Travel Practicalities - Uzbekistan
|Climate & weather in Uzbekistan
When to go to Uzbekistan
How to get there
Visas and travel documents
Health & safety
Climate & weather in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan has an extreme continental climate. It is generally warmest in the south and coldest in the north. Temperatures in December average -8°C (18°F) in the north and 0°C (32 °F) in the south. However, extreme fluctuations can take temperatures as low as -35°C (-31°F). During the summer temperatures can reach 45°C (113°F) and above. Humidity is low.
Spring (April to June) and Fall (September through October) are in general the most pleasant times to travel. Autumn is harvest time, and the markets are full of fresh fruit.
In recent years Uzbekistan was notably affected by the global warming and the drying-out of the Aral Sea, which turned snowy cold winters to mild with less precipitation, allowing travel in the wintertime. When to go to Uzbekistan
The best times to visit are the shoulder months of spring (mid-March to end May), which is mild and rainy and autumn (September to start of November), which has light frost and rain. Summer is hot and dry with an average temperature of 32ºC and winter temperatures get below zero with snow. If you're interested in trekking, then summer (July and August) is the best time, because summers are almost dry. How to get there
The most common way to arrive is by plane. At the time of writing, there is no direct connection between Europe and Uzbekistan. There are flights to Uzbekistan from Almaty, Athens, Beijing, Bangkok, Delhi, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, London, New York, Seoul, Sharjah, Singapore and Tel Aviv.
Major carriers operating flights to Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan Airways – national carrier with flights over to 40 countries around the world, Asiana Airlines - fly to Uzbekistan via Seoul, Aeroflot – Russian Airlines - fly to Uzbekistan from Moscow, Korean Air – fly to Uzbekistan from Seoul, Transaero – Russian Airlines - fly to Uzbekistan via Moscow, Turkish Airlines – fly to Uzbekistan via Istanbul.
The train system was established in Uzbekistan at the end of 19th century by Tsarist Russia. During the Soviet times and it was the part of Trans Caspian Railway system. You can travel to Uzbekistan from Russia (Moscow, Novosibirsk, Ekaterininburg, Volgograd and others), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, etc. There are also fast comfortable trains between tourist cities. Visas and travel documents
British nationals need a visa to enter Uzbekistan, which you should get before you arrive. Check your Uzbek visa once issued and carefully note the date of expiry and the number of entries permitted. Don’t overstay your visa. Any traveller found to have overstayed will face a large fine and possibly deportation. It is not always easy or possible to extend your visa if you wish to remain in the country for longer than you had originally intended. If you are travelling overland, make sure you arrive at your intended border crossing in good time before your visa expires.
If you are a tourist (except for citizens of the Great Britain, USA, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Spain, Czech Republic and Switzerland): most of the tour operators and travel agencies will apply for your visa on your behalf to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
If your stay in Uzbekistan exceeds 3 days, you are required to register with the Local Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs within 3 working days after arrival. However if you stay in a hotel, the hotel administration should take care of such registration on your behalf automatically.
In particular you will be asked to declare all the money you are bringing into the country - don't worry about this - declare everything you have and make sure you have less money when you leave.
When you enter Uzbekistan expect fairly lengthy immigration and passport procedures, but these are fairly painless. As long as your papers are in order, entering Uzbekistan should be no sweat. You will be asked to fill out two identical customs declarations forms, one to turn in and one to keep (which will be handed in upon departure). The customs form is necessary for changing travellers cheques and will smooth your departure, so don’t lose it. Be sure to declare every cent of every type of money you bring in; travellers have reported being hassled for the most minor discrepancies, especially at land border crossings. Language
The majority of citizens are ethnic Uzbeks and most speak Uzbek as their first language. Russian is widely spoken especially in the cities. There are also significant numbers of ethnic Tajiks and Kazakhs in Uzbekistan, primarily speaking their native tongue as a first language. In Samarkand and Bukhara, for instance, one is just as likely to hear Tajik being spoken as Uzbek. In Tashkent the majority of the population speak Russian and one is just as likely to hear it being spoken on the street as Uzbek. In the semi-autonomous region of Karalkalpakstan in western Uzbekistan, the ethnic Karalkalpaks speak their own language, which is related to Kazakh. Many Karalkalpaks also speak Russian. In the cities, more and more people speak English, especially in hospitality industry. Money
Uzbek sum (UZS). A select few ATMs can be found in Tashkent and credit cards can be used in most top-end hotels. Cash is still the best bet: American dollars are favoured – take plenty! Euros and pounds warrant poorer rates and are more difficult to exchange outside of Tashkent. Health & safety
Travelling in Uzbekistan is relatively safe; one problem long encountered by travellers (though now subsiding) is the handing out of ‘fines’ by police. Avoid border areas which are heavily patrolled and usually off-limits.
