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Uzbekistan

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Shodlik Palace
Shodlik Palace - dream vacation

Pakhtakorskaya Street 5, Tashkent

Golden Valley Hotel
Golden Valley Hotel - dream vacation

61a Chinobod Street, Tashkent

Chor Minor Hotel
Chor Minor Hotel - dream vacation

Mekhtar Ambar Street 131, Bukhara

Khiva Alibek
Khiva Alibek - dream vacation

A Rakhmanov Street 17, Khiva

Ideal Hotel
Ideal Hotel - dream vacation

10, Otahodzhaeva Str. (L. Tolstoy \'s former street), Samarkand

Le Grande Plaza Hotel
Le Grande Plaza Hotel - dream vacation

2 Uzbekiston Ovozi Street, Tashkent

Hotel Asia Samarkand
Hotel Asia Samarkand - dream vacation

50 Kosh-Havuz Str., Samarkand

Uzbekistan has borders with Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. It is doubly landlocked, but includes the southern shoreline of the Aral Sea. It has the largest population among all the Central Asian countries.

Regions

Cities

  • Tashkent — the modern capital and largest city.
  • Andijan — Uzbekistan's fourth largest city, right in the heart of the vibrant but combustible Ferghana Valley.
  • Bukhara — a legendary Silk Road capital, 2,500 years old, the historical center of which is a UNESCO World Heritage site filled with magnificent examples of monumental, medieval Islamic and Central Asian architecture.
  • Khiva, site of the Itchan Kala
  • Namangan — the third largest city, at the northern edge of the Ferghana Valley.
  • Nukus — the capital of Qaraqalpaqstan on the Amu Darya is the home of the avant-garde painting collection of the Savitsky Gallery, and is surrounded by a region devastated by the environmental degradation wrought by the drying of the Aral Sea.
  • Samarkand — the nation's second largest city, the whole of which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, home to the most famous Silk Road attraction of them all, the Registan.
  • Shakhrisabz — a small city, whose historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its impressive monuments from the Timurid Dynasty.
  • Termez — the southernmost city near the border with Afghanistan, named by Alexander the Great's forces for the intense temperatures they found here (thermos = hot).

Several of these were once great trading cities on the Silk Road.

Other destinations

  • Aral Sea — a lesson in the perils of environmental degradation, the drying of the Aral Sea has ravaged a region roughly the size of Germany with disease, birth defects, agricultural and economic devastation, and one-time cargo ships lying on their side in the dust.

Understand

The meaning of the name Uzbek is disputed. One version is that it is derived from Turkish 'uz/öz' ('good' or 'true') and 'bek' ('guardian').

History

Uzbekistan is rich in history. Samarkand was conquered by Alexander the Great. Islam was introduced by Arabs in the 8th-9th century. The most famous leader to come from Uzbekistan is Tamerlane who was born in Shahrisabz south of Samarkand. Russia conquered Uzbekistan in the late 19th century. Stiff resistance to the Red Army after World War I was eventually suppressed and a socialist republic set up in 1924. During the Soviet era, intensive production of "white gold" (cotton) and grain led to overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, which have left the land poisoned and the Aral Sea and certain rivers half dry.

Uzbekistan gained independence in 1991, following the break up of the Soviet Union. In theory the country is a democracy, however, between 1991 and 2016 it was run by iron-fisted dictator Islam Karimov, whose security services are widely believed to have killed several hundred protesters in Andijan in 2005 and have been responsible for some severe breaches of the most basic human rights (torture and killings). The country is wealthy in natural resources, yet most of the money is distributed into the president's ruling elite, and much of the country still remains quite poor. Little power exists outside of the presidents family or his close allies. The country remains as the most corrupt out of any former USSR state.

Climate

Mostly midlatitude desert, long, hot summers, mild winters; semiarid grassland in east.

Geography

Uzbekistan measures 1450 km West to East and 930 km North to South.

Mostly flat-to-rolling sandy desert with dunes; broad, flat intensely irrigated river valleys along course of Amu Darya, Syr Darya (Sirdaryo) and Zarafshon; Ferghana Valley in east surrounded by mountainous Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan; shrinking Aral Sea in west.

  • Syr Darya crosses the Ferghana Valley and runs on the North East edge of the Kizil Kum Desert. It is 2212 km long (3019 km including its source Naryn). In antiquity, it was called Jaxartes. Syr Darya flows into the (smaller) Northern part of the Aral Sea.
  • Amu Darya rises in the Hindukush and has a length of 2540 km. It was called Oxus in antiquity. It can be a rapid river in spring and is called Dsaihun (suffering from rabies) in Arabic. The river has changed its course several times. Konye Urgench in Turkmenistan, the capital of the old empire of Chwarezm, was situated on the banks of the Amu Darya. Today the distance between the river and the old city is about 40 km. Amu Darya flows into the (bigger) Southern part of the Aral Sea.

Holidays

Jan 1 New Year (Yangi Yi Bayrami)

Mar 8 International Women's Day (Xalqaro Xotin-Qizlar Kuni)

Mar 21 Navroz (Persian New Year) (Navro'z Bayrami)

May 9 Remembrance Day, Peace Day or Liberation Day (Xotira va Qadirlash Kuni), remembering that Uzbek troops participated in the Soviet army and that 500.000 Uzbek soldiers were killed in World War II.

