Silk Road Overland Tour
- Our saving
- US $ 5,168
- Age range
- 18 to 80 year olds
- Max Group Size
- Rather Poor
- NicolaWritten on September 10, 20165.0 - ExcellentMy wife and I completed the Beijing to Istanbul 'Silk Road' trip with the Madventure company in August 2016, and want to provide the following information to anyone else who might wish to consider it. Firstly, did we like it? We absolutely loved it. The people, scenery, history, architecture and cultures we were immersed in throughout the 20-odd thousand kilometres we travelled were incredible, and so very different to our own sheltered little life in Australia, which was exactly what we were hoping for. The contrasts were extreme, and consequently, we took over 22,000 photographs during the 3 months we were on the truck. They are quite simply the best and most interesting travel snaps we have ever taken, and we look at them whenever we get a spare minute and relive the many wonderful memories we made en route. Indeed, we loved what we saw and experienced so much that we are rejoining the truck for another 3-4 weeks in October to see more of the Silk Road region. So this review will obviously be a positive one. But what of the company and the way the trip is managed? The following will hopefully provide some pointers for those readers who, like us, have/had never ‘overlanded’ before and are unsure of what to expect. Our initial enquiries, after reviewing the various companies online and choosing Madventure’s ‘Silk Road’ adventure (due to it being the only tour that includes the Pamir Highway), were always answered immediately by Will, the owner. And this never changed – Will consistently responded to every single question we emailed to him, normally within a 24-hr period and often only minutes later. The number of questions we asked was considerable over the 12 mths that we planned the adventure, and he ALWAYS got back to us straight away. As a Sales Manager, I was extremely impressed with this, and I consider it to be quite rare in any sales/service company dealings I have had in the past. This alone was worth five stars to us – we were never left hanging and could go ahead with bookings/further planning as was required. Will did endeavour to ensure we were also realistic about our expectations on the trip, as vague as they were to start with. He was always honest about the somewhat unpredictable nature of overlanding, and we came to appreciate this a great deal. It is important to accept as early on as you can, that things can change at any time, and that the itinerary is only a very good approximation of where and when the truck will be in specific places, but cannot be ‘exact’. Weather, natural disasters, politics, and the health of those onboard/the truck itself can and do affect the trip, and sometimes towns/highlights have to be missed for any of the above reasons. You will need to learn to shrug and enjoy the alternatives, which is where the wonderful Brenda and Adam come in. But first, a mention of the visa paperwork required before you depart. Do not underestimate the amount of info required, the timeframe needed to get it, and the costs. These are all considerable, and can add a certain amount of stress prior to leaving. This trip required 12-13 visas (for our Kiwi and Aussie passports), and we made the mistake of being overseas a couple of months before, which meant we only began the process of applying for the visas with about 10 weeks to go. This was really silly, and we quickly realised we would need to pay a third party to get the visas on our behalf, or we would simply run out of time (we were both working full-time until we flew out). We paid about $5k (Au $) to the VisaMachine (https://www.thevisamachine.com/) to get all of our paperwork approved, which was a ludicrous amount of money. However, they did manage to get 10 of the visas completed and approved before we left (with a number of them having to be sent to London as there are no embassies representing the countries in Australia). The remaining 2-3 visas were obtainable en route. Would I use the VisaMachine again? They were a necessary evil. If we had given ourselves more time, we could have reduced our reliance on them considerably by doing more of the running around ourselves. They charged like a wounded bull and appeared to be understaffed. But they did get the ‘hard to get’ visas completed, and we were thankful for this. Unfortunately, we were left with a bit of a sour taste in our mouths during the trip after the money due for the 2-3 visas they did not complete took a few months and a number of angry emails to be refunded to our account. We did hear really good things about another visa company called Real Russia but are not sure if they would service clients from ‘down under’, or whether they could do all