02 Dec Tips and how to travel to Uzbekistan for first timers.
Why did we choose to travel to Uzbekistan? Well, because we wanted to wander the places where the caravans plodded through the streets, the places where the merchants and the conquerors charted the Silk Road. A trip to Uzbekistan, to this special country of Central Asia, is a journey through time. And that’s why Uzbekistan is worth visiting! Plus, it is one of the safest and most tourist-friendly countries in Central Asia. After our trip there, we are happy to share with you tips about Uzbekistan. A short and comprehensive guide for «how to travel to Uzbekistan for first timers».
Travel to Uzbekistan!
Where is Uzbekistan and how can you visit it?
Uzbekistan is a Central Asia country that shares borders with five more countries: Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan. Until 1991 it was part of the former Soviet Union. Many famous conquerors have passed through its territory and their influence is obvious. If you plan to travel to Uzbekistan, the first thing that you want to know is how to go there. If you are travelling from Europe, the most common transits are through Istanbul and Russia. The most convenient (for now) is through Istanbul. You only need a four-and-a-half-hour flight from Istanbul to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. If you are travelling from the US, there are some occasional flights from New York City. Otherwise, you will probably need to transit through Istanbul too.
Do I need Visa to travel to Uzbekistan?
It really depends on your nationality. Some nationalities need to apply for a visa online, some nationalities do not need a visa at all. All nationalities need a valid passport to travel to Uzbekistan though. In fact, only a few years ago, Uzbekistan introduced a visa-free access for most nationalities. Attention: This is a 30 day visa. When it comes to Europeans, most of them (probably all) do not need a visa for Uzbekistan. We have a Greek passport and we didn’t need one. But other nationalities do, like Americans, Indians etc. These countries can apply for an e-visa. In any case, always check with your embassy, or search for updated information on the official website of the country you are interested in. About Uzbekistan, you can check for more info on the following website: https://mfa.uz/en/pages/visa-republic-uzb.
Is it safe to travel to Uzbekistan?
Uzbekistan is a quite safe country, especially if you compare it with the countries that it shares borders with, such as Afghanistan. Personally, we did not feel any danger, especially in the smaller cities where people still show curiosity about tourists. We didn’t use guides or a tour operator and still we felt safe all the time. In fact, Uzbekistan has a very low crime rate. This does not mean that there is no crime at all, especially in large urban centres like Tashkent. But this is the case in all big cities of the world. Another thing that you may notice is that they tend to charge tourists much more than locals. Of course, you can negotiate prices for services like a taxi drive or for goods in the flea markets. But still the prices are low! This has nothing to do though with the original question, if it is safe to travel to Uzbekistan.
A tip for your trip to Uzbekistan – and for all your trips to be honest – is to have a travel insurance. It doesn’t cost much, and you will be more carefree if anything happens.
When should you travel to Uzbekistan?
To get the most out of a trip to Uzbekistan, it is important to visit when the weather conditions are pleasant. If this is not possible, we still provide some tips at the end of the article. So, let’s see which is the best month to travel to Uzbekistan. The best time is between mid-May and June or mid-September and October. During these periods you will find pleasant temperatures, without stifling heat or cold. The truth is that in Uzbekistan you may encounter extreme temperatures due to the climate, location and morphology of the country. During the summertime it’s too hot, as it is essentially a desert, while during the winter the temperature can drop really low (minus cold). If you do not have a flexible schedule and have to go during these periods, such as January or August, you should be well-prepared. Our best tip for visiting Uzbekistan during this time is to add a few more days to your travel schedule to allow for weather-related delays. For example, if it is very hot, you can explore early in the morning and then again in the afternoon, while at noon you may relax at your hotel. You may need 1-2 more days into your schedule, but you will probably enjoy your trip more.
Internet and money in Uzbekistan
If you decide to travel to Uzbekistan, you will have to come to terms with the fact that the internet is slow! You will find wifi in most hotels and some shops, but you can also buy a local Sim Card. We bought a local sim card with 10GB for a month at a cost of about 5 euros. The internet may be slow, but you can still do all the basics, like reply to e-mails, send messages back home, or upload an Instagram story. In terms of foreign exchange, the local currency is the Uzbek Sum, which is undervalued, as 10,000 sum equals about 0.80 euro cents. So yes, you will feel like a millionaire! We withdraw money from an ATM with our card, so we did not carry any euros except from a safe amount (it is good to have some cash with you). You will find many ATMs, so you do not need to worry about it. Of course, there is a commission, but it is low. Credit cards are also accepted but mostly in tourist shops, restaurants, and hotels However, we strongly suggest that you have some cash with you, as they do not accept cards everywhere.
How to move around in Uzbekistan
If you want to travel to Uzbekistan, you will need to check how to move around, as the points of interest extend in different cities. You do not need to worry, as there is a well-organized train network to get from one city to another. But let’s start with the basics. In Tashkent, the capital (and only there), we used an app like uber, called Yandex Go, for transportation within the city. It works like uber, and it is very cheap. Another way to move around in Tashkent is the metro, which is very convenient – and has beautiful interiors. In the other cities you will need to take the classic taxis, which are highly likely to overcharge you, so you will need to negotiate the price, ideally before you enter. The best way to travel from one city to another in Uzbekistan is by train. A popular itinerary is from Tashkent to Samarkand by train and then again from Samarkand to Bukhara.
We found their train system quite organized, while the trains themselves provided all the amenities. The fastest and most modern is the Afrosiyob train that connects Tashkent with Samarkand and Bukhara. You should book your tickets online in advance to find a seat. You can also hire a driver for private or shared transfer. We did it from Bukhara to Khiva, since on our departure day there was no direct train. The cost was not high – around $50 for a 5-hour drive, but our driver was driving like crazy, so we felt stressed!
Other useful and interesting information about Uzbekistan
A trip to Uzbekistan will leave you with experiences of a lifetime – and several questions! Like the fact that the only cars you see are Chevrolets – mostly white – and even though 98% of the population is Muslim, vodka is a common drink. But we should take into consideration that this is a former Soviet country. In addition, although it is a safe country for visitors, it is one of the countries with the highest corruption levels. It is a country with natural wealth, such as uranium and gold, something that is not reflected in the daily life of the citizens, with an annual per capita income of $3000. At the same time, you are roaming around these wonderful, well-preserved places, as the majestic Registan in Samarkand, the old town of Bukhara and Khiva, and you can’t believe your eyes. A country full of contrasts! A trip worth taking.