Sep 1 Independence Day (Mustaqillik Kuni), remembering the proclamation of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991

Oct 1 Teachers' Day (O'qituvchi va Murabbiylar Kuni)

Dec 8 Constitution Day (Konstitutsiya Kuni), remembering the proclamation of the first constitution of independent Uzbekistan in 1992.

Holidays in accordance with the lunar year: the dates of these holidays vary according to the lunar calendar.

  • Kurban Kait (Qurbaon Hayit)
  • Ramadan (Ramazon Hayit), (Islamic fasting month)

Get in

Visas are required for everyone apart from passport holders of CIS countries. A 'Letter of Invitation' (LOI) is no longer required by citizens of Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Malaysia, Spain, Thailand, Switzerland and United Kingdom, but is still required for most others, e.g. for Canadian & US citizens under the simplified visa procedure.

To apply for a visa complete the application form from here, print out the resulting pdf and take to your printed form, together with some photos and a photocopy of your passport to your nearest Uzbek embassy. They will then ask the MFA in Tashkent for permission to issue a visa, which takes 7-14 days. Once this permission is granted you can pick up your visa. To avoid two trips to the embassy you can get an LOI in advance (by email) and once approval has been granted you can pick up your visa from your chosen embassy in only 1 visit - this is handy for people travelling who want to pick up a visa 'on the go'. An LOI can be obtained from travel companies when a hotel booking is made. Talk to your local travel agent in your own country. The LOI will typically cost US$30-40 for a short stay. For the latest information see the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [1] .

Within 3 days of entrance to the country, you need to make a registration, an official statement indicating the address you are staying at. If you stay at reasonable hotels, they will do it by default, however if you stay at a house, you will face a lot of bureaucratic paperwork in order to register yourself.

When you enter Uzbekistan expect fairly lengthy immigration and passport procedures, but these are fairly painless. In particular you will be asked to declare all the money you are bringing into the country - don't worry about this - declare everything you have and make sure you have less money when you leave. The Uzbek government doesn't want precious foreign currency leaving the country.

Travel permits are required for the mountain areas near the border to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, including great parts of the Ugam-Chatkal National Park and Zaamin National Park.

By plane

The main airport of Uzbekistan is the Tashkent International Airport "Yuzhniy" (IATA: TAS). The airport itself is reasonably modern and has various international carriers operating as well as the national Uzbekistan Airways. Though the airport infrastructure is good, the staff is not. Expect pointless bureaucracy and an unhelpful attitude from most of them. Baggage claim and customs procedures can be time-consuming - allow two hours. For more information see the Taskent#By plane section.

There are airports at Andijan, Bukhara, Ferghana, Karshi, NamanganNukusSamarkandTashkentTermez and Urgench.

By train

Usable passenger services only exist to Kazakhstan and via Kazakhstan to Russia. These include the following trains:

  • Tashkent - Moscow (3 times weekly): Train 6 Uzbekistan leaves Moscow on Mon, Wed and Fri at 23:15 and arrives in Tashkent at 22:35 on Wed, Fri and Sun. The distance from Moscow to Tashkent by rail is 3,369 km. Some Moscow-bound trains run to/from Andijan.

There are also railway lines linking Uzbekistan to Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, but they are used only by transit trains, therefore officially inaccessible for travelers to/from Uzbekistan. See respective countries for details.

By car

There are roads from surrounding countries but the borders may not be open and there have been security problems. There is a risk of land mines in some border areas.

From Afghanistan

The Friendship Bridge, 10 km south of Termiz, links Afghanistan with Uzbekistan.

From Kazakhstan

There are only two border crossings between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan :

  • Gisht Kuprik (Chernyaevka) between Shymkent and Tashkent is the main road crossing between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan . A shared taxi or marschrutka from Kolos bus stop at Shymkent to the border costs about US$4. The trip takes about 1 hour. The border is open 7am to 9pm (Tashkent time). You will have to walk over the border and to take a taxi from the border to Tashkent, which will cost about 6000 som. There are reports of waiting times up to 6 hours at the border.
  • There is another crossing between Beyneu in Western Kazakhstan and Kungrad in Uzbekistan.

From Kyrgyzstan

  • Busses from Bishkek to Uzbekistan stop at Gisht Kuprik (Chernyaevka) border. You will have to take a taxi from the border to Tashkent for 6000 som. A transit visum for Kazakhstan is required.
  • You can take a taxi or minibus from Jalal Abad to Khanabad (20 som) and walk over the border.
  • You can take a taxi (50 som) or minibus (5 som) from Osh to Dustlyk (Dostyk) and a shared taxi from there to Andijan in Uzbekistan

From Tajikistan

It is about 55 km from Dushanbe to the border at Denau. Taxis depart from Zarnisar Bazaar in Dushanbe. A seat in a taxi will cost about 8TJS and the trip will take about 90 minutes. There are Miníbusses from the border to the town of Denau. From there you will have to take a shared taxi to Samarkand.

