in a Bishkek store.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Exodus needs to work more closely with its subcontractors to develop a better itinerary. Less driving, more time to explore and interact with locals. More picnics, lunches too long and heavy. More time to explore crafts. People do not need to take plastic bottles from the hotels all the time! Water is provided
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Mike Frampton

    The Five Stans - A journey through history and the Central Asian Republice

    A great holiday with plenty of superb sites and stunning scenery. One reason for calling this the Silk Road was that silk was used to pay people. It started with the Chinese needing horses to fight the nomads from the north. By 53BC, Rome was spending half its silver production on silk and other products from the Silk Roads. Rome also had to introduce modesty legislation because of the number of people wearing only silk. Whilst Julius Caesar was invading Britain in 53BC, his friend Marcus Crassus was leading another Roman army to defeat by Persia, in an empire that stretched from modern day Iran to Afghanistan and north to Merv. 10,000 Roman captives were sold at the Merv slave market to the Chinese, to fight on their northern border against marauding nomadic tribes. The ruins of three cities can be seen at Merv, in southern modern day Turkmenistan. The first was built by Cyrus the Great when he created the first Persian Empire. Next to it is the remains of the city built by Alexander the Great and next to that the remains of the city built after the Arab invasion, which was destroyed by the armies of Genghis Khan 1221 AD, with up to a million people being massacred. Alexander is a hero in Turkmen, after he freed them from Persian rule. In Uzbekistan, Timor is the hero, as he rose from hired sword to ruler of a vast empire, stretching from the Chinese border to Egypt, destroying many armies on the way. He made Samarqand his capital and made it one of the greatest cities. In Tajikistan, it is Cyrus the Great who is remembered, partly because he was murdered there. In Osh, Kyrgyzstan, it is Babur, great great grandson of Timor and founder of the Indian Mughal dynasty who is remembered. Although it is Manus who is the local hero.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Too many. Merv, Bukhara, Samarqand to name three cities. The snow capped mountains, throwing snowballs and sweltering in the heat all on the same day, magnificent lakes, watching flocks of goats and sheep being moved to the high pastures and seeing the yurts of the shepherds. One surprise was the large number of roses and other plants we saw in the first three countries visited.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Very good. Unusually we had both a western leader for the whole trip, as well as local guides for each of the countries visited.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You may only spend one day in Kazakhstan, but a day time flight home, clouds permitting, gives you the opportunity to see the steppes and the salt pans of this vast country from the air, either through the window (book seat early) or as an alternative to a movie, using the plane's downward looking camera (which is an option in the My Flight screen). On arrival at Ashgabat airport, you have to take your invitation letter to the Visa desk before going to through passport control. The visa fee is also variable, partly depending on the exchange rate. We also found the fee charged to individuals varied from a low of $99 each to a high of about $130 each. Beware of each fresh fruit and salad, it is usually washed in local tap water, which can cause problems. Our costs per person were around: Turkmenistan - 200 Turkmen Manat for food and photo fees (June 2019 rate 4.42TMT = £1) Uzbekistan - 800,000 Uzbek Som for food and photo fees (10,700UZS = £1). Spending in the markets, pottery, silk and carpet shops is extra. Tajikistan - 380 Tajiki Somoni for food (11.93TJS = £1) Kyrgyzstan - 2,000 Kyrgyzi Som for food plus 500KGS for optional Arslanbob jeep tour (88.24KGS = £1) Kazakhstan - 15,000 Kazakh Tenge for food and market visit (481.79KZT =£1) Istanbul/other airport stop overs - don't forget this. Visa fees and tips are extra. Istanbul
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Ann Burnett

    Inexperienced guide

    I have had to give this trip a 2 star because of the guide, although I take no pleasure in doing this. He was inexperienced and quite unfriendly at times. This was my 6th Exodus trip and this was my worst ever guide by a long way. See group leader section.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I absolutely loved swimming in Aidarkul Lake and the desert scenery on the way to and from the yurt. I also loved Samarkand and particularly Shah-i-Zinda.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader Shakh appeared to be inexperienced, he lacked friendliness at times and he showed a complete lack of interest in the fact that I was very badly ill twice. I had arrived a few days earlier (as a solo female traveller) and the day before I met the group I suffered sickness and diarhoea. On first meeting Shakh at the group meeting I mentioned this to him and I could not believe the almost complete lack of interest. In fact, I thought this so unusual, that I repeated myself in case he had not heard. We later went on our tour of Tashkent and I very nearly fainted (as I had not eaten due to the bug). Again Shakh was barely interested, pointed to a door where I could reach the outside and left me to it. Only when the other members of the group asked me if I was OK did Shakh very briefly check on me. A few days after that the bug returned and I was up all night with the worst illness I have ever encountered. The next day I again mentioned this to the guide and he was still uninterested (and no offers of pharmacy stops were made). Other problems with Shakh were:- not having sufficient water for our group in the first few days of the trip (at the desert fortresses we had run out of water completely in the heat and we also run out of water in the morning at Khiva). In fact, at the desert fortresses, I asked Shakh where the water was and he snapped back that he had not picked up the 10 litre bottle yet. As we had driven from the airport at Nukus there had been plenty of opportunity to pick up water. After that I no longer trusted Shakh to provide water and just bought my own to make sure I always had a supply. I have been on 5 other Exodus trips and on all those trips the guide has eaten with the group and the guides have been good/fantastic. This guide did not eat with us on the first night in Tashkent nor the first night in Samarkand and on around 4 or 5 other occasions. He was not always very friendly or smiley, which I think is the requirement of a guide. In fact one time we passed him in the street during our free time and he did not even smile or acknowledge us. The restaurant chosen for our final lunch in Samarkand was appalling in terms of service and again Shakh sat at a neighbouring table. Some of our food took an hour and a quarter or more to arrive and no complaints were made by him, to my knowledge. Then when the bill came the prices had changed markedly, for example the soup price had increased by over 50% and all the other prices had changed. This situation was awful and was handled very badly by the guide. The coach was not always asked to collect us, e.g from right outside the airport, so we were left with quite long distances to drag our cases. This was not really a problem for me as I had a rucksack (albeit a heavy one) but some of the other travellers were in their 70's and I am sure they would have benefited from being picked up. Shakh gave out his mobile number in case of emergency, with instructions NOT to ring him at night. Whilst I am sure most people would not ring the guide at night, emergencies can of course happen at night. On a more positive note Shakh was very knowledgeable about the history and geography of Uzbekistan and I very much enjoyed his commentaries, especially when he told us about his wedding. He also improved as the 11 days progressed (except for the final lunch incident). However I think being completely uninterested in the health of your travellers is completely unacceptable.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Sadly a number of people in our group were ill. Take plenty of rehydration salts. The bread is at least delicious, so you can survive on that! Do get out for a walk in the area around the yurt. I had a couple of little walks and it was so peaceful and the wildlife great.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The itinerary is great for this trip with a lovely combination of nature and cities. I would however definitely check on who is the guide.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    George Garland

