Before You Go
From money matters to packing tips, we’ve got all the information you need to prepare for your upcoming Vantage journey. Just click on an item below to read more about it.
Passports & Visas
Planning your trip
Your trip will be here before you know it! Here's some information specific to the destinations you'll be visiting to help you prepare for your journey.
A passport is required for this trip. Your passport must be valid for at least six months after the scheduled
return date of your vacation.
Bring with you a photocopy of the pages
of your passport that contain your personal information and extra
passport photographs. These are useful in the event of loss.
Passport and Visa
*post extension only
A visa to Uzbekistan is required prior to your arrival. Please refer to Gen visa service at https://www.genvisa.com/vantage/
and application fees. Or visit http://uzbekistan.org/consular/visa/us_citizens_requirements
for visa documents requirements.
A visa to Turkmenistan is also required and can be obtained upon arrival. No forms need to be filled onsite and no photo is needed. All you need is a valid letter of invitation (LOI) — Vantage will provide this to you 30 days prior to your arrival. The price of the visa is USD $89 per person. Please prepare cash for this payment.
Please make sure you have at least two blank pages in your passport before departing for this trip. and be sure to send us your first page of your passport 90 days prior to your departure to email@example.com
If sending via regular mail, send to:
90 Canal Street, Boston, MA 02114
List of documents needed in order to obtain the invitation letter:
There is no visa needed for the Almaty, Kazakhstan extension.
Above information is only for USA passport holders.
- Clear color copy of passport.
- One 2x2 color photo (passport size)
- Personal information Form (download form)
Others should consult their own country’s visa and passport requirements for the nations we will be visiting.
Arriving into Uzbekistan
All passengers arriving in Uzbekistan are requested to fill in customs declaration forms – 2 copies on arrival – needed for customs control. Both copies are stamped at the customs desk. One of the copies will be left at the customs desk, the other one should be kept throughout your trip and submitted to the customs officer upon departure.
Upon departure, one more customs declaration form will need to be filled in. Upon arrival, you should declare all the money that you are bringing into the country. The amount declared upon departure should not exceed the amount declared upon arrival – it should be less, or at least same, but not more. If the amount of money brought in exceeds $5,000 USD, you will be given a certificate indicating the sum of money you have brought in. This is nothing to be concerned about – it is simply a necessary formality.
Arriving into Turkmenistan
Arriving at the new Ashgabat Airport is now an easy procedure.
1. Depart the plane and follow the signs to customs and immigration.
2. Your first stop will be at the visa counter. There are two windows: the one for visas on arrival is on the right. Present your passport and letter of invitation to the staff, who will give you a slip of paper for payment. The sum should be US$89 (visa fee) + $14 (migration fees). Then, proceed to the next window (on the left) to pay the fees. All arriving passengers will be in this line on the left to pay migration fees. After receiving your payment receipt, return to visa window to retrieve your passport and visa. It is highly recommended that you prepare cash for the fee payment.
3. Scan your passport and answer the questions on the electronic kiosk (there are staff on hand should you encounter a problem).
4. Proceed to the immigration counter and present your passport, visa, and migration fee receipt. Passenger may be asked for name of hotel in Ashgabat (Oguzkent).
5. Proceed to the luggage area to collect your luggage, then head to the final baggage scanners.
6. Proceed to the exit and arrivals hall where a Vantage representative will be waiting to meet you (there is one final passport check upon exit to the arrivals hall).
NOTE: Non-U.S. citizens or passport holders, it is your responsibility to contact your local embassy or consulate for requirements which will vary from above.
U.S. Customs Information
If you are traveling internationally, it is important to understand U.S. Customs regulations including required documents that are valid at least six months following your departure date, rules for bringing back items, and duty-free exemption. Please click the link below to visit the U.S. Customs website and read their helpful booklet, "Know Before Yo Go." This publications is available online and as a printer-friendly "PDF" document.
View "Know Before You Go"
(Link opens new browser window.)
We realize that tipping can be confusing on a group tour, so we've included the following recommended guidelines for gratuities:
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers now included!
- Included Meals: Gratuities are included
- Outside Dining: Varies according to local customs; your Adventure Leader will advise
- Vantage Adventure Leader on base program: $10-$12 per person per day, cash only
- Vantage Adventure Leader or City Host on extensions: $10-$12 per person per day, cash only
- Porterage: Included except in Customs areas
Gratuities on this trip can be made in cash only, in U.S. dollars
Ship to Shore: The Vantage Safe Travel Initiative
We’ve planned our journeys around memorable destinations and experiences with your health, safety, and security always in mind. Following guidance from the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, local foreign governments, and our partners from around the world, we’re taking it to the next level. We've implemented vital health & safety assurances on all our journeys. Learn more about Vantage's Safe Travel Initiative.
All travelers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at least 14 days prior
to departure of their journey. Travelers will be required to produce their vaccine card displaying their name, date of doses, and vaccine type to embark. Travelers who cannot product proof of vaccination will have to return home at their own expense.
Specific entry requirements for your chosen destination
To ensure that you have a smooth travel experience, you will need to know the requirements for both your specific airline carrier and the country you’ll arrive in prior to your departure. We’ve listed some considerations below to help you plan.
- Entry into most countries will require you to show proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test. For country-specific information about entry requirements and COVID-19 status, visit the U.S. Department’s COVID-19 Country Specific Information page
- Vantage will facilitate onsite PCR tests for border crossings and re-entry into the United States. Travelers will be responsible for the cost of testing
- We highly recommend that you contact your air carrier prior to departure to confirm what their requirements are for take-off and landing
Additional vaccinations are not mandatory at the present time, but we remind you that traveling in Central Asia does require certain precautions.
We advise that you check with your personal physician to verify your
particular needs. For more information on health related issues while
traveling overseas, contact the Center for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) by visiting
http://www.cdc.gov/travel or calling toll
free 1 (800) 232-4636.
Internet connectivity is available in hotels, but may be limited to specific areas and there may be a fee.
Cultural & Geographic Differences
Central Asia requires an intense culture adjustment. Travelers at times will encounter dust, heat — all of which are part of the environment of the region , especially when traveling close to the deserts. The different culture, history & heritage are the most rewarding part of the experience. These challenges – as well as the beauty, spirituality, and diversity – make Central Asia a rewarding destination.
Note: The above times are based on Eastern Standard Time.
Use the chart below to get an overview of the average temperatures at your destination.
Average High/Low Temperature (Fahrenheit)
||Unit of Currency
|Get Exchange Rate
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Currency Exchange Rates:
Credit and Debit Cards
Visa and Master Card are widely accepted by most (but not all) merchants. Some are reluctant to take credit cards for small purchases, so it is strongly suggested that you bring some cash in USD bills, or change local currency, in case you wish to make small purchases. American Express is not widely accepted in this part of the world (apart from at major international hotels).
Please advise your credit or debit card provider of the dates you will be traveling in order to avoid those cards being rejected by shops or ATMs.
The official currency of Turkmenistan is the manat, and the currency of Uzbekistan is the sum.
In Turkmenistan, we recommend exchanging money in banks, hotels, and exchange offices. Banks are open Monday to Friday, from 09.30 to 5:30. The most common currency exchanged is US dollars (USD).
Most of the currency exchange offices do not accept banknotes issued before 1996, as well torn notes, so please keep this in mind. It is recommended to bring cash in small USD banknotes.
In Ashgabat, the import and export of local currency is prohibited for foreigners. Import of foreign currency is not limited, but you will need to declare the amount you are bringing in. Export amount should not exceed the numbers on the declaration. In order to avoid problems at Customs, it is recommended to keep the receipts from currency exchange offices and shops.
In addition to official currency exchange offices, there is a less official exchange market (sometimes referred to as the “black market,” but it is not nearly as nefarious as it sounds). The disparity between the black market rate and the national Bank of Uzbekistan official rate is about 40% in 2016. This means you could save about 40% by exchanging your USD cash into local currency in this way.
It is wise to bring USD cash with you, as your local guide can always help you change it into local currency from the black market . You can also pay with USD in some local markets and shops. Crisp bills are always preferred and are your best bet when exchanging money, as crumpled or torn ones can be rejected.
