Traveling to Uzbekistan What to Expect & What to Bring
It was once a hermetic nation with strict visa policies for foreign nationals, but today, uzbekistan has opened its borders and welcomed visitors from all corners of the world to witness the splendor of what used to be the heart and hub of the ancient silk road—a country filled with impressive shrines, mosques, and perfectly shaped old cities.
Easily the most tourist-friendly nation in central asia, uzbekistan is a must-see for anybody who enjoys exploring urban areas and historical sites on foot.
However, this nation, which was once a part of the soviet union, has a number of bureaucratic and cultural distinctions that you should be aware of before traveling there.
Uzbekistan’s primary attractions, the Silk Road landmarks of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva, are among the world’s most beautiful. Visit mosques, climb minarets, and wander from mausoleum to madrassah to gain a sense of Islam’s history beyond the Middle East, as well as the might of the Timurid empire, in this city.
Afterwards, take a stroll around the bazaars, since Uzbekistan is a place of merchants and artisans. It is possible that Uzbekistan’s sanitised tourist towns would turn you off if you are less interested in historical sites and more interested in getting to know people and their ways of life today. If that’s the case, go for a swim in the countryside. Seek out masters of their trade in smaller towns, or go far into the eastern desert or the southern highlands to avoid being found by the rest of the world.
The great monuments of the ruler’s strength and grandeur will be the most memorable part of their visit to Uzbekistan, according to the majority of visitors. Whoever takes the risk of venturing away from the main tourist routes will be rewarded with a whole new perspective of Uzbekistan.
This Uzbekistan travel guide will go through each and every one of them, so here is a list of important advice for travelers to Uzbekistan to get you started.
Uzbekistan is subject to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Uzbekistan is now open for tourists, and all that is required is a negative PCR test that was performed no more than 72 hours before to arrival.
Furthermore, for the majority of nationalities, an official 14-day isolation period is necessary. When you arrive in Uzbekistan, the authorities will ask you to fill out and sign a statement that indicates that tourists who do not adhere to the necessary quarantine would be subject to punishment under the Uzbek Penal Code, which is now in effect.
That is the official declaration, but in reality, this regulation is seen as a purely formality that is completely disregarded by both foreign and domestic passengers alike.
In some cases, local sources have stated that, in the worst-case scenario, you will be fined $100 if you are apprehended; however, in all cases, the local authorities have never implemented any sort of control, and all reports I have seen confirm that travelers are free to move around without encountering any difficulties.
It’s crucial to note that most passengers do not sign the form after completing it, and it seems that the local officials just toss it into a large pile without even looking at it.
Visas are required for travel to Uzbekistan.
On arriving in Uzbekistan, you will not be required to get a visa.
Uzbekistan officially provided a 30-day free visa on arrival for most countries in 2019, easing the restrictions for travelers entering the country.
All Western nationalities, with the exception of those from the United States, are covered by this VOA at both airports and land borders. The most recent version of the list may be found here.
Uzbekistan e-visas are available online.
Citizens of countries who are not eligible for a VOA – including those from the United States and India – may apply for an e-visa instead.
It’s a pretty simple procedure that costs just $20 and takes only 2-3 working days, and the official website may be found here.
By default, you will be granted a 30-day visa, but it is also possible to apply for a visa that allows you to enter the country many times. In contrast to previous years, there is no set entry date; instead, you may enter on any day you want during a 90-day period.
How to apply for an e-visa to Uzbekistan
Some email domains are said to be having problems, as is the picture format, and the system seems to have a number of difficulties overall. Nowadays, however, the vast majority of tourists are successful in their applications, and all of the frequent concerns and recommendations are well addressed here.
Visas for Uzbekistan are obtained via the embassy.
If, for some reason, the e-visa does not work for you, you will have to travel to the embassy, therefore I suggest beginning the application process as far ahead as you possibly can.
Typically, it would take one week and would need the following documents: a copy of your passport, two passport pictures, your hotel reservation, and your visa application form (printed and filled out).
