The Complete Guide to travel in Uzbekistan in 2022 – 18 Very Useful things you need to know to visit Uzbekistan
This is the most complete and updated online guide to travel in Uzbekistan with all the information you need to know to plan your visit to Uzbekistan!
Located on the Silk Road, Uzbekistan is a country in Central Asia that has recently opened its doors to the world. Since doing so, this off-the-beaten-path destination is gradually becoming more and more popular with tourists.
Nowadays, it’s far easier to travel independently around this spectacular place than during my first trip to Uzbekistan in 2017. I’ve seen many positive changes during my later trips since then.
That’s why I’m happy to share this complete and updated guide to travel in Uzbekistan that will help you in preparing for your trip.
This travel guide will provide you with useful and up-to-date travel information regarding Covid 19, Uzbekistan travel tips, and recommendations to visit Uzbekistan.
Come and find out more about this wondrous land, brimming with rich history, culture, and stunning Islamic architecture in this Uzbekistan travel guide!
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, I’ll receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This way you’re helping me run this website and writing more informative and awesome guides like this. I only recommend products and services that I like and trust. Thank you!
1. Visiting Uzbekistan in 2022 – Uzbekistan Entry Requirements
Uzbekistan’s borders are now officially open again for tourists to visit.
However, international flights are still operating on a limited service. Public transport in cities has now also resumed and train travel between regions is operating as normal. (June 2022)
Uzbekistan Covid Requirements
As of June 10th, travelers arriving in Uzbekistan no longer need to present a negative PCR test result or proof of vaccination.
Uzbekistan travel advice still states that large group gatherings in public places are limited. And it’s also advised that you wear a mouth mask when visiting indoor places open to the public, however, it is no longer mandatory and you’ll barely see anyone wearing a mask these days.
Uzbekistan Vaccination Requirements
There aren’t any compulsory vaccinations needed to travel in Uzbekistan.
However, it is recommended that you get vaccinations for DTP, Hepatitis A, and typhoid especially if you are planning on traveling to more remote villages.
Do I need a visa to travel to Uzbekistan?
Starting from 1 February 2019, citizens of the European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and many more countries can travel to Uzbekistan visa-free for a period of 30 days.
Citizens of 76 countries including the United States, China, and India have been granted the right to receive an electronic entry visa for a period of 30 days.
If your country of citizenship isn’t on any list, you’ll need to apply for a visa at the Uzbek Embassy.
How to apply for an Uzbekistan e-visa?
Applying for an electronic visa for Uzbekistan is very easy but remember that you should apply at least 3 days before your arrival in the country.
Head online to the Official Electronic Visa Portal of Uzbekistan and fill in your information.
This visa is still date-specific so you need to enter the date of your arrival and departure. Remember that you can stay up to 30 days in the country.
Once you’ve filled in your personal details, you have to upload a passport photo and a scanned copy of your passport (look here for guidelines).
After you’ve activated your application by entering your email address, you’ll need to pay the consular fee to receive your e-visa. The cost of obtaining an e-visa is 20 USD and has to be paid with a valid Visa card.
Once your application has been approved, the electronic visa will be sent to your email address in pdf format within 48 hours.
Print the e-visa so you can show it upon your arrival. Your passport should also be valid for three months from the date you arrive.
1.4 Can I extend my Uzbekistan visa?
I noticed that, if you travel to Uzbekistan on a free tourist visa, you can enter and exit as many times as you want.
I traveled for a couple of days to Tashkent and Samarkand, left the country by crossing the land border with Tajikistan and returned 8 days later to Uzbekistan. Upon my 2nd arrival in Tashkent, I received a new stamp that allowed me to stay another 30 days in the country.
As there are no clear rules yet about how many days within a year you’re allowed to stay in Uzbekistan, you can currently do a couple of border runs in the nearby countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan and easily renew your tourist visa.
Before you get all excited, just keep in mind that this might change at some point in the near future.
Reading Tip: Samarkand City Guide – Top Things to do in the heart of the Silk Road
What happens if I overstay my Uzbekistan Visa?
Whilst traveling in Uzbekistan, it’s really important that you keep an eye on how many days you’ve spent in the country and that your outgoing flight is booked within your visa time allowance.
If you happen to overstay your visa for any extra time it may result in a 2,000 USD fine as well as the Uzbek authorities delaying your exit from the country by a week or more.
2. When is the best time to visit Uzbekistan?
The best time to visit Uzbekistan is in Spring (mid-April – beginning of June) or Autumn (mid-September – beginning of November). The temperatures during these seasons are very pleasant and it shouldn’t be too hot to walk around during the day.
Soaring temperatures usually start from the beginning of May until the end of September.
Also, if you’re planning your travels in Uzbekistan, it’s good to know that most of the country’s major events take place in either spring or autumn.
What is the hottest month in Uzbekistan?
July and August are the hottest months of the year in Uzbekistan. With temperatures ranging in the mid to high 30s° C – sometimes even up to 40° – 45° C, visiting during this period can be quite uncomfortable.