You will have to take a shared taxi from Penjikent to the Tajik-Uzbek border (5 TJS, 22 km) and another one from the border to Samarkand (about 50 km).

By bus

When land borders are open, buses run to all neighbouring countries.

By boat

Apart from the southern section of the inland Aral sea, Uzbekistan is land-locked. In fact, it's one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world - the other being Liechtenstein.

Get around

By train

The most comfortable way to travel between the major tourist cities in Uzbekistan is by train. The main line Tashkent - Samarkand - Bukhara is served once a day in each direction by two express trains named "Afrosiob" and "Sharq": The Afrosiob is a Talgo-250-type train that makes a respective distance in 2.5 hours to Samarkand and the "Sharq" makes the 600-km-journey Tashkent - Bukhara (with intermediate stop in Samarkand) in less than 7 hours. A daily overnight train to and from Tashkent to Bukhara offers the possibility to travel during the night and so a day is not lost travelling. Comfortable sleeping cars allow a good sleep.

Timetable: http://railway.uz/en/, note that the server is often down but you can use the Russian Railways website to see timetables.

Unlike to ordinary local trains the express trains have three classes: The economy class (2nd) with 36 persons per carriage and still plenty of space and comfort, the business class (1st) and the VIP class (expect some free drinks and snacks). The Afrosiob is the fastest and most expensive train which costs from Tashkent to Samarkand for 2nd/1st/VIP 51,000/68,000/98,000 soms. Doing the same trip with the Sharq will save you around 22,000 soms ($7) in each class, but increases the travel time for almost 1.30h.

Overnight trains also run from Tashkent and Samarkand to Urgench (3 times weekly) and to Nukus - Kungrad (2 times weekly), so it's also possible to travel to Khiva (30 kilometers from Urgench, taxi/bus available) or to the Aral lake (Moynaq, 70 km from Kungrad) by train. On Thursdays, there is an overnight train in Urgench that also stops in Bukhara.

There are four types of sleepers:

  • miagki vagon (soft wagon) - 2 berth compartments
  • kupeiny vagon - 4 berth compartments
  • platskartny vagon - closely packed beds in a commonspace
  • obshi vagon - as above but beds used in the seating configuration, therefore used for day trips

Book your ticket well in advance (booking at the day of departure is sometimes impossible: trains can get full or computer problems can make booking impossible). If you go and buy the ticket yourself, you'll have to show your passport. Some basic Russian can come in handy as well. Or you can book your ticket via a travel agency in Uzbekistan (e.g. Advantour, Peopletravel or Orexca).

By shared taxi

The second best option, and an experience. Don't be put off - these are pretty safe as far as the people go, the roads are a different story - when they exist! But for getting between Nukus and Khiva, or Khiva to Urgench to Bukhara, this is the only realistic way to go.

The taxi driver will have a destination city - so at the ranks ask around for the city you're headed to. If you match, you then negotiate a rate. Ask around beforehand, you can quite easily get ripped off, because each passenger negotiates separately with the driver, so he can charge locals normal rates and take you for all you have.

Once you've done that, you wait. The car only leaves when full, or when the driver gets bored enough. If possible, get the front passenger seat - 'only a lemon takes the middle seat'. Don't be polite about this - you do NOT want that middle seat. When it's over 50°C in the middle of the desert, with no air conditioning (you pay extra for a car with that), you want to be as close to a window as possible, and with only one person sweating against you!

Also, the roads are slow and sometimes barely existent - dirt tracks with potholes. It takes 6-8 hours from Urgench to Bukhara if you're lucky. Still, the car will probably make it - when you do this section you'll understand why you don't want to risk the bus.

By bus

Bus travel is only for the truly adventurous and not for anyone in a hurry in Uzbekistan. Except for special tours, buses are old, decrepit, crowded, painfully slow and prone to frequent breakdowns. If you do travel any distance on a bus in Uzbekistan, take toilet paper with you and be careful what you eat at stops along the way.

Others

You can travel by private taxi, minibus, or normal bus. While there are official taxis, most cars will become taxis if you wave them down. Meters are rare, so negotiate the price beforehand.

By car

Drive on the right. International driving permit required. Minimum age: 17. Speed limit: 60 to 80 km/h in urban areas, 90 km/h on highways.

There are several paved highways with two lanes in Uzbekistan:

Urban transport

During the day the metro (underground train) is the good option. After 12 midnight you are recommended to use taxi services. It is better to call the taxi (car-service) to pick you up in advance. Some car-services can serve the foreign speaking tourists. You can get more information in the hotel.

Talk

The sole official language of Uzbekistan is Uzbek. The majority of citizens are ethnic Uzbeks and speak it as their first language, though due to its history as part of the Soviet Union, many also speak Russian, which continues to be a compulsory second language in all schools. There are also significant numbers of ethnic Tajiks and Kazakhs in Uzbekistan, primarily speaking their native tongue as a first language. In Samarkand and Bukhara, for instance, one is just as likely to hear Tajik being spoken as Uzbek. Russian is widely spoken especially in the cities. In Tashkent the majority of the population speak Russian and one is just as likely to hear it being spoken on the street as Uzbek.

In the semi-autonomous region of Karalkalpakstan in western Uzbekistan, the ethnic Karalkalpaks speak their own language, which is related to Kazakh. Many Karalkalpaks also speak Russian.

