This beautiful, historic Central Asian country has a lot to recommend it, for the travel aware.

Throughout history Uzbekistan has been part of the ancient trading route from Asia to Europe, but travelling along the Silk Road these days isn't quite as romantic, wild and adventurous as it once was. Well, it's still wild but not in a good way!

Border Issues

Uzbekistan is a land locked country and most of its border areas are not safe. It should come as no surprise with the areas bordering Afghanistan, but you should also exercise caution in areas bordering Tajikistan, Tajik, Kyrgyz and Kyrgyzstan. These areas may be land-mined and there have been cross border gunfire plus they are subject to closure without notice. Problematically, many border areas are not well marked so you should only cross at authorized border crossing points.

There have also been incidents of inter-ethnic violence in the Provinces of Osh and Jalal-Abad in Kyrgystann and also the Fergana Valley, so it's best to avoid these areas.

You should also ensure that your visa's and travel permits are in place, often you will have to cross borders out of Uzbekistan to get to another part of the country. Also if you are trying to get to Termez and other areas of the Surkhandarya region you will need a permit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tashkent which takes about five days to process.

From January 2017 the citizens of 15 countries - including some EU countries, the UK, and Australia - will be able to obtain a via-on-arrival.

Cash, Lots of Cash

Cash is King in Uzbekistan. If you ever want to feel like you are literally swimming in money Uzbekistan is the place to go.

Being predominantly a cash economy and the Uzbek Som having a very low value ($1USD = more than 7000 AZS) you will be walking around with cash lining your bag.

Most transactions are conducted in cash and local currency, only larger hotels and selected merchants accept US Dollars.

You should try to exchange any unspent local currency prior to your departure as there is no exchange office at the International Airport as the Uzbek Sum is not freely convertible.

Also, lets be realistic about the Black Market, reform policies have brought the black market and bank rates to similar levels, so there is no longer any desperate need to change on the black market, although this may be the quickest (or only) way of getting sum for US dollars, especially in the provinces. You can usually find black-market money swappers working the bazaars. If you have to go this route, be wary of corrupt police, who may demand ‘fines'.

Crime and Scams

Unlike many of its neighbours, Uzbekistan is generally safe for visitors - perhaps the by-product of a police state. In fact compared to a few of its more notorious neighbours Uzbekistan is a 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.

Like travel anywhere, you should use common sense when in an unfamiliar country. Scams are not unheard of. A common one (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. You wouldn't fall for this kind of thing at home – why would you abroad?

In the same vein, beware of locals you don't know who offer to show you the "night life." This should be completely avoided for really obvious reasons!

Local Laws

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.

It's a good idea to carry a colour photocopy of your passport and visa for Uzbekistan with you at all times. Keep the original in your hotel safe, if the Militsiya really hassle you to see the original make it clear that they will have to come to your hotel 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. 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.

You will need to register every place you stay at while you travel the country. 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. Ensure you keep these tickets safe, some travelers have reported being asked for them at border crossings as evidence of their route through the country.

Sex, Photos, Religion

Homosexuality is illegal under Uzbek law and is still very much frowned upon socially. You should take care over public displays of affection.

Again, Uzbekistan is a police state. 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 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.

Friendly Locals

One thing about Uzbekistan these days that is similar to the Silk Road days is the hospitality of the locals. It is common for younger Uzbeks (usually male) who speak English to try and "meet" foreigners at local hotels and offer to serve as interpreters 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 or French 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). 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.

Getting Around

Like many countries in this region, its roads and public transport are just not up to Western Standards. The Silk Road sounds very smooth but the reality is somewhat less than that. Be wary of buses and taxis that run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), in May 2010 a bus exploded causing six fatalities. The accident was reportedly due to a fault with its CNG fuel tank. Unfortunately many buses and taxis in Uzbekistan run on CNG and safety regulations are often not followed. Where possible you should opt for modern vehicles when travelling by bus or taxi.

Although main roads in central Tashkent are relatively well maintained, many secondary roads inside and outside Tashkent, and particularly those in the Tien Shan and Fan Mountains are in poor condition and may be passable only by four-wheel-drive vehicles. Driving at night is dangerous because the roads are unlit and vehicles share the roads with livestock and animal drawn carts. The gasoline supply can be sporadic, particularly outside Tashkent.

Uzbekistan has a large road police force, which frequently stops drivers for minor infractions or simple document checks. There have been reports of harassment of foreign drivers by the road police, with reported minor police corruption in the form of solicitation of bribes. Finally, and strangely given how poor the roads are and how low the driving skills of most locals are,

Uzbekistan has a "zero tolerance" policy for driving under the influence of alcohol

Health Issues in Uzbekistan

Generally, there are not many health issues to worry about in Uzbekistan. However, there have been recent outbreaks of Hepatitis A, Meningitis, Malaria and Diphtheria. An outbreak of polio was reported in neighbouring Tajikistan in July 2010 as well as several cases near the Tajikistan border.

