CUSTOMS DECLARATION FORMS Upon arrival at any international airport or land border of Uzbekistan make sure that you fill out 2 (two) copies of the Customs Declaration Form and exact amounts of foreign currency you are carrying and declare all valuables, including expensive items such as jewelry, electronics and photo equipment. One copy of the Entry Custom Declaration Form is kept by the customs officer, and the second copy is stamped and returned to you. You are strongly advised to keep the second copy of the Entry Customs Declaration Form until departure, as it contains information about the amount of valuables and foreign currency being brought for your trip to Uzbekistan. Upon departure, travelers will be permitted to take out valuables and foreign currency up to the amount indicated in the Entry Customs Declaration Form. There is no “Green Line” at Uzbek custom check points.
REGISTRATION All foreign nationals are required to register if they stay longer than 72 hours in Uzbekistan. If you are staying at licensed hotels, registration is done automatically when you check in. Your hotel will give you a registration slip, which you should carry in your passport at all times for the duration of your trip (If you run into trouble with the authorities, they will want to see your registration slips). When leaving Uzbekistan at passport control your passport and visa validity will be checked. Sometimes the immigration officer might also request that you show registration forms from hotels. So make sure to have your hotel registration slips handy (preferably clipped into your passport) when you pass through passport control.
ACCOMMODATION Uzbekistan tourism infrastructure has been actively developing during the past few years, making the travel to Uzbekistan more comfortable. Many good hotels were built in Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and other big cities, which comply with modern hotel standards. Most hotel rooms are equipped with a shower, private bath, air conditioning, telephone, satellite TV with international channels like CNN, BBC, ESPN.
UZBEKISTAN WEATHER Uzbekistan has an extreme continental climate. It is generally warmer in the south and colder in the north. The average temperatures in December are -8°C (18°F) in the north and 0°C (32 °F) in the south. However, extreme fluctuations are measured as low as -35°C (-31°F). During the summer temperatures can reach 35-40°C. Humidity is low. The Spring (April to June) and the Fall (September through October) are in general the most pleasant times to travel. In the Fall is a harvest time, and the markets are full of fresh fruit. If you're interested in trekking, then summer (July and August) is the best time, because summers are almost dry. In recent years Uzbekistan was notably affected by the global warming and dry-out of the Aral Sea, which turned from snowy cold winters to mild with less precipitation by allowing travelling in the wintertime.
UZBEKISTAN CURRENCY All payments must be made in "Sum", the national currency of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Currency exchange offices are available in every city of Uzbekistan. All foreign currencies may be converted in main offices of banks. Preferred currencies - US dollars and Euros; cash currency is preferred as for International Cards (Visa/Master cards) there’s limitation per day and only in Tashkent possible to get cash in banks and in some hotels there’s ATM machines , but there’s long queue.
CASH AND TRAVELLERS CHECKS It is possible to exchange US Dollars, Euros into Uzbek soums at banks and exchange offices in hotels. Exchange offices and banks do not accept hard currency banknotes that are old, worn out, have handwriting on, torn, lined or wrinkled. Such banknotes are accepted only in one branch of National Bank of Uzbekistan in Tashkent for about a 10% fee. It is extremely difficult to change soums back into dollars at reasonable exchange rates, so it is advised that you spend what soums you have before leaving the country. American Express Travelers Cheques are not recommended during your trip to Uzbekistan, as they draw hefty fees and cannot be exchanged at favorable rates.
CREDIT CARDS AND ATM MACHINES Credit cards are not widely accepted in Uzbekistan outside of upscale restaurants and hotels in Tashkent. Shops, restaurants and local transport prefer to be paid in Uzbek soums. Some upscale hotels in Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara accept Visa cards. Master cards are less frequently accepted. ATM machines are not widespread in Uzbekistan. Upscale hotels in Tashkent usually have separate ATMs for Mastercard and Visa cards that dispense US dollars, but one or both are often out of order or out of cash. A few banks in Tashkent across the country have ATMs that accept Visa or Mastercard as well, although they are subject to the same uncertainties. Always have a backup plan. A more reliable way to get dollars is to go to a local bank and get a cash advance on your credit card. A few banks accept Visa cards (UzKDB Bank, National Bank of Uzbekistan, RBS Bank), while only Asaka Bank can perform Mastercard cash advances. Banks charge 2 to 4% of the amount being withdrawn for this service.
