Once a nation with strict visa policies, Uzbekistan has swung its doors wide open, revealing a magnificent landscape that was once at the heart of the ancient Silk Road—a land adorned with impressive temples, mosques, and impeccably crafted ancient cities.
Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most welcoming country, is a must-visit destination for enthusiasts of sightseeing cities.
However, this former Soviet republic comes with bureaucratic and cultural peculiarities, making it crucial to be well-prepared before you embark on your journey.
🛂 Uzbekistan Travel Visa
Visa-Free Entry into Uzbekistan
In 2019, Uzbekistan eased its travel requirements, offering a free 30-day visa on arrival for most nationalities, valid at both airports and land borders. This welcoming policy applies to all Western countries except the United States.
For those unable to secure a visa on arrival (including U.S. and Indian nationals), the option of an electronic visa exists. This straightforward process, costing $20, takes 2-3 working days. By default, you receive a 30-day visa, but there’s also an option for a multiple-entry visa. Unlike a few years ago, the entry date is no longer fixed, allowing you to enter on any day within 90 days.
How to Apply for the Uzbekistan E-Visa
The system may have some issues with certain email domains and photo formats, so expect a few hiccups. Overall, there are often challenges with the system.
Obtaining Uzbekistan Visa through the Embassy
If the e-visa isn’t an option, a visit to the embassy is required, and it’s advisable to start this process well in advance. Typically a week-long procedure, you’ll need to provide a photocopy of your passport, 2 passport photos, hotel reservations, and a completed visa application form.
Note that, unlike the e-visa, the entry and exit dates on embassy visas are fixed, requiring you to specify your exact travel dates. This means you can’t enter before the entry date or leave after the designated exit date.
🕌 Uzbekistan: The Heart of the Silk Road
Synonymous with the Silk Road, Uzbekistan boasts three of its most pivotal cities—Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva. Each city is a testament to Islamic architecture and historic buildings, reflecting Uzbekistan’s role as a crucial hub for the exchange of goods, ideas, and knowledge during the Silk Road era. Traveling through Uzbekistan feels like stepping back in time as you wander through bazaars and ancient cities.
🏰 Majestic Temples and Architecture
From the grand Registan Square to the enchanting city of Khiva, Uzbekistan is an ideal destination for travelers fascinated by stunning Islamic architecture.
👥 Unexpected Influx of Tourists
Who would have thought that the ancient streets of Uzbekistan’s Silk Road cities would be teeming with a multitude of tourist shops selling everything from typical souvenirs to locally crafted goods—an unprecedented sight in Central Asia.
Profile of Tourists
While the most common sight in neighboring Kyrgyzstan is young backpackers, Uzbekistan sees a predominantly older demographic, with group travel being the norm. During peak seasons, cities are filled with swarms of tourists.
However, venture beyond the main cities, and you’ll find little to no tourists in places like Tashkent, Munak, Aral Sea, and the Fergana Valley, making interactions with locals more meaningful.
💻 Internet and Connectivity in Uzbekistan
Using eSIM for Browsing, Calls, and Travel in Uzbekistan
Essentially a digital SIM card, eSIM functions similarly to a physical SIM card but with the added benefit of being purchasable online, sparing you the trouble of buying one at your destination.
How to Obtain a SIM Card
Opt for Beeline, pay a few dollars, and receive a generous amount of data and talk time. Purchasing a SIM card is straightforward—just bring your passport.
Using VPN While Traveling in Uzbekistan
Whether traveling or connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, it’s advisable to use a VPN for a secure connection.
💰 Currency Matters: What to Know When Traveling in Uzbekistan
In Uzbekistan, the official currency is the Uzbekistani Som (UZS), with an extremely low value:
1 USD = 11,314 UZS
Cash and ATMs in Uzbekistan
A few years ago, ATMs in Uzbekistan didn’t accept foreign cards, but this situation has significantly changed. ATMs are now widely available, even in markets. However, be aware that some ATMs may only dispense USD when using international cards, requiring you to exchange it at a bank. This may result in double fees—1% when withdrawing and another when exchanging. However, this is becoming less common, with more ATMs offering UZS.
Currency Exchange in Uzbekistan
Currency exchange can be done in most banks. A few years ago, the official rate was nearly 100% lower than the black market rate, dissuading people from exchanging money at banks. This has changed, and now you can exchange money at various places in the city. The best part is that some banks offer larger denominations, sparing you the need to carry a large amount of cash.
While you can still get currency on the black market, it’s not recommended. They often provide smaller denominations, and during the counting process, you might discover a bill or two missing.
Embark on your journey to Uzbekistan with these insights, and savor the blend of history, culture, and connectivity that this Silk Road gem has to offer.