of the visas required, or just some. Please do your homework here, and give yourselves lots of time. So back to the trip and the aforementioned Brenda and Adam. Brenda is the ‘trip manager’, and it is her role to ensure that the itinerary is adhered to as closely as possible, once it actually starts. Adam is the ‘driver’, and without him, the mad adventure doesn’t happen at all. These guys are the unsung heroes, and their duties are often taken for granted, simply because most aspects of the trip do run smoothly under their watch. Roads taken, campsite locations chosen, hotel bookings made, border crossings completed, visa requirements checked and applied for, kitty money managed, weather conditions monitored – all of these important aspects of the journey, which change constantly day by day, are managed whilst they drive, so the passengers don’t need to worry about a thing. It was very liberating to get on that truck everyday, with the only major decision being which seat to sit in!! This therefore is a tribute to Adam and Brenda, who made it so easy for us passengers to overland through these incredible countries. Note too that Adam’s driving is safe, consistent, and very reliable. My wife can be nervous in a passenger seat, and many of the roads (particularly in the mountains and along the rivers) were ‘rough as guts’, but she felt very secure with Adam behind the wheel in all conditions. Bravo to the two of them. Conditions – you will face them all. Be prepared to endure very cold and very hot, with every temperature and type of weather in between. Other blogs/web sites can provide a far better list of equipment ‘must-haves’ than I can, so do your homework. My only advice would be to bring layers, lots of layers, and make sure they are quick-dry. You will be washing in sinks and possibly even rivers, so make sure your clothes dry as quickly as possible – note that that doesn’t mean safari shirts anymore, result!! And though it may be obvious to everyone else, don’t bring hold-all type bags that you have to carry rather than wheel. We found that out the hard way. There is a fair bit of ‘lugging luggage’ to hostels and accommodation throughout the trip, and often the truck has to park some distance away from where you are staying, so be prepared for this. Our large, non-wheely hold-all bags were the bane of my existence!! You will use your camping gear a lot. As tempting as it is to spend $50-90 on ‘festival/beach’ pop-ups, I would suggest you budget for the next level above this and spend $180+ for a proper, robust, lightweight camping/hiking tent. It needs to have vents to allow cool air through, be waterproof, and allow you to put it up as quickly as possible. Putting up/pulling down your tent is part of the daily routine/regime, and needs to be factored in alongside the other chores that each passenger must complete as part of their overland responsibilities. It isn’t a walk in the park – setting up the cooking area (metal tables, stoves, food boxes, washing up buckets, etc) every morning and evening that you bush-camp can be gruelling, so you don’t want a tent that also requires effort and time to erect. Our Denali X Wind tent ( https://www.anacondastores.com/camping-hiking/tents/hiking-tents/denali-x-wind-hike-tent/p/BP90035902) was pretty good, though a bit cramped for two people. We were very lucky with our weather over the 13 weeks we were on the trip (no huge storms or extreme winds), but the tent was still put through its paces (-10° to +43°), and did fairly well. The zips did give way right at the end though, and we ended up leaving it on the bus as a back-up for other passengers. We have stuck with Denali for the next trip, and purchased a Vortex III (https://www.anacondastores.com/camping-hiking/tents/hiking-tents/denali-vortex-iii-hike-tent/p/BP90035738). This will definitely give us more height/room, which will be precious when my wife decides to pee into a bottle in the middle of the night cos it is too cold to go outside – true story!! Please be ready to do your own sightseeing and manage your time according to the truck’s/Brenda’s timetable at every stop. It is imperative that you retain and exercise your independence as much as possible. Adam and Brenda are not guides, and typically will not accompany passengers to landmarks and sightseeing activities. Consult your guidebooks (there are lots of these on the truck – Lonely Planet, Frommers, etc) and plan your movements so that you get back to the truck on time and don’t hold everyone else up. One of our passengers had not done very much homework about the trip requirements, the fact that things could change at short notice, what to bring, or that they needed to be responsible for their own sightseeing (as opposed to being told what to see, and being lead by a ‘guide’). This resulted