There is a common misconception about Uzbekistan; that it is a place where time stood still, a deserted landscape, and a place of little interest to the average traveler. This could be no further from the truth. Uzbekistan is a country that boasts beautifully-tiled mosques, tasty food, ornate palaces, and a destination that is fast-developing into one of the most welcome and friendly in the world. Its high-speed train network is just one proof that the country is well-developing and ready to welcome to open people from all over the globe.
Uzbekistan may be developing fast, but it is still considered to be a relatively undiscovered gem in Central Asia. The country’s history is rich and interesting, this being due to the country’s location on the legendary “Silk Road” The country boasts an exquisite blend of old and new, and due to the new president’s insistence on tourism, Uzbekistan is now under the radar. With visas now much cheaper than before, or sometimes free, and the network of high-speed trains, it is now possible to travel around and visit the entire country in one to two weeks.
Day 1. Tashkent
Tashkent, although relatively unknown, is actually the largest city in Central Asia. As the capital of Uzbekistan, it provides you with the perfect starting point for your visit, the city having a well-connected airport that caters to International flights from many destinations.
However, unlike other towns and cities, you will see on your travels, there really isn’t much to see asides from the Metro stations and the Bazaar. A tip for your time in Tashkent is to download the Verum QR application that will provide you with information on all sites that have QR codes you may like to visit.
Days 2 – 4. Samarkand – Uzbekistan
Samarkand, with its colorful minarets, mosques, traditional markets, and mausoleums, is the must-see city in Uzbekistan. It is recommended to spend at least 3 days here, chatting to the locals and finding all the best places to visit.
The high-speed train network allows you to reach Samarkand from Tashkent in just 2 hours.
Days 5 – 7. Bukhara
Bukhara is probably the most picturesque city you will find in Uzbekistan and is best visited on foot. The narrow streets create a labyrinth that is intertwined with green areas and parks, making it a perfect place for a stay of 2 days. Two architectural masterpieces that you should include on your itinerary for Bukhara are the Poi Kalyan Complex and the Ark.
It will take you just two hours on the high-speed train to reach Bukhara from Samarkand.
Days 7 – 9. Khiva
Khiva was the first place in Uzbekistan to earn itself a listing on the UNESCO heritage listings. Khiva is an open-air, desert-like museum. During your visit, you should taste the food on offer, and lap up the culture of the old, mud-brick-walled villages. Stepping into Khiva is akin to stepping into the scene of a movie.
Unlike the other destinations on your itinerary, Khiva is relatively hard to reach, the journey taking 5 hours by train or 7 hours by taxi.
Day 10. Tashkent
Before making your way to the International Airport for your journey back home, spend the last day of your time in Uzbekistan exploring some more sites in Tashkent. From Khiva, you can reach Tashkent by plane from Urgench in 1.5 hours or by night train from Khiva (16.5 hours)
Uzbekistan: Cost of Traveling
It is very easy and affordable to travel around Uzbekistan, making it perfect for the independent tourist. The main part of your budget whilst in Uzbekistan will be spent on transportation and hotel accommodation.
A rough guide for the cost of traveling in Uzbekistan on a budget would be 25 to 45 USD per person, per day; this would rise to 60 10 100 USD if you take guided tours or pay for more comfortable hotels.
There is a handful of working ATMs located across the country. Some dispense in US dollars, others in Uzbek Sum. Visa Cards and Maestro cards are accepted widely, MasterCard less-so.
A good representation of the meals in Uzbekistan can be found at the markets where you will see an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetable and loaves of bread. Common yet delicious foods to try are the pieces of bread, salads, soups, dumplings, and plov. Uzbekistan is a relatively vegetarian-friendly country, there being plenty of meat-free choices.
Getting Around in Uzbekistan
It is not necessary to use the services of a tour guide to see Uzbekistan. The high-speed rail network is affordable, safe, convenient, and the best way to get around the country, the rail network being of the same high standard as those found in Western Europe.
To date, it is hard to book tickets online, but this can be solved by using the tour operator “Silk Road Tour” for all your bookings. Depending on the class you use and your destination, train tickets can cost as little as 5 dollars per person per ride.
All the major cities in the country are connected either with domestic or International flights and airports. For the above itinerary, the only time we would recommend you using air travel would be for your return journey from Khiva to Tashkent.
When to Travel
Spring and autumn are the best times to travel to Uzbekistan, the summer months of June to August often being too hot for comfort. Book your time in Uzbekistan between April and June or September to October for dry and warm weather.
What to Wear
Uzbekistan does not have an antiquated dress code for women, and headscarves are not required, even though it is a majority Muslim country. Wear what you feel comfortable in, and be prepared to be stared out with bemusement if you are prone to taking selfies. When visiting religious sites you will be expected to cover up, and you should always dress in a way that is respectful to everyone.
The crime rate in the country is very low, there being very few problems with pickpockets that are common when traveling in Europe. Although corruption was slightly prevalent a few years ago, the people are generally very respectful, and you should even feel safe as a solo female traveler.
Due to changes in 2018, getting a visa for your time in Uzbekistan is very easy, E-Visa now being free from many countries. Check requirements for your country of residence, and ensure you buy or attain the correct visa.