Tips for planning a similar tour:

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Visa

I recommend to get as many of the visa you need at home, as it is much easier there and you have enough time to get them (you need at least 2 month). A lot of boring burocracy - and it's quite expensive!

gesammelte Informationen von 2 Schweizern: home.datacomm.ch/winterberger/deutsch/info/landerinfo.html

Ukraine: very easy for a privat 3-month-visa (but not for a touristic one!): just write any address into the form, it will not be checked. But it's getting even easier: Citizens of EU countries will no longer need a visa to travel to Ukraine, as President Viktor Yushchenko said at the beginning of March 2005 (so I hope for Swiss tourists...).

At the border to Russia we paid a "fine" of 10 Dollars because of missing papers for our bicycles...

Russia: a hard one... . We got finally with the help of the "Russian Cycle Touring Club" a private 3-month-business visa.

At the border to the Ukraine: after the 10 Dollars on the Ukrainian side, the Russians just asked for 5 Dollars (but we didn't got a reason) ...

Kazakhstan: you need a letter of invitation, which you can get via a travel agency. Our Visa was valid for 3 month.

Kyrgyzstan: We got a letter of invitation, but this was a waste of money (and time), as there is no one necessary (ask at the embassy). Our Visa was valid for 3 month.

China:
It's a strange thing with this country. We did not got our visa in Switzerland, as you can get one 3 month in advance at the earliest. A pity, it would have been valid for 3 month. In September 2003 it was not possible to recieve a visa at the embassy in Bishkek. Why? Nobody knows. But it was possible to send the passport to Tashkent, where they gave us a 1 month visa (you can extend it at many places in China). The Travel Agency Novinomad has done this for us, a good choice.
  • Chinesische Botschaft in der Schweiz

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  • Coming from Kyrgyzstan:
    Until 2002 there was just the Thorugart Pass open for foreigners to enter China from Kyrgyzstan. But as you have to be a member of a tourist group (to organize is Bishkek) and as it is just possible to cycle to the border from Kyrgyzstan but not further on on the Chinese side, the favorite border crossing is now at Irkestam in the South-West. There should be no problem. Try not to have to much Soms (Kyrgyz currency) as customs officer like to pocket a part of the money. To change the Soms on the Chinese side, ask around in the houses after the custom building. I didn't see an official currency exchange.
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  • About Tibet:
    I didn't had a permit when I entered Tibet as it is required. But I didnt' got any troubles untill Ali/Shiquanhe (even not at Kudi in the Kunlun Shan, where there is the most serious checkpoint). In Ali, the capital of Ngari, I was enforced to extend my Visa at the PSB. I thought this could be difficult, but I even got a permit without problems (I paid for both together ca. 70 Dollars). But I was never asked to show this afterwards. Just the validity of the visa was checked at the checkpoints. But it's not everywhere that easy - quite difficult must be Eastern Tibet, and things can change... .
Nepal: you can get a 2 month visa at the border for 30 Dollars, no problems.
Indien: In Kathmandu you get a 6 month visa (you just need time... )

Money
    I was asked many times about the costs. If I have a look at my bank account, I used in 270 days about 6000€ during my trip. I think there were
  • about 2000 € for food and mineral water (esp. in Kazakstan),
  • about 1000€ for lodging
  • and about 3000€ for organisation,bureaucracy and transport etc. This includes:
    • visa and letters of invitation (ca. 600€)
    • cruise over the black sea (? ca. 80€),
    • organized sightseeing as in the Volga delta (ca. 60€) or the horse riding trip in Kyrgyzstan (? ca.150€).
    • plane back from Delhi to Paris (ca.500€)
    • trekking in Nepal including a flight and a guide (ca.300€)
    • "fines" (ca.60€)
    • entrance fees
    • souvenirs, books, etc. (ca.500€)
    • equipment replacement
    • phone calls (in Kazakhstan around 5Euro a minute!) and internet.
    • etc.(film rolls, parcel post, picture postcards, gifts, medicine), there is a lot.
    I also spent a lot for my equipment before my trip not included in this calculation!
    For sure you can spend a lot more - or also less money! You can save the most if you are driving fast through expensive Western Europe, where you are not sleeping in hotels (so nearly not in Cities...) and even not at camping sites. Further you can conserve your purse if you pass on expensive souvenirs and sightseeing trips. I think the minimum for a half-year tour to Kathmandu is 3000€ not including the equipment. But even if you are short of cash, always have some Euros left for the poorest helping you!

    An other thing is how to carry the money with you. I recommend a credit card together with traveller checks in Euros. You carry them the best in a flat bag bellow the trousers with the rest of your money. The monney for the day you have together with some Euros or Dollars in a bumbag viewable for everybody. For sure it's good idea to have some small money-deposits somewhere in the rest of your baggage - I preferred my handelbar bag I was always carrying with me (with the photo equipment inside).

else...
  • ... try to learn some Russian if your route leeds through as many CIS-countries as I was cycling through (for me this was: Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan)! You just come closer to the people.
  • ... ask the people to put the tent beside their houses: a very nice way to get in touch with the locals!
  • ... buy your storybooks as early as possible. I didn't find any English written books after Odessa untill Nepal!
  • ... buy your maps at home!
  • ... avoid the large highways in the Ukraine! Trucks...
  • ... plan the start of the whole trip accoring to the seasons! At the beginning of April would have been better for us than at the end of May (we were quite in hurry because of the cold climate in autumn in Central Asia and Tibet). Or you will learn (and feel) more about continental climate...
  • ... avoid places (especially bars) in Russia, where there are just men, normally drunken. They can suddenly, without having any reason, become aggressive and rowdyish, believe me!
  • ... pictures of you and your relatives are a great basis for talking with people!
  • A great but pretty expensive and large thing to carry with would be a instant photo camera (polaroid)! One of the best gifts you can give somebody is a picture of you and the people you were a guest, even it costs around 1€ a picture.
  • ... about Internet-cafes: in Europe quite seldom and very expensive. In CIS-countries just in the large cities. One in Ali in Tibet. A lot of them in Nepal and India. Maybe you will find some here: www.world66.com or www.netcafes.com.
  • ... look forward to all the friendly people you will meet!

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