Did you know?
- Once part of the Persian Empire, what is now Uzbekistan was conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th Century BC
- Uzbekistan is the world’s second-largest cotton exporter and 5th largest producer
- The metro system in Tashkent is the biggest one in Central Asia, and it also features some of the most beautiful stations in the world
- The Muruntau Gold Mine is the largest open pit gold mine in the world, and 160 million ounces of gold are mined annually
- Uzbekistan is Central Asia’s most populous country and with most living in rural areas
- It is a long held tradition for any travelling family member to bite off a small piece of Uzbek bread before departing. The remainder of that bread is either hidden or buried until the travel arrives home. This ensure a safe journey and return.
Visas & Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to Uzbekistan do not need a visa at this time, for a stay of up to 30 days.
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
The Australian Embassy in Russia is responsible for Uzbekistan:
10A/ 2 Podkolokolny Pereulok
Ph. + 7 495 956 6070
Fax. +7 495 956 6170
The official currency of Uzbekistan is the Uzbekistani So’m. Notes come in denominations of лв100,000, 50,000, 10,000, 5,000, and 1,000.
The recommended currency to take to Uzbekistan is the US Dollar, as their local currencies are not available outside of the region. Ensure you request smaller clean notes as many places will not exchange large denominations or notes that are torn and dirty. Once there, you can exchange your US Dollar for the So’m. Ensure you change a small amount into small denominations.
Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
If you don’t have US Dollars with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Tashkent is approximately USD1.50
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately USD4
- The price of dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately USD10
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately USD1.50
The food in Uzbekistan is all about meat, and they have borrowed from the many cultures that have passed through along the Silk Road.
The national dish plov, or pilaf, is essentially mutton, rice, onions and carrot, which apparently dates back to the time of Alexander the Great. Chuchvara is similar to ravioli, stuffed with mutton and onions, this stuffing can also be found in manti, which is the dumpling version. Somsa, similar to samosa, is a pastry pocket filled with mutton (again!) or beef and pumpkin and potatoes and cooked in the traditional tandir clay oven.
Soups include Lagman (thick with about 50 ingredients including meat, spices, potatoes, pasta and vegetables), Mastava (rice soup with carrots, tomatoes, onions, peas, and wild plums), and shurpa (made with fatty meat and vegetables).
Bread holds an important place in Uzbekistani cuisine. The traditional Uzbek bread known as obi non or non is flat and round, and always torn by hand, never cut by a knife. The Lepioshka bread is never laid upside down as it is said to bring bad luck, nor is it placed on the ground, even if it is inside a bag.
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
Uzbekistan enjoys about 300 sunny days a year and has 4 distinct seasons. Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to early November) are the best times to visit as the weather in Summer (June to August) is hot and dry and can frequently reach over 40°C during the day, especially in July. While rain showers are certainly possible in Spring and Autumn, they are generally less frequent and shorter than in continental Europe. The Winter temperature hovers between 0°C and 10°C but can get well below freezing in the mountain and steppe areas.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
Highspeed trains are a safe and comfortable option between the major cities. Best to avoid the local, priforodny trains, as although cheap the journey will take twice as long as a shared taxi. Tashkent has an extensive transport system of buses, trains, trams and taxis, with minibuses being the most common used throughout Uzbekistan. You will find a less established system of transport in other cities however.
When catching taxis, have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. Also, ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Uzbekistan…
There is a thriving arts and crafts scene in Uzbekistan, including ceramics, wood carvings, alabaster carvings, carpets, silk, gold and beaded embroidery, tapestries, jewellery, and traditional hats and kaftans.
Ceramic styles, colours and designs do vary per region, the ceramics from Gijduvan have a yellow-brown base with green/blue patterns while those from Khiva use blue and turquoise colours and have wider rims. Jewellery from Tashkent, Bukhara and Samarkand is well-known throughout the region as souvenirs but also in demand from locals looking for special occasion pieces. Wooden boxes featuring a carved or painted floral pattern known as islimi are also readily available.
