Like so many other developing countries, Uzbekistan has jumped from having almost no communications infrastructure to having around 60% of the population connected by mobile phone. With fewer than two million landlines, and most of those used by businesses, they're simply not a consideration for individuals wanting to keep in touch.
Uzbekistan's most popular mobile service providers are UCell, Beeline and UzMobile. Regulations have recently changed to enable foreigners to buy SIM cards, though this fact has been slow to filter down to some of the smaller vendors. To get a SIM card you will need to take your passport and a current registration slip confirming your hotel or other address to one of the providers' offices or branded stores. Filling out the various forms and processing them takes about 15 minutes. Depending on the network you'll either pay around US$3, or the SIM will be free when you top-up by a certain amount.
You can pick up local prepaid SIM cards for US$1.50 (including some prepaid credit) at any office of mobile phone operators Ucell (national codes #93/94), Beeline (national codes #90/91) or Perfectum mobile (Tashkent codes #98 CDMA type of services). You need your passport and valid registration slips to subscribe.
The main office of Ucell (www.ucell.uz; Vokhidov 38, Tashkent; working hours 9am-6pm Mon-Sat) has English speaking staff that will change your phone settings to English. Domestic calls with Ucell or Beeline cost a minuscule US$0.005 to US$0.02 per minute. International text messages cost US$0.12 per message.
Topping up your phone is easy. You can do it in store, anywhere showing your network's logo and at any Paynet machine. The machines (which are frequently in convenience stores or other places with high foot traffic) allow you to type in your phone number, feed in bank notes and voila\ You've topped up.
Though the coverage of phone networks is improving, it is still by no means universal and large sections of the country (particularly remote and mountainous areas) are black holes for reception. If you are travelling to such areas and may need to keep in contact, you may want to rent, buy or borrow a satellite phone.
Uzbekistan’s antiquated fixed-line system is creaky but functional. Local calls cost almost nothing and domestic long-distance calls are cheap. International calls from landlines or central telephone offices cost around 1500 soums per minute to the UK, 1800 Soum to the USA and 2000 Soums to Australia.
Post offices and minimarts sell a range of cards good for discounted long-distance calls out of Uzbekistan. Most internet cafes offer Skype.
To place a call to a mobile phone, dial #83 (from a land line) or +998 (from another mobile phone), followed by the two-digit code and the seven-digit number. To place a call to a land line, dial #83 (from either a land line or a mobile phone) followed by the two-digit city code and the seven-digit number.
If dialling from any Tashkent number (mobile or fixed) to any other Tashkent number, regardless of carrier, just dial the seven-digit number (no code). To place an international call from a land line, dial #8, wait for a tone, then dial #10. To make long-distance domestic i alls, dial 8, wait for the tone, then dial 3, followed by the the two-digit city code and the seven-digit number. If the city code is three digits, drop the #3 and just dial #8.
For international calls to Uzbekistan, dial the international code, Uzbekistan's country code (998), the city code, and the local number; e.g. to phone land line in Tashkent dial (00) (998-71) 7digits_phone_N. To dial out of the country, use 8-10 followed by your country code. WiFi access and Internet cafes eq nipped with Skype and headphones is gquite widespread and perhaps is the best option to get in touch with your country.
Most tourists' mobiles should work in Uzbekistan, at high roaming costs per minute. It would be cheaper to buy a local sim card and top it up with required amount. Sim cards and top-up services are available literally everywhere. Seek for PAYNET sign to top up the balance of your mobile. Sim cards are sold only upon production of the passport. There are presently 3 nationwide operators: Beeline, Ucell and MTS (closed in mid 2012 on tax evasion allegations).
Local codes include:
Khorezm (Urgench/Khiva): 62
Karakalpakstan (Nukus/Muynak): 61