For the most part, Uzbekistan is generally safe for visitors, perhaps the by-product of a police state. There are some reports of an increase in street crime, especially in the larger towns, such as Tashkent. This includes an increase in violent crime. Information on crime is largely available only through word of mouth - both among locals and through the expat community - as the state-controlled press rarely, if ever, reports street crime. As economic conditions in Uzbekistan continue to deteriorate, street crime is increasing.
Normal precautions should be taken, as one would in virtually any country. Especially in the cities (few travellers will spend much time overnight in the small villages), be careful after dark, avoid unlighted areas, and don't walk alone. Even during the day, refrain from openly showing significant amounts of cash. Men should keep wallets in a front pocket and women should keep purses in front of them with a strap around an arm. Avoid wearing flashy or valuable jewellery which can easily be snatched.
Scams are not unheard of. Also beware of locals you don't know who offer to show you the "night life." This should be completely avoided.
Health care is basic at best and any serious problems will require evacuation; buy comprehensive travel insurance. The main health risks are stomach upsets – don’t drink the tap water. Food
Many Uzbek recipes are centuries old and the process of preparing food is accompanied with rituals. Unlike their nomadic neighbours, Uzbek people were a settled nation, cultivated agriculture and cattle-raising. Undoubtedly, Uzbek food has been influenced by culinary traditions of Turkic, Kazakh, Uigur, Tajik, Tatar, Mongolian and other neighbouring nations. Uzbeks generally eat by hand and sit at the floor or at the low table called a dastarkhan. The left hand is considered impure.
The national dish is plov (pilaf). It's made of rice, carrots, onions, and mutton and is a must-try for all visitors in Uzbekistan. Each region has its own way of cooking plov, so you should taste it in different places. According to the legend plov was invented by the cooks of Alexander the Great. Plov can also be made with peas, carrots, raisins, dried apricots, pumpkins or quinces. Often spices as peppers, crushed or dried tomatoes are added. It is believed that plov should be cooked by men only for the best results.
Shashlyk – skewered meat grilled or roasted over hot coals is also popular, usually served only with onions. Manty - small steamed dumplings of chopped mutton, and onion topped with sour cream. Dulma - stuffed cabbage or vine leaves. Beshbarmak - speciality of the nomad kazakhs, boiled meat of sheep or ox and pieces of liver, served with onions, potatoes and noodles. Various soups are also important part of Uzbek cuisine. Mastava - rice soup with pieces of onion, carrots, tomatoes, peas and eventually wild plums; Shurpa - soup of mutton (sometimes beef), vegetables.
Uzbeks eat lots of bread (in uzbek its called non). Round bread is called lepioshka. You can buy it anywhere but Samarkand is very famous for the bread. The characteristic Samarkand bread obi-non is traditionally baked in clay furnaces. Bread is served with every meal.
The most famous oriental sweets are khalva and navat. Navat is the boiled crystal grape sugar with spices and coloring agents. Traditional baked goods are also very tasty: zangza curd rolls, kush-tili (fancy figured cakes), katlama - flaky lbread, bugirsok – fancy pastry balls, chak-chak – straws and nuts in sugar. Special place takes behi-dulma (quinsy filled with nuts) and pashmak (peculiar cotton candy). Nisholda is the beaten up whites of eggs with sugar and herbs. Sumalyak is the sweet paste made from germinated wheat, which is prepared in a large pot. These foods symbolize Uzbek national holidays. They are traditionally prepared on the eve of Nawruz (Uzbek New Year) and other festivities.
Tea, particularly green tea, is the national drink of Uzbekistan. Any meal starts with Uzbek tea and ends with it. Tea is served virtually everywhere: home, office, cafes, etc. Uzbek people drink black tea in winter and green tea in summer, instead of water. Hot green tea not only quenches thirst, but also aids digestion of rich fatty foods. Uzbek tea, as a ceremony, is one of the most wonderful oriental traditions. To drink tea in chaikhana – is to follow one of the oldest traditions of Central Asia. Traditionally, tea is poured three times from pot to cup and then from cup to pot. Usually Uzbeks drink tea without sugar. The tea and the cups are given and taken by the right hand. Tea is swirled to cool it down, rather than blown on in the western way (this is considered odd to Uzbeks).
Despite Islam being the predominant religion, alcohol is readily available and is publicly consumed. A mind-numbing variety of brands of wine and vodka are available almost everywhere. Vodka is the most popular though, as a result of more than a century of Russian domination of the land. The wine produced in Uzbekistan has won numerous international prestigious awards for its high quality. Beer is available in every shop and is treated as a soft drink.
Visitors should consider tap water to be unsafe to drink.
Vegetarians might have difficulty finding genuinely meet free meals. In spite of variety of fruits and vegetables many meals contain animal products. Fresh fruit can be found in the markets, along with varieties of non bread.