PLEASE NOTE: We strongly recommend only exchanging the amount of money you require, as it is impossible to convert local money back to foreign currency. ATMs are only available in larger cities such as Samarkand and Tashkent. Payment by means of the traveler's checks and credit cards is not accepted.
It is advisable to keep small notes on hand, as it is sometimes difficult to find a place to exchange money.
What to Pack
Want to prepare for your adventure? There’s no better place than the Vantage Adventure Essentials Shop. Please visit us online at www.vantageadventurestore.com for everything you need as you get ready for your trip. The following suggestions are also available online by referencing the Before You Go section of our website.
Your tickets for domestic flights within Central Asia will be delivered on site. Passengers are allowed one piece of carry-on luggage weighing no more than 5 kilograms (11 lbs) and one piece of checked baggage weighing no more than 20 kilograms (44 lbs). Please Note: Passengers are responsible for any excess baggage charges. Also, for all domestic flights within Central Asia, luggage must be locked. A hat or cap, sunscreen, a scarf (to cover your shoulders and head during visits to mosques), bug spray, and a walking stick will be very helpful.
Our trip through Central Asia will be an active experience, and there will be a significant amount of walking over uneven terrain during your adventure. We recommend comfortable walking shoes, with good ankle support, that are easy to remove (certain sites such as mosques and tombs require that you take off your shoes).
Bring your iPad, Kindles, and/or smart phones. This way you will have access to city guides, post trip survey and trip information while on tour. This will also allow you to take pictures and communicate with friends and family easier.
Most travelers pack much more than they really need. We recommend that you start packing a few days before your trip, so you have time to remember everything that you need — and to decide what is essential and what is not. And don't forget to leave room for souvenirs and gifts you may purchase during your trip.
Besides the basic necessities and the items covered below, you'll want to pack sunglasses, a hat or visor, and sunscreen for daytime use. You might also want to bring a small alarm clock, pocket tissues, travel pack of soap powder, needle, thread, safety pins, and personal face cloth. In many countries, your washcloth is considered to be of intimate usage and is not provided by hotels.
Depending on your destination, you may also want to bring insect repellent (we recommend repellent with a high "deet" content). Binoculars are also handy when traveling to areas where flora and fauna may be observed.
Some tours may also require an overnight bag for optional overnight excursions.
Please note that some public toilets charge $1 USD per person (equaled in local currency) to use the toilet, so be sure to keep small notes with you.
Dress on tour is generally casual and smart casual. Gentlemen may wish to bring a sport jacket. Formal clothing is not necessary, unless you are traveling on an ocean cruise that has formal nights. If you are traveling on an ocean cruise please refer to the attire information for your particular cruise line. Your travel wardrobe should be planned according to the climate of the areas you will be visiting and the length of your stay. Average high and low temperatures for the destinations visited on each Vantage Tour are listed under "Climate". A HELPFUL HINT — plan to avail yourself of the laundry and valet services available at an additional fee.
Weather is never predictable so be sure to be prepared for just about anything. You'll want to take along a sweater or jacket for cool evenings. It's a good idea to dress in layers, which will allow you to adjust to changes in temperature.
We suggest a practical raincoat or waterproof shell with a hood, and/or a fold-up umbrella. The shell could also be worn with other layers in lower temperatures.
Good Walking Shoes
One of the most important items you'll need for any vacation is, of course, comfortable walking shoes for touring. We suggest you refrain from purchasing new walking shoes just prior to departure — it's best to wear a broken-in pair that you know are comfortable.
Pool and Sauna Apparel
On many programs accommodations will feature pools. So if you plan to use them, bring along a swimsuit and pool slippers.
Cameras and Film
Be sure to test the working order of your camera before you leave home, and to insure your equipment against loss and damage. It is also important to take along an ample supply of film. Film can be expensive and specific kinds of film may not be available in certain areas. Some airport x-ray equipment may harm valuable film. For utmost protection, film should be packed separately in hand luggage. Also, be sure to bring at least one extra battery for your camera.
