Travel for business or pleasure in this region is the experience of a lifetime; in our experience, however, it presents a certain number of challenges and surprises for the foreign visitor, which occasionally can result in problems if access to crucial information is not available. In order to make your Central Asia experience the most effective, enjoyable, and rewarding as possible, we have prepared the following section for you to reference while making your travel plans.
1. Travel Tips
Our answers to FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions) to ensure that you to have a stress-free and memorable trip here in Uzbekistan!
Q.)What is the time difference in Uzbekistan?
A.) Uzbekistan is 5 hours ahead of GMT.
Q.) What is the voltage used in Uzbekistan?
A.) 220 volts AC, Round 2 pin continental (European) plugs are used.
Q.) Is filling in the customs declaration form important?
A.) Yes, it is important and mandatory to fill in the Customs Declaration Form upon arrival to Uzbekistan. Customs Declaration Form (2 copies) will be provided to you on board by the cabin crew before landing or you will be able to collect them at the waiting area before the customs control counter in the one of Uzbekistan's International Airport - the point of your arrival. You have to write down in the Form all required passport details and that is the most important to fill in the exact amounts of all the foreign currencies which are available with you.
Customs Declaration Form (2 copies) have to be submitted to customs officers at the control counter. The first copy will be kept by customs and second copy has to be properly stamped and given back to you. Please ensure the receipt of the properly stamped second copy and do not hesitate to ask from customs officer if he fails give it back to you or to put a stamp on it. Preserve the Form during your stay in Uzbekistan and present it again to customs before departure. The amount mentioned in the Form has to be equal or lower than initially declared. Otherwise you will be questioned and asked to provide your wallet for detailed check.
Q.) Is it obligatory to be registered upon arrival to Uzbekistan? How and where can I take this procedure?
A.) According to the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan. 16.04.1999 No 178 foreign citizens visiting Uzbekistan on temporary basis must submit documents for registration at the place of residence within 72 hours upon arrival to Uzbekistan. Registration is not necessary if you arrive to Uzbekistan during weekend or holidays or a period of your stay will not exceed three working days. During stay in a hotel your stay will be registered by hotel administration. Upon checking out you should remember of taking the registration form stamped by the hotel administration with you. If you intend to rent an apartment you should care of registration. The registration is provided by local department of internal affairs authority.
If you do not stay in a specific settlement of the Republic more than three days according to your itinerary you should not submit any document for registration. However, you should remember that you should provide convincing documentary argument to passport control bodies while leaving Uzbekistan. This documentation should be presented by air- and railway tickets registered on your name and additionally attached program of your tour.
Q.) How much alcohol / tobacco may I import with me to Uzbekistan? What is not permitted?
A.) As per the law, people 16 years and older may legally import 200 cigarettes or 300gm of tobacco product. It is also perfectly legal to import 2 liters of alcoholic beverages (2 bottles) or 2 liters of wine.
Objects that are not permitted are military arms and ammunition, narcotics (drugs) and weapons Hunting guns and live animals are subject to special permission. Vehicles are subject to registration fees on the border of Republic of Uzbekistan.
Q.) Should I carry my passport with me while I am In Uzbekistan?
A.) Yes, it is advised to carry your passport with you while you are in Uzbekistan, especially while you are on an independent sightseeing, during the transfers between cities and places, train and bus stations etc. If you happen to walk outside the hotel, go out on your own to the local market or explore the city on your own and especially at the night time the police have the authority to check your passport which is a regular feature and you should not be worried about it. Your passport and registration card should be with you at all times.
Q.) How much money am I legally allowed bringing into Uzbekistan?
A.) According to the law, you are allowed to legally bring in upto USD 5,000 with you into Uzbekistan. If you bring more than USD 5,000, you have to fill in a special declaration (ON-28). If it is more than USD 10,000 you shall be charged 1% duty on it. However, this amount will have to be declared via your customs declaration form.
Q.) Are credit cards accepted here?
