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.
Last updated: 21 June 2018
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.
Air quality in the Karakalpakstan and Khorezm regions has deteriorated as a result of storms over the Aral Sea bringing salt, dust and pollutants into the air.
You can be detained on arrival for the possession of certain medicines, including codeine. You should always carry a doctor’s prescription with you.
Take care in areas bordering Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. Uzbekistan’s borders are potential flashpoints and uncontrolled border areas may be land-mined. Borders are subject to closure without notice.
If you need to contact the emergency services, call 101 (fire), 102 (police) or 103 (ambulance).
Terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan can’t be ruled out. See Terrorism.
Most visits to Uzbekistan are trouble free.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
If you need to contact the emergency services, call 101 (fire), 102 (police) or 103 (ambulance).
Terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan can’t be ruled out. Attacks could happen anywhere and could affect western interests and places visited by foreigners.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Safety and security
Violent crimes against foreign nationals are rare. Muggings, pick pocketing, snatch-and-grab robberies, theft of unattended bags and purse snatching are believed to be more common, especially in crowded places (bazaars, public transportation). Home burglaries and break-ins occur, even in wealthier neighbourhoods.
You should exercise caution and take measures to protect your personal security as you would when visiting any European country.
There have been reports of raids on local establishments, including restaurants. Foreigners haven’t been deliberately targeted, but the use of violence against restaurant guests and staff has been reported. If you’re caught up in such a situation like this, keep calm, follow any instructions given and leave the area as soon as it is 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. The Tajik authorities have announced that the border crossing between Panjakent (Tajikistan) and Samarkand (Uzbekistan) is going to open in March 2018. There is no further information at this time.
Care should be taken when travelling in the areas bordering Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan, as some border areas may be land-mined. Borders crossing points are also subject to closure without notice.
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.
You’re advised to use only official taxis. Many do not have rear seat belts, so you may wish to ask for a taxi with seat belts in the front and rear.
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.
Local laws and customs
Uzbekistan has a secular constitution. Most Uzbek people are Muslims. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
In 2018, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 15 May and finish on 14 June, but these dates are subject to change.
You should carry your passport with you at all times as this is a legal requirement in Uzbekistan. The police often carry out checks.
Possession of drugs is illegal. There is a ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco to those under 20. Prison sentences can be lengthy. While prison conditions have reportedly improved, reports of widespread hepatitis and tuberculosis and allegations of mistreatment of some prisoners by officials remain a concern.
Homosexuality is illegal under Uzbek law and is still very much frowned upon socially. You should take care over public displays of affection. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Any form of photography can upset the authorities, particularly photographs of government buildings including the Palace of Forums in Tashkent and sometimes in local bazaars not normally visited by tourists. You should check before using a camera, especially near airports, border checkpoints, military barracks, bridges, police stations and metro stations.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British nationals need a visa to enter Uzbekistan, which you should get before you arrive. If the purpose of your visit is tourism, no invitation letter is required to apply for a visa. However, if you intend to visit for any other reasons (eg to visit friends/family or as a business visitor), you’ll need to submit a letter of invitation with your application. Business visitors must get a letter from an Uzbek business partner.
Check your Uzbek visa once issued and carefully note the date of expiry and the number of entries permitted.
Don’t overstay your visa, even for a very short period. Any traveller found to have overstayed will face a large fine and possibly deportation. It is not always easy or possible to extend your visa if you wish to remain in the country for longer than you had originally intended. If you are travelling overland, make sure you arrive at your intended border crossing in good time before your visa expires.
For further information contact the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan in London.
You must register within three days of arrival. Saturdays and Sundays count as part of the three day period. If you are staying in a hotel, you will be asked for your passport at check-in and it will be retained for a short period. Hotel staff will complete the registration paperwork and return your passport to you.
If staying in a private house, your host should register you with their local district OVIR (Department of Foreign Travel & Exit (they also deal with the registration of Foreign Citizens)). If you travel to another city and plan to stay for longer than three days, you will need to register again. You must follow this procedure, as a full record of your whereabouts whilst in Uzbekistan is required upon departure. Visitors who are unable to account for their whereabouts could be fined and possibly deported.
Your passport should be valid for at least three months after you’ve entered Uzbekistan.
Dual nationality is not recognised in Uzbekistan.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry (with a valid Uzbek visa), direct airside transit and exit from Uzbekistan. If your ETD has been issued in Tashkent, you’ll need an exit visa from the OVIR (Department of Foreign Travel & Exit) before you can travel out of Uzbekistan. This process can take at least 5 working days.
You should fill out two copies of the customs declaration form on arrival. Make sure that both copies are signed and stamped by Customs officials. You will need to present one to the customs authorities as you enter the country and produce the other on departure. Any currency or valuables found in your possession and not declared on your customs declaration form may be confiscated.
Travelling with medicines
If you enter Uzbekistan with medicines, whether prescription or non-prescription, you should check in advance the list of prohibited medicines and the legal quantities of medicines that are allowed to be imported. You can find information on the Uzbekistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Russian only at present). If you’re in any doubt, check legal quantities of medicines with the Uzbek Embassy in London before you travel.
You should carry a doctor’s prescription if you intend to travel with prescription medicines and declare the items on your customs declaration form. Some non-prescription medicines in the UK cause problems on entry into Uzbekistan, including codeine. Possession of these items can lead to administrative or criminal proceedings if you don’t have a prescription, or if you’re carrying more than you need for the visit and don’t declare them on arrival. Issues have most frequently been reported at land borders.
Unauthorised import and use of drones in Uzbekistan will attract fines, detention and confiscation of equipment. Licenses to import drones must be obtained prior to arrival. The following link has more information on licensing requirements (only available in Russian).
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.
Check the latest country-specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website or from NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
The reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and Uzbekistan terminated on 1 January 2016.
The quality of medical care in Uzbekistan is generally poor. Most hospitals are badly-equipped and unhygienic, with a limited supply of drugs. There is no guarantee that equipment will have been properly sterilised, especially in rural hospitals. You should avoid all but basic treatment or essential treatment in the event of an emergency. Medical insurance companies usually refer complaints of a more serious nature to hospitals in Europe or New Delhi.
Air quality in the Karakalpakstan and Khorezm regions has deteriorated as a result of storms over the Aral Sea bringing salt, dust and pollutants into the air. As for any acute deterioration in outdoor air quality due to weather events, you should minimise your individual exposure to external air by staying indoors in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible, with windows and doors closed and as well sealed as possible. Wash all fruit, vegetables and other foods which might have been exposed, and regularly damp dust all indoor surfaces, washing your hands afterwards. It is unclear when the air quality will improve; you’re advised to monitor local reports and weather forecasts for the latest information and local advice.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 03 (non-English speaking) and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Uzbekistan is located in an active seismic zone. There are regular tremors, but the last significant earthquake to cause major damage in Uzbekistan was in 1966.
The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
Bring enough cash for the duration of your stay. Travellers’ cheques are not normally accepted. There are very few cash dispensers. US dollars are the most widely accepted foreign currency. Only change money through official exchange booths. It is illegal to change money on the black market, and harsh penalties will be imposed on those caught doing so. Damaged or marked bank notes will not be accepted at official exchange locations. You will need to complete a foreign currency declaration form when you arrive, and keep a copy yourself. You cannot leave with more foreign currency than you arrive with.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.