If you are using a digital camera, check on how many images you can take on your memory card at the resolution you are using. You may wish to bring along an extra memory card so you will not run out of memory half way through the trip. Bring along the battery charger, but remember you may need a voltage converter. The alternative is to carry a spare charged battery with you.
Please remember that it is not wise to bring valuables with you when you travel. If you decide to do so, please carry them on your person when flying. Make sure to use hotel safe deposit boxes or safes to ensure the safety of possessions that you may want to have with you.
What to Leave Behind
Do not pack aerosol cans; they tend to leak during air travel. Also avoid packing glass bottles; use plastic containers instead. Leave at home any credit cards and checkbooks that you don't anticipate using on your trip; valuable jewelry; brand-new shoes (instead pack your most comfortable walking shoes); and, in general, anything that you would hate to lose.
If you wish to take along an electric iron, razor, or hair dryer, be sure they are adaptable to different currents, volts, and cycles. Most appliances will require an adapter plug and/or an electrical converter/transformer which are available for purchase at most department stores or luggage shops. These kits are available for electrical settings in countries outside the United States.
The electric current is 220v. Hotels will require the use of an adapter
to charge cell phones and cameras.
When planning your flights, Vantage considers each
airline's reputation for quality, service, and routing options to the
destination. Vantage selects flights that both serve our groups' needs
and ensure the best balance of quality and cost. Our flight team members
will do their utmost to select flights that will get you to your
destination as quickly and easily as possible.
First and Business Class Airfare Upgrades
Many of our programs offer first and/or Business Class upgrades, for more information, please visit our FlightChoice page.
encourages you to check current airport security regulations well in
advance of travel, as rules may have changed since your last trip. For
the latest information on airline security guidelines and boarding
procedures, please visit the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) web site.
While on Tour
While on Tour
Prior to arriving at most stops on your trip, your Vantage Adventure Leader will conduct an informative
briefing concerning the daily schedule, local customs, and the included features
of the program. It is strongly advised that all tour members attend the briefings.
Extending Your Trip
Vantage offers specially arranged pre- and post-extensions on many of our trips.
Additionally, if you would like to do some exploring on your own, either before
or after your adventure, Vantage can help arrange the details. In most cases,
your flights can be adjusted for an earlier arrival date or a later return date.
A non-refundable administrative fee will be assessed, plus any additional
costs that may apply to the air ticket and hotel. Transfers to and from your hotel
are not included when traveling independent of a Vantage group. Please ask a Vantage
Sales Representative for additional details. Note also that some airline contracts
may exclude changes to routing.
NOTE: Should you wish to make any changes to your plans to extend your trip, please
do so no later than 60 days prior to your scheduled date of departure. Change and
cancellation penalties apply to changes made after airline tickets have been issued.
Your Health & Comfort
Vantage wants you to have a safe, healthy, and happy journey. Our journeys are planned to combine just the right amount of activity and leisure.
For personal medical attention while on your trip, your Vantage Program
Manager can refer you to reliable physicians in the cities on your tour. Please remember that tap water is not potable on this trip -- we will provide plenty of bottled water for you while traveling with us.
Please note that Medicare and U.S health insurance are generally not accepted in
foreign destinations. If you have an insurance claim, it should be made upon your
return to the USA and filed through your health insurance provider or through the
Vantage Travel Protection Plan if you have purchased it. Keep relevant receipts
and doctors' reports for processing your claim.
Jet Lag Precautions
When you cross several time zones to reach your destination, you often lose many
hours of regular sleep. Upon arrival your body must quickly adjust to new sleeping
and eating patterns. The result is jet lag. Its symptoms may include fatigue, irritability,
and vague disorientation. You cannot completely avoid jet lag but you can minimize
it. Here's how:
- Try to sleep on overnight flights
- Avoid heavy eating and drinking caffeine or alcoholic beverages right before - and
during - your flight
- Drink plenty of water and/or fruit juice while flying
- Try to stay awake your first day until after dinner
Your Personal Safety
Please keep in mind that in any tourist destination, you need to be aware of your
surroundings. We recommend that you use a money protector that can be worn around
your neck. Flashy jewelry should be left at home. Never place your camera or purse
down, or hang it on the back of your chair. Although incidents of theft and pickpocketing
while on tour are rare, it is important to be cautious and aware.
