Is being a solo, non Russian speaking traveller going to be hell?

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Is being a solo, non Russian speaking traveller going to be hell?

Post by kimura89 »

As per title. Also someone that isn't really a camper and plans to traverse Central Asia by public transport and staying in guesthouses.

The more threads I read, it seems people have at least a small grasp of Russian and have camping gear etc with them. Which makes me a bit anxious as I'm heading to Tajikistan very soon. (Im trying to learn some Russian as we speak, but can only do so much).

Anyone can speak from experience whether this is going to be tough?
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Re: Is being a solo, non Russian speaking traveller going to be hell?

Post by piszteuo »

It won’t be a problem but I suggest you learn the Cyrillic alphabet so you can read the signs, learn the numbers so you can negotiate the price and learn the most basic expressions, I have visited Russia and post Soviet countries and though it wasn’t easy but I managed to get around without major problems. I am going to the Stans in October but I’m not worried based on past experience in Russian speaking countries.
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Re: Is being a solo, non Russian speaking traveller going to be hell?

Post by Julia »

For your question about the language if it'll be hard without Russian knowledge. I'd say, yes and no.
Yes, because many people don’t speak English in Tajikistan.
But you see a text in Cyrillic that doesn’t mean that it’s written in Russian. It’s more complicated as both languages use Cyrillic alphabet and menu in a restaurant or a sign, an advert, etc. sometimes can be in Tajik or in Russian, or in both.
Additionally, if you go out of big cities people don’t speak Russian well there. Elder people still remember it but most of young people (out of big cities) speak Tajik.

And no, it won’t be hell, because people are friendly and see that you and them speak different languages and try to help you to understand them. Generally you can use so called body language and they’ll try to understand you and reply you too so you’d understand them. That’s from my experience.

You don’t have to learn Russian and Tajik languages. But better to know words to thank, say hello, etc.
Also for communication can prepare basic phrases and words in Russian and Tajik printed out or in your phone.

Just be careful with taxi drivers. They might try to charge you more even if you speak Russian. If they see you’re a foreigner and don’t understand a word they may try to take advantage of that. Write a price you agreed at a piece of paper and show it at the end of the trip if a driver starts trying to convenience you that you agreed for higher price.
If have a language barrier than better to double check prices, agreements, write them down, etc. Just to make sure that no misunderstanding. And it will protect from some people who would try to deceive a foreigner that way. But generally, as I said, people are really nice and helpful.

As for camping things. If you plan to visit only cities and villages and use public transport/shared taxis than you don’t need your own camping stuff.
If going to hitchhike, doing trekking or stay in the mountains, valleys out of the cities than you need it.
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Re: Is being a solo, non Russian speaking traveller going to be hell?

Post by Gareth »

Download an offline Russian - English dictionary on your phone (e.g., Google Translate). Use it to type simple sentences with simple grammar as this will translate more clearly. This is what I used when I was in the area recently and it worked fine. I speak no Russian and read none, although it’s possible to figure some things out. Google translate also has a camera feature, so if you’re online using a restaurant wifi, you can more or less translate a menu. I couldn’t have conversations in Russian but I could communicate a point, ask a question or give some information about myself using the downloaded dictionary. I also met a lot of English speakers, particularly among the younger people.
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Re: Is being a solo, non Russian speaking traveller going to be hell?

Post by AreWeThereYet? »

I've been absolutely on my own in both small-town Kazakhstan and Tajikistan (plus with non-Russian speaking friends elsewhere) and in fairness I haven't really had a lot of issues. As many said, having a basic capability of reading Cyrillic will help, a map (downloaded from Google, sketched on a piece of paper) would be good, and learn perhaps the basic words for "tea", "bread", "train", "station", those sort of things. I had worst times in France before I learned the lingo!
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