It’s good to have this in mind if you are planning any long overland journeys as the sun is very strong.
Should I visit Uzbekistan in Winter?
Winter is a great time to visit Uzbekistan for anyone who wants to avoid crowds. The temperatures are not that cold, it can be sunny and crowds of tourists are nonexistent.
The chance of rain increases from mid-March, but March and April are still quiet months to visit.
Winter in Uzbekistan is very special and if it snows, you’ll get to see a magical winter wonderland. That’s why I traveled to Uzbekistan in December. Unfortunately, I arrived a bit too late (or was it too early?) to see the cities fully covered in snow.
It had snowed several days before my arrival and I could only enjoy the last bits of it in the capital Tashkent. In other cities, the snow had already disappeared by the time I arrived there.
Another advantage of traveling during winter is that in the low season, the hotels and hostels are cheaper.
The last traces of snow in Tashkent
3. Travel Insurance for Uzbekistan
It isn’t mandatory to have travel insurance if you are traveling to Uzbekistan. However, I would suggest getting one for the period of your trip. You just never know when you might need it…
If you don’t have travel insurance yet, I highly recommend IATI travel insurance as it covers both medical costs and theft or the budget-friendly travel medical insurance by SafetyWing.
Reading Tip: Looking for the best budget-friendly travel insurance? Here are the 3 best travel insurance companies compared!
4. What is the best way to get to Uzbekistan?
Where do you fly into Uzbekistan?
Tashkent and Samarkand both have international airports. Tashkent International Airport is the most popular arrival destination into Uzbekistan and because the airport is fairly small, you would struggle to get lost.
There is a currency exchange office in the airport that offers a good exchange rate if you have US Dollars. There are nowadays also ATMs available in the airport of Tashkent where you can take out and exchange US Dollars and Uzbek som (see 7.5 How much money should I take to Uzbekistan).
How to get from the airport to Tashkent city center by taxi and how much does it cost?
It’s a 30-minute drive to get from the airport to the city center of Tashkent by taxi.
As soon as you exit the airport, you’ll be greeted by many eager taxi drivers who are happy to bring you to the city center of Tashkent for 50.000 Uzbek som.
This is the same rate as the “official” taxi office in the airport, which doesn’t make sense as the standard price for a taxi from the airport to the city center of Tashkent is 25.000 som (around US$2 – US$3).
This means you’ll have to negotiate the price with the driver and you might not feel like playing the bargaining game after a long flight. So here’s a good personal tip.
When you exit the airport, ignore the taxi drivers who are standing at the gate. Walk to the left towards the parking lot across ‘Departures’. There you’ll find taxi drivers who just drove travelers from the city center to the airport.
They’ll be happy to quickly return to the city center and therefore are a lot easier to negotiate with. Offer the driver max 25.000 som. Show him the money and tell him to take it or leave it. He’ll probably try to ask for more but as soon as you start walking towards another taxi, he’ll very likely take it…
Another tip: if you buy a SIM card at the airport, install the Yandex Go app on your phone. This app works like Uber and shows you the taxi rates.
How to get from the airport to Tashkent city center by bus and how much does it cost?
There are buses that run daily from 6 am until 11 pm between the airport and the city center.
When you exit the airport, walk past the parking lot and you’ll see them on your left. A bus ticket costs 1200 som and can be bought on the bus itself.
As there are different buses, it might be hard to figure out which bus to take. The apps Maps.me and wikiroutes can help you to see which bus and route to take to your hotel. Bus #67 goes straight to the city center.
How to get from Tashkent City center to the airport and how much does it cost?
The easiest and most straightforward way is to ask the receptionist of your hostel or hotel to call a taxi for you. You can also install the app Yandex Go to order a taxi.
A taxi from the city of Tashkent to the airport will cost around 20.000 som, depending on where you are in the city.
Reading Tip: 15 Top Things to do in Tashkent – The Complete Tashkent City Guide
Hotel Uzbekistan in Tashkent
4.2 How to travel to Uzbekistan by road
Uzbekistan shares land borders with Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
The security at the overland border points used to be very strict. Not only did you have to fill in a lot of paperwork, but you were also asked many questions about your trip and your bag would be opened and the contents searched for any prohibited items.
Nowadays, border crossings tend not to take so long. Border guards will still scan your luggage, ask if you’re traveling with a drone (which is strictly prohibited!) but they are not as strict as they used to once be. It’s rare that you will be asked to open your bag to be searched and you’re not required to fill in any paperwork.
Overland border crossings are now faster and far easier than they were. You should check online for up-to-date information, as borders can close without notice. All travel to the Termez region and to within 5km of the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan border is not advised at the moment.
Caution should be exercised in some areas bordering Tajikistan. The border between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan is currently closed. (September 2022)
The most common and easiest routes to travel overland to Uzbekistan are:
5. Where should you go in Uzbekistan?
Top Silk Road Cities to visit in Uzbekistan
If you’re going to travel in Uzbekistan to find treasures of the ancient Silk Road, you should visit the following 4 cities to see the most stunning and impressive Islamic architecture in the entire country:
The majority of these sites are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
How many days do you need for Uzbekistan?
