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Uzbekistan

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Quite possibly the headline act of your Silk Road adventure. Follow weaving passageways past spellbinding buildings and bustling bazaars right into your own Arabian Nights’ fable.

Travel back in time as you discover two of the most significant Silk Road cities: Bukhara and Samarkand. Painstakingly restored to their former glory, they shimmer, resplendent in gold and turquoise. Peek behind the carefully constructed facades, towering minarets and mosaic domes to meet and experience the warmth of locals.  

Taste a fascinating tangle of contradictions in Uzbekistan’s newly built capital. The city was razed to the ground by an earthquake in the 60s then promptly rebuilt under soviet era muscle. Meander down leafy streets and thrumming bazaars, and look up to observe its curious patchwork of brutalist Soviet, classical Russian and ornate Islamic architecture.


Regional Highlights

  • Take a City Tour – Experience old and new Tashkent. From Muy-Mubarak Mosque that houses the world’s oldest Koran of Khalif Osman and golden hair of the prophet Muhammad to the Palace of International Forums on Amir Temur Square that was opened in 2009 to celebrate Tashkent’s 2200th anniversary.
  • Get amongst the hyper-activity of the Chorsu Baazar found in the unique complex of trade halls crowned with magnificent blue domes. Gather around one of the steaming street kitchens and sample some Plov, the king of Uzbek cuisine.
  • For amazing views of the city make your way up the Tashkent TV tower that is the highest building in Central Asia.
  • Take a day trip to the outdoor haven of Chimgan Hills. Jump on the chairlift up to Kumbel for a breathtaking view of snow capped mountains, green valleys, and glistening mountain rivers.
  • Combine with a visit to Charvak. Today this is a favourite summer destination for the residents of Tashkent. You can relax on the beach, swim, sail on a catamaran, hike the many trails, windsurf or jet ski before you travel back to Tashkent.

Ancient traders navigated the golden city carrying silks, spices and precious metals overland to China as far back as 206BC. Its enviable Silk Road position made it hot property for conquerors, each time adding a new layer of cultural intrigue. Prepare to have your mind blown by the azure adorned Timur monuments such as Registan Square, Bibi-Khanym Mosque, Gur-e-Amir, and Shah-i-Zinda. You might not be able to pronounce them correctly, but they’ll leave a lasting impression. 


Regional Highlights

  • Visit the Gir Amir Mausoleum, the final resting place of the mighty Tamerlane, his sons and grandson, Ulugbek.
  • One of highlight's of your stay in Samarkland will be standing on the iconic Registan Square with its three Madrassah's towering over you.
  • Close to Registan Square is the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, the sheer size, beauty and understanding the construction of this monument built in the 15th century will take your breath away. This mosque overlooks the busy and colourful Siob Bazaar, it's a unique place where you can get acquainted with the life of the Samarkand people.
  • Shar-I-Zinda Necropolis is a row of more than twenty mausoleums grouped along the narrow medieval streets, each topped with a sparkling azure dome. It's the most mysterious and unique architectural monuments of Samarkand.
  • Travel to the outskirts of the city to discover the amazing story of Ulugbek. As the grandson of Tamerlane, Ulugbek was an emir in the early 15th century and also a renowned astronomer.
  • Visit the site of the ancient settlements of Afrasiab that existed more than two thousand years ago, as well as the Mausoleum of the Prophet Daniel on the fringe of Afrasiab.

Thanks to its proximity to waterways, roadways and agricultural bounty, Bukhara was an important rest stop along the Silk Road routes. This 2000-year-old fortress became a major cultural centre, nourished by the constant flow of enlightened merchants. Get lost in a warren of UNESCO wonders before relaxing by the Lyab-i-Hauz - the only remaining stone oasis reflecting the city’s splendour.


