Public Transport in Central Asia
You can move between Central Asia’s highlights with your bicycle on a bus, train, plane, taxi or even by hitching a lift from passing truck drivers.
- By Bus
Expect to pay a small extra fee. Be prepared to turn the handlebars to make the bike fit in the luggage space. On some routes, like between Almaty and Bishkek, minibuses with little to no storage area are the main form of transport and it can be hard to find a full-size bus that will take you and your luggage. If you’re heading to the airport, allow plenty of time for breakdowns!
- By Taxi
A private taxi is very convenient and the most comfortable way to travel. Rates can surprisingly reasonable. We paid $90 U.S. for a 4-hour drive between Bishkek and Almaty. In a regular car, our bikes and luggage filled the space. If you find a driver with a station wagon, you might cut the fare by agreeing to let him pick up additional passengers.
- By Train
Trains aren’t fast but they are an option in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Many cyclists use the train to cross Turkmenistan in the short time allowed on a transit visa and also in Kazakhstan to avoid large areas of steppe.
- By Hitchhiking
Passing truckers are surprisingly friendly, especially if your bike has broken down and you’re in a pinch. Just asking around at a truck stop should get you a lift.
- By Plane
Many cyclists use planes to get into and around Central Asia. Make sure the airline you’re flying with has an acceptable safety record. Some local carriers are barred from flying in the EU because of below-par maintenance standards.
Bike boxes can be very hard to find. Check in markets and be prepared to pay a few dollars for a cardboard box. Ask around on chat forums to see if you’re flying out when another cyclist is arriving. If all else fails, you can usually buy packing material in the local market.
Like nearly everywhere these days, Central Asian airlines generally charge extra for bicycles. We paid 100,000 Tenge (about $80 U.S.) per bike on Kazakhstan’s Air Astana.