in them constantly being annoyed/frustrated/disappointed, with their ‘errant’ expectations not being met. Don’t let this be your experience – read and understand the Madventure web site info and smallprint carefully as Will has made sure it is clearly detailed there. Be prepared to work as a team for buying food, cooking it, washing up, and packing the gear away. This may occur daily (as it did for us because we were a small group), or every few days. Everyone must share responsibility, and not shirk their set jobs. These remain constant regardless of how tired you might be, how much you may want to go and sightsee, or what the weather is like. Don’t get on board expecting to be ‘mothered’. It won’t happen. Also be ready to wash/tidy the (often filthy) truck inside and out. Though you are on an adventure, ‘domesticity and cleanliness are very much next to godliness’, and everyone has to chip in to get the job done. At some point, somebody will have to help Adam and get under the truck to ‘grease its nipples’ (I kid you not) – dirty, mucky, oily, but needs must. Don’t let any of this put you off (you forge the best friendships with your fellow ‘cleaners/cookers as you all muck in together), but I think it is very valuable to know that each passenger has real responsibilities all along the journey. On board, the basics are all there, but the luxuries are minimal, as befits the low prices Will charges. The seats are old but comfy, there are a lot of books (travel guides and others), there is a fridge, and there are charging facilities for phones/laptops (you need to bring the leads though). There is no air-con, so you will spend your time sitting next to, and hanging out of, the open windows. The views out of the windows at that height are very good – you are higher than standard coaches, and have added opportunities for photographs at all times. Note that there are no speakers, so no music. And as much as it would be good to bang out a few Deadmau5, Smiths, Agnes Obel, and/or Van Halen toons from your portable speakers for all the group to enjoy whilst bouncing through Kyrgyzstan, it is important to appreciate that one man’s Sam Smith is another man’s Celine Dion, so best content yourself with headphones and stick to them. (Adam is however allowed to play Van Halen at all the stops – rock!!) All cooking equipment is provided, as are many of the food staples that you will use en route. For all the fresh food for the group, you will stop daily or every other day to buy ingredients from markets and shops. Brenda will give you a set amount of cash with which to do this (the kitty), and you will be expected to purchase enough food for dinner and for the next morning’s breakfast. It is helpful, though not essential, to have a few basic recipes up your sleeve for when it is your group’s turn to cook. Various stews, types of eggs, and porridge are all fairly easy, and much appreciated, particularly when it is cold. Border crossings. Best you appreciate that these are not like any other border experiences you might have had (experienced overlanders excepted). There are guards, they may not smile, they have guns, and they do ask for ‘stuff’ from time to time. It is imperative that you follow Adam and Brenda’s advice at all times, and engage as little as possible with the men in uniform. Our experience was mostly positive, but we did have a passenger who did not like/respect any form of authority, and would lose his cool in situations that put everyone else on edge. This was extremely disappointing, and undermined both the company’s reputation and goodwill at each of these crossings, and our security. Do not react while at the borders, and your experience will be a pleasant one. Don’t expect English to be understood in all of the countries you visit. People in the ex-Russian, rural Iranian/Armenian, and Chinese regions are unlikely to understand any Western languages at all, so be prepared to use a lot of sign language. Be open-minded about the food options you will have/can order, and love your clean, white, porcelain ‘thunder-chair’ and toilet paper while you still have it. You will not see sit down toilets, clean pans, or toilet paper for long periods. Those latrines that are provided will be incredibly ripe, rustic and regrettable, so prepare to take all your five senses on an adventure they have not likely experienced before (comparable to India!!). It is still worth it, believe me. Understand that drugs with codeine in them are banned in several countries, and that taking these across borders may land you and everyone in the truck in extremely hot water. Take any scripts for drugs that you have to take with you, preferably with your doctor’s signature on them, and be prepared to show it to the border officials at any stage. Appreciate that the wearing of