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Am I getting ripped off on the Silk Road?

Posted: Wed Sep 04, 2019 8:04 pm
by Eda
Planning a Silk Road Tour; Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are already taken care of. I’m working with a company to plan out 11 days encompassing Uzbekistan (4 days), Kyrgyzstan (3 days), and Tajikistan (4 days). Solo, with a driver-guide (one person, not two, performing both duties). I’m a mid-range budget traveler. Meaning, I’m happy to stay in guest houses over hotels and eat in the low to moderate range. Even so, I’ve read that in KYRG and TAJ I should expect to spend max $20 on food, budget about $30/day on accoms. I’m happy to pay a person’s salary, but the $3500 I was quoted feels absurdly high for the very common things we are doing. Namely, eating local meals, staying at budget guest houses and hotels, long distance driving multiple days (including Pamirs), and, keeping in mind I am paying for ALL the airline tickets, museum entrances, and visa costs. Er, even on the very liberal end of my calculations (let’s say $100/day, which is a lot for all three countries), where is the rest of the money going? I can only assume commissions and guide salary, which in USD will be incredibly high for such short tours.

I countered with $2600. Now even that seems absurd— it’s higher per day than the daily rate I’m paying in Turkmenistan for a full bells and whistles solo tour with dedicated guide for 10 days!

All, am I being taken for a ride? I cannot fathom why the quoted price is so high. I want to clarify I am NOT set on getting rock-bottom prices just to say I did this on a shoe string. I am not cheap but I’m also not stupid. Rather, I don’t want to be taken advantage of, and since I want my money to go to locals and I want to leave a nice tip to each person who guides/drives me, I need to figure out why the cost is so high and how I can negotiate a more reasonable fee. I feel foolish for how high my counter offer is but don’t know how to correct it.

The main thing holding me back is that my timeframe for these three counties is extremely tight, and I don’t want to risk missing a critical leg of the journey by planning it without a company.” And making fatal errors in timing. Plus, a specific plane flight I need is not accessible to me in the US, but my potential tour company says they can see it and purchase the ticket for me. Not sure how to get around that one if I go it alone. That being said, I think Uzbekistan of all three places would be the easiest place to go guide free. Any and all advice appreciated.

Please help!

Re: Am I getting ripped off on the Silk Road?

Posted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 3:52 am
by Christian77
That price is crazy high, yes. But barely anybody drives all three countries. Two is usually a driver's maximum, and usually a certain route or loop only. The driver is probably scared.

You might want to break this up and get quotes for individual legs (e.g., it's easy to get a quote for the Pamir Highway quickly). Elsewhere, Uzbekistan should be super cheap compared to the Pamir Highway, and Kyrgyzstan should also be cheaper. No reason for this price to add up like this. I could probably do this in shared cars for $200. For a private car and driver I'm not sure, but not that first quoted price. Nor even that 2nd counter price.

Re: Am I getting ripped off on the Silk Road?

Posted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 6:38 am
by BakuBound
There may well be some rules around which mean that different companies and drivers are handling the different countries, so it's not a surprise that a three-country trip adds up. As said, staying in one country will almost certainly be cheaper.

Re: Am I getting ripped off on the Silk Road?

Posted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 6:22 pm
by bwv812
Based on their prior posts, they're also planning a trip for next week. I can see it being quite expensive to arrange transport for three countries in a week. It's stupid expensive, but it's also very unusual.

Re: Am I getting ripped off on the Silk Road?

Posted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 7:20 pm
by Eda
Thanks, everyone, for your insights. To clarify, bwv812, I will actually be in those specific three countries in a month, not one week- so that shouldn't convey a sense of urgency to the companies relative to, say, people who decide to plan these types of things on a whim when they are actually there (which is okay, too-- life happens; for example, it took eight weeks for me to get a Turkmenistan LOI, upon which the rest of my trip hinged-- you just have to go with it). Also, each country has its own driver in this case.

I have decided to shop around for a better experience and better prices with CBT-based companies.

Christian77, another company quoted $1700 USD for a Pamirs only trip (solo, transport/driver only). I want to use this as a reference point for my negotiations. You mentioned it's normal to expect higher costs in the Pamirs (which makes sense). Is this about right/too high? Would appreciate your input. Thanks!

Re: Am I getting ripped off on the Silk Road?

Posted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 3:21 am
by Christian77
$1700 for 4 days? If you are in Dushanbe the guesthouses have ads on their walls for $1000 to $1200 for 8 days on the Pamir Highway. Caravanistan also has a price quote system for the Pamir Highway. Have you tried that out?

Re: Am I getting ripped off on the Silk Road?

Posted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 7:08 am
by Mikeromero
Actually I took a similar trip in early september.

We were two people travelling from Samarkand to Osh (and then took a round tour in Fergana to Tashkent). We arranged all ourselves and did make it for around 600 USD per person (15 days), besides the plane ticket to Samarkand and from Osh.

It´s quite simple to travel by your own means (local shared taxis or marshutkas and trains in UZ) in almost all the route. That way we travelled from Samarkand to Bukhara and back, from Samarkand to Penjikent and further to Dushanbe. From Dushanbe to Khorog, and from there to Iskashim. We only chartered two private taxis from Iskashim to Langar and from Langar to Murghab (the last one was 130 usd for the whole car). From Murghab to Sary Tash and from there to Osh is quite easy to manage with local transport. Even from Langar to Murghab it should be possible to find mates to share the private taxi...

So... if you can manage yourself and don´t want to pay that amount, you can always do it this way. In most of the places (Murghab, Iskashim, Langar...) the available hotels or homestays is quite limited, so you most probably will stay in the same ones, going yourself of with an arranged trip...


Re: Am I getting ripped off on the Silk Road?

Posted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 11:04 am
by fatimanorat
Hi Eda, would you please let me know who you arranged the Turkmenistan tour with? and how much are you paying for 10 days? we are looking to arrange a similar tour so just checking we don't get ripped off on that one.
Thank you, Fatima

Re: Am I getting ripped off on the Silk Road?

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:41 pm
by Eda
Hi Fatima,

I sent you a PM.

Hi Christian,

I was able to find quotes that were much lower (thankfully) for what I needed. I’m in UZB as I write this. Out of curiosity, how does one access the Pamir Highway rate calculator?


Re: Am I getting ripped off on the Silk Road?

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:47 pm
by bwv812
Just click on the "tours" link at the top of every page, and then select Tajikistan. ... r-highway/