Clothing is also popular, including Karakul fur (sheepskin) hats, chust tubeteika hats, silk jackets, chapan cloaks and silk scarves featuring traditional patterns and colours can be found throughout the country. Gold embroidery from Bukhara is incredibly popular, as are the carpets from this region.
Souvenirs are in abundance at local bazaars and tourist sites, and there shouldn’t be any issue with bringing them out of the country (wood may need to be treated upon arrival in Australia though!), however there may be limits and regulations on carpets and antiques.
A great way to support the local community is to try to buy your souvenirs in smaller shops rather than larger ones. Please note that there are bans and customs restrictions on the export of art objects and antiques, especially if the item is more than 50 years old or of cultural value. If you have any concerns, please ask for a receipt or check with your tour guide.
- Handshakes are only acceptable as a greeting between men. Women are greeted by bowing with the right hand placed over the heart.
- It is illegal to gamble, or possess and use drugs, and those under 20 are not allowed to use tobacco or drink alcohol
- Gratuities are certainly welcomed by local service staff, however it is not a rule. At restaurants, a service charge is usually added to the bill, so leaving an additional tip is not necessary.
- Always travel with others, especially after dark. Travelling in groups of three of four is strongly advised. Keep to well-lit, public places such as shopping malls and restaurants. Be aware of your surroundings at all times, as street crimes are commonplace.
- Keep identification on you at all times – a photocopy of your passport page is sufficient
- Don't take photos indiscriminately. Many people object to having their pictures taken, so ask permission first. Military installations, airports and bridges should never be photographed. When in doubt, just ask.
- Don’t carry around non essentials and valuables. Use your hotel safe and don't flash expensive jewellery, watches and cameras.
Celebrations & Public Holidays
Uzbekistan is home to a number of traditional, lively festivals including one in the small rural town of Boysun. Here you can enjoy a fun-filled Sping day, where the locals celebrate with traditional games, dancing, songs, arts and crafts. Reviving the cultural legacy of the Silk Road, Bukhara comes to life during May/June, with the Silk and Spice festival. Over 4 days, the incredible talents of the local artisans are presented through their handicrafts, stunning silk wares and various spices. You’ll also be entertained with live music, dancing, parades and even wrestling and acrobatic performances.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year’s Day
- International Women’s Day (March 8th)
- Nowruz, National Spring Day (March 21st-22nd)
- Remembrance Day (May 9th)
- Eid al-Fitr (end of Ramadan)
- Eid al-Adha
- Independence Day (September 1st)
- Teachers Day (October 1st)
- Constitution Day (December 8th)
The capital of Uzbekistan, this elegant city combines medieval buildings with European architecture, Soviet concrete blocks and modern glass & concrete high-rises. One of the oldest cities on the Silk Road, the earliest written references of the settlement here date back to the 2nd century BC. The only city in Central Asia with an underground metro, each station is designed around a different theme, such as famous people, events, and culture. The famous bluen-domed Chorsu Bazaar offers a grand display of daily local life. This bustling marketplace is teeming with various traditional culinary delights, from oven-baked bread to spices galore.
A former trade centre on the Great Silk Road, the old town (UNESCO World Heritage-listed Itchan Kala) of Khiva has been incredibly well-preserved, and it is often called a museum city thanks to the many museums that reside here. Full of traditional Islamic buildings, mosques, minarets and narrow streets built over the span of 600 years, it is easy to wander around and discover 2,500 years of history. Gaze at the intricately tiled towers and ocean-coloured domes that dot the skyline, contrasting the crisp sand-coloured bricks and clay that together create the open-air museum feel of the city. Stroll amongst over 200 wooden pillars that make up the prayer hall of the Juma (Friday) Mosque. The impressive carved columns reach a height of 4 to 5 meters with some dating back as early as the 10th century.