Uzbekistan Travel Tips and Practical Guide

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Top Uzbekistan Travel Tips and Guide

We’ve gathered together all our top Uzbekistan travel tips to make your Uzbekistan travel easier and cheaper.

Come on Mister, it’s only $10,” said the smiling gold teeth.

On the plane, just before we’d landed at Taskent, Uzbekistan’s capital city, a gentleman from Tashkent warned us that the taxi drivers might try and rip us off and not to pay any more than USD$1.50 (15,000 SOM) for our taxi from the airport to our city hotel.

But guilt kicked in when the taxi drivers reacted to our offer of 15,000 SOM as if it was a grave injustice.

mosaic tiles.jpg
The beautiful mosaic tiles of a Samarkand madrasah, Uzbekistan ©Lifejourney4two

Travelling on a budget means we watch our pennies, but it’s sometimes difficult navigating the line between what’s fair and just and when you’re being taken for a ride. And in this case — we needed that ride.

Whatever the price you settle on, be warned that the customs are to haggle and that the taxi drivers’ pleas can pull on your heartstrings.

We managed to bargain our ride down to USD $6 — knowing that this was still way above the average fare, but we were happy to part with it and get to our hotel.

The next morning, the hotel booked a taxi for us, costing 13,000 SOM (about USD $1.30) for the same distance.

Knowing the lay of the land when you arrive in a foreign country can help you navigate the twists and turns inevitable when you land in a new place and experience a new culture.

These Uzbekistan travel tips will help you save money and avoid possible hassles in this famed country of the Silk Road.

Planning a Trip to Uzbekistan?


  1. Many nationalities get free access to Uzbekistan without a visa – check here
  2. The most popular cities to visit in Uzbekistan are Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva
  3. Tourists are welcomed in Uzbekistan, and tourism is being actively developed
  4. Most international flights land in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan
  5. The languages spoken are mainly Uzbek and Russian — some younger locals speak English
  6. The local currency is Uzbek SOM (UZS) – Note: US Dollars are no longer used as local currency
  7. Cash is the main currency of choice, but some larger stores and hotels take credit card
  8. Banks can exchange foreign currency for SOM, and there are increasing numbers of ATM machines for different card types in the main cities
  9. Banks and money exchanges will only take pristine notes (even if there is a tiny tear or the note is wrinkled/dirty, they are reluctant to change them.)
  10. Use up your SOM before you leave Uzbekistan, as you cannot exchange this outside the country
  11. Tourist Police are active in the cities and have stations near the main tourist areas
  12. Trains run between the main Uzbekistan cities
  13. Alcohol is freely available
  14. It is recommended not to drink tap water in Uzbekistan
  15. One of the main Uzbekistan national dishes is called Plov and is a lamb, veg and rice dish
  16. There are no strict dress guidelines in Uzbekistan (Though you will need to dress respectfully in religious places and practising mosques)

Uzbekistan Travel

Uzbekistan used to be the trading centre of the famous Silk Road. But today, tourism, rather than trading, is Uzbekistan’s drawcard.

Beautiful Madrassah design
Uzbekistan’s architecture ©Lifejourney4two

Uzbekistan was once the main thoroughfare of the Silk Road, with traders and travellers plying their wares along its route. When the trading route began to decline and Uzbekistan came under the rule of the Soviet Union, the country was difficult to enter. Many great examples of its architecture, mausoleums and mosques fell into disrepair.

However, the magnificence of what once was is being restored with ongoing projects in the main cities of Uzbekistan. The country is welcoming visitors from all over the world and the pride of the locals in their heritage is tangible.

Since 2016 the new president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, was changing the approach to tourism and made it easier for foreign visitors to visit Uzbekistan. Moreover, Lonely Planet has named the Central Asia Silk Road region, as one of the top places to visit in 2020. 

Uzbek-culture a blue dome
Uzbek culture ©Lifejourney4two

Where Is Uzbekistan?

Uzbekistan is surrounded by all the other ‘Stans’ in Central Asia. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the west and north, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south. 

 Uzbekistan declared independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991, becoming the Republic of Uzbekistan. The suffix ‘stan’ is an ancient Farsi or Persian word meaning place of or country

Uzbekistan Map

Uzbekistan Travel Visa Requirements

Since February 2019, many nationalities do not need a visa to enter Uzbekistan – check visa requirements here.

Also, from January 2020, the visa requirement was waived for more nationalities, and Chinese nationals won’t need a visa for a 7-day stay. Uzbekistan was expecting a big jump in tourist numbers in 2020 … then along came the Covid pandemic.

