In this section we have tried to give a few hints and
tips to any would-be cyclists following in our tyre
We haven't covered the European stretch of the trip
(after all London - Istanbul only took us 6 weeks) and
Pakistan hasn't been included as we took the train for
most of it, but the others have been covered. If you
have any particular queries regarding cycling in the
countries we have visited, please don't hesitate in
contacting us, and we'll see what we can do. Please
refer to the progress charts one
for a detailed day to day log of our route.
Go straight to:
On the whole OK. Most main roads are in good condition,
but made from large gravel tarmac rather than
nice smooth asphalt. Usually there was a "cycling
lane" (i.e. a narrow strip of road to the
right of the white line), but some busy stretches
(e.g. Edirne - Çorlu) were very narrow
and a bit dangerous. You drive on the right-hand
side in Turkey.
Traffic volume varies remarkably. The road from
Edirne to Istanbul via Çorlu was very busy
and Istanbul was a cyclists worst nightmare (the
worst traffic of the trip for us). However the
rest of Turkey was fairly quiet, especially once
away from the Aegean coast.
Accommodation & food
Hotels vary in price - typically we paid between
10 and 20 million Turkish Lira for a triple -
we usually took the cheapest option as long as
it didn't smell.
Rough camping is easy in Turkey - there's lots
of wild and remote spots. We found petrol stations
great for camping - they're usually quite friendly,
there's running water and toilets, and often a
truckers restaurant for dinner and breakfast.
We stuck to hotels in Eastern Turkey however -
it was too cold and wet, but this would be great
rough camping territory.
Turkey has some great eating possibilities -
the roadside restaurants are good value and serve
up delicious stews and kebabs (just check on the
prices first), also try the fresh fish on the
coast. There are plenty of good shops selling
food, delicious fresh fruits are very cheap, and
even a few large supermarkets are dotted around.
Lots of dried fruit is available - great power
food, but dodgy side effects! Adrian thought the
Turkish food was just mouth watering - best of
the whole trip.
Maps & signs
Good maps are difficult to find in Turkey. The
maps we used were the large scale tourist maps
(covering the whole country on one sheet) available
in the Tourist Information centres in Istanbul
(and Ankara etc.), and are OK but at times a little
inaccurate. If you are just cycling through on
the main roads that's all you'll need, however
there is a set of 12 smaller scale maps, but we
know a couple of Germans who spent a week in Istanbul
searching for the right ones for their route.
Get some at home if you need them.
Road signs are pretty good in Turkey, on the
main roads at least, and you wont easily get lost!
Istanbul and Ankara are the only places in Turkey
where you will find new Shimano etc. components.
In Istanbul you can find some Shimano bits in
a few shops around Eminonu and one good one (who
will service your bike for you) on the Asian side.
They are European in prices and don't have a great
range of stock. You can buy however spare spokes
(DT and Sapim, on the Asian side), good tyres,
chains and cassettes - enough to keep you going
a few more thousand kms!
Elsewhere in the country, bicycle repair shops
are in every town, but just expect cheap local
and Chinese stuff - fine if you don't mind, or
it's an emergency. The Turkish produced tyres
are actually very good, they roll well and are
Apart from the hot spots of dense traffic, there
doesn't appear to be too many problems cycling
in Turkey. In Eastern Turkey (Kurdish areas) we
had a few groups of very young and bored kids
throwing stones - but nothing serious. Just shout
Internet cafes are all over Turkey and it's very
cheap (usually around 750 thousand Lira per hour).
Just find a young student and they'll know the
nearest one - even in the smallest of towns!
Ayvalik to Bergama through the hills
- quieter than the coastal road, and beautiful
lush green forests. Superb view of Pergamum on
the descent into Bergama.
Cappadoccia - wacky rock formations
and nice roads make this a place of outstanding
Sivas to Erzurum - high passes through
rugged mountain scenery entering the Kurdish region.
Very, very good. There aren't a huge number of
roads in Iran - there is generally only one road
from A to B, and this is usually the main road.
For cyclists the roads are great - asphalt as
smooth as a baby's bum, very fast, and there's
usually a "cycling lane" (i.e. a narrow
strip of road to the right of the white line)
too. You drive on the right-hand side in Iran.
