When we told people that we were going to Uzbekistan, the reactions we got all shared a similar thought; “Why Uzbekistan?” “Where is that?” “What is there to do there?”
Truth is, we barely knew anything about traveling to Uzbekistan either. We were purely thirsty to explore somewhere less-known; somewhere relatively untouched. Among all the hidden gems in the world, Central Asia is one of the most underrated ones and has always had an irresistible appeal to us.
As it turns out, Uzbekistan is actually not as hidden as we had thought — there were quite a lot of tourists but mostly matured travellers in tour groups. Nevertheless, it is still one of the most breathtaking places we’ve ever travelled to. So here’s nine reasons why you should consider Uzbekistan in your next travel destination:
Visa system makes it easier to visit now
As of February 2019, Uzbekistan allows citizens of 65 countries to get at least a 30-days free visa-on-arrival at any airport or border. As far as we know there is no restriction on the amount of times you can exit and re-enter Uzbekistan visa-free. We had re-entered the country for another 2 times from different borders during our 2-months+ in the region.
Even if you do not make it to the 65 countries’ list, e-visa is available for another 76 countries for only 20USD. This process is much easier and cheaper than previously where you need to get LOI (Letter of Invitation) and pay a sum of 55 to 150USD for the visa depending on your nationality.
If you are not sure, visit Caravanistan for more information.
Easy to get around on your own
You don’t need to be a seasoned traveller like us to get around in Uzbekistan by yourself. In fact, you would be saving a lot of money by navigating this country on your own, and the good news is that it’s easy to do so!
There are fast-speed trains connect Samarkand, Bukhara and Tashkent, with several of them leaving per day. Most of the time we took slow, overnight sleeper trains which allow us to connect with the locals. We took the Afrosiyob high-speed train once and it was very comfortable, punctual and clean.
Meet Some Of The Kindest Locals
Throughout our trip, we had countless people come up to us and ask us (in basic English) if we speak English, where we’re from, where in Uzbekistan we’ve been and how we were enjoying it there. The locals were genuinely curious to get to know us, and many of them closed the conversation with a heart-warming “Welcome to my country.”
On top of that, there were occasions when we were being offered seats on metro and bus just because we were carrying our backpacks. We also being offered food and tea on the train by the locals sharing same cabin as us. These were very simple gestures, but to us, they spoke the world about the people of this country.
The language barrier isn’t as challenging as You thought
As exotic as Uzbekistan may sound, language barrier can pose as challenge, but weren’t big enough to create real obstacles. Although Uzbek and Russian are the two main languages spoken there, very basic English is understood in big cities like Tashkent and Samarkand. Young teenagers are starting to learn English so we often turn to them for translation. Having Uzbek or Russian on Google Translate can come in handy too!
Everywhere is instagrammable
Located in the heart of Asia’s Silk Road, Uzbekistan offers a rich history, friendly culture and exotic sights. The number of times I was totally blown away by something I saw was incalculable.
The burst of colours, patterns, architecture and mosaics that surrounded me completely overwhelmed my senses and left me utterly speechless. It wasn’t just mosques and madrasas; even ordinary places like restaurants and hotels were craftily embellished with hand painted walls, traditional embroidery and contemporary courtyards.
Extraordinary sights & unique experiences
From stepping into the most magical chapter of One Thousand and One Nights in 400 year-old madrasas to the eerily beautiful abandoned ship graveyard on the Aral Sea, there is something for every traveller in Uzbekistan.
Experience staying in a yurt camp while stargazing with an uninterrupted view of the stars without competition from city lights, or check-in a home stay to enjoy the gracious hosting which often come with sumptuous breakfast.
This place is safer than many western countries
Uzbekistan boasts low crime stats, especially for tourist-related crime, making it a great place to visit for lone-travelers and women. Never once did we feel threatened, even when walking around at night. Regardless, everyone’s experience is unique, and common sense should obviously be applied no matter where you travel to.
This trip won’t make a hole in your wallet
Uzbekistan is a budget-friendly country! Though getting there can be pricey – round trip from Singapore cost about 600 – 700USD. However, once you are in there, you can find good quality guesthouses for around 20 – 30USD a night. A typical full-course meal complete with 2 appetizers, 2-3 mains and drinks only totals up to around 5USD on average. Public transport costs less than 50cents per trip, and the most expensive long-distance train we took was about 10USD per person.
In short, our daily budget for 2 persons was no more than 50USD for accommodation, food and transportation.
Enjoy bragging rights to a country not many have even heard of
……. or could not pin on a map!
I cannot emphasize enough how much of a hidden gem this country is. The fact that it’s not as “famous” as Petra or Machu Picchu is completely intriguing to me. If you open your heart and mind to Uzbekistan, you will experience things you’ll find hard to believe and make some truly unique memories here.
Even months later, I’m still finding hard to believe that I had made this trip or whether it was all just a dream.