a hijab/scarf for women in Iran is required at all times, regardless of heat/comfort. Men too are strongly advised to wear long pants – the regime requires it and it simply must be adhered to. Facebook and Google are banned in China and many other countries, and so if you are bringing an I-pad/PC and want to stay in touch via social media, invest in a VPN. We used PureVPN and it worked in all of the countries we visited. Not many of the hotels/hostels had high-speed internet access, but we were surprised at just how many did provide some form of Wi-Fi – enough for us to load far too many images to Facebook, anyway. So, would we do it again? We are – we’re joining the truck again for a very short stint through China, and look forward to seeing Adam and Brenda again, and meeting new friends on board. We are also hoping our finances will let us travel the America’s with Madventure next year (8 mths – check their web site). Repeat business is the sincerest form of flattery for a business - Will and his team enabled us to enjoy the trip of a lifetime, and we are now desperate to do more. Thanks Madventure – five stars.Show detailed ratings
ItineraryDownload PDF Brochure
- Proposed Itinerary
- + DAY 1 - 11, TURKEY
- + DAY 12 - 25, GEORGIA & ARMENIA
- + DAY 26 – 30, AZERBAIJAN
- + DAY 31 – 36, TURKMENISTAN
- + DAY 37 – 45, UZBEKISTAN
- + DAY 46 – 55, TAJIKISTAN
- + DAY 56 – 65, KYRGYZSTAN
- DAY 66 – 69, KAZAKHSTAN
- + DAY 70 – 91, CHINA
AccommodationRated Good by past passengers
GuideRated Excellent by past passengers
MealsRated Excellent by past passengers
TransportRated Excellent by past passengers
Questions & Answers
Here we have collected and answered the most frequently asked questions about this tour.
- December 1, 2016
In terms of accommodation, what do I need to know about ths trip?
The Silk Road trip is a mixture of accommodation. You get to stay in really nice hotels sometimes and then camp in the total wilderness other times. Occasionally you will stay in dorms with other people and other times you will be in a yurt in Kyrgyzstan! It all depends on where you are and what accommodation is available. The trip itself visits some incredible places well off the beaten track so if this type of travel sounds like your type of thing then the tour operator would love to have you join.
- August 1, 2016
What is the deadline for booking a tour?
It is recommended to book 4 to 6 months prior to departure so that you'll have enough time for visa applications and other preparations.
- July 12, 2016
Does the price listed include the local payment needed for this tour?
The tour payment that you see is the total price and includes the Local Payment.
What are people saying about TourRadar?
- Emily Jane22nd December 2017
Silk Road Overland Tour
- TuesdayJul 10, 2018from Istanbul91 DaysMondayOct 8, 2018to Beijing10+ seats left$215USD $5,168+ $1,500 Local Payment
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About the countries
- Yuan RenminbiChina
Plugs & Adapters
- Recommended for Turkey and China. Ideally 2 weeks before travel.
- Hepatitis A
- Recommended for Turkey and China. Ideally 2 weeks before travel.
- Hepatitis B
- Recommended for Turkey and China. Ideally 2 months before travel.
- Recommended for China. Ideally 2 weeks before travel.
- Recommended for China. Ideally 3 months before travel.
- Recommended for China. Ideally 1 month before travel.
- Yellow fever
- Certificate of vaccination required if arriving from an area with a risk of yellow fever transmission for China. Ideally 10 days before travel.
- Japanese B encephalitis
- Recommended for China. Ideally 1 month before travel.
- Tick-borne encephalitis
- Recommended for China. Ideally 6 months before travel.
- Istanbul is the starting point and Beijing is the endpoint.
- Your money is safe with TourRadar, as we only pay the tour operator after your tour has departed.
- TourRadar only requires a deposit of $400 to confirm this Madventure booking. The remaining balance is then payable 120 days prior to the departure date. For any tour departing before 18 September 2018 the full payment of $5,168 is necessary.
- Cancellation policy
- No additional cancellation fees! You can cancel the tour up to 120 days prior to the departure date and you will not need to pay the full amount of $5168 for Silk Road Overland Tour, but the deposit of $400 is non-refundable. If you cancel via TourRadar the standard cancellation policy applies.
- Some departure dates and prices may vary and Madventure will contact you with any discrepancies before your booking is confirmed.
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- The following cards are accepted for Madventure tours: Visa - Master Card - American Express
- Istanbul (Turkey)
- 7,058 km
- Beijing (China)
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