FAQs

Updated 28 June 2017

1. Travel, Visas and Money Matters
2. Health
3. Climate and what to pack
4. Mobile phones and Internet access
5. Other

1.   Travel, Visas and Money Matters

How do I fly to Tashkent or Bishkek?

From Australia there are regular services to Tashkent via Seoul, on Korean Air and Asiana Airlines. Uzbekistan Airways also has connections out of Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Tokyo. China Southern Airlines flies from Beijing and Urumqi. Connections are also available via the Middle East.

From Europe, Uzbekistan Airways operates from Geneva, London, Frankfurt, Madrid, Milan, Paris and Rome to Tashkent. Europeans can also consider Turkish Airlines to Tashkent via Istanbul as well as other airlines via Moscow and Latvia. From North America, many passengers use Turkish Airways or Uzbekistan Airways to Tashkent via a European city.

Information on flights to Kyrgyzstan is provided in the Kyrgyz tour section.

Will Uzbek Journeys book my flights?

No. You organise your flights and insurance with your travel agent and organise your tour directly with Uzbek Journeys. The tour dates are based on Day 1 arrival Tashkent and on Day 16, the final day in Tashkent, the tour concludes about 15:00. For Kyrgyz tours the itineraries may vary: please refer the itineraries for details prior to booking flights.

I want to see more of Central Asia. Can you help?

Yes. Uzbek Journeys can arrange further travel within the region, e.g. pre- or post tour excursions to Kyrgyzstan are available. You can also consider other parts of Uzbekistan, such as the silk and ceramic centres of the Ferghana Valley, the Buddhist and Islamic sites of Termez, or master classes. Please refer the Short Trips section.

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How do I get a visa?

Most foreign nationals require a visa to enter Uzbekistan. The visa fee varies according to nationality and number of entries, e.g. for Australians it is US$70 for a single entry. If there is an Uzbek embassy or consulate in your country of residence you must apply for your visa there. If your country of residence does not have an Uzbek embassy (e.g. Australia), then Uzbek Journeys will arrange a Letter of Introduction (LOI) to facilitate travel. Your visa will be issued on arrival at Tashkent airport upon payment of the appropriate visa fee in US$ cash and presentation of the LOI.

Please ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of arrival into Tashkent.

Effective 1 August 2012, the Kyrgyz parliament passed legislation allowing visa-free stays of up to 60 days for 47 nationalities, including Australians. View the list to check if you are eligible to enter without a visa. Please ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of arrival into Kyrgyzstan.

How should I bring money?

Only four currencies are convertible in Uzbekistan: US dollar, Euro, British pound and Japanese yen. No other currencies can be exchanged.  Very few places accept credit cards and there are few ATMs. At some ATMs it is possible to withdraw US$ against Visa card accounts. MasterCard is rarely accepted for cash withdrawals. Only cards with pin numbers will work. It is best to bring US$ cash and ensure that the notes are crisp and new without any flaws, e.g. tears or scribble. Bring a mix of large and small notes.

On entering Uzbekistan, you must declare all funds that you bring into the country on your customs declaration form, which your airline will give you. You can bring up to the equivalent of US$ 10,000 into Uzbekistan. You complete two copies. Keep your copy of the stamped declaration in a safe place throughout your tour. On departure, you complete another form indicating how much money you are taking out of Uzbekistan. Clearly this should be less than the amount you declared on arrival.

No customs or currency declaration forms are required for entering or leaving Kyrgyzstan. In Kyrgyzstan there are ATM machines in the larger cities and foreign exchange booths to change cash. Read more about money matters in Kyrgyzstan.

I bought too many lovely items and will have excess baggage. What do I do?

Please arrive earlier at the airport. Airlines strictly observe weight limits. Excess baggage fees can only be paid in Uzbek or Kyrgyz currency and credit cards are not accepted. Ensure you have US dollars to change at the airport bank to pay for your excess baggage charges. Check with your travel agent about your airline's excess baggage rates.

Why do hotels in Uzbekistan keep passports for some time after check-in?

It is a requirement that all foreigners are registered with the authorities. The hotels do this on your behalf and issue small, registration chits stating your nights of stay. It is important that you keep all these chits safe as you may be asked to show them on leaving the country.
2.   Health

Is it safe to drink the water in Central Asia?

No. Mineral water (still and sparkling) is available everywhere at very reasonable prices.

Am I likely to get sick while travelling in Central Asia?

Diarrhoea often afflicts travellers worldwide. There are steps you can take to prevent it, but don’t be surprised if you come down with it despite efforts to eat and drink carefully. The good news is that most cases of travellers' diarrhoea are short-lived and they often do not require exceptional treatment. Uzbek Journeys does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor. The hotels have relationships with doctors to provide assistance. Medical facilities are generally of a lower standard than Western countries.

If you take prescription medicines for any conditions, please bring adequate supplies for the trip. Please also make me aware of any medical conditions at the time of booking. It is also your responsibility to ensure that you obtain any vaccinations or preventative medicines for the countries you are visiting. Please consult your doctor.