A.) Credit cards (Amex, Visa and Master Card) are accepted in most of the hotels and restaurants here. However it is not a very well developed system, hence it is also advised to carry a good amount of cash with you as well, so as to avoid any troublesome situation. You may exchange you credit card for cash at some hotels, e.g. Uzbekistan, Radisson SAS, Intercontinental, Markaziy, etc. but this is upon actual availability of local currency (Soum) in the ATM at the time of withdrawal.
Q.) How do I get local currency (Soum) in exchange for USD / EUR, etc?
A.) You can get the same exchanged in the local forex office in the hotel that you are staying in. Please note that in Uzbekistan, there is a prevalent black market where the rate is higher than the banking rate, BUT this is considered illegal by law and since these people operate in open markets, bazaars and streets, it could attract attention of the police and lead to arrest. Please also note that old or damaged currency notes are not accepted, as you would not get exchange as per the applicable rate, but at a lower one.
Q.) How do I make calls or send text messages to someone locally or internationally?
A.) When you have you local SIM card with you (Beeline operator is the best option), it takes less than a minute to activate, which can be checked by the name of the service provider which appears on your cell phone screen. The number will be for eg. +998 (country code) 90 (service provider code) 1234567 (actual seven digit cell phone number). You may make calls to anyone locally by only dialing the last seven digits. You may send a text message to anyone locally by using the entire number, or internationally by using the country code (for eg. India +91) followed by their ten digit mobile number. Incoming is not charged and hence, you can receive calls or text messages, from your friends, family and relatives if they dial the entire number eg. +998 90 1234567.
Q.) Where can I take photographs / video shooting?
A.) You are allowed to take photographs / video shooting everywhere, except tourist attractions where a nominal charge is levied eg. USD 1-3. In these places, they also have professional photographers who would take group or solo photographs for a nominal fee. Photography is strictly prohibited in the Underground Metros for security purposes, and there are local police at every metro station. It is at their discretion, where they can either give you a warning first or simply confiscate your camera or cell phone. If you wish to take photographs of the local people, it is normally advised to request them beforehand.
Q.) Can I get vegetarian meals here? Are there any Indian restaurants?
A.) Yes you can get vegetarian local meals here in Uzbek cafes and restaurants. Alternatively, there are a few Indian restaurants located here in Tashkent, which are owned and managed by Indian nationals who would be more than happy to prepare the meals as per your request and preferences eg. Ragu, Bhramji and Raaj Kapur.
Q.) How is the nightlife here? Are there any good nightclubs here?
A.) Tashkent is known for it's bustling nightlife culture and the entire city is dotted with many discos and nightclubs. Some of them worth mentioning are Casanova, Niagara, Diplomat-S, Sky Club, Rich Club, Juliano, Barhan, FM Bar and the Dutch Club. Most of them have entrances applicable only from Friday to Sunday. It is free over the weekdays, but have charges applicable after 11 pm.
Q.) If I wish to get an 'extra guest' to my hotel, what is the procedure and charge?
A.) Invitation of an extra guest is a routine practice in Uzbekistani hotels, so it is possible to invite a visitor without any formalities till 23.00 p.m. and with a mandatory registration after 23.00 p.m. The registration procedure is easy and requires just few steps. Firstly, a potential guest has to provide his or her passport at the reception of the hotel for safety and security reasons. Secondly, extra guest is a paid service and you as a hotel guest have to pay a small fee in the amount from 15 to 30 US$ per person. Please collect the receipt from the reception. Also be informed that some hotels can charge extra guest supplement by the price of Double room.
Q.) Where can I go shopping here? I would like to buy and export handicraftsmen and masters products from Uzbekistan. What should I do?
A.) There are big markets (bazaars) in all cities of Uzbekistan which open from 8.00 in the morning till evening time and most of the time they are open as long as buyers come. Spice, delicious Uzbek fruits and dried fruits, souvenirs of local handicraftsmen, ceramic, wood and silk products, carpets and tasteful Uzbek wine can be bought here. Images of modern artists can be bought on "Broadway" or specialized shops in Tashkent at reasonable price.