In the cities, more and more people speak English, especially those in the hotel and catering trades. However, English is still generally not widely spoken, so if you cannot speak Uzbek, Russian would be your best bet.

See

Architecture

Uzbekistan has preserved a rich architectural heritage. The construction of monumental buildings was seen as a matter of prestige, emphasizing the power of the ruling dynasty, leading families and higher clergy. The external appearance of towns was determined to a great extent by their fortifications. The walls were flanked at regular intervals by semicircular towers and the entrances to towns were marked by darwazas (gates). These gates usually had a high vault and a gallery for lookout and were flanked by two mighty towers. The doors were closed at night and in case of danger. Along the main streets were rows of shops, specialized in different goods, and many skilled craftsmen had their workshops in these stalls. The most important covered markets are called tag, tim or bazaars (shopping passages( and charsu (crossroads, literally "four directions"). In big cities the ark (fortress) was the administrative center. It contained the emir's palace, chancellery, treausry, arsenal and the jail for high-ranking prisoners. The towns also had large public centres, consisting of a maydan (open square) surrounded by large buildings for civil or religious purposes.

Religious buildings

  • The Friday Mosque (Masjid Al Jumu'ah) is located in the town. It had a spacious courtyard with a surrounding gallery and a maqsura (screened-off enclosure) in the main axis. A typical example is the Kalan Mosque at Bukhara.
  • The Oratory Mosque (Namazgah) is situated outside of the town. Prayers at two important Muslim festivals were conducted in public. The worshippers gathered in an open space in front of the building where the minbar (imam's pulpit) stood.
  • The Neighbourhood Mosque was smaller in size and consisted of a covered hall with the mihrab and an exterior gallery with columns. They were built from donations of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood and are often richly decorated. An example of this type is the Baland (Boland) Mosque at Bukhara.
  • The Madrasa is an institition for higher education of ulama (Islamic scholars). The madrasa has a courtyard with two or four aywand (arched portals) on the axes which were used as classrooms in the summer, a row of cells on one or two floors, darsakhanas (lecture rooms) in two or four corners and a mosque for daily prayer. The main facade has a high portal with two or four minaret-like towers at the corners of the building. Madrasas from the 16th and 17th cent. which have been preserved are Madar-Khan, Abdullah Khan, Kukeldash, Nadir Divan Begi and Abdul Aziz Khan at Bukhara, Shir-Dor and Tilla-Kari at Samarkand, Kukeldash and Baraq Khan in Tashkent, Said Ataliq at Denau and Mir Rajab Dotha at Kanibadam. Madrasas built in the 18th and 19th cent. include Narbuta Bi at Kokand, Qutlugh Murad Inaq, Khojamberdybii, Khoja Moharram, Musa Tura and Allah-Quili Khan in Khiva.
  • The Khanaqah was originally a guest house for travelling Sufis near the residence of their pir (spiritual masters). Under the Timurids they became meeting places of the followers of a Sufi order, attended by representatives of the ruling elite and often a zikr-khana (room for exposition and Sufi rites) was added. Examples of khanaqas from the 16th and 17th cent include Zaynuddin, Fayzabad, Bahaudin and Nadi Divan-Begi at Bukhara, Mulla Mir near Ramitan, Qasim Shaiykh at Karmana and Imam Bahra near Khatirchi.
  • Memorial buildings were erected in the 14th and 15th cent for Temur and his family, e.g. Gur-Emir and Shah-i Zinda at Samarkand and at Shakrizabs. In the 16th and 17th cent. fewer mausoleums were built. An example from this period is the Qafal Shashi Mausoleum in Tashkent. Monumental buildings were often erected near holy tombs. At Bukhara a monumental kanaqah was built near the founder of the Naqshbandi order, Bahauddein and at Char Bakr, the family necropolis of the powerful Juybari shaykhs. From the 16th cent. onwards mauseoleums for rulers were no longer built. The rulers were interred in madrasas, the Shaybanids of Samarkand in the Abu Said Mausoleum on the Registan, Ubaydullah Khan from Bukhara in the Mir-i Arab Madrasa and Abdul Aziz Khan in the Abdul Aziz Madrasa.

Civic architecture

  • Market buildings (Charsu, Tim, Taq) form the very heart of an oriental town. The charsu is a building covered by a central dome, standing at the crossroads, surrounded by shops and workshops covered by small domes. The tim is a trading passage and the taq a domed building on a smaller scale built at the intersection of major streets. At Bukhara the Taq-i Zargaran (Goldsmiths' Dome) has an octagonal central space covered by a dome set on 32 intersecting arches. Shops and workshops around the central space are toppes by small domes.
  • Caravanserais played an important role along the trade routes. According to the traditional plan a caravanserai is a rectangular building with a large courtyard, galleries for animals and baggage, lodgings for the travellers and a mosque. The outer walls were high and thick, the entrance was well guarded and at the corners there were towers for defense. The best exampla is at Rabat al-Malik. A small number of caravanserais have survived, party in ruins, e.g. the caravanserai near the Qaraul Bazar on the road from Bukhara to Karshi, the Abdullah Khan caravanserai on the road from Karshi to Termez.
  • Bathhouses from the 16th and 17th cent. have been preserved at Samarkand, Sahrh-i Sabz, Bukhara and Tashkent. They are heated by a system of channels under the floor, distributing the heat uniformly through the whole building. Some of them have rooms for disrobing, hot and cold rooms, a massage room or a water closet. Bathhouses are covered with domes which give them their characteristic external appearance.