Comprehensive travel insurance, covering emergency evacuation and medical emergencies, is a condition of participating in an Uzbek Journeys tour.

What will the weather be like during the tour?

Uzbekistan's climate is classified as continental, with hot summers and cold winters. Uzbek Journeys tours are scheduled for the excellent seasons of spring and autumn, when daytime temperatures are around 27 – 35 degrees (depending on location) and the evenings are coolish, around 14-17 degrees in spring and 10 - 16 degrees in autumn. The country is one of the driest in central Asia; however, I always pack a small umbrella for the unexpected shower.

I find BBC weather has reliable information about Central Asian temperatures. Here is today’s weather in Tashkent  and you can track other cities from that site as well. GIS Meteo also has reliable forecasts for cities in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Here is a link to the Uzbek cities covered.

What should I pack?

As there are so many lovely items to buy in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, I keep my clothing to a minimum. There is no place that requires ‘dressing up’, even to the opera in Tashkent. I pack two pairs of cotton trousers, several long and short-sleeved t-shirts, two skirts, cotton sundresses, a cardigan, a rain jacket, shawl, a sun hat, a pair of good walking shoes (boots are not necessary) and a pair of sandals.

I also pack a swimsuit: the hotels in Tashkent and Bishkek have small pools, perfect for a refreshing dip after a hot day. For Kyrgyz passengers you need the swimsuit at the thermal baths at Altyn-Arashan. Bring body moisturiser as it is very dry. Shorts are not suitable for men or women. There are inexpensive laundry facilities in most hotels.

I bring my own hairdryer, a small torch, a folding fan, a tape measure and also a universal bath plug. I bring some *bubble paper* to wrap ceramics.

What is the voltage used in Central Asia?

The voltage is 220 AC and round 2 pin continental (European) plugs are used. Electricity supply is generally reliable; it is not available at the yurt camp.

What is the time zone?

The time zone for Uzbekistan is GMT + 5. Kyrgyzstan is GMT + 6. Daylight saving time is not observed.

Can I use my mobile phone in Uzbekistan?

Yes, global roaming will work in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. However, it is extremely expensive. If you are Australian and Telstra is your carrier, then you need to set up 'international roaming' at least 3 days in advance and have your phone unlocked. Think carefully before you do so as the charges are exorbitant. If you have family and friends who often text you, let them know your dates away and request that they not send messages other than urgent ones during your vacation.

Telstra has a comprehensive web section about international roaming and smart phones. Depending on your model, it explains how to change your settings so your smart phone does not fetch mail automatically. It also explains how to turn off data roaming. Telstra's site also lists charges for phoning Uzbekistan. If you use another carrier please review its policies and charges.

You can buy local sim cards in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan providers require your passport and hotel registration chits. In Kyrgyzstan it is easier: there are cell phone booths everywhere. You need to sign a contract and you can top up your account easily at machines. English language options are available at the machines. Please ensure you know how to remove your sim card and that you have had your mobile phone unlocked.

Also investigate services such as Viber, which, provided your family and friends also have Viber installed on their device, allows free text and phone calls. Viber operates via 3G and wifi. WhatsApp and Telegram are similar free messaging services.

What about Internet and e-mail access?

Wifi hot spots are in major cities. The hotels in Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva have free wifi for guests if you're travelling with your own device. Likewise the hotels in Kyrgyzstan. Check with reception if a password is required. The speeds can be erratic.
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4.   Other

What languages are spoken?

Russian is still the lingua franca of Central Asia. Uzbekistan's official state language is Uzbek, a Turkic language. Other languages such as Tajik, Karakalpak, and Kazakh are spoken in different regions. In the service sector and among young, urban people, English is widely spoken. Many signs are in Cyrillic and it is handy if you can read it. Uzbeks will be delighted if you know some Uzbek phrases. Here is a handy list.

In Kyrgyzstan, the Kyrgyz language is written in cyrillic script. Here is Wikitravel's Kyrgyz phrasebook.

I'm a vegetarian. Will that be a hassle?

Not at all. Just let me know in advance. There are plenty of vegetables, salads, and fresh and dried fruits in the Uzbek diet. You'll need to check, though, if soups or plov have been made in a meat broth. Read Suzanna Fatyan's article Uzbekistan for Vegetarians.

And gluten free/vegan?

Travellers who require a gluten free diet will miss out the delicious Uzbek and Kyrgyz bread, but otherwise you'll be able to enjoy eating out. Bringing along gluten free crackers may be a good idea. Print out this restaurant card in Russian that enables you to tell the hotel, cafe or restaurant where you are eating about your requirements for a gluten free diet.

At Anita's Feast blog, which celebrates culture through travel and food, there are many interesting posts about Uzbek and Kyrgyz cuisine.

For vegans, travelling in Central Asia is difficult.

Is there something I haven't covered here?

Please contact me.
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