Outside the main towns, the roads are pretty quiet
- Iran has a growing motorway network to take
the heavy traffic. Iranian drivers trust in Allah
even more than the Turks and can be quite reckless
- "God willing" they'll say. It was
in Iran we experienced our nearest near-miss.
A mirror is useful.
Iran's cities, especially Tehran, are very polluted
- a combination of old car technology and heavy
industry. A pollution mask wouldn't be a bad idea.
After 2 days in Iran we all had headaches due
to the pollution. Cycling into Tehran was not
too bad - nothing like Istanbul (nightmare!).
Accommodation and food
There are guesthouses or hotels in most towns,
but beware, not all are allowed to accept foreigners.
They are generally cheap (~10000 Rials each) and
normally have hot water. Hotels will often want
you to leave your passport overnight, don't! They
can usually be talked out of it - leave a photocopy
Rough camping, like in Turkey, is fairly easy
- plenty of quiet open spaces. On the quieter
roads in southern Iran we often stayed under road
bridges - they offer dry shelter and you are well
hidden from the road, with the added bonus that
you don't need to get your tent out. On the Shiraz-Bam
stretch we also stayed in a few deserted Nomad
winter homes - just simple huts. Our most atmospheric
night was in an old deserted caravansary 185km
south from Esfahan on the east side of the Shiraz
Food isn't quite so easy as in Turkey - there
are fewer roadside restaurants and shops generally
have a lower range of foods - but pasta, tuna
and tomato sauce are usually available. Fruit
is cheap and fresh, but eating out in Iran (especially
during Ramazan) can be a rather dull, monotonous
affair. Be sure to buy the famous Bam dates -
they are cheap and just delicious! Iran also has
the best milkshakes in the world - in most of
the large cities are shops just selling freshly
blended banana and other fruit milkshakes as well
as fresh juices. They are very cheap and soooo
Maps & signs
Iranian maps are OK, but not that good. There
is however a great map shop in Tehran (Gitashenasi
Geographical and Cartographic Institute, Razi
St., Tehran, www.gitashenasi.com)
that produces the best. It's better to get a map
in both English and Farsi, to identify signs and
ask directions. There's a handy pocket sized detailed
road atlas but it's only in Farsi. The rest of
the maps are just touristy and only show the major
roads and none of the hills. At Gitashenasi they
are only about 7000 Rials (~65p, and good quality
Road signs you'll be pleased to hear are in both
Farsi and English, so no problem there!
There's a few outdoor shops in Tabriz with mountain
bikes and Shimano bits, but otherwise it's all
just cheap and nasty stuff - emergency tyres etc.
We heard rumours you can get modern Shimano in
Tehran but we didn't see any, but we weren't really
Apart from the reckless drivers and pollution,
Iran is fine for cycling. A couple of kids threw
stones at us in the North, but they were just
isolated cases. People you meet along the way
are so friendly and it is one of the safest countries
to cycle in. We all loved it!
Rather than incur the wrath of the police,
it's best to wear long trousers in Iran
(showing skin is against the law! T-shirts are
becoming more accepted though. Polo shirts are
fine for men, but a smart shirt is better). Women
have to wear a headscarf, so travelling in summer
in Iran could be pretty hot and uncomfortable.
Believe it or not women are well respected in
Iran, much more so than in India or Pakistan,
and you should feel quite safe travelling as a
female (even solo).
Available in the bigger towns, but quite expensive
(~12000 Rials per hour) and usually quite slow.
Just ask someone in smaller towns.
Qom to Esfahan via Natanz - beautiful
jagged mountains on one side, desert on the other,
Shiraz to Bam via Baft - high (2800m),
rugged scenery, "off the beaten track",
brand new road, 50km/2000m descent into the Jiroft
Not great. OK in the lowlands but some of the
roads through the hills are pretty hard going.
The road between Dharamsala and Mandi seems to
be prone to landslides. It's passable, but very
muddy in parts.
The Grand Trunk (GT) Road is, as you would expect,
grand. It's a full on highway (at least between
Chandigarh and Delhi) and is in very good condition.
It even has a "cycling lane" (a narrow
strip of road to the left of the white line) along
most of it's length. You drive on the left-hand
side in India.
