Uzbekistan travel advice

Cultural tips

Andrew Appleyard from Exodus:
“Try and get to the opera in Tashkent. It is well worth it, and if you can’t get a ticket they often leave the doors open onto the main square. I listened to Madame Butterfly there, eating Pringles, as they were the only thing I could find to eat that was edible that night. But the opera and ballet there really are outstanding.”
Jonny Bealby from our supplier, Wild Frontiers:
“Learn a few words of Tajik (Farsi or Dari) as that is what people speak in Bukhara and it will go down very well.”

Accommodation tips

Andrew Appleyard, from our supplier Exodus:
“Accommodation throughout the whole of Uzbekistan is not great, so be prepared. It has that Soviet feeling, it’s a bit bland, and you have to have a load of paperwork for everything. So, if you want a cup of coffee, you have to go to reception and get a receipt for the coffee, then come back to the dining room table which is probably about two kilometres from reception, hand over the piece of paper, they will pour you a third of an inch of coffee, and when you want a top up they will want another receipt! You have to carry your hotel receipts with you everywhere you go, and also have them for when you leave the country.

The food divides opinion…

Jonny Bealby, from our supplier Wild Frontiers:
“Uzbek fare is delicious and since the publication of the cookbook Samarkand, is experiencing something of a revival. Plov is the national dish but I prefer laghman which is a kind of Central Asian spaghetti bolognaise. Eating this delicious dish, it’s easy to see how food passed along the Silk Road, just as goods and ideas.”

Linda Maguire from our supplier, Undiscovered Destinations, shares her advice on coping with the food, especially if you’re vegetarian: “The food in Central Asia is best summed up as simple. There is a lot of grilled lamb and the national dish, plov, which is stew with mixed vegetables is very traditional and is served everywhere. The food isn’t stodgy, but there is very little variety and it’s not the most exciting. We ate a lot of cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs and the ingredients are very fresh, so it does taste delicious. I wouldn’t say that vegetarians are well catered for as the rice that is available is often cooked in meat stock, so they could struggle after a few days surviving on salad and bread.”

Andrew Appleyard, from our supplier Exodus:
“I actually think that the food is the worst I have tasted in the world. I think I lost five kilos during my stay. And if you’re vegetarian, they really have no concept of it. If you are presented a meal with sausage in it and you say, no thanks I am vegetarian, they will take the sausage out and put it in the dish of the person sitting next to you. That sort of thing.”

Shopping tips

Andrew Appleyard, from our supplier Exodus, is also a qualified archaeologist:
“When you are shopping, be wary of the fact that there are lots of fake antiquities. I’ve actually got some amazing Uzbek hand grenades at home, which you can buy. Made of clay. They are pots which can be used as hand grenades. But with antiquities, you will be told they are from the 16th century but actually they are from about 1988. If you ask for a certificate of authentication, they will just give you a fake one of those too. So, just stay away from antiquities, or if you are buying something, tell them you think they are fake and then pay for it accordingly.”

Health & safety tips

Andrew Appleyard, from our supplier Exodus:
“Health and safety in Uzbek hotels is virtually nonexistent, so do be careful. There are things like dodgy balconies or rusty old fridges in the rooms, but you will get a huge new telly with football on it because they are mad about football. It is improving, but it still isn’t brilliant. I actually got stuck at the top of a ferris wheel in an amusement park, and had to climb out the top of it into the freezing cold! So don’t go near any fairground attractions if you want any health and safety. But more places are offering homestays now, which is great.

You have to be really careful with vodka, especially if homemade. The thing to do is to twist the vodka bottle on your hand, and if your hand goes black you are absolutely fine. This is because it has grease on the bottle, which means it has gone through a conveyor belt and properly produced. If you twist it on your hand and there is nothing, then it usually means it has been home produced and is absolutely lethal. “

Our top Uzbekistan Holiday

Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan holiday, Silk Road explorer

Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan holiday, Silk Road explorer

Discover the fascinating ancient history of the Silk Road

From £2675 16 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2019: 14 Sep
2020: 25 Apr, 19 Sep
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If you'd like to chat about Uzbekistan or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

HEALTH & SAFETY IN UZBEKISTAN

HEALTH

Visit your GP or travel clinic at least 6-8 weeks before departure to ensure you have all the necessary vaccinations and that they are up to date. The quality of medical care in Uzbekistan is generally poor. Most hospitals are badly equipped and unhygienic, with a limited supply of drugs. There is no guarantee that equipment will have been properly sterilised, especially in rural hospitals. You should avoid all but basic treatment or essential treatment in the event of an emergency. Bring any medication with you, as it may be in short supply. And also chat with your tour operator about this, because you will be required to carry your prescription with you, as medicines can be checked by police for legal amounts. Drink bottled or boiled water, and avoid ice cubes. We also recommend self-filtering bottles such as LifeStraw to save on plastic bottle usage. Temperatures soar here in summer months, so make sure you are protected from sun and stay well hydrated. Smoking is everywhere, and still not banned in public places, so if you are a non smoker, be prepared for some unpleasant closed spaces.

SAFETY

Uzbekistan is generally a pretty safe country and the political situation is stable, remembering that it is a police state. There can also be security issues around the borders with Tajikistan (particularly around the Ferghana Valley), Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan, and uncontrolled border areas can be land mined. Keep up to date on FCO travel advice website. You should of course be vigilant just as you would be in most foreign countries where tourists can be seen as easy prey, by not flashing cash or valuables. Tashkent is seeing an increase in petty crime, so be careful at night and best not to walk around alone. One common scam is to offer to show you the ‘nightlife’. Best not. It is the law to carry your ID with you at all times, although a colour photocopy should be sufficient. Keep the original in your hotel safe, or with your tour operator. Nearly all our trips are with small groups, so your group leader will advise on all these matters. Be wary of people posing as police, asking to see your ID or imposing random fines. If in doubt, ask for their ID and insist on paying fines at a police station.

Uzbekistan travel advice

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Uzbekistan travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.
The buildings and culture are out of this world, but don't go for the cuisine.
– Tony Canning
“The wild camping and spending a night in a yurt contrast well with sightseeing in the fabulous cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand. Be adaptable and enjoy the benefits of travelling in a small group such as eating in local restaurants.” – Diana Rybinski

“It was a very full schedule and we made a conscious decision not to try and do everything, especially as we experienced travel delays in Tajikistan due to very poor roads (and road closures). Be prepared for possible stomach upsets and basic plumbing. If that doesn't worry you, then you will have one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking trips of your life and you should go!” – Caroline Gant, on a tailor made holiday in Central Asia
Be prepared for long days driving - often on very bumpy roads. Sleeping in a yurt was a new adventure for me.
– Jayne Hanlin
“If you’re on an active, tailor made holiday, the first week is fairly relaxed but the second week is full on – 75km is the first day's bike ride after an 8-hour trek over the pass (which we didn't do because of bad weather). Take padded shorts for cycling & horse riding. You don't need to pack snacks as they are always on the table and lots in the shops.” – Penny Bulbaczynskyj, on a tailor made holiday in Uzbekistan

“Take your own tonic it is not available anywhere in the country!” – Dominic Long

“Relax and enjoy the people and country but make sure your drivers and guides understand your itinerary and interests.” – John Bird

“Check what medicines you can take into the country with a doctor’s prescription info, otherwise may have problems at border control.” – Anne Higgins
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Dudarev Mikhail] [Cultural tips: Dan Lundberg] [The food divides opinion…: Ekrem Canli] [Health & Safety: Kalpak Travel] [Tony Canning Quote: Francisco Anzola] [Jayne Hanlin Quote: Derek Morrison]
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