Congratulations.. you have made it to Uzbekistan. Your first stop in this interesting country is most likely to be the capital, Tashkent.
Tashkent is a mixture of old and new – along with ultra modern high rise buildings, sometimes you might see an occasional donkey on the outskirts of the city or a mighty lada with a huge couch being transported on its roof.
Is it safe in Tashkent?
As I mentioned in a previous post, I felt incredibly safe. There are lots of policemen and guards of all sorts anywhere you go. Good luck trying to sneak into subway with a big bag – you will be asked to stand aside and show the content of it.
Best way to get around Tashkent
There are two main options – taxi/local drivers and subway. Subway is super cheap, although without an English map on hand might be a bit difficult to navigate. I also found it poorly lit inside – not sure if locals are saving on power? I can’t remember the exact cost of the plastic ticket, but it is usually stated at the front of the kiosk located BEFORE you go through the glass doors. Good place for people watching too.
The other, probably more convenient way of getting around is by taxis. Private cabs are a popular sight. Shortish distance (up to 10-15 mins) will set you back around 5,000 sum (~1 usd). Bargaining before you get in is the key!
Registration in Uzbekistan
Every time you check into a hotel, you will receive a tiny piece of paper. This is your official registration. Rumor has it that you may be asked to provide all your papers before leaving the country. If you fail to provide all of them, you could face a hefty fine. I haven’t been asked for evidence at the airport, although every time a security guard stopped me at the subway entrance he asked for a copy of my registration.
Drinking bowls decorated by hand, embroided hats and bags.
Things to look out for
OMG the incredibly noisy wedding parties! Rumour has it that on average, 500 guests will be invited to an average wedding party. Here is a side story told to my tour group by the guide. A guy he knows indirectly spent seven years living in Moscow working at a construction site to save up for a wedding. He did, eventually. After a two week long trip back to Uzbekistan and paying for the grand celebration he had to go back to Moscow to earn more as they spent all his savings on the wedding party! After witnessing not one, but two parties being held at Hotel Uzbekistan every night I was there and seeing the sheer size of them,I do believe it is a true story.
Endless security in Tashkent
Restaurants in Tashkent
There are plenty of eateries all around the city . Unfortunately, most cafes don’t have a printed menu so you literally have to ask what is available. Most restaurants cater for foreigners and have a menu in English.
Notable places to check out –
Sim Sim restaurant – noisy, crazy place with a huge menu. Serves local food and drinks. It could get a little too noisy at the front room so it pays to hide inside one of the private rooms.
Good service (well-deserved tips).
Just across the road from Sim Sim you’ll find a neat brewery called Dudek. Great selection of Czech beers and food to go with it. Reasonably strict dress code if a band is playing inside (a T-shirt will not get you in).
Accommodation in Tashkent
Generally speaking, accommodation in Tashkent is not cheap – expect to pay around 30 NZD per night for a dorm room. However, hostels I have been to (Sunrise and Art Hostel) are amazing. Probably the best facilities I’ve ever seen at a hostel.
Hotel Uzbekistan might be of the better known landmarks in the city. Renovated rooms are descent but still overpriced. If you are “lucky” to get an older style room – expect to see old carpet, old school TV and a sad looking bathroom. Buffet breakfast (continental) is typically included in every hotel.
A bit of a shocker really. Allow plenty of time if you are departing from Tashkent airport, any time of the day. Keep all your papers and count USD cash before you get there.
You must declare all valuables prior on arrival and keep a copy of the original declaration. It is also very likely that you may be pulled aside and asked to show your valuables/cash to a customs officer. You are not allowed to take pictures at the airport, if you are caught, they make you delete the photos whilst being overwatched.
Facilities at the airport are limited – enough room to walk around and stretch your legs, not many food options and overpriced water. It pays to walk to a café next door as prices for things like chewing gum and drinking water tend to vary. No cafes at the airport accept local currency!
Things to see in Tashkent
Soviet-style architecture – plenty to see anywhere you go