Terrible. Did I say terrible, well let me say
it again - TERRIBLE! Not only do Indian drivers
have no respect for cyclists (especially Western
ones) they lean on their horns constantly - which
gives you a headache far quicker than the bad
pollution in the cities. However there are hundreds
of other cyclists (and rickshaws and horse drawn
carts) around, so you're not a lone target. To
be fair we didn't see any accidents on our foray
through India (amazingly).
We thought cycling into Delhi was going to be
our worst nightmares - but surprisingly it was
quite easy with no real hassles involved. It was
like cycling into Bournemouth compared to Istanbul!
Accommodation & food
Hotels vary in price and standard greatly - on
the road we treated ourselves occasionally ~450
rupees for a triple with hot shower and TV, and
other times we slummed it for under 200 rupees.
There seems to be plenty of hotels, even in the
Rough camping in India would be very tricky -
there are too many people. Even in the mountains
finding a spare piece of ground would be difficult
- we just didn't bother in the end.
There are plenty of shops and roadside restaurants,
many of dubious hygiene but they are cheap and
dhal bhat (lentils and rice) and tea is a pretty
safe bet. Most hotels have their own restaurants
and every town has hundreds of small restaurants
Maps & signs
Good maps are difficult to find in India. There
are simple maps for each of the states and road
atlases are very cheap, but they are not particularly
accurate. A good bookshop should have something
Most signs are in English and all main roads
have frequent mileposts - route finding is pretty
simple and the locals are very good at giving
Bike shops everywhere, but all cheap local and
Chinese stuff. The roads are awash with Indian
bikes - if you get a puncture or need minor repairs
We don't think you'll have a problem!
We didn't have a great time cycling in India and
escaped to Nepal as quickly as possible. India
was a hassle all the time - from constant noise
to the impolite people. We don't recommend cycling
in India - it's not particularly dangerous, just
Every town and even some villages have internet
cafes. Very cheap - usually around 30 rupees per
Crossing into Nepal ;-)
Good - most of the major roads have been rebuilt
in recent years with aid from various countries,
and still have a new feel to them. The Mahendra
Highway is smooth and wide, and the Prithvi Highway
has recently been widened. You drive on the left-hand
side in Nepal.
Compared to India, Nepal's roads are a dream.
The Mahendra Highway is virtually traffic-free
until Butwal and after that there are just a few
horn-blaring trucks to contend with. It's also
very quiet - you can hear birds and trees in the
wind - great! Kathmandu is a little congested
however but nowhere near as bad as Tehran or Istanbul.
Accommodation & food
There are a few hotels in the towns, and most
are pretty cheap (around 300 rupees for a triple
with TV and shower) and relatively clean. Just
watch out for the brothels in Mugling and try
not to end up in Naubise (just out of Kathmandu)
- there's only one "hotel" and it's
There are a few spots for rough camping in Nepal,
but there are still a lot of people around so
you might get rumbled. The Nepalis are dead friendly
though, so it shouldn't be a problem. Along the
Mahendra Highway there were some great places
on the western banks of the Karnali River.
Again, there are plenty of shops and roadside
restaurants and teashops, again of dubious hygiene
but they are cheap. Watch out for the samosas
and doughnuts - they are particularly good! Noodles
are a nice change from dhal bhat and the fudge
sweets are yummy power food.
Maps & signs
Good maps are difficult to find in Nepal. But
because you can count the number of roads in this
wonderful country on one hand, you don't need
them! You can pick up the one-sheet-does-it-all
types in most places, but they are not particularly
Like India, most signs are in English and the
main roads have mileposts.
Kathmandu has some top quality (and top price)
bike shops - Dawn Till Dusk (www.nepalbiking.com)
is nice and friendly. For the first time since
Istanbul you will be able to buy virtually any
spares you are ever likely to need, and get your
bike properly serviced.
Apart from the odd vulture along the Terai, none
really! There may be a few roadblocks due to the
recent "State of Emergency", but the
smiling policemen always waved us through. A few
towns on the Terai have curfews at night so it's
best not to travel after dark - like we did one
All over the place in Kathmandu (20 rupees per
hour). Elsewhere, expensive or non-existent. Best
to ask someone.
The Mahendra Highway between Mahendranagar
and Narayanghat - stunning scenery, friendly people
and good new road. Delicious fudge too!