Re: Silk Road with kids: tips and advice
Posted: Sat Sep 08, 2018 4:17 am
Ah we should be able to answer some of the questions, but we travel with our own campervan so nothing about transportation.
Our kids are 2 and 4.
Usually no problem at all. Wherever possible I did fill in that 4 visa applications belonged together. Or added a passport copy of ourselves with the application of our kids.
Probably all not necessary. Never got questions.
Only when applying for a Russian business visa, not all companies know how to apply for that with accompanying children.
And it is just more money.
Cannot comment on transportation and accomodation.
Sometimes we camp at a guesthouse or so, and usually they never charge for our young kids (about using shower snd stuff)
It has been good for us, only once got a bit sick (whole family). However it is a part of the world where some diseases like TBC are present.
We followed some simple rules. Only eat at restaurants that you know are good (but not always possible, so sometimes a gamble)
Cook yourself and cook or peel vegetables (because diseases are on the skin)
We have our own water filter system in the van.
We decided that if we ever stayed with people who look seriuosly ill or hard coughing (more than a cold) we would leave right away. Never occured.
Of course washing hands after everything and keeping nails short.
And check for ticks. Bring such a tick remover tool.
We had all kinds of vaccinations including rabies and ticks for our kids.
We have two blonde girls and so they get everybodies attention. This is usually very nice. People always give you stuff.
That is a lot of times the sweetest candy.
Sometimes the women just kiss them or pick them up without asking or warning. So our youngest was at some point afraid for enthousiastic women approaching her. Men usually keep there distance a bit more.
Now in Mongolia it is more the men that just give a kiss or want a kiss. Nothing too serious but we don't really like it.
What they like:
Is not the same as what you like. They can be impressed by big buildings or old stuff. But not as much as you.
The incredible nature like huge mountains and stuff are not that astounding for children as for you. They like it more to build a dam in a small stream. Or sand dunes to play in, are great.
Re: Silk Road with kids: tips and advice
Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 8:25 am
Surprisingly few replies so far, so I hope this will be of some use. I don’t know how broad you want to interpret Silk Road in this case – I’ll stick to our experiences in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran. If you want I can add bits about Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey and Russia. Most of what I write is when our daughter was 6 years old and our son 4 years old.
This turned out quite a puzzle as we did not want to spend days/weeks waiting for visa at embassies while on the road. We thought our children would get bored (and, well, me too), having to wait that long in a particular city, so we made sure we got all our visa before we left home. First the easier e-visa for Turkey and Azerbaijan, which we could apply for half a year before our trip.
Then we applied for our Russian and Iranian visa, about 3 months before we entered those countries, respectively. Russia by mail; Iran at the embassy in The Hague. The Iranian visa is cheap and easy for Dutch nationals: no LOI, no questions about the car and stamped into your passport within a week.
Uzbekistan was a lot more paperwork and very expensive. Of course the whole package of visa for six countries for a family of four adds up to quite an amount… No problems though for any of the visa, including transit visa for Turkmenistan. In this case I think it might help handing over passports of young, blond, harmless looking children. Why would you deny them access? Though with Turkmenistan, I might be wrong, of course. I wonder if anyone with young children has had their visa denied?
We were driving our own VW T4 van, so no experiences whatsoever with local transport, apart from a tour to Ustyurt Plateau by 4WD in Kazakhstan. We did manage to break the springs of our van, though that was in Tusheti, Georgia on a 4WD road. Problems were more with sleeping in our van (as we missed some registration slips while doing so in Uzbekistan) and being scared in Ashgabat by local people who could not understand we did not get a fine with such a dirty van, after which we thought it might be a good idea to have it cleaned in a local moika. And of course we needed a Carnet for Iran.
It pays to research your health insurance options about a year before you go. We changed our health insurance and received some compensation for all the shots we got: tick borne encephalitis, typhoid fever, hepatitis B, rabies. Our daughter liked these little trips to the national public health institutes, as our children got a little present each time they were exposed to another needle. Our son is less prone to bribery.
It would probably have been better to pay more attention to those simple rules Lovetheworld mentions, e.g. keeping your fingernails short. Still, our daughter got sick just once for one day (because of the heat in Turkmenistan) and some ORS did the trick. Our son gets sick sometimes when there are to many hairpins in the road, so he always keeps a bucket within reach. The times when he just ate a lot of water melon or ice cream before these inconveniences resulted in a lovely sweet aroma in our van.
