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Travel to central Asia is best in the fall, when temperatures are moderate and air fares are low. The summer weather is unpleasantly hot.

Travel in the former Soviet Union does not approach Western standards of comfort. Hotels are approximately two-star grade, with private bathroom facilities. Hard-currency stores inside the major hotels sell imported goods. Telephone and fax communication to the West is sporadic and costly, though telex is adequate.

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Take all film, batteries, etc. with you, since local shops contain few high-quality consumer goods. Western chocolates, perfume, or any well-packaged goods make suitable presents for hosts.

Tourists must pay for most items in hard currency. Take low-denomination dollar bills, as travelers checks and credit cards are not accepted.

Tourist visas can only be obtained by purchasing a vacation package that includes air ticket and hotel accommodation. Tailor-made itineraries are available from Serenity Travel in New Orleans (504) 865-7000. A typical one-week trip to Bukhara and Samarkand will cost approximately $2,000, including round-trip flight from New York City, hotels, food, local transport, and guides. Actual price depends on season and point of departure.

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