Architectural Ensembles

  • The Pay-i Kalan (Pedestal of the Great at Bukhara,
  • The Kosh Madrasa at Bukhara,
  • The Lab-i Hauz at Bukhara,
  • The Registan at Samarkand
  • The Char-Bakr Complex at Sumitan, outside of Bukhara

Nature Reserves

  • Jeyran Ecological Centre (40 km from Bukhara). The jeyran (Central Asian gazelle) was hunted in the last century by men in jeeps and helicopters. Today, the Uzbekistan jeyran is included in the Red Book of Endangered Species). The Jeyran ecological centre was founded about 1985 and is the only one of its kind in Central Asia. At the beginning 42 jeyrans were brought here, but today 700 unique animals live here in a fenced area of 5000 hectares. Besides jeyrans, Prezhevalskiy horses and koulans are bred in the reserve.
  • Kitab State Geological Reserve.
  • Kyzylkum Tugai and Sand Reserve (in the north-west of Bukhara Province). The reserve was founded in 1971. It covers the flood-lands of the Amu Darya river and the sand-dune desert near-by. The riverside vegetation occupies an area of 3177 hectares and the sand area is 2544 hectares. The best time to visit the reserve is spring. According to ornithologists there are 190 species of birds in the reserve, including herons, river terns, wild ducks, sandpipers NS turtle-doves. The reserve has a lush flora of poplars, silver oleasters and riverside willows. Deer, wild boars, wolves, jackals, foxes, hares and reed cats live on the tugai woods and zhe population of jeyrans is being restored.
  • Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biospheric Reserve. The Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biospheric Reserve is being implemented by the government of Uzbekistan, Global Ecology Fund and UN Development Program and co-financed by German Union of Nature Protection. The reserve lies between the desert and mountain systems of Central Asia. It consists of the southern part of the Kyzylkum Desert, lakes Aydarkul and Tuzgan and the mountain ridges of Nuratau and Koitash. The existing Nurata Reserve and Arnasay Ornithological Reserve on Lake Tuzgan will be integrated into the new Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biospheric Reserve. Among the animals integtrated in the Red Book of Endagered Species are the Severtsev ram or Kyzylkum ram, golden eagle, bearded and black griffon-vulture. In the reserve are rare sorts of walnut-trees, Central Asian juniper, Bukhara almond-trees, pistachio-trees, wild vines, apricot-trees, apple-trees and various sorts of dog-roses. Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biospheric Reserve will be included in the UNESCO global list of biosphere reserves. The experiences will be used in founding biosphere reserves in the Central Kyzylkum Desert, Southern Ustyurt Desert and the tugai woods of the river Amu Darya.
  • Ugam-Chatkal National Park (in the spurs of the Western Tien Shan, about 80 km from Tashkent). Ugam-Chatkal National Park is one of the oldest nature reserves in Uzbekistan, founded in 1947. The Western Tien Shan is the natural habitat to 44 species of mammals, 230 species of birds and 1168 species of plants including several endemic plants. In the National Park live white-claw bears, wolves, Tien Shan foxes, red marmots, stone-martens, Turkestan lynx, snow leopards, wild boars, badgers, Siberian roes, mountain goast and Tien Shan wild rams as well as wild turkeys, mountain partridges, golden eagles, bearded and eagle vultures. The slopes of the Pskem ridge are covered with walnut-trees, wild fruit trees and wild bushes. The banks of the river are occupied by archa (Central Asian juniper). The Chimgan-Charvak-Beldersay Resort Zone, covering an area 100,000 hectares, has three health-recreation complexes: 'Charvak', 'Chimgan' and 'Beldersay'.

Do

  • Camel trekking (in the yurt camps at Lake Aidarkul or Ayaz-Quala).
  • Bird watching.
  • Trekking (in the Ugam Chatkal National Park).
  • Rafting (in the Chatkal or Syr-Darya Rivers).
  • Skiing.

Buy

Money

The currency of the country is the Uzbekistani so‘m, denoted in Cyrillic as "сўм" (ISO code: UZS).

However, Uzbekistan finds itself in the curious situation of having a huge trade surplus (from its energy exports) but also having a parallel black market exchange rate. As of August 2015 the black market exchange rate was around 4,500 som to the US dollar, making it worth the effort to avoid official exchange offices. The 1,000 som notes are the most popular; hence, you will be carrying around bricks of currency, so ask for the 5,000 som notes, which are easily available on request. The US dollar was definitely the foreign currency of choice, but nowadays the euro is also accepted everywhere. The best place for exchange in Tashkent is Chorsu Bazaar, although currency exchange can be easily done at other places as well.