Is Uzbekistan Safe For Tourists?

If you are considering visiting Uzbekistan, you should keep up to date on the safety travel status of Uzbekistan. Consider subscribing to your country’s safety updates if they provide them. We subscribe to Smart Traveller in Australia for email updates on security issues, health issues and natural disasters around the world.

Uzbekistan Tourist Police Van
Tourist Police Mobile Office in Uzbekistan ©Lifejourney4two

We didn’t experience anything untoward while travelling through Uzbekistan, but staying alert and aware of your surroundings is always advisable.

Take the following precautions:

  • Avoid going out alone at night
  • Avoid wearing expensive clothing or jewellery or showing your cash
  • Be aware of pickpockets in cramped areas. (I always wear my lockable Pacsafe crossover bag and can’t praise it enough.)
  • Only use marked taxis

We found most of the Uzbekistan people to be extremely hospitable, friendly and welcoming. They are also happy to impart their own Uzbekistan travel tips to you if you stop and chat with them.

The main cities had a high presence of Tourist police to assist with any problems tourists may encounter. Because Uzbekistan tourism is being developed, it is much easier and safer to travel in the country than in previous times.

Shelley with an Uzbekistan tourist police officer in Samrakand
Uzbekistan Tourist Police have a special Uniform identifying them as such ©Lifejourney4two

Do I need Vaccinations for Uzbekistan?

Yes, some vaccines are recommended by the CDC for Uzbekistan: 

  • Hepatitis A and Hep B
  • Typhoid,
  • Rabies, 
  • Polio, 
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR),
  • Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), 
  • Chickenpox and shingles, 
  • Influenza (flu) and Covid 19

We would also recommend that you have a comprehensive Travel Insurance Policy.

What Language is Spoken in Uzbekistan?

The languages spoken in Uzbekistan are mainly Uzbek and Russian. However, some younger locals speak English.

Try to learn a few Uzbek words if you are visiting Uzbekistan because this is really appreciated by the locals.

  • Hello = Assalomu aleykum
  • Hello (informal) = Salom
  • Thank you = Rahmat

For pronunciation and more Uzbek phrases – check out this website

Dazzling architectural displays await you in Uzbekistan ©Lifejourney4two

Uzbekistan Transport

Flights to Uzbekistan

Many airlines now fly to the international airport in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. The airport is about 7.5 miles from the city centre.

One of the main airlines is Uzbekistan Airways. Before we flew with them, we were unsure as to what to expect. But the service was great.

The inflight entertainment might not have had the latest blockbusters, but there was enough variety to keep the average non-film buff happy. 

The food on the flight was standard aeroplane food. Take note not to be confused by the email asking you to order your plane food before departure. We thought it meant that we didn’t get a meal (due to it being a budget flight), and we bought several sandwiches for the journey.

Just after demolishing those, the air stewardess asked whether we wanted ‘chicken’ or ‘beef.

No need for any more food that day.

Uzbekistan Airways aeroplane
Flying to Tashkent on Uzbekistan Airways ©Lifejourney4two

Arrival at Tashkent Airport

Entry into Uzbekistan at Tashkent Airport was very straightforward. We stood in line for about half an hour to have our passports checked at Customs. We were asked where we had flown from; our passports were stamped, and we continued to baggage collection.

Whilst in the baggage collection area, we spied a round kiosk signed as UCell, right in the middle of the hall. It was here that we bought our prepaid SIM card.

There were different plans to choose from, and after explaining our itinerary and length of time (2 weeks) in the country to the salesman, we accepted his recommendation: 50GB at USD $8; really, it was peanuts.

The different plans, all valid for one month, including unlimited calls, were:

  • 20 GB data (+ 1500 SMS) for USD$4
  • 35 GB data (+ 2000 SMS) for USD$6
  • 50 GB data (+ 2500 SMS) for USD$8
  • 100 GB data (+ 3000 SMS) for USD13

We could pay in either the local Uzbek currency (SOM) or USD, but as we needed local currency anyway, we found the nearby ATM in the baggage area and topped up with local SOM.

All was done in 20 minutes.

For those requiring visas, there was a special desk in the baggage area from where you could purchase them.

Catching Uzbekistan Taxis

Most of the locals used an app called Yandex Taxi to order their taxis.

Download the app before you get to Uzbekistan, and you will be ready to use it as soon as you arrive — which means no need to barter with the cab drivers at the airport. It states exactly how much the fare is, and you can link it to your credit card, so you also don’t need cash to pay.