If you’re wondering how many days you need to visit Uzbekistan, then it’s kind of an open-ended question. It would be possible to visit the main tourist attractions in Uzbekistan within one week.
However, I would suggest taking your time, if you’re not time-restricted of course, to fully absorb everything this country has on offer. Budget dependent, there really is so much to see in this Central Asian country.
Tourism in Uzbekistan is an economy that is growing larger and becoming more popular as time passes. I would urge you to plan a trip to soak up the sights before it perhaps becomes super touristy.
Reading Tip: Uzbekistan itinerary suggestions for 5 days, 7 days, 10 days, and more.
6. Is Uzbekistan a safe country to visit?
Many people wonder if it’s safe to travel in Uzbekistan. It’s still a relatively unknown country in Central Asia and its neighboring country Afghanistan doesn’t have the best reputation. A country ending with -stan gets quickly associated with danger.
However, you absolutely have nothing to worry about! Uzbekistan is totally safe. You’ll see police officers on every street corner and at every public place. They even introduced a “Tourist Police” now. There Tourist Police officers have an office in every touristic city and are glad to be of any assistance when needed.
Tourism is a rich source of income and the Uzbeks genuinely want you to have a fantastic experience in their country. They are very hospitable and kind people and you’ll be received as a very welcome guest.
The Tourist Police – Your Trusted and Faithful Friend in Uzbekistan!
One of the most common scams in Uzbekistan is getting overcharged by taxi drivers. It starts as soon as you arrive at the airport or at any land border. The taxi drivers will usually charge you double or triple the standard rate.
You have to bargain hard and have a lot of patience to get the price down. If you’re not sure what the normal price is, try to get at least half the price of what the driver is offering you or install Yandex Go as this app will show you the rates upfront.
Another scam you have to be careful of is when you visit monuments or museums. When you pay the entrance fee, make sure that they don’t charge you automatically for a guide. In some places, especially in Samarkand, you have to pay extra if you want to take photos (with a camera, not with your phone).
Some ticket offices will automatically include a camera price or pretend there is one. If you’re in doubt, ask for the price list as every ticket office should have one, and check if you’re paying the correct fee.
Reading Tip: Is Uzbekistan safe? 14 useful tips to know before you go
Uzbekistan solo travel/Is Uzbekistan safe to travel alone?
Yes, Uzbekistan is a very safe country to visit for solo (female) travelers! When I first traveled on my own to Uzbekistan in 2017, I was a bit anxious but I quickly experienced I had nothing to worry about.
The Uzbeks are very kind and hospitable, welcome you as a guest in their country and they want you to enjoy yourself.
Read about my experiences in How is it to travel alone as a woman in Uzbekistan?
7. Money and currency in Uzbekistan
What kind of money do they use in Uzbekistan?
The Uzbekistani Som (UZS) is the official currency used in Uzbekistan.
- Banknotes circulating in Uzbekistan: 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 som.
- Coins circulating in Uzbekistan: 50, 100, 200 and 500 som
I always use the Xe.com app to convert and stay up-to-date with the current exchange rates. At this time of writing, the current exchange rates are (September 2022):
- $1 USD = 10,947 UZS
- €1 Euro = 10,909 UZS
- £1 British Pound = 12,454 UZS
Only a few years ago, the highest denomination available was a banknote of 5000 Uzbeki Som. I needed an extra bag to carry the 2400 banknotes after exchanging 150 US dollars for 1.200.000 Som…
The new banknotes of 10.000, 50.000, and 100.000 UZS make a huge difference in size and weight in your wallet (and the amount of time spent on counting your change…).
This pile of money (1.200.000 UZS) was worth $150…
Which credit cards are accepted in Uzbekistan?
Visa is probably the most widely accepted credit card. However, Uzbekistan still has a cash economy which means you won’t always be able to pay with your credit card.
It is slowly becoming more common practice, but it would be wise to carry enough cash rather than depending on your card whilst traveling in Uzbekistan.
ATMs in Uzbekistan
Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva nowadays all have ATMs where you can take out US dollars and/or Uzbek Som with a VISA card. There are also 2 ATMs at the international airport in Tashkent.
Exchanging money in Uzbekistan
The best place to exchange money in Uzbekistan is at one of the banks in Tashkent as they give the best exchange rate.
Just keep in mind that if you want to exchange money, your banknotes should be crisp and in good condition. It happened a few times that the exchange office gave me a lower rate as my banknotes were a little crumpled.
Before you leave Uzbekistan, you can exchange your remaining Som at the bank or in one of the exchange offices at either the airport or at the land borders.
2022 update: You can nowadays also pay with Euro and US dollar bills in shops, restaurants, at the hotel, to guides and drivers,…
How much money do you need in Uzbekistan?
You may be wondering whether it is cheap to visit Uzbekistan? The average monthly wage in Uzbekistan is $250 which is useful to keep in mind.
