Discover with Odyssey
Now little known to travellers, Uzbekistan was once the heart of the Silk Road.
Today, befitting its long-held position as the meeting point between civilisations, Uzbekistan is packed to the brims with fascinating historical sites. Samarkand retains the legacy of the ruthless Timur (or Tamerlane), who sought to enter history through ornate mosques, mausoleums, and madrassas. Bukhara, also on the Silk Road, reveals the multi-ethnic history of this long-time centre of exchange, while it’s easy to imagine goods and traders lining the labyrinthine streets of the evocative walled city of Khiva. Uzbekistan’s Soviet history also bestowed cultural legacies, including the ornate Tashkent metro, and the pioneering avant-garde art of Igor Savitsky.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Shared taxis Train services run between the major cities of Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, and can provide a relatively comfortable option for intercity travel. Bus services however are fairly slow, and can be somewhat cramped. Shared taxis are very common in Uzbekistan and operate in majors and cities, though it is advised to settle on a rate with your driver before your start your journey.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, Environment, & Weather
Uzbekistan is a landlocked country covering 447,000 square kilometres. Most of the country is flat, with vast plains stretching over much of the country’s surface. The terrain is the southeast of the country is more elevated however, with foothills rising toward the Tian Shan mountains.
Uzbekistan has a continental climate, with hot summers and cool winters. Depending on the time of year you intend to travel, check the weather reports and prepare accordingly.
World Heritage sites
Uzbekistan has 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can view the official list of the sites here (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/uz). The listed sites include:
Itchan Kala, the inner town of the old Khiva oasis containing a remarkable array of ancient palaces, mosques and mausoleums
Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz, featuring stunning medieval Islamic architecture
The City of Samarkand, filled with innumerable historic buildings and monuments.
Festivals & Events
Uzbekistan celebrates its Islamic heritage and pre-Islamic traditions in several festivals and events held throughout the year. Like many Central Asian nation, Uzbekistan celebrates Navruz (or Nowruz), the Persian New Year, in late March. A lively occasion, Navruz is marked by large family gatherings and feastings throughout the country. Being a Muslim-majority country, Ramadan is observed in the middle of the year, the conclusion of which is celebrated with with Eid al-Fitr. An event of great cultural significance in Uzbekistan is Boysun Bahori, a spring festival dating back to pre-Islamic times. Held in the ountainous Boysun in Surkhandarya Province, this festival features songs, dance performances, costumes, and storytelling, as well as traditional sports such as wrestling and kupkari, a team competition played on horseback.
Uzbekistan: The Golden Road to Samarkand, by Calum MacLeod
The sands of Oxus, by Sadriddin Ayn
Land Beyond the River: The Untold Story of Central Asia, by Monica Whitlock
Making Uzbekistan: Nation, Empire, and Revolution in the Early USSR, by Adeeb Khalid.
Eating & Drinking
The national dish of Uzbekistan is palov (or plov, or pilaf), a main course consisting of rice mixed with slices of meat, carrots, onions, chickpeas and raisins, as well as other fruits. Salads feature prominently in Uzbek cuisine, including bademjan (eggplant salad), achichuk salad (a salad consisting of tomatoes, onions and spices), and tashkent salad (made from beef tongue, radishes and fresh greens, and served with yogurt dressing). Meat is an important part of the Uzbek diet, and features in dishes such as shurpa (a soup made out of mutton and vegetables), dimlama (a stew made out of meat, potatoes, onions and vegetables) and lagman soup (a meat broth filled with lamb, noodles and vegetables).
Tea is widely consumed in Uzbekistan, with green tea the national beverage and teahouses acting as social hubs in Uzbekistan’s towns and cities. Despite being a Muslim-majority country, alcohol is commonly consumed, with vodka a national favourite.
Health & Safety
As of writing, smartraveller.gov.au advises travellers to exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to Uzbekistan. Terrorist attacks have occurred in Uzbekistan in the past, while travel to the regions bordering Tajikistan, Afghanistan and the Kyrgyz republic is not advised. Be advised that some medications containing narcotic and/or psychotropic substances are prohibited in Uzbekistan, and certain medications must be declared at the airport.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. Uzbekistan’s electricity supply runs at 220V and 50Hz. Uzbekistan uses both the Type C and Type F electric plugs, so make sure you have the right travel adaptor with you.
Uzbekistan has a single time zone, Uzbekistan Time (UTC+5). Daylight savings are not observed in Uzbekistan.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you tip an appropriate amount for services. Tipping is not expected in Uzbekistan, though a small tip is appreciated by porters, waiters, drivers and guides.
Wifi should be freely available in many hotels, cafes and restaurants, though speeds can vary. Bear in mind that some websites, particularly politically sensitive Uzbek-language sites, are blocked in Uzbekistan, though social media websites such as Facebook should work fine.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Uzbekistan. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for Uzbekistan
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although many locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Before departing on your trip, contact your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of som in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.