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Uzbekistan Guide & Travel Advice

Getting there

You can fly from London Heathrow direct to the capital Tashkent with Uzbekistan Airways. Turkish Airlines flies via Istanbul from both Heathrow and Gatwick, and they also operate a one-stop flight from Manchester to Tashkent. From London Heathrow it is also possible to take a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt and connect onto the onward Uzbekistan Airways flight to Tashkent.

Flying times from UK

The direct Uzbekistan Airways flights will get you to Tashkent in 7 hours, whilst one-stop options from London will take at least 10 hours, and usually a bit more.

Time zone

Uzbekistan is +5 hours ahead of GMT.

Visa requirements

From the 15th July 2018 Uzbekistan will introduce an electronic visa system as well as a scheme allowing visa-free entry for up to five days while in transit. This will apply for citizens of 101 countries including those from the UK. The Uzbekistan E-visa is for stays of 30 days or less and must be obtained online before travel at https://e-visa.gov.uz/main. For those staying longer than 30 days a standard visa will still be required. Further details on visa requirements will be provided at the time of booking.

Do's and don'ts

Dress conservatively if you're visiting the Fergana Valley. Western clothes are perfectly acceptable in larger towns and cities such as Tashkent and Samarkand.

Do not eat, or pass things, with the left hand which is considered unclean.

Keep in mind that photography can make the authorities nervous, particularly around government buildings, so it is best to check with your guide before taking pictures.

Money

The local currency is the Uzbek Som. US Dollars and Euros are easy to exchange, and this can be done in banks, hotels or exchange outlets. Working ATM machines can be found in Tashkent and Samarkand but outside of these two cities they should not be relied upon. Similarly, credit cards are accepted in Tashkent, Samarkand, larger hotels and some shops but are not commonly used and will not be accepted in rural areas or smaller towns.

Tipping

Tipping is not always expected but you should leave about 5 to 10% for good service. If the tip is left in US Dollars it will be even more appreciated. A guideline for tipping your drivers and guides will be advised prior to travel.

Food and drink

Uzbek food has many influences due in part to the country's location, but it is fair to say that mutton, rice and noodles dominate. The most popular dish is plov – at its simplest, this is rice, mutton, carrots and onions, cooked in a kazan pot over an open fire. There are many recipes for plov which vary all over the country and can include spices, currants, quince or pumpkin. Plov is most commonly eaten with glazed bread. Other popular dishes include manti which are doughy dumplings stuffed with lamb, onions and peppers, and shurpa which is a simple mutton and vegetable soup. Beer, wine and vodka are all popular alcoholic drinks.

Holidays, festivals and celebrations

Uzbekistan's biggest event is Independence Day, on September 1st, with feasts and entertainment throughout the country. The biggest celebration takes place in Tashkent's Alisher Navoiy National Park, from where the president addresses the nation before singers, actors and fireworks take centre stage. Another popular celebration is Navrus which is a public holiday and Central Asia’s New Year. Shark Taronalari, Uzbekistan’s international world music festival, has been growing in popularity and status since it was first held in 1997 in Samarkand. There are many spring celebrations, the largest of which is the Boysun Bahori, or the Boysun Spring Festival. This ancient festival – it dates back to pre-Islam times – is held in the mountainous Surkhandarya Province. Such is the significance of this celebration, with its costumes, music, dance and other traditions, that Boysun has been recognised by UNESCO.

Shopping

Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva are the best places to shop and you can find carpets, textiles and embroidered wall hangings. Chorsu Bazaar is the largest market place in Tashkent and sells almost everything imaginable whilst in Samarkand the main market is a fantastic place to buy spices, dried fruits and sweets. You will be expected to barter.

Suggested reading

Books such as Lonely Planet’s ‘Central Asia’ and the Bradt Guide contain a wealth of useful information about the country. ‘Uzbekistan: The Golden Road to Samarkand’, by Calum MacLeod and Bradley Mayhew is also meticulously researched and highly enjoyable to read. Historical books on Uzbekistan include ‘Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World’, by Justin Marozzi, ‘Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age’, by S Frederick Starr and ‘A Ride to Khiva’, by Frederick Burnaby. For a broader view of the Silk Road, read Shadow of the Silk Road, by Colin Thubron, ‘Central Asia in World History’, by Peter B Golden or ‘The History of Central Asia’, by Christoph Baumer.

Health

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad but current recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Yellow Fever is compulsory, but only if you have visited an affected Yellow Fever area within 5 days prior to your arrival. In some instances anti-malarial tablets may also be needed. For current information on health advice you may wish to visit the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA) Web Site on www.masta.org. The NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website (www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk) is also a useful resource.

Travel advice

For current information on Uzbekistan the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly. We would also recommend visiting the Safer Tourism Foundation website (https://safertourism.org.uk/) before you travel and will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Uzbekistan Holiday Ideas

Uzbekistan Holiday Review

I just want to thank you for another beautiful tour. Uzbekistan exceeded all our expectations regarding cultural heritage, nature, orderliness, food… and Dilya Amanova was just a perfect guide and company. I would have only one suggestion – you should definitely put on your list of hotels in Tashkent Ichan Qal’a which was really the best and the most beautiful hotel on our tour. The rooms are more than excellent (special Royal Suite in which we were upgraded).

DD - Uzbekistan - April 2017

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