With most people traveling to Uzbekistan visa-free these days, it’s pretty inexpensive to get around Uzbekistan. Although basic accommodation is not dirt cheap due to a convoluted tax code.
For a 10-day trip, depending on the activities you want to do, I would recommend taking 200 USD or Euro per person in cash to Uzbekistan if you’re also planning on using your credit card.
Average prices are $10 for a basic meal, $15 for a hostel bed and $30 upwards for a double room in a decent hotel, and $10 for a train ticket.
Reading Tip: Uzbekistan Money Guide: How much does it cost to travel in Uzbekistan?
Should you tip in Uzbekistan?
You don’t have to leave a tip in the restaurant as the service is automatically included in the bill. However, this is not mentioned on the menu and a lot of foreigners get confused or think they’re being overcharged once they receive the bill.
If you take a look at the bottom of the bill, you will see the service fee of 10 -15% added to the total cost of your meal.
Tipping your guide or driver is also not mandatory but always appreciated. I usually give a 10% tip on top of the additional price.
8. How to get around in Uzbekistan/Is it easy to travel around Uzbekistan?
8.1 Are there trains in Uzbekistan?
Yes, there are trains in Uzbekistan and the Uzbekistan railroad is the most convenient, interesting and fastest way to travel around the country!
The Uzbekistan railway connects now all the major touristic destinations: Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, and – since December 2018 – Khiva.
There are three types of trains (and I’ve tested them all!): the Afrosiyob, the Sharq and the Night Train.
In my post Taking trains in Uzbekistan – The Uzbekistan railways guide, you’ll find a complete guide to the Uzbekistan train system, including information on taking the Uzbekistan high-speed rail, the Uzbekistan Sharq train and the Uzbekistan night train.
8.2 How to travel around Uzbekistan by bus
If you prefer to see the road instead of the railway, you can travel around Uzbekistan by bus. You can check the bus schedules and buy your ticket online or at the local bus stations.
You’ll need your passport so bring it with you. You should also buy your ticket at least one day in advance.
Long distance buses are a slow and not very comfortable way to get around, as well as not being much cheaper than a second class train or a ride with a shared taxi.
International Bus Station in Tashkent
City buses however are very cheap and you pay the fare directly to the driver on the bus. You can check the bus routes within cities on the apps maps.me and wikiroutes.
You’ll also see many minibuses racing around the cities. The most common ones are the ‘Damas’. These minibuses are great if you want to travel in a larger city or to travel to nearby towns or villages.
Inside a ‘Damas’
8.3 Getting around Uzbekistan by shared taxi
A shared taxi is a taxi that you share with usually 4 to 5 other passengers. It doesn’t have a fixed schedule but leaves once the taxi is full. They leave from a fixed location which is often near a bus station or just outside of a city.
Your hostel or hotel will know where to find them and you usually won’t have to search long for one. The drivers will probably find you first, they’ll ask where you’re going or they’ll be shouting out their destinations to you.
Be careful because they can be quite pushy and they like to double the rate if they think you’re an ignorant tourist. That’s why it’s a good plan to have an idea of how much you should pay for a ride beforehand and you can ask about this in your hotel or hostel.
Before you get into a shared taxi, confirm the price with the driver and tell him clearly that you want to share the taxi with other passengers. It can happen that the driver may think that you’d like to have the taxi to yourself and if you don’t want to share a taxi, you’ll have to pay for the other seats as well.
A trip of 2 to 3 hours to another city will cost you around 60.000 UZS, depending on how good you are at bargaining.
You can also take a private taxi to get around cities. Just flag them down on the side of the road. You should pay a maximum of 8.000 UZS for a ride within the city.
Taking a shared taxi used to be the only way to travel from Bukhara to Urgench and Khiva. This trip costs 80.000 UZS and isn’t very comfortable as it’s an 8-hour long drive, mainly through the desert. Since there is a train nowadays that connects Bukhara and Khiva, I’d go for this option.
You can also take a private taxi to get around cities. Just flag them down on the side of the road or, if you have a sim card, install the Yandex Go app on your phone. The app functions like Uber.
Pay a maximum of 10.000 UZS for a ride within the city.
If you’re visiting Tashkent, you can also get around the city by metro. The Tashkent Metro Stations are very beautiful and taking the underground should be one of the things you definitely have to do while visiting Uzbekistan’s capital!
The ceiling of Alisher Navoi Station, one of the many beautiful metro stations in Tashkent
Reading Tip: The Complete Guide to the metro in Tashkent in Pictures
8.4 Renting a car in Uzbekistan
It used to be impossible for foreigners to rent a car in Uzbekistan. This has changed and now you can find several car rental places in Tashkent.
You can also travel to Uzbekistan with your own car, as long as you have all the required documents. More information can be found here.
It’s important to note that it’s very difficult to find diesel; propane is the main fuel in Uzbekistan, petrol comes in second. It’s also worth noting that some secondary roads can be difficult to drive on unless you have a 4×4.
Check out the website of Caravanistan for more information on traveling by car in Uzbekistan.