However, you should find out date of issue of those ancient products you want to buy. According to the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan dd. 23.03.1999 No 131 cultural values created more than fifty years ago are not subject to export from the Republic. Furthermore, it would be reasonable to ask the seller if there is an export certificate for this kind of product and if its three month valid period is not expired (according to the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan dd. 06.07.2005 г. N 156).
If the certificate is not available or the date was expired you will need to get a permission for export of this product from the department of art expertise (for export and import of cultural values) at the Ministry of Culture and Sport located on Lashkarbegi street, 19 (reference place - Hamid Alimjan metro station, opposite Latvian Embassy), tel. +998712370738. Art expertise of cultural values is provided in a day of application and provision of the product subject to expertise, extreme deadline (in case of disputable issue) is a period not exceeding ten days.
If there is permission for export the customs fee should be paid in amount of 100% estimation indicated in the permission.
A special permission for export of mass and serial production created during last fifty years is not required.
'Q.) How is the crime rate here? Is it safe to move out on the streets late at night?
A.) Tashkent is one of the safest cities in the world with one of the best security and police network functioning at all times. The local police are very friendly, especially to travelers and are always happy to give directions, incase you feel you have lost your way. There are police patrol cars on every road and street corner, and it is safe for even ladies to move around late in the night.
Q.) Is English a widely spoken language here?
A.) Unfortunately, English still is not spoken widely here among the local public. The languages spoken here are Uzbek and Russian. Usually English is spoken in private offices, hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, boutiques and some government offices. However if you do need some help and assistance, you can ask some local youngsters / students who can speak reasonable English nowadays.
Q.) What are the local modes of transport here?
A.) Tashkent is a very well balanced and modern city that has a lot of choices in terms of local transportation. There are taxis, buses, trams and also the Underground Metro system that comprises of 3 lines and 29 stations. All the transportation systems are easy and convenient to use and are also economical.
Q.) Is it reasonable to take a taxi in Uzbekistan?
A.) Important note: taxis in Uzbekistan excepting Tashkent (there are still some small taxi parks belonging to the State in Tashkent) are mostly presented by private cars without special indications in the form of checkered stripe ("shashechki"), that is why fare should be discussed with a taxi driver in advance. Moreover, it is to remember that taxi fare is several times as less in Uzbekistan as that in other CIS countries. At the same time, travelers are not recommended to take taxi "by chance", it is better to address to the drivers standing on so-called "pyataki" (specially designed area) - crowded places at the crossroads or tourist sightseeing. Despite the fact that fare of these drivers can be higher most of them know the local routes very well. Anyway the best way is to call one of the private taxi service companies which contact information can be easily found due to the Enquiry Service, tel. 009.
Q.) I would like to use my own car while travelling in Uzbekistan. What is the procedure of registration?
A.) Temporary import of an own car according to the Provision (registered by the Ministry of the Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan dd 14.12.2004 No 1430) for a period not exceeding 1 month is not liable to customs fee. In this case an obligation of reexport should be filled out at the customs in three copies.
2. Visa registration information
By far the most confusing difficulty foreigners face in all of the former Soviet Union countries. The important thing to remember here is that requirements vary greatly between country and visa type. Pay close attention to detail and follow the directions EXACTLY!
- Visa registration for TOURISTS
- Visa registration for BUSINESS traveller's
- Basic Customs Rules of the Republik of Uzbekistan
3. Central Asian terminology
The cultures of Central Asia have many distinct traditions which may be unknown to western visitors, thus a little explanation in the way of terminology and local speech is needed. Below is a list of definitions we thought you may find helpful in navigating through the site. Keep in mind there may be many different spelling variations of each term, depending on culture and country.
- Tapchan: A raised platform, usually similar in appearance to a large bed, on which meals are traditionally served in Central Asian countries. Guests are usually entertained on the tapchan, reclining and drinking tea while conversing with their host. When a meal is served, a "dastarkhan" (see below) is placed in the middle and the food laid out on top. After the meal, it is customary to relax or even sleep in the same spot, as the tapchan is outfitted with blankets and pillows for this purpose. It is worth noting that most business and negotiations in rural regions are still conducted in this manner. Removing one's shoes is an absolute requirement when on the tapchan, and likewise putting one's feet on the dastarkhan is taboo.
