Travel, Teach, Live in China

How to Travel the Silk Road
By:Collaborator

The Silk Road, a vast and ancient network of overland trade routes, spreads over Europe and Asia and passes through numerous presentday countries. Active trading along the route began sometime in the first millennium B.C.E., introduced the luxuries of the East to the Roman Empire and continued until the early Renaissance era. Travel this route today as part of a cultural and historical adventure.

Collect Silk Road literature. Numerous academic and popular works cover this subject, including art histories, anthropological studies, economic investigations and historical novels.

Study a map of the region, available online from the Silk Road Project (silkroadproject.org), and choose your route.

Read up on the countries that you plan to pass through. Knowledge about the currency, culture, ancient history, current situation and geography will all be helpful and interesting. Use a separate guidebook for each country--those from Lonely Planet Publications (lonelyplanet.com) offer well-rounded information.

Pick a method of travel. Determined adventurers might outfit a sturdy vehicle or even a motorcycle. More casual travelers may choose to break the trip into a series of train trips, stopping in the more interesting cities (see ChinaRailTravel.com). Luxurious charter trains also offer all-inclusive tours (try Voyages Jules Verne at vjv.co.uk). Any full-service travel agency can book such a trip; expect to pay several thousand dollars. See 416 Ride the Rails Abroad.

Focus on a single country if you want a less involved trip. Many countries are proud of their Silk Road history and promote it as a tourist experience. For example, the Tajikistan Web site (www.tajiktour.tajnet.com) provides contact information for the National Tourism Company as well as basic history and information about the country.

Prepare for mountain weather. Many areas of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan are rugged mountains and subject to severe winter weather. Travel in the summer months if your route crosses any high mountain passes.

Use your guidebooks to gauge where you'll find amenities. Large cities are accustomed to travelers and provide a wide range of services. Smaller towns are likely to be less visited by travelers and may offer pleasingly low prices but fewer services.

Convert a small amount of currency for each country before you go. You won't need to carry a lot of cash if your ATM card is linked to a global network. Check with your bank.


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