Regional Highlights

  • Visit the ruins of the Ark Fortress, the truly stunning Ismail Samani Mausoleum, the final resting place of the founder of the Samanid dynasty (the mortar for the baked bricks is made of camel's milk, egg yolk and bull's blood!) and the Kalyan Minaret, a part of the Poi-Kalon Ensemble. The Kaylan Minaret stands at 47 Metres with 10 metre deep foundations, including reeds stacked underneath in an early form of earthquake proofing. Genghis Khan was so impressed that he ordered it to be spared from destruction.
  • Opposite the Ark is the Bolo-Hauz Complex with its mosque also known as the Forty Pillar Mosque that features slender, elegantly carved wooded pillars that hold up a beautifully restored painted coffered ceiling, the emir’s official place of worship.
  • See the impressive architectural complex that surrounds famous Lybai-Hauz, the heart of Bukhara, including the magnificent Kukeldash Madrassah. It was from this pool that professional water carriers would carry water in leather bags to their wealthy clients in the heyday of the Silk Road.
  • Wander the labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys of old Bukhara to find the unique turquoise topped four turrets of Chor Minor.
  • Make your way to the covered market place of Tim Abdulla Khan, built in 1577. If you are shopping for carpets or rugs this is the place to come. You can also watch the silk carpet weavers in action here.
  • Between the two covered bazaars Taqi-Sarrafon and Taqi-Telpak Furushon is Central Asia's oldest surviving mosque, the Maghoki-Attar, this is probably the town's holiest spot. Under it, in the 1930's, archaeologists found remains of a 5th century Zoroastrian temple ruined by the Arabs, and an earlier Buddhist temple.
  • Chashma Ayub Mausoleum, it is said that in the days before Bukhara even existed the biblical prophet Job came to the valley and witnessed terrible drought. As people perished around him Job struck the dusty earth with his staff and struck upon a spring that bought liquid salvation to the people. Chashma Ayub commemorates this site
  • Head 6km outside the city and see the elaborate Summer Palace of the last emir of Bukhara, Sitora-I Mohi Khosa.
  • Visit one of Bukhara’s most famous hammams (baths) Borzi Kord.

Once the final stop before crossing the desert to Persia, or if you were unlucky enough, the overcrowded city in which you were sold by oppressive slave caravans. From its brutal history rises a marvellous UNESCO protected town, Itchan Kala, the mud-walled fortress of a bygone Khiva oasis.


Shake the sand from your shoes and gulp down an authentic taste of Uzbek life in this fertile border region. The ‘valley’ is an unexpectedly flat expanse, swaddled by dramatic mountains on either side. Curious and friendly locals tend to cotton fields, and produce the majority of Central Asia’s silk. The bazaars are bright and full of local crafts and fresh fruit that grows abundantly.


Inspiration and stories

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Uzbekistan: Daily expenses

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How to travel responsibly

FAQs

Capital city: Tashkent

Population:  28.2 million

Language: Uzbek

Currency:  Uzbekistani Som (UZS)

Time zones: GMT+05:00

Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin)

Dialing code: +998

All travellers need a visa to enter Uzbekistan. A Letter of Invitation (LOI) is also required before you can apply for your visa. Sundowners Overland will provide the necessary documentation including your Letter of Invitation and Cover Letter that is required to support your visa application.

There are no Uzbekistan consulates in Australia or New Zealand and so you must apply for your visa through a consulate located in another country, we recommend Singapore or the United Kingdom.

For information on how to apply for a visa to enter Uzbekistan through the consulate in Singapore, visit the following website: http://www.uzbekistan.org.sg/staticpage.php?sid=22

For information on how to apply for a visa to enter Uzbekistan through the consulate in the United Kingdom, visit the following website: http://www.uzbekembassy.org/e/visas_for_tourists/

For other nationalities, please refer to your local consulate for information. Visit the following website to find your local embassy. http://www.embassypages.com/

If you would like further recommendations and advice on applying for an Uzbekistan visa through a consulate located in another country, please contact a Travel Advisor at Sundowners Overland.

Visa Upon Arrival: Due to the unavailability of Uzbekistan embassies in Australia and New Zealand, Australian and New Zealand residents are eligible to apply for a Uzbekistan visa upon arrival into the country, but only if arriving by air into Tashkent Airport. To determine whether this applies to your travel plans, please contact a Travel Advisor at Sundowners Overland.

Validity: Visas for Uzbekistan are valid for a maximum of 30 days. However, your visa entry dates are subject to your travel plans and itinerary.

You may apply for an Uzbekistan entry visa within three or six months of your arrival date, this may vary depending on the consulate you apply through so it is important that you keep this in mind when considering the timelines of your application.

Please check the appropriate consulate website for specific information on the cost and method of payment. Cash is generally not accepted and often payment will need to be arranged before you apply with the embassy/consulate. The actual application process will vary depending on your nationality and the consulate/embassy at which you will be applying. Please check the appropriate consulate website for specific information.

