- Fergana Valley, a south east part of Uzbekistan. There are three regions in this part: Namangan (region), Andijan (region), Ferghana (region).
- Tashkent (capital)
- Bokhara (Bukhara, Buxoro)
- Ferghana (Fergana, Fargona)
- Khiva, site of the Itchan Kala
Several of these were once great trading cities on the Silk Road.
Visas are required for everyone apart from CIS countries. A 'Letter of Invitation' (LOI) is no longer required by citizens of some western countries (but not Dutch citizens). The Uzbek government is making the visa process more difficult and does not seem to be welcoming people from non-CIS countries. A 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 30-40 USD for a short stay. For the latest information see the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs .
Tashkent 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.
- Tashkent - Moscow (3 times weekly)
- Tashkent - Ufa (3 times weekly)
- Tashkent - Celjabinsk (once weekly)
- Tashkent - Kharkov (once weekly)
- Tashkent - Saratov (every 4 days)
- Nukus - Tashkent - Almaty (once weekly)
Domestic services: The main line Tashkent - Samarkand - Bukhara is served by two express trains named "Registon" and "Sharq": The "Registon" brings you from Tashkent in less than 4 hours to Samarkand and the "Sharq" makes the 600-km-journey Tashkent - Bukhara (with intermediate stop in Samarkand) in about 7,5 hours. A daily overnight train from Tashkent to Bukhara offers the possibility to travel during the night and win one day. Comfortable sleeping cars allow a good sleep. 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.
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.
When land borders are open, buses run to all neigbouring countries. However, 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.
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.
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.
The majority of citizens are ethnic Uzbeks and most speak Uzbek as their first language, although many also speak Russian. 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.
Osh (Plov) 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.
Chuchvara - similar to ravioli and stuffed with mutton and onions.
Manti - lamb and onion filled dumpling-like food.
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 - soup with meat, spices, vegetables and pasta. By right, it should include 50 ingredients.
Shashlik - grilled meat. Usually served only with onions.
Bread - Uzbeks eat lots of bread (in uzbek its called "non"). Round bread is called lepioshka. You can buy it anywhere, while in the bazzar it costs around 400 sum. Samarkand very famous for the bread.
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. 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. If you are being served tea in an Uzbek home, the host will attempt at all times to make sure your cup is never empty. If the host fails to refill your cup, it probably means that it is time for you to leave. A mind-numbing variety of brands of vodka are available almost everywhere. Although Uzbekistan is predominately Muslim, for the most part the Islam practiced there tends to be more cultural than religious. Vodka ranges from cheap to very cheap, although the quality is questionable. Russian vodka is available in a few shops.
Visitors should consider tap water to be unsafe to drink, and drinking from bottled water is advised.
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 travelers 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 jewelry 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 (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, cafes, 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.
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.
In Uzbekistan, and in Central Asia in general, elderly people are greatly respected. They are known by the name aksakal, which means 'white beard'. Always treat the elderly with great respect and defer to them in all situations.
Mobile connection works in most parts of Uzbekistan and the services are cheap. There are several popular mobile service providers in Uzbekistan - Beeline, MTC, Costcom, PerfectumMobile. However, you can get a sim card only if you have an Uzbek friend who is registered in the region you are buying the card. They need to register the cards to their passports.
You can find Internet cafes in most of the cities.
This page was last edited at 15:48, on 28 March 2009 by Wikitravel user Vidimian. Based on work by cz, Peter Fitzgerald, Timothy Chuter, Agne, Dave Stanley, Nir Nussbaum and Sergey Kudryavtsev, Wikitravel user(s) Texugo, Pashley and Episteme, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.