One more thing: our daughter has asthma. This provided an excuse to not have to sleep at yet another family’s house in Iran, as there are carpets everywhere. We really valued our privacy sometimes, but with overwhelming Iranian hospitality, it was hard to just camp somewhere in your van and not offend these friendly people. They would still ask if my wife and I would like to sleep indoors while the children would stay in the van
We felt welcome everywhere on the silk road. The people we met were friendly, without exception. We were invited for a muslim service in an undergound mosque in Mangystau, Kazakhstan, at parties and picknicks in Uzbekistan and stayed for the night and/or dinner on numerous occasions in Iran.
As Lovetheworld described above, it’s always picture time in Central Asia. At some point our children hatched a plan: every time they saw locals approaching, they started running in some direction. “They know our parents will have to follow us to catch up, and they don’t want children to be separated from their parents. So when we run, they will leave us alone and we don’t have to be in their pictures.” This worked pretty well.
Distances can be quite long and stretched such as Astrakhan – Atyrau (entering Kazakhstan) are horrible due to poor road conditions. Still, in a van there’s plenty of room. We had a crate with toys, crayons, books between our children and they never mentioned getting bored. Our daughter loved just looking outside at the landscape. It’s great to see them doze off or just see them play, being confident that you will get them where you plan to go, no matter the conditions of the road or the unfamiliarity of the country.
We were teaching our children during the trip, as they were officialy not allowed to skip classes. In most countries, you have to follow your lessons – it does not really matter where. In as far as I know four countries (The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and North Korea), you have to follow these lessons in an actual school building, rendering a long trip by van out of the question. We went anyway. Dutch families with children planning a trip with children can send me a PM if they want to talk about our personal experiences.
My daughter would like to add as a general tip not to buy plastic balls that look like water melons. These toys tend not to last very long.
What our children like
Animals. In Kazakhstan, we saw camels, squirrels and snakes and caught tortoises and lizards. Catch fish, shrimps and lobsters in the Caspian Sea. Climb rocks ans dunes.
Unfortunately, both of them don’t like hiking. But when you can climb ship wrecks in Moynaq or city walls and towers in Khiva, that’s fun. Rusty ferris wheels in Uzbekistan and marble and gold ones in Turkmenistan are great. Discovering new rooms in hotels is fun, but not more fun that sleeping together in the van, talking about today’s experiences with your brother/sister. Receiving winter hats as a present in 35 degree Bukhara and wearing them all day long. Riding donkeys and cathing beetles in the Uzbek countryside at Katta Langar. Children don’t care for the Registan for more than 5 minutes, but they love to catch toads once night falls in Samarkand. The only cultural attraction they were sincerely interested in in Uzbekistan was the petroglyphs of Sarmysh.
The crater of Derweze was something that really impressed our children. It appeared in drawings and our daughter mentioned it long after. Our daughter does not talk about the trip often, but our son does. We did not know how much he would remember, being only 4 years old, but these experiences have shaped his life.
Indoor entertainment centres like in Ashgabat are apreciated, as are the occasional playgrounds, but certainly not more than swimming, eating ice cream or simply chasing butterflies in Iran. Water, sand and rocks are more fun than swings and seesaws!
Re: Silk Road with kids: tips and advice
Posted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 6:44 pm
Hi, we have been travelling in family for 5 months on the silk road. Actually we were slower than planned so we actually arrived from Europe in the stan's in September, and for practical reasons only went until Tashkent.
We were travelling Dad 37 French Passport, Mum 34 Chilean Passport and little Andina 2,5 years old, both passports.
Our transport was a 37 years old Petrol Renault 4 topped with a roof tent.
We travelled this route : France – Italy - the Balkans – Greece – Turkey – Georgia – Azerbaijan - Caspian Sea Ferry – Kazakhstan – Uzbekistan – Kazakhstan – Russia – Ukraine to France.
In Tashkent, Uzbekistan, after 5 months on the road, my wife being 2 months pregnant and having it hard on Uzbek bumpy roads, and with the perspective of the very cold autumn nights to come and the 7500km non stop driving back to France in a sardines' can on wheels, we decided that they would fly back and I would drive back alone.
It was not hard to travel with the kid, even considering how small was our car and tent. Actually, she was more like a passport to great experiences with people all along the road.
