Memos from Asia

DOs and DON’Ts While Traveling in Central Asia

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Central Asia is the region with full of ancient cities and cultural sites. Hence, more and more tourists from all over the world are preferring countries like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan to other Asian countries.

Nations living in Central Asia are one of the most hospitable in the world. However, there are several recommendations and guidance to make your travel without trouble and negative emotions.

The rules given below are not compulsory but can be very helpful for an excellent trip.

Do’s

1. Learn some words

Not everybody likes language learning, but it can be useful to know some basic words in the local language. In Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan people put their hand on the chest and say: “Assalamu alaikum”, which means “peace be upon you”. And even better if you take a dictionary or phrasebook with you. (Kalpak Travel, https://kalpak-travel.com/blog/dos-donts-central-asia/)

2. Visit historical cities

The main pride of Central Asia is its history. You can see the true attractiveness of Central Asia in its ancient cities. Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva in Uzbekistan, Almaty, Taraz, Nur-Sultan in Kazakhstan, Bishkek and Osh in Kyrgyzstan can be considered as the recommended destinations. Besides, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have numerous cities which worth visiting.

3. Talk to people

What can be more interesting than talking with locals? The bazaars and markets are the best places to make new acquaintances and friends. You may think about the language barrier, but Central Asians are open to conversations, so you can speak to them with the minimum or basic words.

4. Always bargain

Margilan, Uzbekistan – May 16, 2017: Uzbek vendor woman sells vegetables in the market

As a visitor, you should always bargain before making purchases in street bazaars and markets. Merchants can significantly decrease their prices because they are not fixed. For instance, the prices of groceries can be decreased by 20-30%, clothes to 40-50%, and souvenirs to even more. As everything has a limit, do not bargain aggressively, if the seller does not agree with it just keep up and try to talk to another merchant.

5. Bring back memorable things with you

Tourists love collecting memorable and antique items from the countries they visit. Unlike European and other Asian countries, Central Asia can offer far many things to the guests. From beautiful Marghilan Atlas and silver jewelry to wonderful wood carving and ceramics, choices considerably vary for the visitors.

6. Accept gifts but not immediately

Central Asia, Ceramic colourful handmade figurines selling at street stall in Uzbekistan

In Central Asian countries, it is common that locals will give presents and gifts to the guests. It can be anything: souvenirs, small carpets, or an antique vase. In this situation, you should not immediately accept the gifts. Instead, you should smile and refuse the present several times to leave a good impression. Only after 2 or 3 times, you can thank the host and accept the gift. It is not mandatory but it is especially common in countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. (Open Asia, https://theopenasia.net/ru/post/12-prostykh-pravil-ca)

Don’ts

1. Do not drink tap water

The quality of tap water is not high in Central Asian cities. Hence, the majority of global health organizations and institutions recommend not to drink tap water. The situation is especially worse in rural areas. The poor water sanitizing infrastructure and rule-breaking actions of factories made the water undrinkable. Hence, you should buy bottled water from the markets or boil tap water before consuming it.

2. At guests, do not point your feet towards food

Traditional Uzbek oriental cuisine.

As we mentioned earlier, Central Asians are very hospitable people. Commonly, they will invite you for dinner or launch. At guests, it is important not to point the feet towards food. People greatly appreciate food and meals. Hence, it will be considered very disrespectful to the hosts.

Besides, if you like meals, try not to leave food on your plate. Also, be ready that locals may ask whether you want an additional plate full of national meals.

3. Do not point fingers at people

Like pointing legs to meals, pointing fingers at people is the sign of disrespect. People may consider it a disregard for themselves.

4. Do not consume alcohol in public places

Consuming alcoholic drinks and beverages in public places may end up with a fine or even arrest. In Uzbekistan, drinkers will be fined around 11$ and the second time will pay up to $44 or will be arrested for 15 days. (Kun.uz, https://kun.uz/24887467).

In Kyrgyzstan, this rule-breaking behavior may cost a penalty or involvement in community service. (Open Asia, https://theopenasia.net/ru/post/12-prostykh-pravil-ca)

5. Avoid arguments with locals

Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan – October 16, 2017: Eagle hunter and his Golden Eagle with wings wide spread, in Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan

This is a common incident to avoid in any country. Yes, it is certainly possible that you are 100% right and it is a local person who misbehaves or did something wrong to you. But, controversies and disputes are not the right things that can help to reach a solution, especially in Central Asia. Instead, you can approach to human-rights institutions or the police.

6. Do not shake hands with women

Central Asian countries are Muslim-majority states. Almost 90% of the population practice Islam. Hence, it is absolutely not permissive to touch or shake hands with women. Especially in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, local people would not tolerate it. One exception can be in business events such as a business meeting or business conferences, but anyway you are not recommended to shake hands with women in order not to be in trouble.

7. Do not record videos on drone

The prohibition applied to almost all countries of Central Asia. Filming or recording through drones can be carried out with a permit of authorities. In Kazakhstan, the punishment for violating drone regulation will cost around $66 US, while in Uzbekistan, the same violation may subject to up to 3 years of prison unless it causes the human injury. The fine and years of prison are even higher in Kyrgyzstan. (Cabar Asia, https://cabar.asia/en/drones-in-central-asia-permit-or-forbid/#:~:text=The%20severity%20of%20punishment%20for,of%20drones%20(Table%202).

8. Do not wear revealing clothes

Kyrchyn, Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyz mother and her son dressed in traditional clothing

As we mentioned earlier, most Central Asians are Muslims. If you do not want excessive attention or discord, leave your revealing clothes like skirts above the knee at home. Besides, you will certainly not allowed to enter ancient places and historic buildings with that kind of clothing. Of course, nobody forces you to wear a black veil but it is recommended to wear and take suitable clothing with you. (Open Asia, https://theopenasia.net/ru/post/12-prostykh-pravil-ca)

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