Uzbekistan is the most visited country in Central Asia, where you're welcomed with the warm hospitality of the Uzbek people. The influence of the Silk Road centuries gives an opportunity to dive into the ancient culture of the Islamic world filled with mosques, minarets, bazaars, etc. Uzbekistan is entirely surrounded by the "stan" countries, so it's a central destination to continue trips into the region.
It borders Kazakhstan in the north, Turkmenistan in the south, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in the East and also shares a border with Afghanistan in the south. Uzbekistan is in the GMT(+5) time zone.
The country is comprised of 12 provinces and 1 autonomous republic, which is the Republic of Autonomous Karakalpakstan with its capital Nukus. The capital of Uzbekistan is Tashkent with 2.5 million population.
Uzbekistan is the most populated country in Central Asia. There are over 32 million (2017 estimate) people living in Uzbekistan, out of which 38% percent in urban areas and 62% in rural areas. During your journey you will meet Uzbeks, who form 80% of the population, Russians( 5.5%), Tajiks (5%), Kazakhs (5%), Karakalpaks (2%), Tatars (1.5%).
The official language of the country is Uzbek, which belongs to the Turkic branch of languages. Most of the time locals will be flattered if you try to speak some Uzbeks with them, so you can learn some basic words like "salom"-hello, "rakhmat"-thank you, "ko'rishguncha"- good bye, etc. However, for communication purposes you can use Russian, as it's widely spoken and understood because of the country's Soviet Union past. English is not much spoken outside of the main touristic sights.
Traveling to Uzbekistan will allow you to be immersed in Muslim culture as it is a predominantly Islamic state with 88% of the population being Muslim. The other 10% are Christians and 2% are Jews and Buddhists. All religions receive equal respect in the country.
Best Time to Visit
Central Asia is a region of deserts and mountains with a continental climate, so cool winters and hot summers are typical here (sometimes reaching up to 40°C). It's possible to visit the country at any time of the year. However, the best options are from April to June or September to early November to avoid the freezing winter and uncomfortably hot summer.
But if you're ready for cold weather and it's not an obstacle for exploring the country, you can visit in November or March when it's cold but not freezing. These months are quieter and you will have an opportunity to enjoy the clear, bright skies and fresh air of the wintertime. Plus, this can be perfect weather to capture exceptional photos from the mesmerizing architecture and nature of Uzbekistan.
Do you need a Visa?
The visa policy of Uzbekistan was eased a lot between 2018-2019. More countries have a visa-free regime with Uzbeskitan and the system of electronic visas is successfully working.
There is a visa-free regime for up to 60 days for the citizens of the CIS countries. A 30 days visa-free regime is granted to 55 countries in the world and people from 76 countries can get an e-visa. If none of these options works for you then you need to go through the visa process. You will need to fill in a visa application, show a letter of invitation and your personal official documents. You can learn more about the visa requirements here.
Money in Uzbekistan
The national currency of Uzbekistan is Uzbek sum. The international code of Uzbek sum is UZS. Cash US dollar and euros are the easiest currencies to change into Uzbek sum.
Official exchange booths are available at the airports, hotels, the National Bank of Uzbekistan, several private banks and they have most of the currencies. There was a currency black market in Uzbekistan, but the government took a big step for abolishing it. So for sure, you can easily and simply use the banks for exchanging money.
There are several ATMs all over the country, so you don't need to bring the whole amount of money you intend to spend. You can easily withdraw it in Tashkent Airport, in the capital city Tashkent and in most of the major cities.
Where to Stay in Uzbekistan?
Uzbekistan has a more developed tourism infrastructure than the other countries in the region, so finding the accommodation suitable for you will be a lot easier. Hostels, apartment rentals (you can use airbnb or booking.com), campstays, desert yurts, homestays, Couchsurfing are also options. However, keep in mind that if you're visiting in summer an air-conditioned hotel might be what you will need during the stay. Be aware that if the hotel is not a well-known brand the stars of the hotel might not meet the European Standards.
There are lots of cheap hostels and guesthouses which will satisfy budget travelers. For a double room in a budget hotel, you can pay $20.00 to $40.00 per night. You can also go after your comfort and stay in luxury hotels, where the prices can range from $200.00 to $300.00 a night.
What to Eat in Uzbekistan?
Uzbek traditional cuisine is one of the best in the region and is present not only in Uzbekistan but some dishes are widely popular in other countries. You can start with the signature dish of Uzbekistan -plov or osh in Uzbek, which is traditionally made with rice, grated onions, carrots and meat. Every region has its variations. You can also try laghman, samsa, shurpa, manti, nahud, and shashlik. Most of the time Uzbeks eat with hands and sit in front of a low table, which they call dastarkhan.
It will be a bit difficult here for vegetarians, because basically "meat is everywhere". However, there are some dishes, which have their vegetarian variations like samsa, manti or veggie shashlik. So generally if you're following a diet, we advise to let the hosts know about it beforehand.