Turkey-Georgia-Kazakhstan : visa-free for French/Chilean citizen, so I don't know their children visa policy
Azerbaijan : I applied to the online visa, filled the family form for the 3 of us. I paid for the 3 of us. At the borders, I handed the passport of my daughter with the evisa printed paper inside, and I was not told anything. So there are 2 interpretations : 1/ they ask visa for kids, or 2/ I paid a visa for my child that was unnecessary and nobody told me.
Uzbekistan : As a Chilean, my wife needed a LOI + embassy visa application which we made in Baku. Previously, I had already applied for the evisa for French citizen. Going through the online process the system refused my daughter's application, so I rang the Uzbek consulate in Paris to be orally confirmed that kids don't need visa for Uzbekistan (I was not told the age limit).
There was no problem to mix the 3 visas (evisa-freevisa-embassyvisa) in the same family (only paperwork and difficult planning as the dates are different for each visa procedure.
Our 2,5 years old girl is very proactive, and it's difficult to have her tight to her car seat for hours. In motor homes kids might entertain themselves, but in a small car, there's not much to do. So we tried to organise the driving days with 1h driving in the late morning, stop for lunch, have some fun, then drive 2 hours in the afternoon so Andina could have her nap. And sometimes in the late afternoon we would drive if necessary the last bit to the planned camp site. 3h driving in a day was comfort, 4h ok, 5h a limit, except for some difficult days such as deserts or rainy days.
We tried as we could to go through borders during Andina's nap in the afternoon. Customs never asked to wake her up when she was asleep.
Greece-Turkey : 1h
Turkey-Georgia: Andina was awake, she had to pass the border with her mum on foot while I was driving the car apart (Rize-Batumi border) 2h
Georgia-Azerbaijan, north border : Andina was sleeping, they didn't wake her up and actually would kindly watch her while we were doing the paperwork. 2h
Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan at Beyneu : It lasted around 2 hours in the desert, so I would suggest to camp before and go through it in the morning.
Big heat was not the biggest problem, because we would almost always find a shade somewhere to spend the hot hours. If no shade was found, we would sit next to the car in the shade and play here with Andina.
Rain was more of a boredom : When you live in a roof tent, and it rains hard, you have no choice other than stay in the tent and wait. For our very active daughter, that was hard, so we invented the rule that rainy days = movie time ! We would eat inside the tent if camping in the wild and mum or dad would be cooking outside under rain! Fortunately, in 6 months we had very few rainy days, maybe 6 days in total in 40 days in Italy, 6 to 10 days in total in the rest of the trip, including a giant storm as I've never seen in my life, in the middle of the Karakalpak Desert of Uzbekistan.
The good part of travelling this way was that most of the time, and with good weather, we would spend it outside, and we would adapt to this life until the point it was weird for us, and especially for Andina, to sleep in a house when couchsurfing, or at hostels !
On the whole trip, Andina has been sick only twice. We would usually eat local food, fruits and veggies as well as meat that we tried to order well cooked.
In Georgia however, something that Andina ate in Tbilisi provoked her high fever, Diarhea and vomiting… We tried to find a doctor in a very touristic town, and there was none! We were told to go to a clinic 15km away. There was indeed a clinic, with a lot of people working inside but no patients at all. Very rude doctor (he said to be, but he was only a nurse) told us gastro are not treated here, go to Tbilisi and he would nervously pushing us out repeating the capital name over and over. While I was struggling to understand his Russian speaking, another nurse was already injecting Andina in the butt with something against fever, old style, no baby care !! Andina to this day always remembers : « The doctor, he said Tbilisi Tbilisi Tbilisi ! »
We could not believe that 3h from the capital, and with some towns that superate 30'000 inhabitant not too far, the only medical centre that would take us was in Tbilisi. We were 70km from Azerbaijan, and we did what normal parents would not dare : we went to the border! To the unknown. We asked the custom officers if there was a hospital and there was one in Balaken, « no pay » they told me. So we went, and Andina was taken into a room and all the nurses around would take care, one would use her whatsapp to communicate with her sister living in France and translating to the Pediatric in Russian. We had made the good choice. We never felt welcomed in Georgia, but Azerbaijan proved to be over-welcoming.
They kept us in the room in family so we slept there 4 nights feeling like in a hotel !! The hospital was very beautiful on the outside façade, but empty inside, medical staff works with almost nothing, and rooms and corridors are in the dark I assume because they have to save on electricity.
The pediatrics gave us the prescription and we went to buy the medicines (antibiotics) at the pharmacy opposite the road.
From this time we have been more careful about what would eat Andina, and also my pregnant wife, eat no eggs and only well cooked meat.
About the insurance, we have a medical assistance (with the credit card). I didn't know how to use it as I never had to do it for myself in a decade travelling. After this experience I checked better and realized that we would have to phone them before going to a doctor… For next travels I promised myself to investigate this better before leaving.
We thought at first that we would go to hostels more often, like 1 night in hostel for 3 free camping nights. Our child adapted so well to camping life that, in 160 days of travelling, we only spent 16 nights in hostels and 20 nights CS or randomly hosted. Which is 1:8 ratio !
It was not often, however those moments spent in hostels were a real plus for Andina, who started to understand the importance of learning languages : she could talk to travellers from many countries hence learning English in an entertaining way. So staying in Hotels or at people's houses would provide rich cultural and languages knowledge as well as social exchanges that might have lacked the rest of the time while travelling in our “family bubble”.
About booking hostels : when we did, we never booked for her: I would always search for 2 single beds or 1 double bed, Andina sleeping in the bed with us. When we arrived at the hostels, the people in charge would always seem to see it as normal, would never mention any fee for the kid even as it's obvious we will use shower. In Uzbekistan, where usually breakfast is included, she would even receive an extra free breakfast for her (although we paid for 2 only). I recall that she is 2 and Half years old. Sometimes, we would feel that the owners would even pay to have her around and cheer up the ambiance.
In Turkey, there are often playgrounds in each city. They are not all the time very safe.
We have found a few playgrounds in Georgia made out of welded plain steel, and calling them unsafe would be very optimistic!
In Kazakhstan, Andina would always see the playgrounds and ask to go, but the ones we've seen were always enclosed in schools. However we have only been some days in the country.
In Uzbekistan, playgrounds are almost non existent.
We were fortunate that Andina stopped using diapers 1 month after leaving. But they are available in all the countries. If there are no supermarkets, you can find diapers in some local mini-market and in pharmacies. There's a pharmacy at almost every corner in KZ and UZ!!
The down side is : where do you throw them away? Trash bins are very few in KZ, and in UZ, if you find one dumpster, just tell me!!!
You can find many many Chinese-made pink and blue plastic toys, often bad copies, in every bazaar. Quality toys are hard to find so bring yours! In Uzbekistan some handmade crafts are however interesting : Andina loved the little Uzbek dolls found in Khiva and Bukhara. Actually, the sellers offered her 3 in total!
Andina is still young to go to school and follow a program. Even like this, we are thinking of home schooling her. We observed her a lot during the travel, actually, I think the whole travel revolved around watching her everyday learning. We discovered that we need not to teach her anything: so many curious things would happen (transportations, people's dress, food, marriage ceremonies, landscapes, curiosities, fruits, virtually everything) that would raise her curiosity, that she was learning on automatic mode. We tried to include her the most we could on the travel: letting her choose sometimes what we would do during the day, what she wanted to eat at restaurants, letting her do every day tasks (cooking, washing dishes or clothes, looking at maps, etc…). She wanted to participate, do like we did, and we let her as far as we could. At the bazaar, she would have opinions about what to buy, wanted to pay. All this resulted on a strong interest in things we would not expect from a child her age, like curiosity for letters (and at the ability to recognise all of them), curiosity for numbers (the number on the room, the prices, the ages, etc.) and at the end of the trip the first adding and subtracting skills (now she's adding and subtracting anything she's seeing!)
Basic human and social skills are learned through the travel, as well as virtually every subject : flags of the countries, their languages, shapes, ethnicities, anthems; the cycle of water when you drive through mountains, navigate in lakes or seas; meteo as you pass through different climates; history as you go through cities and countries… Everything is experienced first hand, it's almost no theory. School theoretical teaching are eventually forgotten. Experience is however kept forever in the memory. So for those who want to travel to remote countries with kids and are afraid of “they will miss one school year, they'll come back with education gap”, be sure that they will, at the contrary, be back home with a great advance on their companions!