Furthermore, one significant difference between an embassy visa and an e-visa is that, with an embassy visa, the entrance and departure dates are set, so you must provide the particular days you will be traveling in Uzbekistan and you are unable to change them after you have submitted your application. In other words, you will not be able to enter before the entrance date you gave or depart after the exit date you indicated.
It is customary for visitors to Uzbekistan to spend their time seeing the historic cities of Bukhara, Samarkand, and Khiva, as well as experiencing some of the country’s arts and crafts.
Besides, who could possibly be against it? Those are, without a doubt, the most notable aspects of the story. The country of Uzbekistan, on the other hand, is much more than its culture and traditions. Explore contemporary city life, take a break in the mountains or the desert, and don’t forget to pay a visit to the villages, which are still the beating heart of Uzbekistan.
The most well-known attractions in the center of Uzbekistan
The turquoise path shown above is the usual tourist route, which includes stops in Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva by rail, with possible stops in Nukus and the Aral Sea before returning to Tashkent by plane. This schedule is popular with tourists who are flying in and out of Tashkent and have roughly a week in Uzbekistan. It checks all of the requirements.
Consider this: although the names Bukhara, Samarkand, and Khiva ring with glimmer, take a time to be honest with yourself about how much you are interested in ancient Islamic architecture in the first place.
Make use of this information while selecting how much time you wish to spend in the Silk Road towns of Central Uzbekistan.
When you begin to feel the effects of madrassah exhaustion, take the yellow diversion between Samarkand and Bukhara, which leads to the Nuratau mountains and the Kyzylkum desert.
Tashkent, the capital of Central Asia and the biggest city in the region, is an excellent example of the magnificent cities that the Soviet Union hoped to develop in the 1960s.
Qaraqalpaqstan, the Ferghana Valley, and the Termez region are all included.
The Savitsky Museum in Nukus and the Aral Sea’s corpse are the two most important attractions in Qaraqalpaqstan, which is located in the extreme western region of Uzbekistan.
Located in the Ferghana Valley (on the purple route), the Ferghana Valley is the most conservative region of the nation, with residents referring to Tashkent as “Europe.” When you arrive in Tashkent from the east, you have to agree with them on some level.
At addition to the Silk Road monuments in Kokand, Margilan and Rishton are well-known for their silk and ceramic products, respectively. Those traveling at a slower pace typically stop in places like Namangan and Shohimardon, which are both busy and calm, before continuing on to Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Osh.
Similarly, the charms of Uzbekistan’s rural south (the vermilion road) are mostly ignored by everyone but a small percentage of the population.
Termez and its surrounds are fascinating for history buffs, since it has remnants of Buddhist, Greek, and early Islamic civilizations that are all layered on top of one another.
The road then passes across Tajikistan, passing via Dushanbe, the Fann mountains, and Panjakent before returning to Samarkand. There is just one method to link many nations together into a multi-Stan itinerary.
Trains and automobiles are two modes of transportation.
Trains are a convenient and pleasant mode of transportation in Uzbekistan. However, if you are traveling on your own, making reservations in advance may still prove to be a burden.
If you have missed the train, a shared cab or minibus is a quick and inexpensive alternative transportation option. Old and sluggish buses should be avoided at all costs, with a few exceptions. They have no air conditioning, no restrooms, and are quite claustrophobic in general. Marshrutkas are likewise crammed into small spaces. Backseats in shared taxis are likewise rather crowded.
In a shared cab, attempt to grab a front seat (but not if you’re a single female tourist; you could be sending the wrong signal); Uzbeks will strive to maximize leg and shoulder room in the rear, resulting in you being squished or otherwise finding yourself in an endless wiggle match (with 2 expert wrigglers).
Driving in Uzbekistan is straightforward, and automobile rental is no longer a concern.
Cycling should be avoided throughout the hot months.
See Uzbekistan’s border crossings and the different city guides for information on cross-border transportation.
Flying between Tashkent and distant cities like as Khiva and Termez, or even Andijan, may save valuable time. Winter has minimal impact on transportation in Uzbekistan, which is accessible practically anywhere at any time of year.
Those traveling to Uzbekistan by air will find that both Tashkent and Samarkand have international airports, and airports are no longer the horrors that they used to be. Getting started is a simple and enjoyable process.
