Uzbekistan has always been part of the ancient trading route from Asia through to Europe, and is now becoming a popular destination along the incredible Silk Road. Traveling this route is no longer as wild and adventurous as it was back in ancient times, but there are still a few handy things to know before you go.
Unfortunately, most of its border areas are not safe. This is no surprise for the region bordering Afghanistan, but you should also exercise caution in areas bordering Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. These areas have experienced cross-border gunfire in the past, and some sections may be landmined. Before trying to cross any borders, check online for up-to-date information, as these borders can close without notice.
Many border areas are also 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 Kyrgyzstan and also the Fergana Valley, so do your research to find out which areas have been marked as unsafe to visit.
Make sure your required visas and travel permits are ready to go, as you will have to cross borders out of Uzbekistan to get to other parts of the country. 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.
In 2018 Uzbekistan adopted the electronic visa system, and now citizens of approximately 60 countries are eligible for an electronic visa. Check if you're eligible at iVisa.com.
"The Silk Road" sounds like it would be smooth and easy to travel, however transport in Uzbekistan can be a little challenging to navigate. 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 traveling by bus or taxi.
Traveling by train through Uzbekistan is the safest and most comfortable mode of transport. There are high-speed trains operating between the cities of Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. Try to avoid the prigorodny trains, as they are slower than hopping in a shared taxi. Book in advance online to avoid missing out on a seat, as tickets sell out fast.
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 as roads are not well lit, and vehicles share the roads with livestock and animal drawn carts – which are hard to see in the dark. The gasoline supply can be sporadic, particularly outside Tashkent, so keep this in mind if you are driving far.
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.
Note that Uzbekistan has a zero tolerance policy for drivers who are under the influence of alcohol.
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