Local people and children
Having a kid on a travel to Central Asia, is like a passport for many social exchanges! And especially if it is a little blond. Your kid will receive so much attention, everyday, every minute, that it will be sometimes too much!! People tend to make gifts to them, always, in any shop you go, any bazaar, any street you walk through. From Istanbul to Tashkent, many foods appeared in Andina's hands without us noticing!
Go around the fruit bazaar, if you want healthier “gifts”. We would for example avoid taking Andina to mini-markets at the end, because she would receive too many sweets. Ex-soviet countries seem to have admiration towards sweets, which maybe explains why almost everybody has gold teeth…
Andina always liked those attentions, but in Uzbekistan she was more afraid, because women tend to take her hand and squeeze it. The first time Andina came to me crying, and I thought the woman squeezed her hand because she had thought my girl was stealing fruit, but on other occasions people did the same, with good intentions. But Andina didn't like it obviously!
What she liked, as a 2,5 years old girl.
Having an ice-cream with mum, and comparing them between countries.
Running everywhere, great in the desert areas, scary in big cities.
Talking some English with other travellers in hostels, being polite to people in the local languages, and social exchanges everywhere.
Being with other kids slightly older than her, any language: they always find games.
Participating in everyday tasks
Watching animals, insects, and cattle.
What she disliked:
Museums (that we didn't visit very often)
Long walks in cities
City trips in general, except in no cars areas, where she could go around freely.
She was not interested in landscapes, not in the adult way. I mean that she probably experienced the landscapes, learnt them as a whole, as something normal that goes around and associate them to countries, climates or else. But she didn't have yet an opinion about their beauty. Still, she was interested in the mechanics of landscapes (where does this river goes? Why is this mountain so high? Why is there pine trees here? Why why why all the time!!)
That's a very long post, sorry, I don't know how to summarise such a long travel!
I hope some will be able to spot the right answers to their own travels.
Xavier, Tere, Andina : Nomadic happiness
Re: Silk Road with kids: tips and advice
Posted: Tue Oct 23, 2018 7:19 pm
hi Xavier thanks for the great advice and bravo to you, very inspirational to give your daughter an amazing experience so young in life. I also travel very frequently with my daughters, one who is now being schooled on the road, and i promise the reward to see my teenage daughter so far ahead of her friends in terms of confidence and ability is amazing. i am currently heading east from Odessa to Batumi, Yerevan and then Iran, perhaps will see you on the road!! i am a photographer by trade and my mission next year is to put on extensive exhibitions called 'notes from the road', and basically is a variety of my photography over the years that i have shot on the road. i want to broaden the appeal of the exhibition by introducing video clips of inspirational travellers and their stories, with the idea that i can get as many school kids through the exhibitions as possible to encourage them to get on the road and not be drummed into a predictable pattern in life. i was wondering if you would be prepared to send me a short video clip of you and your family and give me on camera a short story of something amazing that happened to you and your family that made it wonderful. if this sounds possible to you please let me know, i feel it important to share and inspire. bye dean
Re: Silk Road with kids: tips and advice
Posted: Sat Dec 01, 2018 6:00 am
Hi, we are a family of four from Switzerland who have been on the road for almost four months. At the moment we are not moving, we have settled in a small appartment in Tehran where our two daughters (7 and 11) are attending the Tehran International School for one month.
Our trip so far : From Tbilissi, Georgia, to Tehran, Iran by bycicle : Tbilissi– Gori – Borjomi - Tbilissi – Lagodekhi (border) – Balaken – Seki- Ismaiyli – Kürdemir – Imisly – Bilesuvar – Lenkeren – Astara (border) – Talesh – Bandar-el-Anzali – Chaboksar – Chalous – (by bus) Tehran.
Further plan : To Sri Lanka by plane from where we will cycle to India and Nepal.
There's surely other countries who are safer for cycling with children than Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran. We planned our route according to the roads and always opted for secondary roads when there was some.
Our eleven-year-old daughter cycles on her own bycicle and the 7-year-old daughter's bike can be fixed on her father's bike with a system called « Follow me ». Whenever there wasn't too much traffic she cycled on her own.
The most difficult part was entering and leaving Tbilissi right at the start, crossing 3 lane-highways to take a turn or pushing our way through a chaotic roundabout. Drivers in Georgia are absolutely not used to cyclists and they like driving fast. In Georgia, we managed to find secondary roads with poor trafffic on the way to Gori and in some parts of Kakheti.
