Round-the-world travel was my occupation for many years. It’s an admirable vocation ignored by the travel industry and travel media. They think in terms of two weeks not two months or two years. Ignore the country-specific info in this thick tome as out of date [Note: the new edition of this book should have fixed this issue.--OH], but do pay attention to his airline ticketing advice, and his general wisdom about long-term travel. To anyone planning to take some serious time off to explore the far world at a cut above Stompers, start with this book. And then leave it at home.
Some people are afraid to have a gap in their resum . Don’t worry about it. Don’t leave a gap in your resum , either. More and more, I hear from returned travelers who are putting their travel experience at the top of their resum : “A year spent traveling the world, familiarizing myself with the diversity of world cultures, and learning how to understand and deal with people from backgrounds different from my own.” Prospective employers may smile, they may laugh, they may be jealous – but they will offer you the job.
* * *
Every guidebook I’ve read describes Tashkent, Uzbekistan, as completely without touristic interest – a big, industrialized city. Too civilized. Too modern. Not quaint. Too fast-moving. Too aware of the rest of the world. Too much of an ethnic mix to give one a proper sense of “pure” Uzbek culture. All accurate descriptions. Most tourists don’t like Tashkent, for just these reasons.
Reading the guidebooks’ denunciations, I knew immediately that Tashkent was the place for me. I found it was everything I had hoped for. I didn’t find a mythic past in Tashkent, but I wasn’t looking for the past. Tashkent is the future of Central Asia, all brought together in one bustling, cosmopolitan , accessible m lange: an intellectual and ideological center; the largest and richest city north of the Himalayas between Beijing and Moscow; a magnet for the best, brightest, and most ambitious people of a dozen nationalities from a thousand miles around. And, as of early 2000, US citizens no longer need a sponsor in order to obtain a visa for Uzbekistan.
* * *
My rule of thumb for guidebook prices is to add 20 percent to prices in a newly revised guidebook plus 10 percent for each year since the copyright. It adds up fast: if in 2003 you’re using a 2000 guidebook, expect prices to be 50 percent higher than in the book.
* * *
Where there is a train, take it. Don’t think twice about the choice. In comparison with rail travel, road travel is dangerous, polluting, and expensive.
“Comfort, Safety, Speed” was the slogan of the Pacific Electric Railway, the Los Angeles and Southern California streetcar and interurban system that was once, believe it or not, the world’s largest. Comfort safety, and speed are the advantages of trains over road vehicles. Even where cars or buses are faster, comfort and safety – especially safety – are the reasons I still travel by rail where I can.
* * *
Hiring a driver greatly reduces your legal and financial liability. It is thus, in a certain sense, the most effective and often the cheapest form of insurance. If you are driving a car, you are responsible for complying with all the local ownership, licensing, tax, and insurance requirements, and for having all the related paperwork in order.
* * *
Myth 5: “Tickets will be cheaper locally”
Many people have heard that tickets in some places are cheap and mistakenly conclude that it will be cheaper to buy parts of their tickets en route than to buy them before they leave. Those same tickets can probably also be obtained cheaply in advance, sometimes much more cheaply than if bought en route.
* * *
Big Business and the People’s Airline.
Travelers often wonder why all major international airlines seem to be set up to cosset the rich luxuriously and expensively. How come a major international airline isn’t committed to affordable, no-frills transportation for the masses? But there was, and to some degree still is, just such an airline: Aeroflot, the national airline of Russia. Why is Aeroflot different? Because it does things differently,
Aeroflot often seems a strange airline, and in some respects it is. It doesn’t know much about marketing, and it is often hard to deal with. But travelers who want to keep no-frills long-haul air transportation available as an alternative to expensive luxury owe it to themselves to at least consider Aeroflot (http:/www.aeroflot.org) and Russian aircraft where they are an option.
* * *
But if you want the cheapest possible roundtrip from the US to India, Ireland, Nigeria, or any other place from which there are large numbers of immigrants, no general-purpose agency, even a general discount agency, is likely to be able to beat the lowest prices of a no-service, bare-bones, specialist agency within that particular ethnic community that sells nothing else but a massive volume of roundtrip tickets to a single destination.