Firstly, what do you know about Uzbekistan? To be honest, I didn’t know much before I actually went there. So, let’s start with some basic information:
Population: 33 million
Capital: Tashkent – a big city which is surprisingly modern. If I didn’t know I would say it was somewhere in Europe. Most of the buildings are pretty new, also because of the earthquake which destroyed a lot in 1966.
Currency: Uzbek som. 1 eur is around 10 000 som. That means you actually need an extra bag to carry your packages of money, no kidding! It’s almost impossible to find ATMs, so make sure to take enough cash with you!
Religion: Islam (90%)
Now, let’s talk about the rules. And about the new president of Uzbekistan who actually made me to become the very first Estonian entering the country without Letter of Invitation (LOI)! To go to Uzbekistan many nations need to have a visa and some nations also a LOI, which you can get through travel agencies. Since February 2018 the whole process was simplified and now most of the countries in Europe do not need LOI anymore, how cool is that??
Now, how to survive the border crossing to Uzbekistan and then the whole time you are going to spend in the country? You need to know the laws! If I’m completely honest, I still don’t know… Which lead me to the point where I actually broke a law a bit. First, border crossing. They might check all the medicines you are carrying with you. Check out the prohibited stuff HERE. Don’t bring any literature about history, religion nor politics. Make sure you don’t have any photos or movies with pornographic content. I heard about people who had to show all their files in their computers and phones to the controls at the border. Oh, and if you happen to be a man – long beard can be no and no! You can be lucky though, and because of the new president, processes inside Uzbekistan are getting easier and easier! While entering the country you will be asked how much cash do you have – be aware that while leaving the country you can’t have more than that!
About me – they didn’t check anything listed above, so I passed the control within two minutes!
It’s time to start with the most exciting part of the story! According to the law (oh, how politically correct :D), it’s not allowed to stay with your friends or use CouchSurfing. As a tourist you need to go to the hostel or hotel EVERY night and get a registration slip while checking out. Night train ticket counts as well. They might check it on the border when you leave the country – and if you are missing some slips, well, be ready to pay a fine or get deported from the country. To make everything more complicated – the very first 72 hours in the country you can stay wherever you want, without having a registration! And to make things even MORE complicated – according to some sources you actually need to register only one night out of three, if you change the region inside the country. I tried – it worked and didn’t work at the same time! If you don’t have the previous night’s registration, some hostels refuse to check you in because they say you already broke the law. Some of them say it’s okay. Pretty confusing, huh?
Finally, I was standing at the border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, ready to leave the country. My legs were slightly shaking and heart beating because, well… I was a bit rebellious and didn’t have all the slips with me. I tried to be as self-confident as possible and not to think about the worst possible scenario. I gave my passport to the officer. Clack! she hit a stamp into my passport and simply wished me a great day…
BUT! These experiences made my trip more memorable and of course, in the future I’m gonna tell you why Uzbekistan is one of my FAVOURITE countries!