Last updated on 25.02.2015
Currency - Uzbekistan finds itself in the curious situation of having a huge trade surplus but also having a parallel black market exchange rate. The official exchange rate for June 2013 was about $1 : 2,070 som. Exchanging money on the black market is normal for local people and everyone does it but that doesn't change the fact that you could still technically get up to 50 years in prison for it.
The 500, 1,000 and 5000 som (5000 som notes introduced to circulation as of 1st of July 2013) notes are the most popular; hence, you will be carrying around bricks of currency. The US dollar is definitely the foreign currency of choice.
ATM - ATMs do work with foreign cards, but operate at the official exchange rate, and are usually empty. Hence it's better to prepare sufficient dollars to avoid such situation. Visa Cash machines do dispense uzbek soms and Mastercard cash machines dispence US dollars - however, be careful of withdrawing a large number of dollars and then leaving Uzbekistan with more money than you declared when you entered. Be aware however changing dollars to Som is technically illegal, however you will be approached by money changers, just be careful.
Shopping - In Uzbekistan people traditionally buy goods at bazaars. Prices are fixed in department stores only. In bazaars, private shops and private souvenir stores haggling is part of the game. Bazaars are the best place to observe the daily life of the locals. The Alayski Bazaar is one of the oldest and most famous bazaars of Central Asia. You will find beautiful rugs, silk, spices, handicrafts and traditional clothes in the Eski Djouva and ChorSu bazaars in the Old City of Tashkent.
Religion - Close to 90% of Uzbeks claim to be Muslim, although the vast majority are not practising. Most are the moderate Hanafi Sunni variety, with Sufism also popular. About 10% of the population is Christian (mostly Eastern Orthodox). The Fergana Valley maintains the greatest Islamic conservative base.
Driving - There is no any car hire chains available in the country. Car hire can be arranged only with the driver as the government has strict driving regulations. Taxi drivers do tend to try and charge you about double (If you speak Russian try to haggle hard). They'll also often try to tell you there are no buses but sometimes they're lying so find out information for yourself and don't be rushed by pushy taxi drivers.
Time zone - 5 hrs ahead of GMT
Registration - You do genuinely have to register for every night of your stay in Uzbekistan. Holders of the tourist visa should stay only at official hotels or guest houses and you will be registered automatically by the hotels' administration free of charge. They provide you the registration card for every guest staying at hotel or guest house. Please do not lose this card!!! You will get checked on the way out of the country. The tourist can miss the night at hotel only if he/she is traveling by airplane/train, in this case you will be asked to show the ticket upon departure from country.
Dress code - Unlike most Islamic places, it's men not women who would cause a stir if they wore shorts (foreigners are generally excused). In the countryside women should also cover their legs, but in Tashkent fashion allows remarkably risque outfits. No need to cover hair. Very light and loose clothing (preferably cotton or natural fibers) is recommended for daytime use, with a light jumper and/or casual jacket for the cooler evenings. Because of the large amount of sightseeing on foot in dry, dusty and sometimes rough areas (i.e. dirt, cobblestones, etc.), comfortable, solid walking shoes with strong soles and support are essential. You may be required to remove your shoes upon entry to some religious sites. There are no special clothing requirements for visiting Islamic religious sites, except that you should take care to cover most parts of your body including your arms and legs. Above all travelers are encouraged to dress for comfort rather than fashion. Valuable jewelry and any clothing requiring special attention should be left at home. Due to the very high danger of sunburn, your clothing should offer as much protection as possible. A hat with good shade protection and sunglasses are essential. In some areas the average visitor may appear extremely wealthy to local people. A lavish display of jewelry, bulging handbags and wallets, and a neck full of cameras will make you stand out in a crowd. Be discreet and respectful of the local culture and traditions and carry a minimum of valuables.
Language - The Uzbek language is the only official state language. Russian is also spoken widely in Tashkent and among older folks across the country, Tadjik is useful for the cities like Samarkand and Bukhara, English is understood by very few outside Tashkent, but in cities like Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva it should not be a problem.