Bank working hours: from 09:00 till 16:00, lunch break from 13:00 to 14:00
Closed on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
Exchange offices working hours: from 08:00 till 18:00 and 24 hours in big hotels.
PAYING Soums are the sole legal currency in Uzbekistan. However, foreigners are obliged to pay hard currency for rooms in hotels, air tickets and railway tickets. Yet restaurants in the hotels accept Uzbek soums as well. Though in some large shops prices are given in US Dollars, all cash payments must be in soums. Uzbekistan is a country where cash transfers dominate. National Bank of Uzbekistan NBU has introduced soum cards which are taken in some large shops and air ticketing agencies. In restaurants cash is prevalent. Tipping is a matter of your choice.
CLOTHING Very light and loose clothing (preferably cotton or natural fibers) is recommended for daytime use, with a light jumper and/or casual jacket for the cooler evenings. Because of the large amount of sightseeing on foot in dry, dusty and sometimes rough areas (i.e. dirt, cobblestones, etc.), comfortable, solid walking shoes with strong soles and support are essential. You may be required to remove your shoes upon entry to some religious sites. There are no special clothing requirements for visiting Islamic religious sites, except that you should take care to cover most parts of your body including your arms and legs. Above all travelers are encouraged to dress for comfort rather than fashion. Valuable jewelry and any clothing requiring special attention should be left at home. Due to the very high danger of sunburn, your clothing should offer as much protection as possible. A hat with good shade protection and sunglasses are essential. In some areas the average visitor may appear extremely wealthy to local people. A lavish display of jewelry, bulging handbags and wallets, and a neck full of cameras will make you stand out in a crowd. Be discreet and respectful of the local culture and traditions and carry a minimum of valuables.
DRESS CODE There is no special dress code for everyday use, especially in Tashkent and other major cities where people, particularly, the youth, enjoy full liberty with clothing. You can frequently encounter young ladies wearing traditional Islamic covers, but this is a personal preference rather than a must. In some provinces, however, such as Fergana Valley, it would be better to avoid wearing shorts. Same rule is applied when visiting religious places, mosques, mausoleums, etc. Also, ladies should cover their shoulders and chest and preferably wear a hat or a headscarf. In summer time it would be advisable to follow the aboverecommendation to protect yourself from the sun. Also, sun protection lotions can be used.
ETIQUETTE Uzbek society is a fanciful blend of religious and cultural norms, traditions and codes, some of which root in the Soviet past, whereas others come with growing Western influence of the present. Uzbek people are known for their hospitality. They are happy to have guests in their homes. Such an invitation will be followed by generous feast and drinks. Local people always serve as many dishes as they have in stock. What is often seen by visitors as an unreasonable waste of food is in reality the sign of respect for the valuable guest. It does not matter whether you eat it all or not, the rule is that plates should never be empty and guests should feel not in the least embarrassed by possible shortage of food. Unlike some countries, it is not accepted to drink beer or other alcohol drinks on the street, though foreign guests can get away with it. Smoking in public places or on public transport is not prohibited, but a woman with a lit cigarette on the street may provoke an unwanted reaction. Women generally enjoy equal rights and are free to behave same way as men. But it is a national tradition that girls are brought up in the spirit of modesty and conservatism so they choose an appropriate behavior for themselves.
FOOD in Uzbekistan, cold tap water can be safely used for drinking. However, it is a good tradition to boil cold tap water for making tea (green of black) and drink it during meals. Hot tap water CANNOT be used as drinking water. In some regions of Uzbekistan, such as Khorezm (Urgench, Khiva), Karakalpakstan (Nukus) and Bukhara, cold water, even though safe, is not normally used as drinking water because of too much salt in it. It is strongly recommended to rinse fruit and vegetables before eating. Some prefer to use boiling water for this purpose, though local people always get away with regular tap water. A wide range of bottled mineral water brands (both sparkling and natural) is available throughout Uzbekistan and it is recommended to have a good stock of bottles at hand, especially, in summer. Delicious locally made natural juices are available on the market and they may serve as a very nice addition to your ration in the country.