8.5 Hitchhiking in Uzbekistan
Hitchhiking in Uzbekistan is possible and a fun way to connect with the locals. One thing you have to know is that most drivers will charge you money for the ride.
Be very clear from the start that you don’t have money if you don’t want to pay for the ride.
If you want to hitchhike, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to learn some Russian so you can explain your intentions to the driver and have a conversation with him.
8.6 Domestic flights in Uzbekistan
If you don’t have much time and you want to cover the distance between Tashkent and Khiva quickly, you can take a domestic flight between Tashkent and Nukus or Tashkent and Urgench. Urgench is a 30-minute drive from Khiva.
The duration of the flight between Tashkent and Urgench is only 1.5 hours, between Tashkent and Nukus 1 hour and 40 minutes. You can book easily your flight ticket(s) on the website of Uzbekistan Airways.
If you book well in advance, the average price for a flight between Tashkent and Urgench costs 60USD. You can pay online by Visa and Mastercard.
Important: When arranging a taxi to drop you off at the domestic airport, make sure the driver brings you to terminal 3 (domestic flights) and not terminal 2 (international flights).
When using the Yandex Go app, it will only show you “Tashkent International Airport”. Make sure you type in “Tashkent International Airport Terminal 3”, or you’ll end up at the wrong terminal!
Reading Tip: Top places to visit in Khiva – the open air museum of Uzbekistan
9. Uzbekistan Tours
Uzbekistan could be described as one of the most special yet overlooked countries in the world that is brimming with natural beauty and rich with culture. Going on an organized private/group tour is a wonderful and worthwhile way to see some of this country’s most beautiful spots.
I recommend checking out some of these guided city tours in the Silk Road cities in Uzbekistan as you don’t only get to see the highlights of the city but also learn more about the rich historical background.
I’m also organizing group tours to Uzbekistan in 2023. Let me know if you’re interested!
10. Where to stay in Uzbekistan – Accommodation in Uzbekistan
It used to be illegal to stay with a host family in Uzbekistan. Travelers had to register every night in a hotel or hostel. These rules have since become more flexible.
Nowadays you’re allowed to camp, stay with a host family or book a room or apartment on Airbnb for 3 nights in a row without having to register. If you stay longer than 3 nights, you will need to check again in order to register.
The registration happens automatically as soon as you check in and payment for this registration is in the form of a “city tax” which is usually $3 per night.
The receptionist will ask for your passport and register you online. Sometimes you’ll receive a registration slip upon check out, which you have to keep as border guards might ask for them when leaving the country, but nowadays all your stays should be registered online and traceable via your passport.
If you take the overnight train, this ticket is also seen as registration, so don’t throw this one away. If you’re overlanding and/or planning to regularly camp in the wild or stay with a local family, you have to register online on Emehmon.
If you’re having trouble with your online registration, I’d recommend staying in a ho(s)tel every 3 to 4 nights, just to have some proof of registration.
Hostels, hotels and Airbnb in Uzbekistan
Because of the growing number of tourists traveling in Uzbekistan, there are many new hostels and hotels appearing in all of the larger cities. It’s important to remember the $3 city tax that is added (or sometimes already included) in the price of your accommodation per night.
Booking.com is a great website to use when looking for hostels and hotels whilst staying in Uzbekistan and Airbnb also has many great apartment options to choose from. It all is just dependent on what your budget is.
There are some lovely options for independent and solo travelers such as small-scale boutique hotels or B&B’s. There is a wide range of high-quality hotels in Uzbekistan but keep in mind that the tourist economy is still developing in Uzbekistan.
During the high season, many of the rooms can be booked up weeks in advance, so if you know your itinerary, book early to avoid disappointment.
Not all of the hotels available are online yet so there may be a chance of securing a room for the night upon spontaneous arrival at a hotel and booking on the spot.
If you plan on visiting Uzbekistan during Winter, keep in mind that electricity black-outs can be an issue and in the Summer the hot water can sometimes be turned off. You can ask at reception if this is likely to happen during your stay.
Homestays in Uzbekistan
If you’re drawn to spending a few days in the countryside soaking up the Uzbek culture then a homestay is for you.
There is a network of homestays in the Nuratau mountains as well as in the village of Katta Langar near Shahrisabz. Vegetarian meals, solar-powered showers, and clean toilets are all available.
Staying in a yurt in Uzbekistan
Some of the people in Karakalpakstan still live in yurts for part of the year as they are culturally much closer to Kazakhs and Turkmens than to Uzbeks.
There are some desert yurt camps in the Kyzyl Kum and Aral Kum deserts and also near Urgench. These have been specifically set up for tourists so if you have your heart set on staying in a yurt, you can experience it here.
However, budget for this before you set off on your trip as they can be quite expensive.
Yurt Camp in the Aral Kum desert near the Aral Sea
Camping in Uzbekistan
Wild camping is permitted in Uzbekistan so why not take the opportunity to sleep under the stars whilst on your Uzbekistan trip. Why not camp in the mountains near Samarkand and Tashkent or in the desert for epic and atmospheric starlit skies. I
t’s important that you are aware of the registration rules and it’s a good idea to camp for only a couple of nights before then booking into a hostel or hotel in order to fill in your registration card.
Ugam Chatkal National Park near Tashkent
11. Uzbekistan Food and drinks
Uzbek food is characterized by meals including noodles, mutton, rice, and vegetables.
Traditional bread (tandir non) is particularly sacred in Uzbek culture. Flat and round, this bread is torn by hand and never thrown out.
The summers bring fresh, delicious and vibrant fruits that you can buy at the local markets along with vegetables, spices and sweet Uzbek candy.
Green tea is often drunk regularly throughout the day and is a common drink offered to guests.
There are many international restaurants in the larger more touristic cities if you find that you are craving a change from traditional Uzbek cuisine.
5 Uzbek Dishes you have to try
Trying local cuisine and traditional dishes is a great way to experience a country’s culture.
‘Plov’ is the national dish of Uzbekistan and it’s one that Uzbeks are extremely proud of. It is commonly made as a family meal or made in larger quantities to celebrate special occasions such as weddings.
It is traditionally prepared in a large cooking pot (a Kazan) and the most famous version is made with a base of onions, carrots, and meat that is sautéed in fat.
The rice is then added, topped up with water and simmered until everything is cooked. Sometimes additional ingredients are added such as chickpeas, other vegetables, raisins, and fruit.
In the Plov center of Tashkent
If you’re a fan of meat dishes, then you should try ‘shashlik’. Not only is it one of the most popular dishes in Uzbek cuisine, but it’s also a dish that is enjoyed right across Central Asia.
The word ‘shashlik’ comes from the Russian word for ‘shish kabob’. Traditionally, the dish is made with lamb however beef, chicken, and venison can be used instead. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you could try the grilled skewers with horse meat.
3) Kazan Kabob
‘Kazan kabob’, as its name suggests, is a dish that is prepared in a kazan, a large cooking pot also commonly used to make plov.
Marinated meat such as mutton or beef is fried with potatoes and then covered and steamed in a kazan on a low heat. When the meat is fully cooked it is finally served with onions and some fresh vegetables.
4) Obi non
‘Obi non’, also known as ‘lepyoshka’, is a type of round, flat Uzbek bread that has been baked in a traditional clay oven called a ‘tandyr’. Similar to Indian naan bread, it’s thicker and then decorated on top. Additional meat, nuts, seeds and raisins are sometimes added.
It is considered one of the most important foods in Uzbekistan and is eaten with just about anything. It can be made in a variety of ways and changes slightly from region to region.
Tandyrs, the traditional clay ovens used to bake ‘obi non’
5) Shivit oshi
‘Shivit oshi’, also known as ‘khorezm lagman’ is an eye-catching Uzbek dish. Hand-pulled Lagman noodles are infused with fresh dill which gives them their distinctive bright green color. The dish originates from Khiva.
Fresh herbs and vegetables feature more in cuisine in this region in comparison to other areas in Uzbekistan. It’s a summer dish that is served only in Khiva and is traditionally topped with a meat and vegetable stew and a side of sour cream or yogurt.
Is vegetarian food available in Uzbekistan?
If you happen to be a vegetarian, visiting Uzbekistan and finding a meat-free meal can sometimes be tricky but not impossible. When visiting the cities, it’s quite common to find vegetarian options available in many of the restaurants.
Some vegetarian dishes available are eggplant satay with egg, pumpkin-filled dumplings and vegetarian flatbread (lavash) filled with cheese and tomato.
However, the main issue with eating vegetarian food in Central Asia is the bacteria in the water that is used to wash and rinse them. If there is a choice between a raw salad or a cooked meal, it’s wise to choose the cooked option.
If you happen to be a vegan, you may struggle to find a wide variety of choices available to you without dairy or meat.
What is the national drink of Uzbekistan?
Uzbek people are really big tea drinkers. Green tea or ‘Kuk-choy’ is served in a bowl or a glass and all meals start and end with tea.
Tea is offered as a gesture when welcoming guests into a home. If you happen to be poured a half-full bowl of tea, see it as a gesture of respect from the pourer.
Alcohol in Uzbekistan
Although Uzbekistan is, for the most part, a religious, Muslim country, drinking alcohol is part of daily life for many people. During Soviet rule, Russians introduced vodka along with other alcoholic drinks and today it is a big part of the culture.
And did you know that Uzbekistan is the main wine-producing country in Central Asia? A significant part of the Central Asian wine is exported by Uzbek winemakers. Uzbekistan produces dry, semi-sweet, sweet red and white wines.
You can buy and drink alcohol in restaurants in larger more touristic cities such as Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara. It’s not always mentioned on the menu but if you ask the waiter/waitress for a beer or bottle of wine, they’ll usually have it.
You can also easily buy alcohol in stores. Look out for “вино”, “водка”, “алкоголь” in Russian at the stores selling alcohol. The legal age for buying and drinking alcohol is 21 years old.
12. What to pack for Uzbekistan?
Let’s start with a few things that you are NOT allowed to bring into Uzbekistan
Prohibited items – what is forbidden to bring to Uzbekistan.
Some guards might check your phone or laptop for any pornographic content (photos or videos of naked people) which is forbidden and will have to be deleted before entering Uzbekistan (I’m sure you can travel without for a while).
It also used to be strictly forbidden to bring painkillers with codeine, sleeping pills, antidepressants or any other medication with narcotic substances in the country. Nowadays the border guards don’t check the medication you’re bringing with you.
However, if you are bringing medication with you, ensure you keep things in their original packaging if you bring them from overseas. If you have a prescription, make sure it has the same name as on your passport.
And – unfortunately – drones are still prohibited.
What should I wear in Uzbekistan?
Uzbekistan has a continental climate with four seasons. Pack appropriate clothes for the period in which you’re traveling.
If you’re traveling to Uzbekistan in winter (November – March), bring warm clothes as it can be very cold. Average Winter temperatures can be around -10°C/ 14°F and there can be a lot of snow.
Pack light clothing if you’re visiting Uzbekistan between the months of June and September as the temperatures in summer are around 38°C/ 97°F.
Uzbekistan is a secular state which means that in theory, people can wear whatever they want. However, the Uzbek people are rather conservative people who do not show much skin so it’s important to keep this in mind when packing.
Men can wear shorts and T-shirts but it’s better to leave any sleeveless shirts at home. It’s also not appropriate to walk around bare-chested.
You’ll see many Uzbek women wearing beautiful colored scarves tied around their heads. This is a cultural thing and it’s mainly older Uzbek women who wear these. Younger female travelers need not worry about covering their hair.
What is seen as appropriate will depend on where you’re going. Tashkent, the capital, is a modern city and many young girls and women walk around in short skirts, dresses, and shorts.
It’s okay if you wear shorts, dresses, skirts and tops or T-shirts with short sleeves in tourist places like Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. But it would be viewed as disrespectful to parade around in revealing mini-skirts, dresses and tops. You’ll draw unwanted attention to yourself.
If you like to explore less-touristic places like small towns and villages, dress modestly. Wear a T-shirt or a tunic over long trousers or a long skirt. Three-quarter pants or skirts are also fine, just don’t walk around the village in a vest top and short shorts.
If you visit mosques and religious sites, even in touristic cities, cover your arms. If you’re an influencer who wants a nice photo for Instagram, please remain respectful of the culture in Uzbekistan.
Travel essentials for Uzbekistan
Water Filter Bottl
e: I wouldn’t advise you to drink tap water in Uzbekistan. Buy bottles of water in the local supermarkets or better, bring a water bottle with a filter. These are reusable bottles that filter water using a microfiltration device. When you drink tap water using a water bottle with a filter, any dirt, bacteria or parasites will be trapped in the fibers of the filter, while the clean water passes through. It’s not only good for your belly and wallet, but it’s also great for the environment because you don’t have to buy any plastic bottles of water. I use and highly recommend the Lifestraw Water Filter Bottle.
Anti-diarrhea tablets:yes, I’m afraid that this is an essential as well… 50% of the travelers I’ve met struggle at some point with stomach issues, due to a certain bacteria in the food. I always have Furazolidone tablets (which you can buy over the counter at a local pharmacy) as it has proven its worth. These tablets tackle the bacteria causing bowel problems within a day.
- International travel adapt
the power sockets in Uzbekistan are of type C and F (the same as in Europe). The standard voltage is 220 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. In case you need an adaptor, I use and recommend this all-in-one Universal Travel Adaptor as you can use it worldwide.
Power bank: a power bank is always handy to have with you in case of a power outage (which sometimes happens, even in the major Uzbek cities), during long bus or train rides, or if you’re planning to go camping.I use and recommend Anker Power Bank as it has a 20,000mAh cell capacity providing at least 5 full charges for my phone. I can even charge my camera batteries with it!
Anti-theft money belt: handy and safe when you travel with cash
Photography equipment:you can’t visit Uzbekistan without capturing its beauty on camera! Below is an overview of the gear I used. You can also see my article on photography essentials and cameras for travel photographers for more information.
13. Are drones allowed in Uzbekistan?
Drones in Uzbekistan are strictly prohibited. Operating, selling, importing, or buying a drone in Uzbekistan could even result in a prison sentence.
14. How is the Internet in Uzbekistan?
The internet connection in Uzbekistan isn’t always the best so downloading city maps for offline usage and bringing an old-fashioned travel guide book with you will be useful.
The wi-fi connection in big cities like Tashkent and Samarkand is usually reliable and relatively fast. There’s also internet connection in Bukhara and Khiva but it can be slow.
It’s difficult to find a good internet connection when you travel to more remote areas.
Which is the best sim card in Uzbekistan and how to get one?
There are 5 main mobile phone providers in Uzbekistan: Ucell, Uzmobile, UCell, UMS, and Beeline.