ATMs do work with foreign cards, but operate at the official exchange rate, and are usually empty. Hence it's better to prepare sufficient dollars to avoid such a situation. Some cash machines do dispense US dollars - however, be careful of withdrawing a large number of dollars and then leaving Uzbekistan with more money than you declared when you entered.

Costs

Uzbekistan is cheaper than the neighbouring Kazakhstan, but probably a little more expensive than Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan. A street snack costs about US$0.80. A comfortable double room is US$40.

Bazaars

In Uzbekistan people traditionally buy goods at bazaars. Prices are fixed in department stores only. In bazaars, private shops and private souvenir stores haggling is part of the game. Bazaars are the best place to observe the daily life of the locals. The Alayski Bazaar is one of the oldest and most famous bazaars of Central Asia. You will find beautiful rugs, silk, spices, handicrafts and traditional clothes in the Eski Djouva and Chor Su bazaars in the Old City of Tashkent.

Typical souvenirs are:

  • babaichik, figurines,
  • tubeteika, traditional Uzbek caps and
  • Shiljait, Shilajit means "Conqueror of mountains and destroyer of weakness". It is used in Ayurvedic medicine as an herbal rejuvenator, nerve tonic and natural stimulator.

Eat

When you go to restaurants, always ask for menu or price if they do not provide one. While some of the well-established restaurants are surprisingly good value by Western standard, some of the random or less popular restaurants try to take advantage of tourists by ripping off up to 5 times of normal price.

  • Osh (also known as plov, palov or pilaf) is the national dish. It's made of rice, carrots, onions, and mutton, and you will eat it if you go to Uzbekistan. Each region has its own way of cooking plov, so you should taste it in different places. According to the legend plov was invented by the cooks of Alexander the Great. Plov can also be made with peas, carrots, raisins, dried apricots, pumpkins or quinces. Often spices as peppers, crushed or dried tomatoes are added.
  • Chuchvara - similar to ravioli and stuffed with mutton and onions (aka 'pelmeni' in Russian).
  • Manti - lamb and onion filled dumpling-like food, often with onions, peppers and mutton fat.
  • Somsas, which are pastry pockets filled with beef, mutton, pumpkin or potatoes. In spring time "green somsas" are made from so-called "yalpiz" a kind of grass which grows in the mountains and in rural parts of regions. And the amazing thing is people just pick them up for free and make tasty somsas. You can find somsas being cooked and sold on the streets.
  • Lagman - thick soup with meat, potatoes, spices, vegetables and pasta. By right, it should include 50 ingredients. Often carrot, red beet, cabbage, radish, garlic, tomatoes, peppers and onions are added. The noodles should be very thin.
  • Shashlik - grilled meat. Usually served only with onions. Veal or mutton is marinated in salt, peppers and vinegar and eight to ten pieces of meat are grilled on a spit over the open fire.
  • Bread - Uzbeks eat lots of bread (in uzbek its called non). Round bread is called lepioshka. You can buy it anywhere, while in the bazar it costs around 400 sum. Samarkand is very famous for the bread. The characteristic Samarkand bread obi-non is traditionally baked in clay furnaces. Bread is served to every meal.
  • Mastava. rice soup with pieces of onion, carrots, tomatoes, peas and eventually wild plums
  • Shurpa. soup of mutton (sometimes beef), vegetables
  • Bechbarmak. a speciality of the nomad Kazakhs, boiled meat of sheep or ox and pieces of liver, served with onions, potatoes and noodles

Being an historic crossroads and part of numerous empires, Uzbek food is very eclectic in its origins. Indian, Iranian, Arab, Russian, and Chinese influences are present in this unique cuisine.

Drink

There are two national drinks of Uzbekistan: tea and vodka (result of more than a century of Russian domination of the land).

  • Tea is served virtually everywhere: home, office, cafes, etc. Uzbek people drink black tea in winter and green tea in summer, instead of water. If tea is served in the traditional manner, the server will pour tea into a cup from the teapot and then pour the tea back into the teapot. This action is repeated three times. These repetitions symbolize loy (clay) which seals thirst, moy (grease) which isolates from the cold and the danger and tchai (tea or water) which extinguishes the fire. If you are being served tea in an Uzbek home, the host will attempt at all times to make sure your cup is never filled. If the host fills your cup, it probably means that it is time for you to leave, but this occurs really rarely, because Uzbeks are very hospitable. The left hand is considered impure. The tea and the cups are given and taken by the right hand.

A mind-numbing variety of brands of wine and vodka are available almost everywhere.

  • Wine produced in Uzbekistan has won numerous international prestigious awards for a high quality. There's nothing to wonder about, since sun in this country shines almost every day. Although Uzbekistan is predominately Muslim, for the most part the Islam practiced there tends to be more cultural than religious.
  • Beer is available in every shop and is treated as soft drink and does not require any license to sell. There are special licensed shops selling Vodka, Wine and other Drinks. Russian made vodka is available in only few shops.
  • Kumis is an alcoholic mares' milk.

Visitors should consider tap water to be unsafe to drink in regions, while in capital of Uzbekistan the water is safe for drinking. In any case drinking bottled water is advised.

