Links to the detailed country pages are at the bottom of the page. Here we say some general things on toilets, breakfast, booking in advance and random acts of hospitality.
A word about toilets. If you have traveled before, you know of the mental ease that comes with knowing a roll of toilet paper is tucked into your handbag or back pocket. In large cities, toilet paper is rarely an issue. Outside of urban cores, it’s best to be prepared.
In villages, toilets are often outdoor squat toilets. On the road, there are few facilities. If there are, their putrid brand of hygiene is best avoided – there is plenty of space in the fields and that’s where advanced travelers do their business. In cities, toilets are the more respectable (yet less ergonomic) Western style of toilets, but first-time visitors to the FSU may still be bemused by the necessity of disposing of their toilet paper in a waste bin rather than in the toilet bowl.
The plumbing systems in the former Soviet Union were not designed to handle paper. Throwing paper in the bowl will clog the whole thing.
Booking in advance
Do you need to book your room in advance? It depends. If you have somewhere specific in mind, yes, do book in advance. Especially in Uzbekistan, the loveliest bnb’s are small-scale affairs that book out far in advance.
If you are not picky, you should always be able to find a room on the day. The cheapest and the best accommodation will have been taken in the high season, but there should always be some availability.
The bonus you get by rocking up unannounced is that you can bargain the price down. You both know there are rooms available that will not be filled up that night, and bargaining is culturally accepted across the Silk Road.
Questions and reports regarding booking in advance are welcome in the hotel booking forum thread.
Random acts of hospitality
When traveling, you might get invited at random by people still amazed at your foreignness or just happy to chat. This is generally a delightful experience and you should indulge. If you don’t want to drink, make that clear. If you want to leave or have other plans, make that clear.
People can be pushy at times, especially with their food, but they understand “I am really very full, thank you,” or, “I need to go now” (you might have to repeat it a few times, though). Sometimes you might encounter a kind of oppressive, do-as-I-say hospitality, especially Iran and Kurdistan have a lot of “hosts” like that. Take it in your stride, and move on to a next, hopefully better experience.
With the exception of international chains and boutique hotels, breakfast tends to disappoint the Western traveler. I might be proven wrong on occasion, but at least one should not get one’s hopes up. Staple foods are pictured below: eggs, jam, white bread, cheese and sausage, tea and instant coffee.