Azerbaijan has been more enjoyable as roads were far less frequented and the drivers were more attentive to us. The smaller the roads, the better. We often ended up on roads in construction which were dirt tracks and difficult to ride. Local people tried to prevent us from going there but we just insisted. September was a good period as it gets very hot in the plains during the day. We always took a long break in the shade at lunchtime.
In Iran we have only experienced the road along the coast which leads trough densely populated areas and is highly frequented. Fortunately there is a lane on the right for cars to stop on which we could cycle and felt more safe. We just had to pay attention to the doors suddenly opening. In Iran we didn't move very fast as we got stopped every ten minutes - be it for a picture, an invitation to lunch or some gifts (fruit or sweets) for the girls. People were very enthousiastic about us cycling with the girls.
At the beginning of our trip we did 30 to 40 km per day, after one month we started to do longer distances of about 60km per day.
Our plan was to stay in hostels or with people in the cities and to do wild camping in the countryside. In Georgia, it was easy to find places to camp along the road and sometimes locals invited us to their house. Our daugthers just got really scared one night because of a wild storm with thunder and lightning and no shelter in sight, so that we decided to ask people for a space to camp in their garden, whenever the sky was black and cloudy. After two or three days of camping we stayed in a hostel or guesthouse. They were rather cheap and clean. We often just took one room with a double bed and one of the parents slept on the floor on a camping mat.
In Azerbaijan we also very easily found places to camp in nature. Our romantic wild camping was only disturbed by the crying of the chakals all night long. We didn't get much sleep and the girls were a bit scared, so we decided to put up our tent in people's garden. One time a night of camping lead to an invitation to the wedding of the son of the family. The grils loved staying with people, they closely observed their way of life and got a great insight in cultural differences and similarities. Like in Georgia we stayed in hostels or hotels every three or four days. In rural and non-touristic areas there is not such a big choice of hotels. One time we had put up the tent beside a restaurant which was not considered as a safe place by a goverment employee of the region who organised us an escort by the police to the nearest hotel. Everything was paid by them, breakfast included. After that we decided to avoid exposed spots for camping.
The coastline is so densely populated that it was very difficult to find a spot for camping. Luckily we could from time to time find an official camping where there was either small houses to rent or some picnic-platforms on which we could put up the tent. Unfortunately we often had heavy rain along the coast and one time in such a camping we were kept awake the whole night by the dozens of stray dogs who lived on the beach. After a first great experience with a Warmshower's family just across the border we often opted for that. The girls loved staying with the Warmshower hosts, it allowed them to feel at home at some place and to have deeper contact with other people than their parents who were often quite tired in the evenings. Being social after a long day of cycling was not always easy. Iran can be very intense, especially for children. Our two girls have long blond hair and attract a lot of attention from people. Most of the time they didn't mind being touched or photographed, but whenever they were tired or upset, it was too much for them. When we felt that they needed a break from all this excitement and attention, we stayed in a hotel and didn't leave the room for one day.
The most important lesson that the girls are learning is the solidarity of people that we meet. As much as ourselves they are touched by the hospitality and generosity of people. They also learn to put their own life and our living standard in perspective. They were often surprised by the basic living conditions of people and realised that people were very happy to share what they have. They started to get more conscious of universal human values and the values of our own cultural.
In Switzerland you can do home-schooling in some regions but not in ours, unfortunately. We decided to take them out of school and teach them ourselves by following the program as much as possible even though it is officially not possible (or only if you have a diploma of a primary school teacher). We organised the objectives for their school year and put the program on an i-pad. Whenever we stop in a hotel or at people's houses, we do some school work. It represents about 5 to 6 hours a week. Both daughters would like to « skip » their year and join their former class. The younger daughter is not always motivated to do writing and reading as she cannot apply her skills in daily life. Even the letters in these countries are different. For practising the writing she chose to keep a diary of the trip. She is much more interested in creating things. She modelled cups out of volcanic earth that we found in Georgia and made things out of wood and shells from the beach in Azerbaijan.