Nightlife

In Tashkent there are various night (dance) clubs and restaurants. They usually work till late night/early morning. Take enough cash because drinks and snacks are much more expensive than in daytime restaurants. Also you can find overnight Uzbek "chill-out" restaurants where you enjoy traditional food laying on large wooden sofas (tapchans/suri). It is not recommended to hang out on the street or parks after 11PM Even if you do not face problems with criminals you definitely attract unwanted interest of local police(militsiya) patrolling the area.

Sleep

Hotels

There are many hotels in the country. In Tashkent there are various types of hotels you can stay, it can cost you US$60 and more depending on how much you're willing to pay for your pleasure in hotel.

Yurt stays

  • Nurata Yurt Camp, about 500 km (7 hours drive) from Tashkent, 250 km /3 hours drive) from Samarkand and Buchara, near Aydakul Lake, US$ 60 per person incl. full board and camel trip. The Yurts can accommodate 8 to 10 people.
  • Ayaz Kala Yurt Camp, about 100 km from Khiva, 70 km from Urgench, 450 km from Buchara and 150 km from Nukus. phone 2210770, 2210707, 3505909, fax 53243-61. Access from Khiva and Urgench is via a pontoon bridge over the Amu Darya River. The yurts are on a hill about 30 meters high, near the archaeological site of Ayaz Kala. The ancient fortresses of Ayaz Kala are nearby. US$ 60 per person incl. three meals. The yurts can accommodate 20 to 25 persons.
  • Aydar Yurt Camp, in the Navoi region in the center of the Kyzyl Kum desert, 10 km from Lake Aydar Kul. The Aydar Yurt Camp is famous for camel safaris.

Learn

Stay safe

The areas of Uzbekistan bordering Afghanistan should be avoided for all but essential travel. Extreme caution should also be exercised in areas of the Ferghana Valley bordering Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. There have been a number of security incidents in this region, as well as several exchanges of gunfire across the Uzbek/Kyrgyz border. Some border areas are also mined. Travellers should therefore avoid these areas and cross only at authorized border crossing points.

For the most part, Uzbekistan is generally safe for visitors, perhaps the by-product of a police state. There are many anecdotal (and a significant number of documented) reports of an increase in street crime, especially in the larger towns, particularly Tashkent. This includes an increase in violent crime. Information on crime is largely available only through word of mouth - both among locals and through the expat community - as the state-controlled press rarely, if ever, reports street crime. As economic conditions in Uzbekistan continue to deteriorate, street crime is increasing.

Normal precautions should be taken, as one would in virtually any country. Especially in the cities (few travellers will spend much time overnight in the small villages), be careful after dark, avoid unlighted areas, and don't walk alone. Even during the day, refrain from openly showing significant amounts of cash. Men should keep wallets in a front pocket and women should keep purses in front of them with a strap around an arm. Avoid wearing flashy or valuable jewellery which can easily be snatched.

Scams are not unheard of. One of the most common (and one that is not limited to Uzbekistan) involves a stranger coming up to the victim and saying they have found cash lying on the street. They will then try to enlist you in a complicated scheme that will result in you "splitting" the cash - of course only after you have put up some of your own. The entire scenario is ludicrous, but apparently enough greedy foreigners fall for it that it continues. If someone comes up to you with the "found cash" routine, tell them straight away that you are not interested (in whatever language you choose) and walk away.

Also beware of locals you don't know who offer to show you the "night life." This should be completely avoided, though some visitors seem to leave their common sense at home.

While all of these precautions should be observed during travel virtually anywhere in the world, for some reason many tourists in Uzbekistan seem to lower their guard. They should not.

It is also possible that you will be asked by police (Militsiya) for documents. This doesn't happen often, but it can, and they have a legal right to do so. By law, you should carry your passport and visa with you in Uzbekistan, though in practice, it is better to make a color scan of the first two pages of your passport and your Uzbek visa before you arrive. Carry the colour copies with you when you're walking around, and keep the original documents in the hotel safe. The scanned documents will almost always suffice. If not, make it clear to the Militsiya officer that he will have to come to your hotel to see the originals. Unless they have something out of the norm in mind (such as a bribe) they will almost always give you a big smile and tell you to go along. Always be polite with the Militsiya, but also be firm. While almost all of them take bribes, they take them from locals. For the most part, they understand that going too far with a foreigner will only cause them problems, especially if the foreigner is neither being abusive nor quaking with fear.

One note about locals offering to show you around: It is common for younger Uzbeks (usually male) who speak English to try and "meet" foreigners at local hotels and offer to serve as interpretors and guides. This is done in daylight and in the open, often in or near some of the smaller but better hotels. This can be rewarding for both the local and the visitor. The local is usually trying to improve their English or French (occasionally other languages, but usually English) and to make a few dollars/euros. If you are approached by a clean-cut person offering such services, and you are interested, question them about their background, what they are proposing to do for you and how much they want to charge you (anywhere between $10-$25 a day is realistic depending on their services and how long they spend with you). Most of the legitimate offers will be from young people who have studied in the West on exchange programs and/or studied at the University of World Diplomacy and/or Languages in Tashkent. If everything seems to fit, their language skills are good and they seem eager and polite, but not pushy, you may want to consider this. They should offer to show you museums, historical sites, cafés, bazaars, cultural advice, generally how to get around, etc. They should ask you what you want to see and/or do. Often this works out well. However, for your and their protection, do not attempt to engage in political discussions of any type.

