Central Asia has a mountain of red tape when it comes to border crossings, and crossing in a car can also complicate things. If you’re coming with us on the next Central Asia Rally, here are some tips on surviving Central Asia border crossings around the Stans!
- Be Patient. Crossing the borders in these former Soviet states is no easy feat, and you will spend a long time waiting in line between countries. Make sure you have enough food and water. Sometimes you might even need to cook on the road.
- Get there in time. The border crossings in Central Asia are not a 24-hour operation. They will close in the evening and will close for lunch. Make sure you check the times before going and get there in time!
- Take document originals and photocopies. Central Asian border crossings are nothing but red tape, so make sure you have all the relevant documents, insurances, visas, and so on.
- Bank on long times getting out of the country. Sometimes getting out of the Stans can take longer getting in, so make sure you take waiting time in both ends into account.
- Get there early. It’s ideal if you turn up to the border early in the morning just before it opens, and just to be patient. If you haven’t got a queue of people in front of you, it should be quicker. Bear in mind, even if you get there in time and you’re at the back of the queue, the border might close by the time it’s your turn.
- Keep up-to-date with country’s border crossing politics. While Central Asia is a safe place to travel, politics and policies at the border can change in a day, so try to check if the border crossing you’re planning to go through is operating.
- Prepare for the unexpected. Sometimes the ease of your border crossing depends on the guard you get and the mood their in. There is no set standard at the border crossing, so go expecting the worst and you may be pleasantly surprised.
- Don’t take photos at the border. Yes, we know you’re bored and you want a momento from your time at the Russian-Kazakh border, but it’s not a great idea. Authorities are not really photo happy, so you snapping away might result in getting your camera taken away followed by an investigation. Just don’t do it.
- Make sure your camera is clean. Sometimes the border guards like to check your camera and photos when exiting their country. Maybe they’re bored and want to see where you’ve been, but there is also the chance they’re looking for more “illegal” pics. If you’ve taken any photos you shouldn’t make sure you delete them.
- You will be interrogated. Border guards will religiously ask you whether you have drugs or guns on you. They will also check your toiletries and medications before waving you through. Although, most of the time they just want to know if you have Viagra so they can ask you for some!
- Expect to wait. We’ve said it before, but just in case you dismissed it we’re going to say it again – you will have to wait. While border personnel are generally nice a friendly with foreigners they cannot or want to reduce the red tape to make things shorter or easier for you. It’s an inevitability so just bring a good book!
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