There are yellow-marked taxis and also unmarked taxis. We were told that the only difference between the two is that the yellow ones are licenced to stop and pick up extra people, so they can be considered as shared taxis.

The price is the same between shared and non-shared, and you barter your price. In a shared taxi, you may have more bartering leverage as you are often with locals and local fares as likely to prevail.

We found that if we were catching a yellow taxi in the city, they were offering a fair price — pretty much a standard 10,000 – 20,000 SOM ( USD$1 to $2).

However, if you need to get from train stations or airports or travel a distance of more than about 5km, then the price jumped up quite significantly. This is when your bartering skills will come in handy.

Uzbekistan Trains

You can book Uzbekistan trains online in advance or buy your tickets directly at the train station. However, we would advise booking in advance as our carriages were full and only a limited number of trains ran.

A few websites sell online Uzbekistan train tickets—the official one –, we found to be the most unreliable, with the site often unable to load.

The online ticket bookings only become available online about 45 days before the actual train journey so you can’t buy tickets before this. What you can do though, is have email notifications sent to you advising when the window is open. This is what we did and were then able to buy our tickets online immediately as seats do book out. 

We booked Tashkent to Samarkand, and Samarkand to Bukhara online.

NOTE: Remember to keep hard copies of your train tickets with you.

We weren’t able to book Bukhara to Khiva online so we approached a local Uzbekistan travel agency, Advantour, who was super helpful and arranged the tickets at no additional cost. They had them waiting for us at the hotel in Bukhara when we arrived.

All fuss-free.

Uzbekistan train station
Uzbekistan train station

Summary of our Uzbekistan Travel by Train


  • Cost USD $17
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Booked online
  • Business Class in old-fashioned train cabins


  • Cost USD$8
  • Time: 2.5 hours
  • Booked online
  • We used economy class on the train trip from Samarkand to Bukhara and it was more comfortable than the business class from Tashkent and was half the price!


  • Cost USD $40
  • Time: 5 Hours
  • Booked through Advantour The tickets were delivered to our hotel a couple of days before our journey.
  • The business class on the fast train from Bukhara to Khiva was nicer than the economy but really the only difference is having more legroom and a table.
Afrosiyob – Uzbekistan’s fast train

Uzbekistan’s Local Currency and ATM Machines

  • The local currency is the Uzbek SOM (UZS) — locals call it ‘SOM’
  • ATMs dispense SOM only
  • Local Banks will change USD, British Pounds, Japanese Yen and Euros
  • Ensure bank notes are pristine, or the bank will not accept them (They rejected many of ours that were just crinkled but no tears)

The local currency in Uzbekistan is SOM, which can be bought before you arrive or withdrawn from ATMs. 

[An ATM machine accepts foreign visa cards at Tashkent Airport near the Baggage Carousel. Be mindful that you will be unable to exchange SOM for another currency after you leave Uzbekistan. ]

Until 1st October 2019, the USD was also used as local currency and available at ATMs, but this has changed.

There are several ATM machines in the cities, but whether they work or not can be hit and miss. Therefore, it is a good idea to withdraw cash before you get desperate. A few stores take credit cards, but the majority are cash-based.

ATM machines do accept different types of cards but Master Card seemed to be the most common. There are quite a few ATMs about but because we had a visa card, we had to search pretty hard to find an ATM machine that would accept it.

Sometimes we found that ATMs ran out of SOM.

Desperation leads us to the Black Market

exchanging money in Uzbekistan
Desperate for cash we had to resort to using the black-market cash traders

All the ATMs we tried had run out of money. We only had USD and most vendors only accepted SOM, not USD or credit cards. The banks were all closed as it was late afternoon. Because we needed to eat and I needed to buy a pair of sandals (the only ones with me had broke), we were desperate for cash.

On the grapevine, we had heard that a Black market was exchanging USD for SOM. Therefore, we asked around and found someone.  Luckily the interest rate was only marginally lower than that offered by the banks.

We ate and were able to buy some new sandals. 

Please note, however, that the black market is an illegal activity. We have been told that sometimes government officials go undercover. 

Therefore, our recommendation would be to be aware of the possibility that the ATMs may not be working and plan to get money from a bank or exchange centre when they are open so as to not run short on cash

Uzbekistan SIM Cards and WiFi

The majority of foreign SIM cards don’t work in Uzbekistan, so it is advisable to purchase a SIM card on arrival in the country.

As mentioned, purchase a SIM card at Tashkent airport, conveniently beside the baggage collection carousel.