EASTING HINTS Foreign food often unsettles the stomach, but Uzbek dishes are unlikely to do any serious harm provided that some rules that Uzbeks keep to for centuries are followed. Uzbeks are used to oily dishes. They eat fried meat (mainly mutton) in big quantities in the composition of traditional dishes, such as pilav, lagman, etc. The abundance of meat and oil in the daily ration is set off by certain habits of Uzbeks which are often neglected by visitors. First off, never drink cold water together with the main course with meat or fat. Instead drink a lot of hot green tea. Second, the locals eat much salads made of tomatoes and other vegetables along with the main course. Third and the last is the timing. Light dishes, containing sour milk and yogurts, and soups are served during breakfast and lunch, and heavy meals are left for dinner when it is cooler.
LUGGAGE A shoulder bag with a strong strap or a small rucksack is the most practical way of carrying cameras and personal belongings during your stay. Your entire luggage should be secured with a padlock. Always make sure that all cases and bags are clearly labeled. The label should carry your name and destination details but not your home address. It is a good idea to label your luggage on the inside. This will enable airport authorities to identify your luggage should it become lost, or the labels removed. Never leave your luggage unattended at airports or train stations. Your free airline luggage allowance is 20 kg per person, plus one additional piece of 'carry-on' hand luggage on domestic flights within Central Asia, except to Turkmenistan, where the maximum baggage allowance is 10 kg. Because you will be traveling in some areas where travel conditions are rather basic, travelers are strongly urged to restrict their luggage to one main suitcase or backpack and one carry-on overnight bag. As recommended under CURRENCY and SECURITY, an important part of your luggage will also be your money wallet for safely carrying your travel documents.
PERSONAL MEDICATION There are medications circulation of which on the territory of Uzbekistan is prohibited or limited. Generally, the limited circulation medications list consists of sedative, tranquilizing, and pain relieving drugs (for example, Temazepam, Valium, Xanax, Morphine, Codeine, Librium/Novopoxide, Halcion, ProSom, Xanax, Ativan).If you intend to bring medications to Uzbekistan which is in limited circulation in Uzbekistan, we strongly advise you declaring them on arrival and departure from Uzbekistan in customs declaration form and bring the doctor prescription in English. Not declaring the medication or absence of doctor’s prescription is subject to responsibility, up to criminal.
SECURITY Individual safety boxes are not always available in Uzbekistan hotels. An essential part of your luggage is a comfortable money wallet, which may be worn under your clothing. At all times you should carry your main documents (i.e. currency, traveler's checks, air tickets, passports, visas etc.) While it is highly unlikely you will encounter any physical danger, minor thefts in crowded pubic places may occur and every precaution should be taken to avoid losing anything of value. In accordance with local laws, you will be required to hand in your passport to the hotel reception on arrival to allow registration of your passport details by the hotel. Your passport will normally be available again after a few hours. Do not forget to collect it before departure. Uzbekistan is a country of low crime. Petty crime should be the only concern for tourists, and even this is easily avoided if the usual precautions are taken. It is advised to make copies of your passports and visas. Medical insurance is essential as local health care facilities are poorly complying with Western standards, and English-speaking service (International Clinic in Tashkent) or medical evacuations are very expensive.
PROTECTING YOUR PROPERTY Simple rules should be observed when you walk on the streets, for example, not displaying large sums of money; carrying cash in a safe money belt; using hotel safes as much as possible for keeping passports, tickets and valuables (this is applied to visitors in groups, individuals may need to have their passports at hand all the time). You should avoid the local gypsies (so called lyullih) who gather near big sights and beg. If they approach, you should not stop for them and keep a firm hold of your possessions. If you have your property stolen, report it to the local police for insurance policies. Visitors in groups should fully rely on local ‘through’ guides to deal with the police.