- Dastarkhan: Similar to a tablecloth in the West, however it is placed at one's feet when sitting on the tapchan, and removed after the meal. As a sign of respect, remember not to touch it with your feet.
- Sometimes the word "dastarkhan" on a sign or building may mean "cafe".
Khona, Khana, Xona, or Xana: Simply means "room" or "hall" in Turkic languages. When in conjunction with another word, connotes a type of business or public place. These terms are useful to memorize as they are nearly universal throughout the 'Stans. Some examples:
- Chaikhana, chaikhona, or choykhana: Teahouse
- Oshkhana, Oshkhona: Restaurant or cafe
- Derikhana, dorikhona, darikhana: Pharmacy
- Kumis (Koumis, Kymyz, Kumuz): beverage made from fermented mare's milk. Related to "airan", which is a similar drink from either cow or camel milk, though in some places kumis is actually called airan as well. Kumis is sour in taste and often fizzy, and may contain varying amounts of alcohol depending on method of production.
Shorpa (Shorbo, etc): a meat and vegetable soup, usually of mutton, common to all parts of central Asia. Usually it is very thin and contains potatoes, onions and garlic, to which are added large chunks of bread.
- Shashlik: universal barbeque of central Asia, similar to a "shish-ka-bob" without vegetables. This is simply marinated chunks of meat (any kind) put on a skewer and roasted on a wood or charcoal fire. They are available everywhere and very popular in C.A.
- Osh: a universal name for Plov; in Tajikistan osh is the word for "food".
- Tandyr (tandir, tandoor): a large round brick and mortar oven with a large hole on top, used for baking bread and pastries. It is heated by building a large wood fire in the middle; after the fire dies down, balls of dough are covered in oil and stuck onto the sides of the tandir by hand (an expert cook does this very carefully!) and the hole is covered. A well-built tandir holds just the right amount of heat to cook the bread without scorching.
- Kazan: a large, wok-shaped cauldron with a narrow bottom used to cook plov (osh) and similar dishes.
- Caravanserai: a medieval type of rest stop or inn for caravans traveling along the Great Silk Road. Caravansarais were based at oases or important junctions and had facilities for re-supplying caravans with food and water and for care of animals.
- C.B.T. - Community Based Tourism. Central Asian countries have developed networks of locally organized tour services, mainly consisting of home stays with local residents.
- Akim, Hakim or Akimat: Is a name given to someone in a position of power, usually a governor, judge, or other high official. In Central Asia, usually a regional or city governor.
- Mazar: Persian word for tomb, grave, or mausoleum.
- Aivan: a type of open-air veranda, usually with a high ceiling and highly decorated; this is where guests were entertained and meals eaten in traditional homes of Central Asia.
- Madrassah: is the Arabic word for any type of school, college or university, whether secular or religious (of any religion). It is variously transliterated as madrasah, madarasaa, medresa, madrassa, madraza, madarsa, etc. In Central Asia, however, it almost universally denotes an Islamic connection, in comparison with the secular school systems introduced during Russian and Soviet rule. The ancient madrasahs of the region are known for their fantastic scale, architecture, and ornamentation.
4. Local customs
Traveling in Central Asia is a cultural experience with ancient traditions still rooted deeply in everyday life.
The art of hospitality
Through the cities along the Great Silk Road, such as Naryn, Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva, passed hundreds and thousands of tradesmen and the many helpers who accompanied the caravans of ancient times. They were of the most diverse origins and backgrounds. They whole caravan would settle down for a number of days in commercial capitals, since dismounting their camels, storing the wares, trading and re-loading all took time. Those who had a profound interest in making the caravan's stay a comfortable one were the local tradesmen. For good business relationships, and also to secure the best deals, it was vital for these local business entrepreneurs and their families to entertain their guests sumptuously. This meant a table covered, on every inch, with a dizzying variety of delicacies, which would all be pressed upon the guest, with second and third helpings being de rigeur, and plates never being anywhere near empty.