Click here to
read important information about travelers with physical, emotional, or mental conditions
that may require professional attention or the use of special equipment. "Medical
Issues" information also appears in the "Tour Participation Agreement - Terms and
Conditions" bound into Vantage catalogs and printed on the back of your Vantage
Please note that Vantage
makes every effort to reserve only hotels that offer well-appointed rooms and a
convenient location. We remind you that quality of accommodations may vary from
destination to destination. Vantage strives to provide the best hotels available
that meet our standards of quality.
How We Rate Our Hotels
While some tour companies devise their own ratings systems (based on their particular
standards), Vantage ranks hotels based on the industry-accepted classifications
published by the Hotel & Travel Index
- the travel industry standard.
Deluxe/Moderate Deluxe ***** Outstanding accommodations in every way, offering superior
service, facilities, and location.
Superior First-Class ****+ Above average accommodations, with many special amenities,
including more restaurants, shops, and usually a fitness center.
First-Class/Moderate First-Class **** Comfortable, well-equipped standard rooms
with private bath and attractive public areas and amenities.
Please Note: In some areas where the hotels aren't rated, it's often due to the
fact that the hotel may be too new, too remote, or too small. However, the hotel
where you stay has been inspected and approved by Vantage personnel.
At Vantage, we count individuals from all walks of life and all religious denominations
among our customers. Although we do not offer religious services on our travel programs,
services may be available in the cities and towns you visit while on tour. Your
Vantage Adventure Leader can advise you when religious services are available. Please
keep in mind that not all religious denominations have a presence in every travel
destination. We cannot guarantee the availability of religious services.
Shopping for local merchandise is always a part of the travel experience. We are
aware that local guides do recommend shops on their tours. Always keep in mind that
a purchase is between the buyer and the seller. Always keep receipts and credit
card copies. Shipping should always include insurance in the event of breakage.
Some credit cards such as American Express also include insurance protection for
purchases, but it is best to check with your card issuer for any insurance that
may be included when you use your card.
Sightseeing & Cultural Connections
Vantage offers a variety of included sightseeing tours and special cultural events
to enrich your travel experience and bring you "closer to the world." Our tours
are specially designed for Vantage travelers. They let you feel the atmosphere,
gain a cultural understanding, and become a part of the area you are visiting. They
include all transportation and the services of expert local guides.
Vantage makes every effort to provide the right balance of both included activities
and time for exploring on your own. We've found, however, that many of our passengers
prefer an additional guided activity in lieu of free time. For that reason, some
of our river cruises may include a limited number of optional tours and activities,
which you may choose to take at a moderate fee. In no case do we replace an included
sightseeing tour with an optional tour. Optional tours are strictly voluntary, providing
you with the opportunity to visit an attraction that you may not see otherwise.
All transfers between airport and hotel are included when purchasing Vantage
air. However, travelers purchasing their own airline tickets will be responsible
for their own round-trip transfers to and from the airport/hotel/pier based on the
Each Vantage adventure is planned with two criteria in mind: It must be an interesting
destination and the tour must offer good quality at an exceptional value.
Although everything is planned well in advance of your departure, our ultimate goal
is to ensure that each departure is enjoyable, interesting, and safe. Therefore,
the day-by-day itinerary provided is subject to change depending upon local conditions.
If any significant changes occur in advance of your departure, Vantage will notify
you by phone or by mail. If changes occur while on tour, your Vantage Program Manager
or local representative will notify you.
Your Vantage Program Manager / Local Representative
During your river cruise you'll be accompanied by an experienced, English-speaking
Vantage Adventure Leader. You
will also benefit from the insights of expert Local Representatives. Both your Adventure Leader and Local Representatives can give you suggestions on the best restaurants,
shops, and local sights; help coordinate optional tours and excursions; and assist
in any manner possible.
Vantage Hospitality Desk
For your convenience, a Vantage Hospitality Desk will be available during scheduled
hours. The desk hours vary, depending
on your daily scheduling. Tour members will be advised of the desk.