As mentioned before, our two girls are attending the Tehran International School for one month. It was not difficult to get the permission to send them to school only for one month. We just asked and they were ok. We had to pay about 120 dollars for the month. We found an appartment 5 minutes walk from the school which is very important as we didn't want to spend hours in the taxis. Going to school in another country and in English has been the wish of our older daughter. She wanted to learn English very well to be able to communicate with people. She is very interested in different cultures and in politics. The younger daughter is happy to improve her English as she had been frustrated in the first months of travelling of not understanding the conversations we had with people. She had learnt a basic English by herself but she wanted to learn more. The main motivation to go to school in Tehran for them was to meet other children.
When the girls are at school, we, the parents, get some time to ourselves which is very precious after 4 months of travelling and spending 24 hours together everyday.
It was very easy to obtain the Visa for Azerbaijan which cost us 23 Dollar per person. We obtained it in Tbilissi by applying for an E-Visa first. Once confirmed, we printed it out and showed it at the border. We didn't even have to go to the embassy.
Obtaining the Visa for Iran has been a tiring process. We also applied for it in Tbilissi. We waited a long time for the confirmation of our E-Visa so we decided to go to the embassy in Tbilissi and ask what was happening. The employee called somebody in Tehran and asked them to accelerate the process so that we finally got the confirmation and the Visa after almost 3 weeks.
In Tehran we asked for a first extension of our Visa for 30 days. They wanted to keep our passports for a full week, but we managed to negotiate 3 days and obtained the extension of 30 days. We will soon ask for a second extension and decided to go there with an Iranian friend as they don't really speak English at the passport and immigration office in Tehran.
We have not had any health problems so far. Our girls have actually been less sick than they had been at home. After a short hesitation, we started to drink the tapwater in Georgia and filled up our bottles on the taps along the road. We have drunk tap water all along our trip a part from the plains in Azerbaijan (around Kürdemir) . The water from the mountains is very good. With food we haven't had any problems, we often ate in small restaurants along the road. People in Azerbaijan and in Iran pay a lot of attention to washing their hands and our girls were always attentive to that, too. Most of the time they have soap at diposition. The only difficulty we were facing in Georgia and Azerbaijan was the lack of restaurants which serve rice. Our younger daughter has a slight intolerance to gluten and should not consume to much of it. After two months of eating more bread than usual (Kachapuri in Georgia and Kebab in Azerbaijan) she had some digestion problems. Luckily we found rice crackers in the supermarkets in most cities. Our children loved to eat fresh fruit and vegetables that we peeled most of the time or washed very well. We have got our emergency pharmacy with us and have so far mainly used homeopatic globules against headache, running nose and travel sickness of the younger daughter.
WHAT THEY LIKE / DON'T LIKE:
This trip is our second long trip as a family. They had been 2 and 6 for the first trip and hadn't expressed that much what they wanted or not. They had been happy to follow their parents. This time,it is a bit different. They can have very strong opinions about what they want or not. It took us about one month to find a good balance within the family.
Like : cycling, nature, peeling grenades and cracking sunflower seeds, eating fresh fruit, especially watermelon, camping at the Caspian Sea, collecting shells and stones, preparing the tent for a night, walking in the mountains (north of Tehran), staying with the same people for a few days (like Warmshowers hosts), cooking pancakes for our hosts, creating gifts for our hosts, georgian food, kebab, wedding in Azerbaijan, learning local games and sharing card tricks with people, drawing with people, choosing a hotel room, ...
Don't like : dirty hotel rooms, aggressive drivers and aggressive dogs chasing us on the bycicle (in Georgia), getting their cheeks pinched, long discussions about politics of the adults in the evenings, dirty toilets in some restaurants.
The girls missed their friends from home very much. Luckily most hotels have Wifi, so they could regularly communicate with their friends.
Some videos and more information:
Rome to Mumbai with kids
Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:42 pm
In the summer of 2017 my wife and I and our three children (8, 11, 15 yrs) drove from Rome to Mumbai in a VW camper van. Our route passed through Italy-Greece-Turkey-Georgia-Armenia-Iran-Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan-China-Pakistan-India and you can find a 1 hour slide show/movie on Vimeo under ‘silkroadfamily’, a short film from the India leg of the tour (made by our cousin who joined us there) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y35mC4G8lO4
, as well as our live reportage under the same name on Instagram. It was an unforgettable trip and our kids talk about it frequently. Here is a distillation of some of our experiences geared toward persons thinking of traveling the Silk Road with children.