Subsequently, foreign tradespeople, belts loosened, regally propped up on large, soft, beautiful pillows, their bellies stuffed with the most delectable cooking, served on beautiful china, were most likely in a feeble position to close a deal.
The concept of the business lunch or business dinner is therefore not recent. Food, drink, and a banquet enjoyed together set the stage for negotiations. By creating a hospitable ambience, by making their guests feel at ease inside the own private home, a relationship would turn from strictly business to one of lasting friendship.
The days of the caravans are history but the Central Asian art of hospitality and the ancient custom surrounding the table are very much alive. Yes, in the last 100 years, more European menu items have been added to the menu, however the traditions formed during the bustling days of The Great Silk Road still apply and creating bonds and forging friendships through culinary occasions is still the essence of Central Asian hospitality, and its friendly and peaceful people.
Uzbek Tea ceremony
Tea is poured from ceramic pots into small pjala bowls. The precious liquid is poured into the clean pjala of the host and poured back into the chainik (teapot) - this is repeated three times. The fourth time round, a half filled cup is offered in the guest's own pjala, allowing for the tea to cool down rapidly so as to quench one's thirst immediately. A bowl filled to the brim goes against all Standards of hospitality and good form. Tea is served with homemade jam or honey, which acts as a sweetener.
Every guest takes his turn as toast master. The toast master stands up, his glass of vodka in hand and delivers a short speech, which ideally includes the following elements: thank you, praise of the host, something witty, and best wishes to all for health and prosperity. Then everybody clinks their glasses in the center of the table and drinks (you may be expected to not leave anything in your glass). When invited to a banquet it is advisable to rapidly lay a strong foundation of bread and cheese since the first toast will be given within minutes.
Banquet and Etiquette
Tradition demands that the table be covered with food at all times. When guests arrive, all cold food items are on the table, served on small plates, namely the appetizers, salads, cakes and cookies and a fruit arrangement in the center. Only completely empty serving plates are cleared. Guests' plates are changed after every course.
Men will always shake hands with other men. Even if you are not introduced to everyone, a simple handshake substitutes for a formal introduction. A woman visitor may not receive a handshake unless she herself extends her hand. For the woman traveler, do not feel offended that you do not receive the same attention as the males in your group. As odd as it may seem to us in the West, it is only out of respect that you are not included in the hand shaking ritual. Women will often greet you with a big hug, and definitely with a handshake. For the winter traveler, gloves should be removed when shaking hands.
The kiss on the cheek
Close friends or family members of the same sex will often greet each other with a more vibrant display of affection than a simple handshake. Kissing is the most common greeting seen among people of the region, and depending on where you are traveling, this is most often done two or three times on alternating cheeks. However, when a pair is exceptionally happy to see each other, or when one is showing a deep respect for the other, the exchange will most definitely continue past the requisite two- or three-kiss norm. As a sign of respect, elders will often receive a kiss from their less mature counterparts, whether acquainted or not.
The "silent bow"
One of the most beautiful features of Central Asian culture is found within one simple little gesture, this "silent bow". Often accompanying the handshake, men will place their left hand over their hearts and offer a slight, almost indiscernible, bow to their counterpart in a gesture of deep respect. This subtle bow or slight inclination of the head is also displayed in a variety of other exchanges among people. However, when not shaking hands, it is the right hand that is placed on the chest. You will most definitely encounter this when someone is offering thanks, saying goodbye or parting ways, or even when a younger man passes an elder in the street and wants to show his respect.
A good tip for any occasion and nation
There are over 140 nationalities throughout the Central Asian region, so custom differ from country to country, and even from village to village, and there is no one "right" cultural tenet to follow. And, as a foreign guest in a region proud of its tradition of hospitality, locals will readily forgive any transgression from the cultural norm. Also, as with anywhere in the world, a smile and a laugh can go a long way.