Over land to Japan or the way back, when and how to go

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Over land to Japan or the way back, when and how to go

Post by Nicodemus »

Dear Caravanista,

We, Dutch couple, have some time and a little money to travel. Our destination is Japan, where we'll be volunteering coming april and visit some of the localities. Before and after we have opportunities to travel some more, although there are limitations to time and budget. We only just realized the possibilities of traveling part of the journey overland, either our way there or our way back. We would have about a month, a month and a half and about 1500 euros each to spend.

We're overwhelmed by the amount of information here at Caravanistan and are just starting to dig in, but maybe you have a few pointers so that we can see if any plan at all is feasible. Please bare with us, we're rather new to it all and just started looking into options, but we have all the time on our hands to do research and ask questions these days.

Would it be possible to cover (most of) the distance from Istanbul towards east China, through TR, IR TM, Uzbekistan and either KZ, KG or TJ in this time and on this budget? Going by local trains, buses and shared vans/taxis where necessary? Flying parts of the distance if really wiser/cheaper. I already saw prices for (parts of) the Pamir Highway which would eat up most of our budget, so maybe we're just being silly here. Maybe you would have advice to do part of the trip over land and then continue flying, or the other way around.

If at all possible or partly possible, we would have the option of either travelling from halfway coming February and March to go eastwards or alternatively May (and part of June) to go eastwards. We already noticed that visas are a thing, but with the guidelines I'm quite sure we would be able to obtain the necessary paperwork with a few weeks (or is that false hope? We're based in NL). What would you advise climate wise? The cold of late winter or the first heat of late spring?

Other options that are simpler and that we've seen are of course simply flying, or taking the TransSiberia/TransMongolia Express and go over the northern, but we're both charmed by the idea of visiting more of the Middle-East and Central Asia.

Looking forward to have some first comments from more experienced travellers/budgeteers, in the meanwhile we continue digging through the information here. Safe travels to all!
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Re: Over land to Japan or the way back, when and how to go

Post by bwv812 »

Late spring is far more advisable, though flooding/landslides in the Pamirs may be an issue. I'm not sure your schedule and budget will allow you to visit the Pamirs, though, so that may be a moot issue.

Steven is always more optimistic than I am with regards to time, but I think that 45 days and €1500 is going to be tough. Obviously even getting off of Japan is quite expensive, and visas will likely eat up a couple hundred Euros as well, depending on where you go (I would look into getting a Chinese visa while still in the Netherlands, as they generally make it difficult for people to apply outside the country in which they reside; other visas can be picked up along the way if need be, though the Turkmen visa does take some time).

The basic overland routes would involve a ferry from Osaka to Shanghai (http://www.seat61.com/China.htm#Ferries ... to%20Japan), train and/or bus to Kashgar or Urumqi, then onwards to Osh in Kyrgyzstan by bus/share taxi/marshrutka (via Almaty and Bishkek if you stopped in Urumqi, or direct to Osh if you went to Kashgar). After that, through Uzbekistan via the Ferghana Valley, Tashkent, Bukhara, Samarkand, and Khiva—all possible by train. Then either to Iran via Turkmenistan, or to Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia via a Caspian ferry from Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan. After that it's Turkey and onwards to Europe.

I think that's the most straightforward route, and basically your first step is to select if you want to go to Kashgar or Almaty after Urumqi, and then whether you want to see the Caucasus or Iran. After doing that, try making a day-by-day schedule to get an idea of how long it will take and how much time you'll have. Keep in mind that road transport in the 'stans in unscheduled and unpredicatable, and can involve lots of waiting—especially for those on a budget. Also note that there can be multi-day waits for the Caspian ferries.
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My 2012 overland trip from Tokyo to Istanbul: https://silkroadwanderings.blogspot.com

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Re: Over land to Japan or the way back, when and how to go

Post by steven »

Hi Dutchies!

People tend to want to do to much in too little time. I always advise against it, but I know some travelers are just hardcore.

Is it possible to travel from Istanbul to Tokyo in 45 days on 1500 euros on public transport? Yes.
Is it going to be fun? In my opinion, not at all.

So I advise to make choices.

In 45 days, you can comfortably see a bit of Turkey and the Southern Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan) or Turkey and Iran (maybe you can include Nakchivan?). Or you can do a nice trip around Central Asia visiting 3 to 4 stans in 45 days, perhaps add (a bit of) China if you are keen.

The budget is another reason to go slow. Going fast will cost more money (and you will see less).

Your fellow countryman Solsticio posted his trip plan from this fall. It took him 7 weeks: http://caravanistan.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2515

Visas are quite easy nowadays, except for Turkmenistan, which I advise to avoid. Climate-wise, your decision should be based on what you want to do and where you want to go. Early is best for Iran, late for everywhere else.

Hope that helps!
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