Best seasons - Spring and Autumn. Because of the peculiarity of climate, first half of tourist season falls on spring months: March, April, May, and the second half is in August, September and October. Also there is tourist activity in winter months for the lovers of mountains and winter ports (ski, snowboard).
Telephone codes - The international code for Uzbekistan is 998, then 71 for Tashkent, 93/94(Ucell), 90/91 (Beeline) or 98 (Perfectum Mobile) for mobiles.
Local people - People are super friendly and helpful and if you need to use the phone you can always drop into a shop or guesthouse and ask to use theirs or ask for their help. People are really willing to help and everyone will want to stop you for a chat.
Health factors - Little to worry about. Minimal malaria risk. Drink bottled water. Uzbekistan has not implemented a no-smoking policy in bars and restaurants, unlike many Western countries. Consequently, enclosed spaces can be very unpleasant for non-smokers, especially in the cold weather. Fruits and vegetables should be peeled before consumption.
Insurance - Since this type of service in Uzbekistan is still developing, it is recommended to carry insurance from company of you home country.
Safety - Generally very safe and hospitable. Violence and crime is minimal. Individual safety boxes are not always available in Uzbekistan hotels. An essential part of your luggage is a comfortable money wallet, which may be worn under your clothing. At all times you should carry your main documents (i.e. currency, traveler's checks, air tickets, passports, visas etc.) While it is highly unlikely you will encounter any physical danger, minor thefts in crowded pubic places may occur and every precaution should be taken to avoid losing anything of value. In accordance with local laws, you will be required to hand in your passport to the hotel reception on arrival to allow registration of your passport details by the hotel. Your passport will normally be available again after a few hours. Do not forget to collect it before departure.
Tips on Safety - You can cut down on the potential for crime by following these tips: Be especially alert in crowded situations such as bazaars and bus station ticket scrums, where pockets and purses may be easily picked. Avoid parks at night, even if it means going out of your way. Take officially licensed taxis in preference to private ones. At night don't get into any taxi with more than one person in it. Travellers who rent a flat are warned to be sure the doors and windows are secure, and never to open the door - day or night - to anyone they do not clearly know. If you're the victim of a crime, contact the militsia (police), though you may get no help from them at all. Get a report from them if you hope to claim on insurance for anything that was stolen, and contact your closest embassy for a report in English. If your passport is stolen, the police should also provide a letter to OVIR, which is essential for replacing your visa.
Business hours - In general most government offices and banks are open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, with an hour (or two) off for lunch between noon and 1pm, and possibly 9am to noon on Saturday. All offices and some shops are closed on Sunday. Exchange offices keep longer hours, including weekends. Telephone offices are often open 24 hours. Museum hours change frequently, as do their days off, though Monday is the most common day of rest. Some just seem to close without reason and a few stay that way for years. Many restaurants outside the capitals close quite early (around 9pm). In rural areas it is often worth telling a restaurant a couple of hours beforehand that you would like to eat there, to give them some time to prepare and to ensure that they are open.
Respect - In Uzbekistan, and in Central Asia in general, elderly people are greatly respected. Always treat the elderly with great respect and be deferent to them in all situations. Also be polite with females. Traditionally it is not welcomed to flirt openly with woman. If you are a male and there is an option to address a male with the question instead of female, choose it.
Luggage - A shoulder bag with a strong strap or a small rucksack is the most practical way of carrying cameras and personal belongings during your stay. Your entire luggage should be secured with a padlock. Always make sure that all cases and bags are clearly labeled. The label should carry your name and destination details but not your home address. It is a good idea to label your luggage on the inside. This will enable airport authorities to identify your luggage should it become lost, or the labels removed. Never leave your luggage unattended at airports or train stations. Your free airline luggage allowance is 20 kg per person, plus one additional piece of 'carry-on' hand luggage on domestic flights within Central Asia, except to Turkmenistan, where the maximum baggage allowance is 10 kg. Because you will be traveling in some areas where travel conditions are rather basic, travelers are strongly urged to restrict their luggage to one main suitcase or backpack and one carry-on overnight bag.
