Why you should go to Uzbekistan for your next vacation
Chances are, the idea of travelling to Uzbekistan never crossed your mind.
Let me tell you why you should reconsider!
There’s A LOT to see
Uzbekistan is a former Soviet Republic located at the heart of Central Asia and as a crossroad of many civilizations, it is home to a very rich historic heritage.
Some of the oldest and most impressive monuments of the Muslim World are located in Uzbekistan and will leave you speechless. Luckily, numerous ancient sites made it to the 21st century and are just waiting for you.
It is very unique and exotic
From Alexander the Great to Marco Polo, famous adventurers set foot in the region while travelling along the Silk Road. This legendary past unarguably adds a special feeling to any visit to Uzbekistan. Also influenced by the Persian culture, now is your chance to write your own story of the One Thousand and One Nights and follow the steps of Aladdin.
Besides, with so many world-class monuments, it is quite surprising that Uzbekistan isn’t more crowded. But it might not stay like this forever so you better go sooner than later.
You will quickly be in your element
One of the main draws of Uzbekistan is the friendliness of the locals. You will definitely feel welcome and incredibly comfortable in such a festive and laid-back atmosphere. Even if most of them don’t speak any English, communication always works out with a few signs and laughs.
For those of you who might worry about this aspect, although Uzbekistan is a Muslim country, it is not expected for western women to cover their hair or wear any specific attire (but you should choose to avoid provocative clothes). Besides, you will hardly see any women wearing a niqab or hijab, and the prayer call is not broadcasted by Uzbekistan’s mosques. And for the beer drinkers out there, don’t worry it’s available everywhere and the Russians also brought the vodka during their time in Uzbekistan.
Transportation and accommodations are easy to organize
Between major cities, the train will be your best option. Reliable, affordable and running on time, it’s a great way to link Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara.
For other destinations, hiring a driver is the easiest way to travel. Departing from a specific area in each city or village, you can quickly find a car to take you anywhere in the country.
If you’re travelling on a budget, shared taxis are also very common. The driver will wait to have sold all the seats (4 guests per car) before leaving so you will have to wait a little. If you are a group of two to four, paying for the whole car is usually the most convenient way to travel.
For example, one seat in a car from Tashkent to Fergana (a 5 ½ hours drive) costs $7 USD per passenger. So you would need to pay $28 USD if you prefer to charter the entire car.
For accommodations, small guesthouses are your best bet. Well maintained, clean and near all the places of interest, you will find them online and can book directly by email (around 30-35$ for a double room with a private bathroom). The staff will be a great resource for visit suggestions or booking local tours and drivers. Two places I really enjoyed are Meros BB in Khiva and Sarrafon B&B in Bukhara.
Sample expenses you can expect when you go to Uzbekistan:
- Main dish in a centrally located restaurant near touristic spots: $2 – $4 USD
- Beer at a restaurant: $1.5 USD
- Tea at a restaurant: $0.5 USD
- One night in a double room with private bathroom at a well located guesthouse: $35 USD (per room)
- Entrance ticket to a museum or touristic site: $1 – $4 USD
- Train ticket between Bukhara and Samarkand (3 hours): $6 USD
Uzbekistan is considered to have an authoritarian regime. The president, Islam Karimov, has been running the country for more than 25 years and is widely accused of corruption and human rights abuse but from a tourist standpoint, you will be in a stable and safe environment. A couple of things to consider however:
- You should avoid contacts with the police (never hand in your passport unless you are in a police office).
- You will need to register at a hotel at least every 3 days. Your guesthouse will give you a paper slip with details about your stay that you must keep until you leave the country. Although it is very useless, it is a painless process for tourists but it prevents you from camping or couchsurfing more than 2 nights in a row.
If you’d like to plan your own trip to Uzbekistan:
Check out this page for a sample one week itinerary and additional travel tips.
Fun Fact about Uzbekistan:
(that you can use to break the ice at a cocktail party)
Did you know that Uzbekistan is one of the only two double-landlocked countries in the world? (Meaning that it is entirely surrounded by land or closed sea, and none of its neighbouring countries have access to the open waters either. By the way, the other one is Lichtenstein.)
local music to put you in the mood