You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water, and avoid ice in drinks. Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases are prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.

While vaccinations are not mandatory for travel, you should consider the following:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid
  • Malaria
  • Ensure your tetanus-diphtheria, measles, mumps and rubella are up to date.

Like travel in most countries, you should carry a doctor's prescription if you intend to travel with prescription medicine and always declare these items on your Customs Declaration Form. Possession of such items, even with a doctor's prescription could, if not declared, or if the quantity held exceeds legal limits, lead to administrative or even criminal proceedings. You should check legal quantities with your nearest Uzbek Embassy or with Customs officials on arrival if you intend to bring prescription drugs into Uzbekistan.

Get a travel insurance quote for Uzbekistan

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.

21 Comments

  • Frank said

    Never use your credit card in Uzbekistan. And be ready to give money to police whenever they ask. They might just come to you and say something like "you violated the traffic - give me 500 sum or I will take you to prison". They don't care that you don't have a car - they need the money. In general - stay away

  • Fred said

    Frank, I am a local living here for 21 years and have never experienced such a terrible relationship from the police. I presume you gave your advice about police because you faced this kind of situation; and I think it was because you don't know your rights or indeed broke the law.
    However, I agree your words abt credit cards. Even debit cards with dollars in them seem to be problematic. And article provides wrong info abt black market. If you are travelling to Uzbekistan try to bring all of the money you want to use in cash and exchange it ONLY in BLACK MARKET, because their rates are higher!

  • Jerssey girl said

    Agree with Fred above, black market statement is wrong. Black market gives you a lot more for your dollar than the bank would! But be careful doing it as a foreigner, of course they always try to rip people off. I'm from Uzbekistan, But live in the US now. I would also add, photography in our beautiful subway stations in Tashkent is not allowed, unless you could sneak it by militsiya. Also, your advice from Vietnam about carrying toilet paper with you applies here. Also, Uzbekistan is very strict about carrying cash out, you are only allowed to carry out 2,000 USD without any documents. If you brought more, declare it and keep a copy of your declaration until you leave - escpeically if you might take back more than 2k back with you. Make sure to check Chimgan mountains, and Charvak reservoir!

  • Justme said

    Went there many times as job required. Stay away. Article does not say that police is the main gang there. It is common for them to stop you and demand cash if you "violate" something. And if they learn you are from US then price is multiplied by 10

  • Nedgo said

    So I have been invited to come to Uzbekistan to present some information on improving their Hospitals. Being a US citizen I am a little weary of traveling to this region. We will be presenting in Tashkent but will probably spend a day in Bukhara. Are there very many European or US tourists in Uzbekistan? Is there any reason to be worried?

  • Husan said

    Hi there;

    I read comments and even the post above and decided leave my thoughts about Uzbekistan.

    I'm citizen of Uzbekistan, Tashkent and have been living now in Las Vegas, NV, USA for 4 years. I love my motherland for it's people, nature and safety.

    All of us check the location of country on the map of that country that we are planning to visit and boom we see that Uzbekistan borders with Afghanistan and first thing that comes to our mind is talibans, women been oppressed and beheaded people that we used to see in our daily news or movies. However, believe or not Uzbekistan is safer than Vegas where I live now. Carrying and even having gun at home is illegal and it is strictly controlled by local police. Local police number is 102 and you will meet them everywhere. Do not be worried if police stops you for documents verification thats normal there for safety of nation.

    Uzbekistan is very rich with it's history, culture, tradition and food. Most of people speak at least 2 languages local and russian laguages and most of youth can speak english.

    Yes there are tourist visiting Uzbekistan and commonly from France, Spain, Sweden and Russia but never met from US which is weird even though there is US embassy in Tashkent that is safest and most famous comparing other embassies.

    There is bullet train that even US does not have (excluding HyperLoop) and that can quickly take you from Tashkent to other many historical cities.

    Uzbeks are very hospital so don't be worried if they invite you to their house for dinner or to their weddings, you better except you will like it there. All in all, you can trust to people. One proof for that is trust between taxi drivers and riders because in Uzbekistan any driver may give ride to people on the road just to earn extra money besides their primary job so if riders do not afraid accepting ride offer from any drivers that means safety and trust is high so dont be surprised if you take ride on non taxi logo cars and be ready to share your ride with others that driver may randomly pick up on the road).

    When you go to open air bazaars (markets) try always to negotiate the price they will give you at lower price.
    There is internet but expect lower speed and I dont think you will succeed finding wifi without passwords.
     
    Also "justme" mentioned in his comments that police asks you for money and 10 of them will come to you. Well it is true but you can refuse to give money to them and take the higher cost ticket for breaking the law (usually traffic law). As far as 10 police I would say the more police the better for you because they are there not to robe you but for your and nation safety and just keep in your mind that you literally have more rights than local people because you are foreigner just keep with you your passport and bording pass.