PERSONAL SAFETY The greatest danger faced by foreigners is that posed by pickpockets and petty thieves. Like in any country, it is advisable to hand over belongings that are demanded with menace. Women are unlikely to encounter sexual harassment, though they should ignore curb-crawlers and avoid taking a taxi alone at night. They should not go out alone late at night either. There is a certain threat to people on the street posed by careless drivers. Visitors, especially when in groups, should carefully follow instructions of their guide while crossing roads, especially major motorways.
ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES The current is 220V, 50 Hz, AC two pin plugs. Sockets in some of the old buildings do not take modern European plugs which have slightly thicker pins. To deal with this, adaptors are widely available locally. With American appliances you will need a 220:110 current adaptor which is a little more difficult to find.
PHOTOGRAPHY IN UZBEKISTAN No obstacles are presented to visitors who wish to photograph places of historical interest. Photography inside some religious monuments and in airports, railway stations or near military installations may not be allowed. If in doubt ask your local guide. Please also note that there is a fee for photography in most sightseeing places (not included in your tour price).
Film and batteries are available in major cities, but we recommend you purchase your supply before arrival, particularly if you have the latest model or a sophisticated type of camera that requires a specific type of film and/or batteries. Using cameras and videos in museums and monuments is charged extra to the entrance ticket. In some museums flashes are prohibited.
DRINKS Local mineral water contains a higher level of minerals than western spring or bottled water and the taste can be rather "salty" (these mineral waters are considered healthier than European spring or mineral waters). Imported spirits and wines are available, however in some places the provenance of some spirits and wines is questionable and the prices inflated. Accordingly, you are advised to purchase your favorite alcohol duty free prior to arrival.
ALCOHOL DRINKS Uzbekistan is abundant in fruit and grapes. A great variety of red wines, vodka and beer brands are offered to travelers, including local red wine and beer. Also, foreign-made wine and beer (mainly, Russian and European) are available. Though most of Uzbekistan’s populations are Muslims, drinking alcohol is not regarded as something unusual. In summer, people usually drink alcohol after the heat abates. Heavy drinking and debauches are condemned by the public opinion.
INCIDENTALS You will be responsible for covering the cost of your hotel incidentals such as phone calls, room service, mini-bar in your room and laundry. Before departing from all hotels on the tour, please ensure that you have checked with the front desk for any personal charges that the hotel may have made to your room.
TIPPING Local guides and drivers, especially those who accompany you through your journey in Uzbekistan would expect tip upon completion of your itinerary. Usually, porters at hotels and airports are tipped as well. Travelers may wish to express their appreciation - a reward for extra service - to the porters, waiters, drivers and guides. The degree of appreciation may vary, and our policy is to leave this to your discretion. This is usually given individually in an envelope at the end of the tour/service.
PREPARING FOR DEPARTURE The departure procedure at the airport is straightforward: Check in for the flight, go through customs (please see Customs Declaration Forms instructions for departure) and passport control, pass through security and board the plane. For international flights travelers are advised to arrive at the airport 2 ½ to 3 hours before their departure time. Before leaving the hotel for the airport please check the following documents: passport, registration forms provided by hotels, Entry Customs Declaration Form, air-ticket and validity of Uzbekistan visa in your passport. If your Uzbekistan visa expired before your day of departure, the penalty at the airport at departure applied might be up to US$ 3,000.
DEPARTUREUpon departure at the customs checkpoint you will be requested to fill out 1 copy of the Customs Declaration Form. Please make sure to indicate the all types and exact amounts of foreign currency you are carrying and declare all valuables. Remember, you are allowed to take out valuables and foreign currency up to the amount indicated in the Entry Customs Declaration Form, filled out upon arrival. In case if traveler has more cash than it was declared upon arrival, travelers will have to prove the source of the money (ATM receipt or any other bank documents). When source cannot be proved, money will have to stay in Uzbekistan, traveler will be requested to leave the exceeding amount with friends, travel agency, or even can be confiscated if there is no one to leave the money with. It gets more complicated if you lose the Entry Custom Declaration Form, you may not be able to take out any amount cash or valuables. At customs you may be requested to show declared valuables and recount foreign currency indicated in Customs Declaration Form.