In Uzbekistan, you do not need the services of a tour guide.
Uzbekistan has a highly popular tour organization, and it appeared like every visitor in the country was associated with them at the time I was there. Spending $400 every day in Uzbekistan would be incredibly tough, even if you stayed in the most opulent hotel the country has to offer.
If you don’t understand the language (or at least Russian), it might be tough to traverse the nation, although the locals are always willing to assist. And there always appears to be at least one person in the vicinity who speaks at least rudimentary English. Apart from that, one of the pleasures of visiting in Uzbekistan is figuring out where to go and what to see on your own. It has turned into a fantastic experience!
The internet connection in Uzbekistan is awful.
If you need to do any internet tasks while in Uzbekistan, you will not have an easy time. Although most hotels and restaurants advertise free WiFi, getting it to work for you is a hit or miss proposition. If you have anything very essential that you need to do while in Uzbekistan and it requires access to the internet, you’re going to be in trouble. Particularly if the task at hand entails uploading or downloading huge files
Weekends are particularly busy since domestic tourism is more popular than foreign tourist.
Many Uzbek people travel from their hometowns on weekends, when their children are not in school, to see family and friends. As a result, if you plan to visit the most popular attractions on a Saturday or Sunday, expect to encounter large crowds. We discovered that the greater the concentration of Uzbek visitors in one location, the better. It will make your whole experience that much more enjoyable!
Uzbekistan has many interesting places to see.
Take your seat because this is the most exciting portion. Uzbekistan is presently the most popular tourist destination in Central Asia, and with good reason. Simply contemplating the prospect of traversing the old Silk Road is exhilarating in and of itself.
Although it is possible to do so due to the convenience of contemporary travel, it is satisfying to know that you have traveled as far as Khiva and Karakalpakstan and are thus way off the beaten path.
Continue reading to find out where we traveled and what places you should see in Uzbekistan right now.
It just took one day in Tashkent for us to fall in love with the colors and moods of Central Asia, and we were completely smitten. It has been more than 2000 years since Tashkent became the capital of Uzbekistan, and the city has experienced a great deal in that time. If you are planning a trip to Central Asia, it is likely that Tashkent will be your first port of call. And if that’s the case, you’re in luck. The city is exciting because it has an Asian city feel to it, it is gorgeous because of the colors and architecture of the Silk Road, and it has a touch of Soviet to remind you that you are in fact in Russia. A paradox, but in a good sense, is what it is.
Tashkent has a variety of things to do.
Visit Hast Iman Square, which is a great place to start learning about the distinctive Islamic architecture of Central Asia. It is a great first expedition. In addition to being recognized as the spiritual heart of Tashkent and the city’s greatest place of prayer, the complex also serves as a cultural and educational center.
At Chorsu Bazaar, you may try a taste of the following: No matter if you have nothing to buy, this bazaar is a must-see for anybody interested in the Central Asian way of life and culture.
Make like the natives and hail a cab: Seriously, you may flag down any passing vehicle and they will gladly provide you with a ride. You have to give it a go. (You may find out more about it here.)
Eat at the Plov Center: This place is out of this world. 500 people may be served at a time from giant cauldrons of Uzbekistan’s traditional rice dish! You won’t want to pass up the opportunity to experience Plov here.
Swim in Limpopo: Furkat Recreation Park is an a 15-minute walk from Topchan Hostel in Tashkent, and it offers a variety of water sports. We became regulars at the swimming pool, and it is likely that this alone will be remembered as the highlight of our trips in Uzbekistan by the children!
Nukus and the Aral Sea are two of the most beautiful places on earth.
Nukus is a city in the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan, and it is the capital of the region. A once-fertile region famed for its thriving industry in the vicinity of the cotton fields is now the poorest and most barren region in the nation, according to the World Bank.
To get there, you’ll need to do some serious preparation. I imagine us boarding a train in Tashkent that was built during the Soviet period around 3 p.m. with the temperature already reaching 43 degrees Celsius. We’d devised a crazy plan to travel the nighttime train through the desert to Nukus, which was on the opposite side of Uzbekistan from where we were (with kids).
Nukus has a variety of things to do.
Every market in Central Asia is worth at least one trip to see what it has to offer. Although Nukus is not large, the assortment of breads and qurut available in the market remarkable.
Examine the remains of Mizdakhan, an ancient Khorezm city that has been in continuous use since its founding in the 4th century BC.
Visit the Savitzky Art Gallery and Museum, which includes the following attractions: It is less thrilling if you are traveling with children in Uzbekistan, or if you are not a big lover of avant-garde art in general. The Nukus Museum, on the other hand, is home to the second-largest collection of Russian avant-garde art in the world.
Eat plov and lagman: Although not officially a tourist attraction in Nukus, it is a fantastic location to learn about Uzbek cuisine.
The Aral Sea is a body of water in Central Asia.
The Aral Sea was first introduced to us via a television documentary. It was difficult for us to comprehend how such devastation could have been inflicted by human hands; we were startled, enthralled, and terrified.
Only a tenth of the original sea is still there today. It was once the world’s fourth-largest lake, but it has since become one of the world’s most symbolic environmental catastrophes.
It has been losing water on a daily basis for more than half a century. Since Soviet engineers started diverting the rivers that flowed into it in order to produce cotton in the desert, the region has suffered from a lack of water.
The Aral Sea has a number of attractions worth seeing.
It’s on its way out, figuratively speaking. With barely 10% of the original sea remaining, it’s important to visit as soon as possible while you still have the opportunity.
Experience the nomad lifestyle with a yurt stay: Located on the shores of the Aral Sea, a yurt stay allows you to get a taste of the nomadic way of life. (Doesn’t that seem strange?)
See the cemetery of ships, which is a ship graveyard of fishing boats that was a source of income for the people of Karakalpakstan in the past (now hundreds of kilometres from water).
Muynak is a must-see destination. This town, which was once a flourishing fishing settlement, is now completely deserted. Once again, figuratively speaking. Exploration of the desert village that is now a ghost town is recommended.
It takes a full day and more than seven hours of driving to get to the Aral Sea beach from Nukus, which is 400 kilometers distant. However, it is well worth the effort.
Khiva evokes all of the images associated with the legendary Silk Road. It’s like a gigantic outdoor museum meets a sand city in the Urgench desert, and it’s just stunning.
Khiva has a variety of things to do.
Visit the Pahlavon Mahmoud Mausoleum: The grave of Pahlavon Mahmoud, Khiva’s patron saint, is housed inside the mausoleum’s renowned blue dome, which can be seen from miles away.
The eating of kabobs in the plaza has become our favorite activity in Khiva (again). The ancient city is home to a number of outdoor cafés where you can have non and kabobs while taking in the sights and sounds of the city.
Watch the sunset from the observation deck: it’s the ideal vantage point for watching the sunset. (However, you won’t be alone in your enthusiasm; the watch tower offers the greatest panoramic view of the city.) It is well worth a visit at any time of day or night since the entrance fee is merely 7,000 som ($0.80).
Experiment with the bazaar: Yes, there is yet another bazaar. The major market in Khiva, which sprawls inwards towards the ancient city from the East Gate, is well worth a visit and should not be missed.
Experiencing a neighboring village: You could be fortunate enough to stay in the same place we did (Guest House Khiva Yoqut), where the family treated us to a visit to a nearby hamlet. The children caught fish (in Khiva?!) and played with other children and donkeys from the neighborhood.
Get lost in the backstreets: you can’t help but fall in love with Khiva once you start exploring the city. It seems and feels as though we had stepped into a another millennium!
The city of Bukhara has a history that dates back more than a thousand years. The city was a major station on the Silk Road trade route that ran between the East and the West, and it still is today.
It now comprises hundreds of mosques, madrassas, bazaars, and caravanserais that date back to the 9th through the 17th century and are in very good condition, as well. Furthermore, it is designed to be a walkable town, making it simple for visitors to move about. Nothing seems to have altered much over the previous couple centuries!
Bukhara has a variety of things to do.
Shopping in the Old District: Without a doubt, this is the best spot to go if you want to pick up some souvenirs from Uzbekistan. We purchased some of the exquisite hand-woven fabrics that Uzbekistan is famed for from a caravanserai that was built in the 1800s. What a fantastic opportunity!
Climb to the summit of Chor Minor for the following reasons: There are four minarets on this edifice, which is known as “chor-minor” in Tajik, and it is impossible to overlook it while visiting Bukhara. Individuals may have access to the rooftop for merely 4,000 UZS.
See the Ark of Bukhara: The Ark of Bukhara, a massive stronghold erected in the 5th century, is the city’s oldest structure. It was in use until Russia seized control of the country in 1920.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the Mir-i-Arab Madrasah, which is still in operation today as a center of study for future religious leaders. However, the complex itself is just gorgeous. Take it all in around sunset if possible.
A tiny, man-made lake, Lyab-i Hauz Lake, is located in the heart of the Old Town District and is a great place to eat. Furthermore, it is quite okay to dine at Lyab-i Hauz Restaurant many times a day; it is the greatest spot to have a drink and kabob while taking in the view of the sunset.
Visit the Summer Palace in Bukhara, which includes the following activities: The sprawling summer residence of Amir Olimknon, as well as the splendor of its heyday, is a sight to see. a bit worn down by today’s standards, but refreshingly calmer than the tourist attractions in Bukhara’s town center
Samarkand is renowned around the globe for its stunningly gorgeous blue mosques and mausoleums, which can be seen throughout the city. It is, without a doubt, the most recognizable and significant tourist attraction in Uzbekistan, and for good reason. Registan Square serves as a physical reminder for many of us that we have arrived at our destination.
Surprisingly, Samarkand is also the most popular tourist attraction in Uzbekistan, and as a result, it seems more congested than other cities. Keep in mind that this is within the sphere of Central Asian tourism, which, luckily, is still in its infancy.
Make sure you have realistic expectations for Samarkand and check at other places in the city where you can experience uninterrupted culture (hint: start at the bazaar and eat your way from there).
Aside from the spectacular Islamic architecture of Samarkand, our most memorable experience was the opportunity to learn about the most holy of all Uzbek breads, kashmiri bread. That’s right, we have recollections of the time we spent the better part of a baking day with a fourth-generation family of Uzbek bread makers….
Samarkand has a variety of things to do.
Visit the Registan: Registan Square is the beating heart of Samarkand, and it is by far the most popular and recognizable attraction in the city. The plaza is organized around three madrassahs (Arabic for “schools”), all of which are located on each side of the central square: Ulugh Beg Madrasah, Tilya-Kori Madrasah, and Sher-Dor Madrasah. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the magnitude and magnificence of the structure.
The folklore surrounding this mosque is nearly as amazing as the building’s courtyard.
It is conveniently located near Registan Square and is definitely worth a visit.
Descend straight into the Shah-I-Zinda Necropolis, which has even more gorgeous architecture, exquisite tilework, and mosaics, but this one allows you to go all the way down into the tomb itself.
When translated into Persian, the name relates to the tomb and ultimate resting place of Timur, the conqueror who built the city in 13th century.
Take a stroll around Siob Bazaar: The main market in Samarkand is exactly what you would expect (and hope) from another Silk Road bazaar in the region. It’s crowded, colorful, and energetic, and it’s stuffed with dried fruit and halva delicacies that will make you fall in love with Uzbek cuisine all over again.
Making the journey all the way out to the desert and back via the historic Silk Road is undoubtedly a circuit that provides a unique opportunity to see some of the highs and lows of a civilization.
The towns have such an astounding exhibition of Islamic architecture that is so distinct from the rest of Asia and that has been kept in such excellent condition. Even the structures themselves conjure up vivid recollections of the Silk Road. Even the camel caravan emptying their cargo and being hobbled for the night can be smelled via the window. In addition, traveling to Uzbekistan with children made the journey much more of an adventure and an eye-opening experience.
Achieving success in making it to the Aral Sea is a humbling and invaluable learning experience. That, along with the delicious cuisine and the wonderful people we encountered along the journey, has firmly established Uzbekistan as one of our top three travel destinations. And we’d do it all over again in a heartbeat if we could.