Commonly Asked Questions

These are only a few of the questions that we're often asked, if you have any others please post a comment, send us a message on facebook or write us an email.

What was your favourite country?

This is a difficult question to answer, but taking all things into consideration the unanimous response between all four of us is undoubtedly Iran. This often raises eyebrows, whether it be with curious surprise or reserved bemusement, and to be perfectly honest we hadn’t expected to feel this way, but we just loved every minute of our time there. The culture and history were vast and fascinating, the food was intoxicating, the variety of lifestyles, religion and education was surmount, and the sheer number of activities and sights to do and see was invigorating. Above all though, what set Iran apart, was the people. In plenty of countries, cities and villages we were greeted with “hospitality”, but to this day I have never witnessed the same level of completely genuine and all-encompassing hospitality as what we were shown every single day in Iran. When we were offered a cup of tea, we weren’t unsure of their motives: would they expect payment? Would the interaction be uncomfortable? Are they doing this to make themselves look good? It really seemed as if it was always just because they wanted to give us a cup of tea because we might like it. There were many other factors at play and it sounds like a huge and ridiculous generalisation, but in a nutshell the Iranian people were incredibly upstanding, good and interesting people and it made us love their country.

We really enjoyed almost every country on this trip with very few exceptions, but Georgia and Cambodia are the other two outstanding contenders for “favourite country”. Again there were a whole range of aspects that contributed to this, but in the end what it came down to again was the people. In Cambodia it was obvious how poverty stricken and physically damaged the country as a whole was, yet we were confronted on a daily basis with how positive and friendly the locals were. Like with the Iranians I have to use the word genuine, only I’m referring more to their demeanour in this case than their hospitality in particular. But considering their tough surroundings and the struggles they have had to face in recent times, we found their constant good humour most impressive. In Georgia it was more of an easy-going comfort that we established with the locals we met. They made us feel welcome and at home, and thus we had an insight into the country that we could have never gleaned had people not been willing to take us on and show us around.

How did you deal with all the different currencies?

Easy – 28 degrees Mastercard doesn’t charge for overseas cash withdrawals, so we just used it as an ATM card and withdrew money in each country. We did have to watch out a little bit in Central Asia.

In Kazakhstan there are plenty of ATM’s in Astana and Almaty, but there is a lot of space in between with nothing. Mind you there’s not much to buy anywhere other than Astana or Almaty anyway.

In Kyrgyzstan there is only a handful of ATM’s and most of them don’t accept Mastercard. We only found Mastercard ATM’s in Bishkek and Osh, although there was one that accepted Visa in Jalalabad.

There are ATM’s in Uzbekistan, but if you use them you’ll be getting ripped off. The official government rate (what you will withdraw from an ATM) was 1,200 Som = $1 when we were there, but the black market rate (the real rate) was 2,700 Som = $1. So we withdrew ample amounts of US$ in Osh and exchanged it on the street when we got to Uzbekistan. Because of the currency situation almost every man and his dog acts as a money exchanger and it is quite safe and acceptable. The funny thing though is that the highest note was 1,000 Som, and Uzbekistan is not actually particularly cheap, so you end up carrying around not wads of notes, but bricks. We bought a backpack to carry around our cash in.

When we withdrew US$ in Osh for Uzbekistan, we also got out enough to see us through Turkmenistan and Iran. We had heard that Turkmenistan had the same situation as Uzbekistan, only something like a ten times difference as opposed to double/triple, however we found that this wasn’t the case. The currency was recently changed and a few zeros were chopped off and the official rate and the black market rate came to be the same. As such we could have withdrawn money from ATM’s in Ashgabat or Dashoguz, but as we already had US$ to exchange, we just changed money at the bank.

What insurance policies did you take out, if any?

Car Insurance: My advice on car insurance is don't get it. Well not a general policy for the whole world from an international company before you leave. We looked at different insurance options in our pre-departure research and decided it just wouldn't be worth it. It was going to cost thousands of dollars to get any sort of cover for the type of trip we were planning and there isn’t much competition for such a thing. And having done the trip now we've realised that had anything happened and we had been properly insured it would still not have paid off. Any country that has compulsory insurance will require you to purchase theirs anyway, regardless of whether you already have insurance or not, so you'll end up having to buy insurance in a bunch of places and yours will be completely useless anyway. And while the companies will say they will cover you for every country, and even though they technically do, in practically this is just not how it works in so much of the world.

If you were to have an accident or a break in or something, the people you would be dealing with in whatever country you're in
a.) won't probably want to deal with insurance at all, or
b.) won't want to deal with your insurance.

My firm belief and my advice would absolutely be that no insurance policy that you can get before leaving will be worth it. Basically if you want to do a trip like this you have to be prepared for whatever might happen to your car or your belongings. If you really want car insurance for the trip I would strongly suggest you deal with it in individual countries on arrival as it will be unimaginably cheaper and may actually pay off if something was to happen.

Medical insurance: We got medical insurance because we believed that our own safety was worth it and having done the research we thought that it would be relevant in most places, and if I did the trip again I probably would get the same medical insurance again.

How did you communicate with people who didn’t speak English?

Astonishingly English is just spoken so widely that even in some unbelievably remote parts of the most obscure countries we visited, there was usually someone who could muster together a few words for our sake. We also tried to have a few local words up our sleeve such as “hello”, “thankyou”, a few major foods such as “bread” or “rice”, other things like “car”, etc. The most important thing though was being able to identify communication as something other than speaking. Unless we were trying to have an in-depth debate about theology or philosophy, as long as we showed that we wanted to convey a message, and the people we were trying to convey that message to were willing to try and receive it, we were always able to get it across. Hand gestures, pointing and drawing pictures can get you a very long way if you’re willing to use some common sense and think outside the square. Sometimes it was frustrating when people refused to cooperate, no matter how clear we tried to make ourselves, but on the whole these methods worked wonders and got us across the world. 

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