    Fascinating Place

    The names of Samarkand and Bukhara have conjured dreams since my school days many years ago and I never thought I would have a chance to see them. The fall of the USSR and now visa-free travel has left this land of desert fortresses, caravan stops and the beautiful buildings covered in ornate blue tiles within reach. The land of Tamerlane, the vastness of the central Asian steppes and the magical cross-roads of civilisations and learning need to be seen to be believed.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Arriving in Khiva and seeing the Silk Road monuments for the first time.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Shah is a young man fairly new to the industry. He is very knowledgeable but lacks some of the finesse and inter-personal skills that come with experience.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Uzbekistan is far easier to enjoy than imagined. Outside Tashkent English is widely spoken, particularly in the tourist industry and amongst the young. With a stay up to 15 days now visa free for tourists from a large range of countries including the UK this is the time to travel before too many people start making their plans and prices start rising.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The final 24 hours was wasted time which was a pity. The hotel in Tashkent was near the airport but 7 or 8 kilometers from the centre. There is no direct public transport between the two and with no Uzbek or Russian language skills travel could have been fraught, particularly as the return journey would be time critical. It would be far better to secure an hotel close to the city centre for the one night.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Leslie Polidoro

    Love Sri Lanka!

    Hotels, meals all very good. You can tell the country is still developing their tourism business, but they are doing a great job. Unfortunately the bombings will have put a stop on travel there, however I have fallen in love with this country and will be quick to recommend it. Excursions and tours were excellent, I felt like I had a good overall visit to Sri Lanka, yet not enough so I am keen to return.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Lion Rock Fortress

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He was very knowledgeable, however I found that he tended to poke "fun" at certain people a little more than was necessary. I felt a bit more history and explanations of sites could have been provided "on-site". Most tours were a bit rushed, fine for those in excellent physical condition, difficult for those who were not. I would have rather it was a bit more leisurely when out on site.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take a battery pack/charger -- you will want to take alot of pictures and sometimes your camera/phone will not make it through the day. Tip well to all those that help with your journey.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    paul bester

    breath-taking, in both senses

    having done a few mountains before, I was just hoping to get a view of Everest, but was amazed at just how unexpectedly-beautiful the route was. the initial lush green valleys were replaced with breath-taking views of majestic mountains. every turn produced another stunning vista. i found it really difficult to relay just how big those mountains are to anyone who hasn't been there.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    the sheer size of the Himalayas gives a humbling sense of ones place on earth. I simply could not go through life without seeing the "big one" up close- (relatively speaking).

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Bikash was a true gem. he is an experienced and confident leader, beyond his years. besides his general information, I learned so much about Nepalese culture from the one to one chats, while ambling at the back of the group.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    it's a challenging trip, but certainly not limited to the super-fit.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Janet C

    Temples and Tigers

    A very interesting trip covering the highlights of Rajasthan. Some very long travel days and a lot of time on the bus, but the sites were worth it. There were a lot of temples including the Taj Mahal and we were incredibly lucky to see 7 tigers at Ranthambore; including a mum and her cubs very close by.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Playing Holi in Jaipur and being covered from head to foot in paint.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gaj was a great guide, he added a lot to the trip with the additional information he shared with us about life in India. Gaj made it possible for us to stay longer in Jaipur where we could play Holi with the locals which for many of us was one of the highlight of the trip. Gaj organised a trip to see a Bollywood Movie one evening for those who wanted to go; definitely worth it.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I traveled on the last trip of the season (March) when the temperatures start of rise and it was very hot some days especially at Pushkar. I had read about the increased risks of being ill when travelling at the end of the season but was fine, however the vast number of people on the trip were ill at some point which impacted the whole trip overall. There is a LOT of time on the bus and it can be very tiring with the bumpy roads, continuous road works and a group of sick travelers.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Gaj recommended a couple of additional stops for some of the very long traveling days; the advised stops were interesting and broke up the days. There is not much free time on this trip and where we did have time it seemed to be at the wrong places. The bus driver and his assistant were amazing and worked so hard. They had some long days especially if they drove us out to a restaurant for dinner in the evening.
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