What does my Reservation Deposit Guarantee?
Payment of your initial deposit holds your spot on your journey. However, it does
not guarantee the price of your trip. Participation in our Smart Pay Discount Plan
can save you up to 10% on your Vantage
trip AND it ensures that the land, cruise, and international airfare portions of
your trip will not increase. This includes 100% guaranteed protection against most
additional taxes (does not include entry fees or arrival taxes), fuel surcharges,
and currency fluctuations, from the moment you pay in full under the terms of Vantage's
SmartPay Discount Plan. If you do not participate in our SmartPay Discount Plan,
all prices are subject to change.
When is my Final Payment due?
Final payments are due 90-120 days prior to departure, depending upon the program.
Can I extend my final payment due date?
Unfortunately, we are unable to extend any final payment due dates because of our
vendor contractual obligations.
What is an E-Check?
ECheck is a commonly used term to refer to an online payment method via electronic
check from your bank account.
What are the benefits of paying via E-Check?
Paying by E-Check
is fast, easy and 100% secure – and there is no fee involved. Plus, paying by E-Check
with our SmartPay Discount Program, you can realize hundreds of dollars in savings
right away. When you compare those savings to the frequent flyer miles you might
earn when you pay by credit card, you come out on top for two reasons: first, you
enjoy your savings right away, whereas frequent flyer miles need to be accumulated
over time before you cash them in; second, frequent flyer miles have restrictions
How do I make payments via an E-Check?
It's easy to set up E-Checking on My Account. Have your checkbook handy and simply
go to the Make a Payment screen and follow the instructions provided. Please note
that E-Check payments appear on your invoice immediately but take 2-3 business days
for your bank to process.
What is the SmartPay Discount Plan?
The SmartPay Discount PlanSM
allows our travelers to receive a discount by paying for their trip in full before
their final payment due date. The further in advance of the final payment date you
pay, the greater the discount. Just as important, you’ll guarantee your price against
price increases resulting from currency fluctuations, fuel costs, and other unanticipated
How can I take advantage of your SmartPay Discount Plan?
You can only take advantage of our SmartPay Discount PlanSM
when paying by E-Check.
Paying by E-Check
is fast, easy and 100% secure – and there is no fee involved. All you need is your
checking account number and bank routing number, both of which are printed on your
checks. 50% of your trip’s total cost must be paid by check. Payments made inside
of 60 days prior to departure will not qualify.
Can I pay by credit card and still take advantage of your SmartPay Discount
While we do accept credit card payments, you can only take advantage of our SmartPay
Discount PlanSM when paying by E-Check, unless part of your payment is made by credit
card and at least 50% of your total payment is paid by E-Check.
How do I redeem my Vantage Credit Voucher?
Vantage credit vouchers should be mailed once you receive your first invoice. Any
overpayment that results from the credit voucher will be refunded to you, if applicable.
How do I cancel my trip and how long will it take for me to receive a refund?
If you must cancel your trip, you should contact our Customer Concierge Staff department.
Refund requests must be made in writing – indicating the reason for cancellation
– and received by the respective final payment due date to avoid additional cancellation
Vantage realizes that most people who cancel their reservations do so out of real
necessity. Nevertheless, there is a non-refundable administrative fee of $300 per
person for each program you cancel. This low fee covers only our costs of reservation
maintenance or cancellation.
Payments made to your credit card will be refunded as a credit to that card. Payments
made by check will be refunded by check. Payments paid by electronic check will
be refunded electronically. Please allow 35 days for refunds to be manually verified
and processed by our accounting department. Please refer to the Tour Participation
Agreement for your program's cancellation fee schedule.
Why does it take just one day to charge my credit card at the time of booking
but 30 days to refund it in the event of cancellation?
After you book a trip with us, we process charges within 24 hours in order to hold
and confirm your reservation quickly for you. Because refunds are processed manually
by our accounting department, we require a 30-day processing period to assure utmost
I was just reviewing my invoice online and noticed a discrepancy. What should
Please contact us
and we will
attempt to resolve the situation as soon as possible. To help expedite matters,
you should print out your invoice and have it handy when you contact us.