If you are interested in culture and history, don’t think too long – Uzbekistan is definitely a country for you! It’s full of amazing architecture, old streets and cool vibe as many cities were part of the ancient Silk Road. In addition you can enjoy delicious kitchen, meet super friendly locals, explore stunning nature and last but not least – it’s really affordable. Of course, there’s no need to be worried about safety – as a tourist, you’ll be safe and sound!
Location: Landlocked in Central Asia, bordered by Kazakhstan to the north and west, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, Afganistan to the southeast and Turkmenistan to the south.
Population: around 33 million
Language: Uzbek. If you can speak Russian it’s not a problem to travel there, younger generation can generally speak pretty good English as well. Farsi/Persian is spoken to the west side of Uzbekistan. Of course, you can always use body language, and don’t forget – smile gets you further!
People: Super friendly, helpful and curious.
Religion: islam (90%)
Currency/prices: Currency used in Kyrgyzstan is the som (UZS). 1 € = 10 000 som (March’18). 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! Compared to Estonia the cost of living in Uzbekistan is rather cheaper: transportation is cheap, groceries a lot cheaper (alcohol, tobacco and sweets, nuts much cheaper). Eating outside is really cheap, if you visit local places you could easily eat with 50 euro cents to one euro. Accommodation: cheapest hostel is 10 dollars. Museums/ancient places: as a tourist you pay much more than locals, the average price for a ticket seemed to be between 20 000 – 24 000 soms.
SIM-card: To get a local number is fairly cheap depending on the service provider. It is possible to buy a SIM-card almost everywhere, from the stores or from the sellers on the streets.
Visa: To go to Uzbekistan many nations need to have a visa and some nations also a LOI (Letter of Invitation), 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. Tourist visa is issued for a maximum of 30 days. The visa is date-specific, meaning that entry and exit dates are set on the visa. You can enter after the visa entry date and leave before the exit date. More information: https://caravanistan.com/visa/uzbekistan/
Restrictions: PS. You need to know some rules in order to enter the country and have a pleasant stay there. 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 a problem! 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 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!]
According to the law, 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?
Food: Traditionally Uzbek people eat a lot of meat, the most popular dishes are plov and kebab. In bigger cities cafes and restaurants offer traditional food as well as sushi and pizza. In bigger grocery stores you can find almost everything you need, it is possible to get fresh vegetables at the markets (bazaars) all year around.
Plane: You can enter Uzbekistan by plane via Tashkent and smaller cities.
Train: The most comfortable way to get around, also cheap. Tashkent->Samarkand = 58 000 soms (the cheapest ticket).
Shared taxi: Between bigger cities (and also to the border crossings) you can also take a shared taxi, which is more expensive than a train, but generally faster. For 5-hour ride you should pay maximum 100 000 soms (per seat).
Accommodation: What ever you are looking for you can find: really fancy hotels, laid back hostels, camping is allowed almost everywhere. CouchSurfing is active, but illegal. Mostly you are able to find a place in a hostel for 10-15 dollars.
Nature and economy: Uzbekistan is a landlocked country and has rather dry climate. Agricultural industry (mostly cotton) is common around rivers and oasis, but is also the main contributor to the pollution and devastation of both air and water in the country. The Aral Sea used to be the fourth-largest inland sea on Earth but due to the overuse of the water it has shrunk to less than 50% of its former area. Uzbekistan mines gold and gas.
Uzbekistan has an extreme continental climate, it’s warmer in the south and colder in the north. Temperatures can go down to -35°C or reach +45°C. The best time for travelling is from April to June and from September to October.
Some more pictures: