Uzbekistan travel guide
Most people would struggle to find Uzbekistan on a map, let alone get around to visiting. But while this Central Asian nation remains a mystery to the masses, its obscurity makes it all the more appealing for more adventurous travellers.
Those who do make the trip are following in famous footprints: from Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan, some of the world’s most famous pioneers and conquerors have blazed a trail through this land.
Granted, Uzbekistan has its fair share of problems. It would be remiss not to mention the hard-line government, corrupt officials and Islamic militants that besmirch the reputation of the country. But they are the exception rather than the rule: most people in Uzbekistan extend legendary hospitality to visitors.
While the country is young, having gained independence in 1991 after the break-up of the Soviet Union, the roots of Uzbekistan are ancient.
The historic town of Samarkand, once a crossroads on the Silk Road, has long been known as the ‘Jewel of Islam’. One of the so-called Big Three (a term used to describe Uzbekistan’s three main Silk Road cities) its cityscape is dominated by sparkling turquoise domes and towering minarets adorned with intricate mosaics.
Stunning examples of this architecture can be found across Uzbekistan, most notably in Khiva, the best-preserved and most remote of the Big Three. It’s a living museum, home as it is to a vast collection of Islamic architecture, which remains frozen in time within the city walls. And then there’s Bukhara. The last one of the Big Three, it is also known as the ‘Pillar of Religion’ and is surely one of the most exquisite cities in the Islamic world.
It’s not all about manmade attractions, though. The Ferghana Valley is a place of unremitting natural beauty where fertile valleys give out to the snow-capped Tien Shan and Pamir mountains.
This also happens to be the country’s most fertile region, its breadbasket, where visitors can enjoy stunning landscapes, local produce and friendly bazaars rarely seen by Western eyes.
447,400 sq km (172,742 sq miles).
30,300,446 (UN estimate 2016).
65.3 per sq km.
President Islam Karimov since 1991.
Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev since 2003.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs (two round pins) and Australian-style plugs (three flat, angled pins) are used.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
There have been occasional incidents of mugging and petty crime against foreigners. Policemen, or sometimes those pretending to be policemen, may seek to impose an on-the-spot fine. If you are any doubt you should ask for an ID or pay any fines at the nearest police station. Keep valuables out of sight and avoid unlit or remote areas. Avoid obvious displays of wealth, especially in rural areas. Avoid walking alone at night.
There have been reports of raids on local establishments, including restaurants. The perpetrators do not identify themselves and bear no visible means of identification. Foreigners have not been targeted, but the use of violence against restaurant guests and staff has been reported. If you are inadvertently caught up in a situation like this, keep calm, follow any instructions given and leave the area as soon as permitted and safe to do so.
Dual nationality is not recognised in Uzbekistan. If you enter Uzbekistan on an Uzbek passport and also hold British nationality the British Embassy can only provide very limited consular assistance. In cases of arrest or detention consular access is unlikely to be granted.
Land borders between Uzbekistan and neighbouring states, particularly Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, are often closed at short notice. Check in advance which border posts are open.
You should take care in areas bordering Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. Uzbekistan’s borders are potential flashpoints and there is a risk that uncontrolled border areas may be land-mined.
Tensions exist over recognition of the Uzbek/Kyrgyz border. There have been a number of security incidents in this region including several gunfire exchanges. Security incidents have also been reported along the Uzbek/Tajik border.
Take care if you travel to the Fergana Valley given the potential for tensions in the region.
If you drive in Uzbekistan, make sure you have all registration papers, including motor insurance. You must carry your UK Driving Licence or an International Driving Permit at all times.
Take care as many roads are poorly-surfaced and badly-lit.
Driving is on the right in Uzbekistan. Vehicles approaching a roundabout have the right of way over vehicles already on the roundabout.
Seatbelts for drivers and passengers are compulsory and the use of mobile phones while driving is prohibited.
There are security checkpoints at the city limits of Tashkent and other towns.
A new regulation has been introduced allowing only licensed taxis (with certain colour and signs and card payment equipment) to operate in Uzbekistan. However, unlicensed taxis continue to operate. You should use official taxis where possible.
Many buses and taxis in Uzbekistan run on Compressed Natural Gas and safety regulations are often not followed. Where possible you should opt for modern vehicles when travelling by bus or taxi.
Take care when travelling long distances by train. If you have to travel overnight, keep valuables in a safe place. Don’t leave your belongings in the compartment unattended. Lock the door from the inside. You will need to present your passport with valid visa when booking train tickets.
Uzbekistan Airways operate regular services to a number of European destinations. Uzbekistan is also served by Turkish Airlines.
We can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
In 2008 the International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Uzbekistan.
A list of incidents and accidents in Uzbekistan can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety Network.
The political situation in Uzbekistan is stable.
You should avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings of people. Exercise caution and maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places.