Some tourist info centres and hotels have free WIFI, but the signal can be intermittent and rarely high-speed.

Top Places to Visit in Uzbekistan

These are the four main cities that tourists visit in Uzbekistan.

1. Tashkent

Tashkent is a neon sign-filled city with extraordinary subway stations.

It is the first city most travellers see when they arrive in Uzbekistan. Tashkent’s mix of Soviet-era architecture and modern buildings is surprising, and none more so than the art deco of the underground metro stations, which is simply incredible.

Hundreds of street sweepers seem to be constantly cleaning the pavements and the cars all resemble each other — until recently 90% of all cars sold in Uzbekistan were Chevrolets.

Tashkent wasn’t at all what we were expecting.

Uzbekistan Travel tips - Tashkent Metro Station
Tashkent Subway system

Ever wondered if Tashkent is Worth Visiting? The answers are in our Tashkent post.

2. Samarkand

Samarkand, once the intersection of the Silk Road trade routes, is now on the UNESCO World Heritage List due to its abundance of monuments, mausoleums and Madrasahs.

But Samarkand is not only its monuments but also its people. And the strong sense of local pride here is equally as enthralling as its tiled beauty.

Uzbekistan Travel Tips - Samarkand Registran Square
Registan Square, Samarkand

READ MORE: For more information about this city see our post, Amazing Things to do in Samarkand Uzbekistan

3. Bukhara

Bukhara, (Buxoro) as a city had a more relaxed feel compared to Samarkand. The madrasahs and minarets haven’t been restored as much as those in Samarkand, so they seemed less grand but perhaps more authentic.

The historic centre of Bukhara has over 140 architectural monuments and is one of Central Asia’s most complete examples of a medieval city. It is over 2000 years old and listed by UNESCO as having Outstanding Universal Value.

Bukhara night scene
Bukhara, Uzbekistan

READ MORE: For more information about this city see our post, Best Things to do in Bukhara Uzbekistan

4. Khiva

Khiva was once a trade slaving post with its leaders known for their brutality. There are two parts to Khiva, the old and new town. The old town, called Itchan Kala has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and is within a fortress wall, with many of its homes and buildings built of mud walls.

Khiva old city wall at sunset
Khiva’s fortress wall at sunset

READ MORE: For more information about this city see our posts: Top Things to do in Khiva  and Khiva to the Aral Sea: A day of Intrigue

Uzbekistan Accommodation

Uzbekistan AccommodationRegistration Requirements

When you travel in Uzbekistan you are expected to register at a hotel or at your place. The hotel gives you a registration slip which you then keep to show on departure.

Uzbekistan Accommodation Options

There is a range of options for accommodation in Uzbekistan.

Budget accommodation is on average about USD$10-$20 /night and standard accommodation is about USD$30-40 / night.

Hotels and B&B’s we used and would recommend:

What is the Best Time to Visit Uzbekistan?

The best time to visit Uzbekistan is in spring (from March to May), or autumn (from September to November).

In spring, the mountains are green, and the weather isn’t yet too hot. 

September and October are good as the temperatures are cooler but still warm and pleasant to explore the country.

Outside of these months, winter temperatures drop to – 5 deg C and summer temperatures climb to a particularly gruelling 40 deg C. During these months, businesses trade sporadically, so you may find some places open but with no fixed hours of operation.

Our October autumn weather was just perfect.

Uzbekistan Food and Drink

While you won’t find a lot of fruit and vegetables on offer in Uzbekistan, you’ll find plenty of meat dishes, and traditional Uzbek cuisine of which the locals are very proud. 

Some of the main Uzbek foods you’ll come across are:

  • Plov–  Uzbekistan’s main traditional dish is called ‘Plov’. This is a rice dish with lamb or beef mince, onions, carrots and depending on where you eat, some other minor ingredients.
  • Manti – A dumpling filled with beef or lamb mince and onions. It also sometimes might be filled with pumpkin.
  • Lagman Soup – consistency varies depending on the restaurant but is like a lamb stew with noodles and vegetables
  • Fried Lagman – Basically fried noodles coated in a tomato-based sauce. Often comes with a fried egg on top.

The Uzbek staples are bread and noodles. You’ll likely find many vendors on the side of the road with bread baked with traditional patterns indented. The food is relatively cheap here and therefore it doesn’t break the bank to eat out.

Green tea is extremely popular as a drink, more so than black tea.