The coverage with Ucell is pretty good and $7 will get you 22GB of data. You have to bring your passport with you to buy a SIM card and you must provide a registration slip of your ho(s)tel to have a SIM card registered to your name.
You can recharge your mobile credit at a local supermarket, just ask about it at the counter.
Recommended apps for travel in Uzbekistan
Here are some useful apps to use while traveling in Uzbekistan:
- Maps.me: This is a very practical app to find your way in Uzbekistan. You can download the map of the country for offline usage. The app gives you accurate directions and shows you where you can find the nearest restaurants, bus stations, ATM, hotels, places with wi-fi, points of interest. It also tells you the number of the bus you need to take when you travel within a city.
- Wikiroutes: Wikiroutes is a handy app if you travel by public transportation. It shows you the bus and/or metro route and tells you where to hop on and off.
:Translates written and spoken Russian or Uzbek. Only Russian is available to download for offline usage.
- Xe currency:a very handy currency conversion app that always uses the latest rates in effect. It’s useful to keep track of how much things cost in Uzbekistan This app also works offline.
- Booking.com: I made all my reservations for hostels and guesthouses in Uzbekistan through this hotel and hostel booking website, which is also available as a phone app. No other app comes close to it in terms of inventory and price.
Yandex Go Taxi: Yandex is the Central Asian version of Uber. I used this app to get around the major cities in Uzbekistan by taxi without having to bargain for the price and/or getting ripped off by a taxi driver. You can also use Yoko Taxi for getting around Bukhara.
15. Culture and etiquette in Uzbekistan
The Uzbek people of today hail from Turkic and Persian people who lived along the country’s borders and Turkic-Mongol nomads. During the Soviet rule, many other nationalities living in Uzbekistan were labeled Uzbeks in an effort to create more easily governable subdivisions.
Today, under the Islamic faith, women are expected to cover their bodies when in public. Although full veils are not that common, there are areas where it still is expected.
Elders in Uzbek culture are very highly respected and it’s customary for men to greet one another with a handshake. And overall Uzbek people try to carry themselves with dignity and patience.
16. What is the Religion in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan is a secular state. When the country was under the control of the Soviet regime, religious practices were dramatically suppressed. It was only after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 that the country gained back religious freedom.
Around 90% of the population are Sunni Muslim and the rest are Russian Orthodox. And though many people actively practice their religion, they can be quite liberal in their views about it.
You’ll see women wearing headscarves but this is more connected to the culture than to the religion.
As a foreign woman, you’re not expected to cover your hair. There’s also no strict dress code (as you could read in 12.2 What to wear in Uzbekistan) that is related to religion.
17. Do people in Uzbekistan speak English?
In general, the Uzbek people don’t speak a lot of English. People who work in the hospitality sector know a bit of English but most people in Uzbekistan don’t speak the language.
Young people in the larger cities will know some English but with older people, it’s less common. However, in touristy areas, English is spoken and understood so don’t fear!
What languages are spoken in Uzbekistan?
The official language is Uzbek and it belongs to the family of Turkic languages so if you speak some Turkish, it may help you understand Uzbek a little bit. Especially the numbers are similar. My knowledge of the Turkish language helped a lot when I had to bargain with vendors and taxi drivers!
Russian is the second most commonly spoken language in Uzbekistan. Many people know and understand Russian and for 14% of the population, it’s their first language. If you can read the Cyrillic alphabet or you happen to know some Russian phrases, both would come in handy whilst traveling in Uzbekistan.
I learn a new language using the audio classes of Pimsleur. This is a great learning method to study a new language. It helped me a lot to quickly reach a basic level of Russian.
Reading Tip: 11 Tips to learn Russian quickly and effectively
I also recommend bringing a small pocket phrasebook like the Lonely Planet Centra Asia Phrasebook & Dictionary as it contains useful phrases that you might need on your trip around Uzbekistan.
I also suggest you install the Google Translate App for Uzbek translations (only online) and download Russian into your app that you can use offline.
Useful expressions to know before visiting Uzbekistan
- ‘Assalomu alaykum’ translates as ‘hello’.
- ‘Salom’ means ‘good afternoon’.
- ‘Ismingiz nima?’ translates ‘What is your name?’
- ‘Tanishganimdan hursandman’ translates ‘I am glad to meet you’.
- Xayr! means Good bye!
18. Recommended books in Uzbekistan
When traveling in Uzbekistan, I would recommend bringing a small pocket phrasebook like the Lonely Planet Central Asia Phrasebook & Dictionary as it contains some useful phrases.
I would also recommend reading one or more of the following books.
Uzbekistan Bradt Travel Guide is one of the most comprehensive travel guide books about Uzbekistan
Lonely Planet Central Asia, is ideal if you’re also planning on visiting other destinations in Central Asia
I hope this guide helps you to travel around Uzbekistan with ease. I’m wishing you a fantastic time in this special country and enjoy marveling at the exquisite architecture!
Do you still have questions about your upcoming journey to Uzbekistan? Let me know in the comments below or send me an email!