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Coronavirus (COVID-19) travel restrictions in Uzbekistan – updated 5 May, 2020: all borders have been closed to non-residents, plus all commercial flights and international rail and road links have been suspended. From 23 March, it is compulsory to wear a facemask while outside, and fines will be handed out to anyone not following the rules. The capital city, Tashkent, was put into lockdown from 24 March. Some businesses have returned to work in late April, however lockdown measures remain in place until 10 May throughout various cities.
Uzbekistan has experienced a boom in tourism in recent years as it's become easier to obtain a visa and travel around the country. The government is investing more in tourism and even taking special measures to make sure visitors continue to come, aiming to make their trip safe and enjoyable.
Ian Shiels, a traveler to Uzbekistan from Ramblers Walking Holidays recommends that if you’re visiting for the first time, the main cities are going to be the easiest to navigate as they’re most cosmopolitan, with many expats and travelers alike around. The capital, Tashkent, is a great place to start, and is similar to other capital cities around the world when it comes to safety.
He says if you want to travel to more remote and breathtaking areas such as the Beldersay Mountains or the historical site of Khiva, tour groups are always available, or you could hire a guide to translate for you while showing you the best Uzbekistan has to offer.
The crime rate in the country is pretty low, but the reason is that Uzbekistan is a totalitarian (police) state.
You need to be registered by hotels or your licensed accommodation in Uzbekistan. If you are couchsurfing, you need to register yourself using the online DIY registration system, Emehmon, which was launched in July 2018.
Hotels and guest houses will save you the headache of doing the paperwork, and issue you with a registration slip for the duration of your stay. Make sure you keep these tickets safe, some travelers have reported being asked for them at border crossings as evidence of their route through the country.
Unlike many of its neighbors, Uzbekistan is generally safe for visitors. When you directly compare Uzbekistan to its notorious neighbors (Afghanistan, for example), Uzbekistan is paradise.
However, it's not entirely without risk. There have been reports of an increase in street and violent crime, particularly in Tashkent.
Another by-product of being a police state is the lack of credible information in the media. 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.
Always use common sense when you're traveling in an unfamiliar country. Scams are not unheard of here.
One common scam (not exclusive 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. You wouldn't fall for this kind of thing at home – why would you overseas?
In the same vein, be cautious of locals you don't know who offer to show you the nightlife.
Rameez Ghayas Usmani says traveling around Uzbekistan is difficult for solo travelers due to the language barrier and security concerns.
"I was engrossed to see ancient and historical sights in Bukhara, Samarkand, and Tashkent. Luckily, I had a local guide who spoke good English and made me aware of pickpocketing, muggings and snatching in public and crowded places."
I was also told by my guide about having no car rental companies and services in the entire country, so l had to take my two internal flights and the new fast train service from Samarkand to Tashkent.
At the time when I was there, I heard some reports of raids in local restaurants, but my guide took me to one of the safest restaurants in the area to experience Uzbekistan's delicious traditional food including manti, lagman, plov that you can never have anywhere else in the world.
I found that Uzbekistan is a country that is charming, spiritual and romantic with hospital people who are always ready to help people who are in need."
Homosexuality is illegal under Uzbek law, and is a taboo subject among locals. Be careful showing public displays of affection. There are no anti-discrimination laws in place, so travelers need to be aware of the risk.
Be aware that Uzbekistan is a police state, it is not a free and open society and you should keep your head down and obey all local laws.
Always carry a color photocopy of your passport and your visa for Uzbekistan at all times. Keep the original passport locked up safely in your accommodation – and if the Militsiya hassle you to see the original, make it clear that they will have to come to your accommodation to see it. 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. We do not recommend giving bribes, as it encourages the behavior.
When we asked Norman from Années de Pèlerinage.com about the bribery situation in Uzbekistan, this is what he had to say:
"I found Uzbekistan to be an incredibly safe country and the people to be utterly open and friendly towards foreigners. There is one exception: bribery. You’ll find policemen standing everywhere. While they do look out for your safety, they also don’t mind earning an extra dollar or two. Whether it’s climbing the minaret of the Ulugh Beg Madrasah on Samarkand’s famous Registan Square or getting to the best viewpoint in Khiva – your way past most certainly involves discreetly passing some US-Dollars to a police officer. And if there is a conflict like you accidentally transgressed in an area where you shouldn’t or you ignored a traffic rule, then chances are high you have to bribe your way out.
I experienced it at the airport, in museums, when changing money and on the road."
You should be aware that any form of photography can upset the authorities. You should check before using a camera, especially near airports, border checkpoints, military barracks, bridges and police stations. Photography is no longer forbidden at metro stations.
Uzbekistan restricts religious activities only to registered religious groups, and has strict registration requirements. Violators of the law's prohibitions on activities such as proselytizing, importing and disseminating religious literature, and offering private religious instruction are subject to criminal penalties, including deportation.
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