Photography in Uzbekistan - No obstacles are presented to visitors who wish to photograph places of historical interest. Photography inside some religious monuments and in airports, railway stations or near military installations may not be allowed. If in doubt ask your local guide. Please also note that there is a fee for photography in most sightseeing places (not included in your tour price). Film and batteries are available in major cities, but we recommend you purchase your supply before arrival, particularly if you have the latest model or a sophisticated type of camera that requires a specific type of film and/or batteries. If you're taking film to shoot, bear in mind that your bag will be x-rayed at least 3 times at the airport and going in and out of every train station too.
Drinks - Local mineral water contains a higher level of minerals than western spring or bottled water and the taste can be rather "salty" (these mineral waters are considered healthier than European spring or mineral waters). Imported spirits and wines are available, however in some places the provenance of some spirits and wines is questionable and the prices inflated. Accordingly, you are advised to purchase your favorite alcohol duty free prior to arrival.
Psychology of bargain - In the East haggling is turned into art. While haggling, you may speak loudly and don't give a sign that you are hesitating in your triumph. No doubt, sellers never lower their price to the level of your offer, however, in most cases, you can lower the price up to 20% if you negotiate.
Incidentals - You will be responsible for covering the cost of your hotel incidentals such as phone calls, room service, mini-bar in your room and laundry. Before departing from all hotels on the tour, please ensure that you have checked with the front desk for any personal charges that the hotel may have made to your room.
Tipping - Travelers may wish to express their appreciation - a reward for extra service - to the porters, waiters, drivers and guides. The degree of appreciation may vary, and our policy is to leave this to your discretion. This is usually given individually in an envelope at the end of the tour/service.
Disabled travelers - Uzbekistan has few facilities for the disabled. Transport is difficult to access; entrances have steps and narrow doors. There are rarely public lifts. Metro entrances, underpasses some offices main entrances in Tashkent may be equipped with rails for wheel-chairs, but they only represent an intention, rather than a working facility. It takes real determination for disabled travelers to get around.
Student travelers - Students and youth in general enjoy certain privileges on public transport and museums. Also, Uzbek Airways (Uzbekistan Havo Yullary) offers rebates for young people under 28. International students’ cards are usually not accepted for discounts.
Traveling with Children - In Uzbek families children are seen as the gift of God, therefore travelers in the company of under-teens are likely to attract a good deal of attention and many compliments. Children are usually treated with special care and in big cities, such as Tashkent. There is a vast number of play parks, an Aqua Park, Tashkent Land, etc. Children under five can enjoy free entrance to museums and public transportation, while schoolchildren will pay the full price on transportation, but will pay a reduced price at museums.
Children can be a great icebreaker and a good avenue for cultural exchange, but travelling in Central Asia is difficult even for the healthy adult. Long bus and taxi rides over winding mountain passes are a sure route to motion sickness. Central Asian food is difficult to digest no matter what your age, and extreme temperatures – blistering hot in the city, freezing in the mountains – lead to many an uncomfortable moment. Islamic architecture and ruined Karakhanid cities may well leave your children comatose with boredom.
Electrical Appliances - The current (voltage) is 220V, 50 Hz, AC two pin plugs. In some of the old buildings sockets do not take modern European plugs and may have slightly thicker pins. For your convenience, local stores carry adaptors. Current adaptors for American appliances are a little more difficult to find.
Public Toilets - Many cafes and bars have a toilet facility, but it is advised to avoid unhygienic public toilets. Visitors are advised to go to the nearest hotel, or if there is no alternative, to use pay toilets. It should be noted that toilet facilities are limited even in Tashkent, not to mention provincial capitals or the areas along the motorways.
Embassies and Consulates - Visitors who intend to stay in Uzbekistan for longer than a month are advised to register with their Embassy/consulate. If a visitor is hospitalized, robbed, imprisoned or otherwise rendered helpless, consular officials will help make arrangements to find an interpreter or to offer advice. They can also re-issue passports or in some emergency cases, provide money to get visitors home.