Average Restaurant Costs:

Locals restaurants: USD$3.50 per meal (eg. 3 meat kebabs, one beer, bread, salad)

Tourist restaurants: USD$5-$8 per meal (eg. Meat, veg, noodle Soup, Beer, bread)

Note: It is not safe to drink the water 

vegetable soup
Lagman Soup
National dish of Uzbekistan - Plov with rice and meat on tip
The National Uzbekistan Dish – Plov

Can You Drink in Uzbekistan?

Although Uzbekistan’s main religion is Muslim, most are relaxed when it comes to drinking alcohol. 

Vodka, beer and sweet wines are popular.

You can read more about Uzbekistan’s drinks and drinking customs here. 

Madrasah and Mosque Entrance Fees

Most places have an adult price listed but this is usually only for locals. Further down the price list, you’ll find the fee for foreign visitors. This price is often quite a bit more than the local’s price.

For example, to visit the Madrasahs in Registan Square, Samarkand, the locals pay 3000 SOM and foreign tourists, 40,000 SOM.

A fair enough difference, given that the average wage is so much lower in Uzbekistan compared to that of most tourists. It would be a shame if the locals were priced out of visiting their own historical monuments. 

On average the entrance costs range from 20,000 to 50,000 SOM per person. Many places also charge extra if you want to take photos.

Blue domed Uzbekistan Madrassah
Typical Uzbekistan monuments

Photography and Drone Usage in Uzbekistan

Photography in Uzbekistan

When taking photos, be sensitive to the local culture. If an area has a ‘No Photos’ sign abide by it and show respect.

In regards to taking photos of strangers, always ask permission. Most people we asked were happy to have their photos taken. In fact, strangers asked us to take photos of them, rather than us asking them!

Only on two occasions did we get asked for money — both times the person had asked us to take a photo of them before requesting money. We politely refused, not wanting to encourage this type of touristic scam.

Many places we visited on our Uzbekistan trip charged an extra fee, in addition to the entrance fee, if you wanted to take photographs.

Drone Usage in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan has banned the import, sale, and usage of drones.

We chose to send our drone home, rather than risk having it confiscated when entering the country.

What Types of Souvenirs Can You Buy in Uzbekistan?

Some of the main souvenirs and items that you’ll find being sold in Uzbekistan are:

  • Silk scarves
  • Rugs,
  • Ceramics,
  • Puppets,
  • Cotton scarves,
  • Hats,
  • Knives and
  • Copperwork.
Uzbekistan copper artisan
Intricate copperwork indented by a series of tapping
coloured embroidered slippers
Uzbek-style slippers and shoes
Rows of Uzbekistan Hats for sale
Typical Uzbek-style hats
Uzbekistan puppets
Puppets dressed in Uzbek clothing

What Should You Wear in Uzbekistan?

You’ll find many of the older locals wear conservative-type clothes. Men may wear suits, while women wear long velour-type pants with long colourful dresses over the top. Many also wear bright headscarves.

However, many of the younger crowd wear clothes that would not be out of place in Europe or the US. Many were wearing jeans, the latest trainers and trendy brand t-shirts.

Tourists seem to wear whatever they feel comfortable in.

If you visit a practising mosque, though, then it is respectful for women to cover their shoulders and head (I always travel with a light scarf) and wear long pants or a skirt.

For men, long pants and a shirt ( no tank tops). You’ll find some of the mosques are no longer used as such and therefore the clothing requirement is less strict. 

What will be really useful in Uzbekistan are comfortable walking shoes as you will likely be doing a lot of walking in each city.

Uzbekistan woman wearing bright clothing and headscarf
Local Uzbek woman happy to pose for our photo

Uzbekistan Travel Tips … That’s a Wrap

We will endeavour to keep this post updated with any changes that occur. If you know of anything that we have missed or changes that have occurred please drop us an email so we can give readers as relevant information as possible 🙂

Thank you x

Have you been to Uzbekistan or planning on going? Let us know what you thought or if you have any questions ask away and we’ll try and help.

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These are some of the travel resources we use when planning our trips.

For a more thorough list visit our Travel Resources page here.

Photo of author


Shelley, a former primary school teacher with a law degree, and her husband Lars co-own Lifejourney4two. Their adventure began in Perth, Australia, and has since taken them through Europe and Africa in motorhomes and bush campers. Shelley's travel guides combine practical advice with engaging stories, mirroring their shift from 'One Day' to 'Day One'. Together, they aim to inspire others to embark on their own travel dreams.

6 thoughts on “Uzbekistan Travel Tips and Practical Guide”

  1. Thank YOU both so MUCH for this very informative article. Being as a local, I enjoyed reading it very much.
    All the best!


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