Here are some basic facts of life for the self-driving motorist in Central Asia.
As a rule, don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home. Just because other drivers do not respect the road rules, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. If you are driving your own car or motorcycle, you will stand out for police.
If you break the rules, you will have no rebuttal when stopped and will have to pay. This includes not stopping for pedestrians at crossings (particularly in Almaty) or driving a dirty car (particularly in Astana)!
Don’t drink and drive! A zero-tolerance policy operates all over Central Asia.
Speed limits (in km/h)
- Kazakhstan speed limits: 110 on motorway, 90 on some bigger roads, 60 inside the city.
- Kyrgyzstan speed limits: 60 in the city, 90 outside of the city.
- Uzbekistan speed limits: 60 in the city, 90 outside of the city.
- Tajikistan speed limits: please let us know if you find out!
- Turkmenistan speed limits: 60 in the city, 90 outside of the city.
Loose animals crossing the road are a serious danger when driving with low visibility.
Police will try to extort money from you. The best way to deal with this is to not do anything wrong and to not give in. Most drivers don’t report serious trouble. Police often prefer to target locals, because they are more willing to accommodate a culture of corruption (as one police officer said: I wish I could stop accepting bribes, but they just keep on giving!).
Drunk, reckless, irresponsible driving is the norm.
Central Asia’s elite knows that they will not be held accountable if they damage another car or kill a person. Stay out of their way. They drive black or white 100,000$+ cars with tinted windows and a vanity plate like AA 007 XX.
Basic Russian for drivers
Russian is still understood by most people in Central Asia. A short dictionary for drivers (bold syllables are stressed)
- Petrol: Ben-zin
- Diesel: Di-zel or diz-top-li-vo
- Fill up the tank completely: Pol-nyi bak
- To which direction is …?: Koo-da…?
- Map: Kar-ta
- Tire: Shy-na
- Engine: Dvi-ga-tel
A great blog of a 4,5 year drive on the Silk Road comes from Daniel Sprague. He sadly reveals little of the practical side of things, but it is a beautiful and inspiring document nonetheless of a great journey through the Former Soviet Union, Central Asia, the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent.