Uzbekistan travel guide
Central Asia's most populous country is, besides Liechtenstein, the only country in the world surrounded entirely by other landlocked states, and is bordered by the '-stans' - Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. It also borders the Aral Sea, which it shares with Kazakhstan.
Having declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Uzbekistan has sought to increase awareness to its tourism potential, boasting historical, archaeological, architectural and natural treasures. Tourist activities range from outdoor pursuits in the beautiful mountainous regions to exploring its rich century-old history. Oasis towns like Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva were once main points of trade on the Silk Road linking Eastern and Western civilisations and are among the oldest towns in the world with ancient mosques, grandiose madrasas (Islamic clergy academies) and palaces, citadels, minarets, colourful bazaars, highly-adorned mausoleums, and age-old traditions. Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent, is the main point of entry and exit into and out of the country, and although also formerly part of the Silk Road, it is usually overlooked as a site of interest in favour of the historically richer tourism centres such as Samarkand. The 2,750-year-old World Heritage city was the greatest in Central Asia in its time, and boasts one of the most impressive sights in the region, Registan Square.
In recent years, Uzbekistan has cooled its relations with the West, having closed the US airbase that was used for operations in Afghanistan after 9/11, and favouring closer relations with China, India and Russia following Western calls for investigation into the bloody massacre at Andijon in 2005.
Uzbek hospitality is nevertheless unequivocal, and visitors to the country will be overwhelmed with offers of tea or vodka, and treated to a feast of architectural splendour in this most historically intriguing of the Central Asian republics.
The official currency is the Sum (UZS), which is divided into 100 tiyins. Foreign currencies (US dollars, Euros) can readily be exchanged at banks, exchange offices, hotels and shops in the cities, but many hotels and transport providers will require payment in hard currency, like US dollars. Credit cards are accepted in major hotels located in the tourist centres. Travellers cheques have limited acceptance.
Language : Uzbek is the official state language, but Russian is used in much day-to-day official and international communication.
Electricity : Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round, two-pin plugs, as well as oblique flat-blade plugs with ground are in use.
Entry Requirements :
US nationals require a visa and a passport valid for duration of stay for entry to Uzbekistan.
UK nationals require a visa and passport valid for duration of stay for entry to Uzbekistan.
Canadians require a visa and passport valid for duration of stay for entry to Uzbekistan.
Australians require a visa and passport valid for duration of stay for entry to Uzbekistan.
South Africans require a visa and a passport valid for duration of stay for entry to Uzbekistan.
Irish nationals require a visa and passport valid for duration of stay for entry to Uzbekistan.
New Zealand nationals require a visa and passport valid for duration of stay for entry to Uzbekistan.
Passport/Visa Note :
Passports of all visitors should be valid for the period of intended stay. All visitors staying longer than three days are required to register with the local police on arrival, which should be entered on their visa; this will be checked on departure from the country. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Travel Health :
No vaccinations are required by visitors to Uzbekistan. However, outbreaks of Hepatitis A, meningitis and diphtheria occur, and there is a risk of malaria in the south. Visitors should only drink bottled water. Hospitals offer adequate basic medical care, but serious cases will usually be treated outside of the country. Visitors should ensure that they have comprehensive medical insurance.
Tipping is common in restaurants and bars, and is usually 5-10 percent. Some tourist hotels and restaurants, and upmarket institutions will usually include service charge in the bill.
Safety Information :
Travel to Uzbekistan is generally problem-free, but foreigners should avoid unnecessary displays of wealth and walking alone after dark, as occasional muggings do occur. A general threat of terrorism exists particularly in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. Planned demonstrations should be avoided as they have become violent in the past.
Local Customs :
Elderly people are greatly respected and should be treated with deference by foreigners. Most Uzbek people are Muslim and visitors should dress modestly and be sensitive to religious customs, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking in public is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Homosexuality is illegal and public displays of affection are frowned upon. Police will often ask to see proof of identity, and foreigners are recommended to carry a photocopy of their passport with them at all times.
Office hours are generally Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm. Men greet each other with handshakes. Women are not traditionally involved in business.
The international dialling code for Uzbekistan is +998. The outgoing code is 8-10 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 8-10 44 for the UK). City codes are in use, e.g. (71) for Tashkent. International taxophones, using phone cards, are the cheapest way to make calls. A GSM mobile network covers the cities, and Internet usage is growing in the major cities, despite the tight controls enforced by the government.
Duty Free :
Travellers to Uzbekhistan 16 years and older can bring in goods to the value of US$10,000 without incurring customs duty. They are also entitled to import 1,000 cigarettes or 1kg of tobacco products; 1.5 litres of alcohol and 2 litres of wine, plus perfume for personal use. The export of antiques or antiquities requires a special permit. It is forbidden to import photographs and printed matter critical of the country or its government; any live animals; fruit or vegetables; weapons; or narcotics.
Tashkent Yuzhny Airport
Location: The airport is situated seven miles (11km) south of Tashkent.
Time: GMT +5.
Contacts: Tel: +998 (71) 254 2698.
Getting to the city: A taxi rank is located outside the terminal, but visitors are advised to have their destination written in Russian, and to agree on a price before getting in. A number of fixed route taxis are also available. Numerous buses service the airport every 10-20 minutes, and buses also link the airport to the metro. Trolleybus 14 is also an option for transport from the airport.
Facilities: Banks, currency exchange and ATMs are open 24 hours a day. Facilities include a left-luggage office, a medical centre, duty-free shopping, and restaurant and bars.
Departure tax: None.
The continental climate brings long, hot and dry summers and cold winters with snow. The south of the country is generally warmer than the north with July temperatures that can reach in excess of 113°F (45°C) in summer and winter temperatures of 18°F (-8°C) in the north (can reach -13°F/-25°C) and 32°F (0°C) in the south. Spring and autumn are the most pleasant times to travel to Uzbekistan for mild weather, but trekkers are better off in the mountains in summer (July/August).
Tourism Information, Tashkent: +998 (71) 133 5414
United States Embassy, Tashkent: +998 (71) 120 5450.
British Embassy, Tashkent: +998 (71) 120 7852.
Canadian Consulate, Tashkent: +998 (71) 115 2205.
Australian Embassy, Moscow, Russia (also responsible for Uzbekistan): +7 (495) 956 6070.
South African Honorary Consulate, Tashkent: +998 (71) 137 0170/71.
Irish Embassy, Moscow, Russia (also responsible for Uzbekistan): +7 (495) 937 5911.
New Zealand Embassy, Moscow, Russia (also responsible for Uzbekistan): +7 (495) 956 3579.
Uzbekistan Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 887
Foreign Embassies in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7229 7679.
Emergencies: 02 (Police); 03 (Ambulance).
Uzbekistan Emergency Numbers
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