Visas and Border Crossings
We procured all visas, including a Carnet de Passage for the van during the preceding 4 months and all border crossings went relatively smoothly. For China and Turkmenistan we were forced to book expensive self-driving tours, the former with Navo-Tours, an experienced self-driving tour company based in Chengdu, and the latter with a tour operator recommended by Caravanistan. We never were asked to pay bribes, although in the Central Asian countries customs officers did a lot of searching for medicines and we learned to keep a second bag of innocuous cosmetics, sunblock, aspirin, etc. accessible to show them and keep the stronger medicines hidden. It helps to be patient and polite, something that can take a while to learn as a Westerner. Things always worked out and everywhere people went out of their way to help and we felt taken care of. The exception was the Irkeshtam border to China which was extremely taxing, even though I speak some Chinese and know the country well and we were being supported by Navo-Tours. The security situation was already very tense at that time and the kids scored China as the worst country by far. This was made up by the delightfully warm welcome we received at the Khunjerab border of Pakistan where the gracious and sophisticated hospitality of the Hunza people felt like a breath of fresh air.
We had to cover 16,000 kilometers in ten weeks and kept the seats folded down into a bed in the back of the van so that the kids could lounge and play games and sleep as we drove – they fought occasionally, but rarely complained about the long days of driving. We camped wild about a third of the nights and spent the rest in Lonely Planet recommended hotels with air-conditioning, invariably in the cities. We often let the kids stay in the hotel while we went sightseeing. The mix of camping and hotels worked really well, and the kids were always happiest out in the wild. We chose campsites usually by browsing Google Maps (it was extremely useful to have good internet roaming on the road, although I also used maps.me for offline navigation in cities) and looking for spots near rivers or lakes so that the kids could swim in the afternoon. Especially in Iran we found some spectacular campsites this way, including the Tang-e-Boraq waterfall near Shiraz, Morteza Ali canyon hot springs near Tabas, and a secluded apricot grove in the mountains above Yazd. Everywhere we camped people would bring us food and invite us to their homes. I’d highly recommend that you accept at least one of these invitations – we had a beautiful experience near Shiraz with a family that insisted we stay for three days. The most useful device for camping wild was a Decathlon portable pump-action shower – which allowed us to stay cool and clean even when camping wild, and many bags of candies and small presents to distribute to the locals. Sharing a bottle of Italian liquor did wonders in the Caucasus and we made countless cappuccinos out of the back of the van for strangers.
As our kids grew up on Italian food, they had a lot of difficulty eating the spiced cuisine of the region – the backup was rice and grilled meat with the occasional taste of something new. But by the time we hit India they were ordering Masala Dosas and various dals and my daughter still is pining for one particularly buttery Dal Makhani she had in Agra. We ate and drank freely at all types of road-side restaurants until we got to the Pakistani lowlands when we restricted ourselves to bottled water, readily available everywhere. Only my daughter and I were mildly sick one day in Uzbekistan after having drank too much local juice at a truck stop restaurant.
Initially, each time we crossed a border we felt a bit apprehensive. But invariably our worries melted away and we felt at ease walking through the cities and bazaars and camping wild. Particularly in Turkey, Iran, and India we felt very comfortable. For wild camping we usually asked locals if they were OK with us staying, or we chose spots well out of sight of any road. However, along the lower parts of the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan (from Chilas to Islamabad) we were given a military escort – standard fare for foreign vehicles – and our chaperones were visibly agitated when we insisted on stopping early to sleep at a truck-stop guesthouse in Dasu. Crossing into India felt like returning to modern civilization – ATMs worked, internet and electricity was reliable, and we found ourselves a minority among middle class India tourists.
Favorite places for kids
When asked what was their favorite place each kid had their own story. My son wants to go back to the wide open spaces and snow-capped peaks of Kyrgyzstan; my older daughter loved the sights and smells of India (a cooking class in Pushkar was her highlight), and our youngest loved chasing goats and pelting her siblings with ripe apricots in Hunza. Other highlights for the kids were a tour of the Yodgorlik Silk Factory in Margilon, trying to find their way out of the unending passageways of the Tabriz Bazaar, petting pregnant camels in the Maranjab desert near Kashan, skinny dipping in the Morteza Ali desert hot springs, sleeping in a yurt near the Darvaza gas crater, crossing hanging bridges in Passu, sleeping in Tikse monastery in Ladakh, and touring the Dharavi Slum in Mumbai.