Again, if they are proposing "night life" (or related) services, do NOT take up their offers.

Due to sliding relationships between the USA and Uzbekistan over the past years the US State Department has strongly discouraged travel to Uzbekistan by American citizens.

Stay healthy

Uzbekistan has not implemented a no-smoking policy in bars and restaurants, unlike many Western countries. Consequently, enclosed spaces can be very unpleasant for non-smokers, especially in the cold weather.

Fruits and vegetables should be peeled before consumption. Avoid drinking Uzbek (locally produced) vodka. Most Uzbek Vodkas are not good even dangerous to your health.

Respect

In Uzbekistan, and in Central Asia in general, elderly people are greatly respected. Always treat the elderly with great respect and be deferent to them in all situations. Also be polite with females. Traditionally it is not welcomed to flirt openly with women. If you are a male and there is an option to address a male with the question instead of female, choose it.

Connect

Mobile connection works in most parts of Uzbekistan and the services are cheap. There are several popular mobile service providers in Uzbekistan - Ucell [2], Beeline, MTS (MTC in Cyrillic), Perfectum Mobile. A foreigner can get a SIM card after showing his passport. For activating the cell phone connection a person has to be registered. Generally some vendors are not aware of the law and refuse to sell to foreigners.

You can find Internet cafés in most of the cities. Speeds can sometimes be fast but generally speed is relatively slow.

Further Reading

Colin Thubron, The Lost Heart of Asia, 1994, Penguin

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Exercise a high degree of caution; see also regional advisories.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

Areas bordering Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic (see Advisory)

Incidents of violence have occurred in the mountainous border area where the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan meet.

Some areas near the Tajikistan border are mined. Contact the Consulate of Canada in Tashkent for more information.

The border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan on the road between Tashkent and Samarkand is closed. Contact the Consulate of Canada in Tashkent for up-to-date information prior to travelling to the Tajikistan border.

Terrorism

Heightened tensions throughout the region, together with increased threats globally from terrorism, may put you at risk. Maintain a high level of vigilance at all times. Exercise caution, particularly in tourist areas, in commercial and public establishments (hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, places of worship) and at outdoor recreation events.

Crime

Violent crime against foreigners has occurred. Street crime has increased, especially after dark in urban centres.

Foreigners have been robbed by individuals posing as police officers. If approached, ask to see police credentials or offer to go to the police station.

Do not travel alone after dark and do not show signs of affluence.

Transportation

Driving standards in Uzbekistan are poor. Many roads outside Tashkent are in poor condition, particularly in the Tian Shan and Fan Mountains. Driving at night is dangerous. Rural roads and highways are not lit.

Use officially marked taxis only and do not share taxis with strangers.

Exercise caution when travelling by train, especially overnight. Store valuables in a safe place and do not leave the compartment unattended. Ensure that the door is secured from the inside.

When travelling by rail or road in Uzbekistan, it is sometimes necessary to cross into neighbouring countries. Consult the Entry/Exit Requirements tab for more information.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

General safety information

Police frequently stop drivers for minor infractions or simple document checks. Foreigners may face harassment, including demands for money.

Carry identification at all times. Carry a photocopy of your passport and to leave another one with a relative or a friend at home.

Ensure that personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.

Tourist facilities are limited.

Emergency services

Dial 01 for firefighters, 02 for police or 03 for an ambulance.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Polio

There is a risk of polio in this country. Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up-to-date.

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Central Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like hepatitis A and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Central Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Central Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, malaria, and tick-borne encephalitis.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is a viral disease that typically causes fever, bleeding under the skin, and pain. Risk is generally low for most travellers. It is spread to humans though contact with infected animal blood or bodily fluids, or from a tick bite. Protect yourself from tick bites and avoid animals. There is no vaccine available for Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.


Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in Central Asia, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical care is below Western standards. Shortages of basic medical supplies are common.

 

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

An International Driving Permit is recommended.

Illegal or restricted activities

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Religious proselytizing is illegal. It is punishable by penalties and/or imprisonment for up to 15 days and could lead to deportation.

Homosexual activity is illegal. Convicted offenders may face jail sentences.

Photography of public transportation is prohibited and may result in confiscation of equipment or detention.

Dual citizenship

Dual citizenship is not legally recognized, which may limit the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular services. You should travel using your Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times.

Canadians with Uzbek citizenship may be subject to national obligations, such as taxes. Check your status with the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Washington, D.C., prior to departure.

Consult our publication entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know for more information.

Religion

Islamic practices and beliefs are closely adhered to, particularly in rural areas. Dress conservatively, behave discreetly, and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities.

Money

The currency is the Uzbek sum (UZS), which is used for most transactions. However, U.S. dollars can also be used. Carry bills in pristine condition, as well-worn or used U.S. banknotes may not be accepted. Only a few major hotels and restaurants accept credit cards. Traveller's cheques can only be cashed at the National Bank of Uzbekistan. Purchasing money on the black market is illegal and may result in extortion or jail sentences. There are no automated banking machines.

Climate

Uzbekistan is located in an active seismic zone.