In addition to these former Soviet republics, two other places are considered to be part of Central Asia. These are:
Central Asia is an area that was, until recently, inaccessible for independent travellers. That has all changed, although the traveller will still often come up against a wall of Soviet-style bureaucracy. Despite this, Central Asia is definitely increasing in popularity amongst travellers who want to experience one of the world's last great frontier lands.
Historically rich and geographically diverse, Central Asia is an interesting region. As a bridge between Europe and Asia, the region was the home of the Silk Road, the ancient trading routes between the two continents in the first centuries of the common era. The following millennia saw much upheaval and conflict, from the expansion of Islam, the period of Mongol domination and the 'Great Game' between imperial Britain and imperial Russia in the 19th century.
After a traumatic break-up from the USSR, Central Asian countries are beginning to find their feet and offer good travelling options. There are parts of Central Asia that will have hardly seen a traveller before, and there are many wild and beautiful landscapes to be explored. That is not to say the region is bereft of problems, chiefly lack of infrastructure and stifling bureaucracy.
The hub for the region is Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which the most flights to destinations outside Central Asia. Unfortunately, it also has a reputation for being unpleasant, and it is best to avoid flights which arrive here late at night.
Another way to get into Central Asia is by train, chiefly from Russia, although there is a line from Urumqi, China to Almaty, Kazakhstan. Typical fares for the 56 hour journey between Moscow and Tashkent are around US$80.
The bus is the better option from Urumqi to Almaty. Also possible is the challenging crossing from China to Kyrgyzstan through the Torugart Pass.