All visitors to Uzbekistan must register with the local department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs within 3 working days after arrival. Your hotel accommodation will register you automatically. Please ensure you keep any registration documents issued by the hotel with your passport and visa documentation, until you exit the country.

Travel Insurance is mandatory for all group journeys and Sundowners Overland strongly recommends travel insurance for all other journeys. You must ensure that your insurance policy covers you for the entire duration of your journey, for all activities you will be participating in and that you have purchased the highest level of cover available to you for medical emergencies (including repatriation/evacuation cover) which are relevant to ALL the destinations that you will be visiting. Contact us for further information and quotes.

Please note ANY medications containing tramadol, morphine, codeine, opiates or any other similar constituent component may be considered as narcotic drugs, which are widely used as painkillers in a number of countries, and have been prohibited from export to Uzbekistan or transfer across the territory of the country. Sleeping tablets are also restricted.

If you are unsure about any regular medications you take, please contact a consulate and your doctor. For more information please click on the link: Prohibited Medications in Uzbekistan

Please ensure you bring written authorisation from your doctor for all special medications carried on your journey and declare the items on your customs declaration form upon entry.

Since some medications can also be affected by changes in temperature or require special care, we recommend you discuss this with your doctor before departure.

Spring and autumn are usually the most popular times to travel to Uzbekistan when temperatures are typically warm and dry, and fresh produce is harvested filling the markets and street vendors with delicious fruit and vegetables. Spring (21 March) brings Navruz to Uzbekistan, the celebration of the renewal of nature and the New Year, festivities full of ancient unique rituals, beautiful customs and huge feasts. Being a desert region, the summer months can be can be extremely hot. November to March bring cold temperatures but also clear, blue skies and less travellers – you can have the regions stunning historical sites all to yourself!

The local currency is the Uzbekistani Som. Throughout Uzbekistan ATM’s are a rare find and quite often when you do locate one it is out of order. Credit cards are rarely accepted or attract large transaction fees; therefore it is best to ensure you have enough US dollars in cash to see you through. The USD is the most recognised and accepted of all foreign currencies. It is vital that you obtain USD notes in good condition (not torn or too worn, with no stamps, ink or other marks) and issued after 1996 as older or damaged USD notes are not accepted. Smaller denominations are less frequently needed now, and we would recommend you carry a mixture of $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills.

Tashkent:

  • 30 minutes of internet access USD $1.00
  • A cup of coffee USD$1.80
  • 2 course meal & a drink in a decent restaurant USD $10-25
  • Bottle of local beer USD $1.00 in shops USD$2.00 in hotels
  • Short taxi ride USD $1.00
  • Litre bottle of water USD $0.70
  • Launder a pair of jeans USD $7.00

*Prices are approximate average costs based on prices at 11/03/17 and are based on the equivalent amount of local currency.

Border crossings take a long time due to customs and immigration searching the trains – often full of traders – bogey changes and train schedules. Patience, a sense of humour and a positive outlook will ensure you enjoy this experience.

Upon arrival into Uzbekistan you will need complete two copies of the Customs Declaration forms, one copy will need to be presented on your departure. You must ensure you do not leave Uzbekistan with more money than you entered with.

  • Respect and manners go a long way in any culture. Learning a little of the language, reading as much about the history and culture of the region and observing local gatherings is a great way to start.
  • Dress modestly, shoulders and knees should be covered, particularly when entering places of worship and in rural areas. Ladies always carry a headscarf with you, as they are required when entering places of worship.
  • Please ask and receive permission before taking any photos of people, their homes and children.
  • Men typically greet each other with a handshake, the left hand over the heart. Women place their right hand on the other’s elbow.
  • Respect for elders is paramount.
  • Uzbek’s are known for their hospitality, welcoming guests into their homes with a dining table covered in food abiding by the Uzbek rule that a plate should never be empty.

Most mobile telephones work in Uzbekistan and coverage is reasonable throughout the country with the exception of the desert areas. Ensure you have global roaming activated with your service provider or purchase a local SIM card. You will need to make sure your device is unlocked to accept a foreign SIM card.

Internet access is readily available in major cities and international hotels, however can be very limited when travelling in remote areas.