    As far as money black market you may not worry about it anymore because on September 2017 government took control over it so you will exchange your money at banks only.

    Some of places except international Visa carda but I highly recommend to carry real cash with you where you can withdraw from banks or bank ATM commonly Asaka Bank or just bring with you. You can pay with dollars for large purchase but not in food markets.


    Now after reading my comments I encourage you to leave your honest opinions and experiences after visiting Uzbekistan and if you have negative experiences try to include your solutions as well so that others could benefit from it and get ready to and conditions.

    Finally, there is no reason to be worried.

    Enjoy videos about Bukhara city:
     https://youtu.be/_ZH1WsIr2Zk

    Tashkent city:
    https://youtu.be/YfUh0M80TH0

     

  • Nikolay said

    Welcome to Uzbekistan

    https://youtu.be/RzwXV59cb5E

  • Johnny said

    All these bad comments are not true. Uzbekistan is police state that’s why it is safe. I never heard anything happened past 2 years while entire world is getting crazy moth bomb blasts, shooting massacres and terror acts. Uzbekistan is one of the safest country in the world. And especially Tashkent is well secured and safest cities to visit.
    Now, you can use your credit card or debit cards in the capital and major places you might visit. USD is converted and there is no black market anymore.
    And people you can approach police anytime for support and advices if you get lost or need any assistance they are very friend especially if you are foreigner will double care about your safety.

  • Wow said

    This article is wayyyy over exaggerated!

  • J said

    Police states are bad. Pass.

  • Connie said

    Husan, Nikolay, Wow and J

    I have been offered a job to teach English to Young Learners in Tashkent.

    Im a mature, white, blonde female from South Africa.

    Please give honest advise, 2 of you say good place and other 2 say NO NO. Am I safe?? will I be looked after as a English teacher??

    The NO NO people - please offer your reason and experience.

    Kind regards

  • Akbar said

    CONNIE you are not only who comes from different coutnries to teach, there are many like from UK, Malasia, Singapore, China, Korea and even USA. You will be safe but be ready if somebody says niger in front of you because for us word niger means just black and it does not represent same bad meaning as in USA or Europe. So dont feel insulted because we dont have race problems thats why that word is just word. I know that word means bad because I traveled USA and I know it means bad

  • Boris said

    So I think I need to start from the state..... I am Russian.... and I spend all my life in Uzbekistan. I am Uzbek citizen! Please don't follow this state on way!!! Uzbekistan is very kind country!!! With VERY HOSPITAL people!!!! It is not police country!!! If u know your rights!!!!!

  • Tim said

    Dear visitors, I can say freely Uzbekistan is the safest country you ever visited and you never experience any discrimination which is pretty rare. and nobody cares where you are from as long you act normally. Police is everywhere cuz of your safety cuz of its neighboring countries. You better come and see yourself.

  • Husan said

    Check this out:
    http://tashkenttimes.uz/world/2492-uzbekistan-among-5-safest-countries-in-the-world-gallup-ranking

  • Tursunboyev Qudratilla said

    I am Uzbek, have lived here all my life. Uzbekistan is one of the safest countries in the world, as safe as Singapoure or Iceland or Norway. People are the most hospitable here. There are many tourists and I have rarely heard any problems with tourists here. Now 2018. Many foreigners are living In Tashkent. They come from African nations, from U.S, from Asian countries, I know many foreigners who teach English here. They are highky respected and regarded as professionals because of their high level of English. Walk normally and nobody will touch without any reason. No guns, no armed people here, if something bad happens, the police are always here ready. The security procedures are very strict,but foreigners walk easily and there are best regards and a high respect for tourists, who always find help in the face of youth, most of whom know English and eager to help. Come to Uzbekistan, the people are open to foreigners from any part of the world!

  • Max said

    How could this country be safe when most of the commentators agree that it’s dangerous? That policemen will demand bribe and that anybody can get arrested for a small mistake such as undeclared aspirin tablet in his pocket

  • Jon said

    I lived there for 8 years and I think Uzbekistan to be the most comfortable and the safest country in the world. I wondered when uzbeks told me they had never seen gun or any type of weapons in their entire life. LOL. Hospitablity is in a different level. I promise you won't regret!!!

  • Buchi said

    Hi, can anyone advice how it is now with changing USD to local currency? What is the best way?

    Thanks a lot!

  • Michael said

    Author, please update the part about blackmarket and police part. Now there is no blackmarket and gang police. They even have tourist police service, you can get any kind of support from them. I read there was blackmarket and prepared for that, but the reality turned out to be completely opposite. You can get any amount of money exchanged in banks as long as you have your passport with you. Public transportation is little problematic, if you don't speak russian or uzbek. But, because its cheap you can use taxi services. I also was able to take couple of photos in subway, apparently now they let do to so.

  • Doniyor said

    Uzbekistan is safe country to visit, even safer than many developed countries, people are living their peaceful lives

Add a Comment