The tourism and infrastructure in Uzbekistan have completely changed over the last two years and as a result just about all the information you read online about getting a visa for Uzbekistan and crossing the Uzbekistan border are outdated and untrue.
We travelled to Uzbekistan, crossing the border from Osh, Kyrgyzstan in September 2018. Earlier this year the Uzbek government introduced an e-visa system and made the border crossing process a lot easier. They also got rid of black market exchange rates and installed more ATMs around the country meaning the travel in Uzbekistan became a whole lot simpler.
This post details our personal experiences getting a visa for Uzbekistan and crossing the border overland. We heard a lot of other travellers stories and although they all differed depending on the border and time etc everyone seemed to have an easier time than what was the case a year ago.
How to get an e-visa for Uzbekistan
If you are from one of the 51 countries that can now (August 2018) obtain a visa for 30 days online then getting a visa for Uzbekistan is very easy (to see which countries are eligible click here). Simply head to this website and fill in the necessary information. You will be sent a confirmation code, you then need to head back to the website to enter this code and make the payment. The Uzbekistan e-visa costs $20 and is sent to your email address within three working days. Easy!
The visa in theory is simple but the process can be a bit finicky. These tips below should help.
Tips for getting an e-visa for Uzbekistan
Use a Gmail address as we had problems using another mail provider.
You’ll need a passport photo. We took selfies against a plain wall, as long as the background is plain and the file size is small enough it should work.
You’ll also need to upload a copy of your passport.
You can only make the payment using a Visa card.
You don’t need to print your visa once it arrives, simply show a copy on your phone/tablet at the border.
Crossing the border from Osh to Uzbekistan
A taxi from Osh to the border costs 140 KGS (roughly $2). Once at the border you’ll be ushered to the front of every queue, not quite sure why but some kind of foreigner privilege. If you required a visa for Kyrgyzstan you’ll need to show a copy of your visa before they stamp you out.
On the Uzbek side hand over your passport and electronic copy of your visa and head through to the security check. We had read all kinds of information about filling out forms, declaring cash and medications etc etc.
We had none of that. They scanned our bags and asked if we had any drugs (we answered no despite having a few basic meds and they didn’t ask anything further) and then ushered us through the door. The entire process took about 20 minutes and everyone was very friendly, including the locals who were asked to move and let us come to the front of the line!
*Note* Uzbekistan is one hour behind Kyrgyzstan so your clocks will change back once you cross the border.
Getting from the Dostuk border to Andijan
Andijan is the logical next stop from the border. From there you can take a train to Tashkent or a bus to Kokand like we did. Taxi drivers will swarm you as soon as you exit the border office but simply say no thank you and head towards the bus.
Buses run regularly from the border to Andijan and if you ask people should point you in the right direction. The journey takes around 45 minutes and costs 2500 Uzbek som (about 30c).
Money in Uzbekistan
A couple of years ago Uzbekistan had a black-market exchange rate and it was difficult to get money whilst in the country. These restrictions are loosening and the black market is gone. There are money exchanges on both sides of the border. Make sure you check the current rates as they’re bound to be a little worse at the border so only exchange a small amount to get you to your next destination where you can head to the bank or ATM for more favourable rates.
Before 2018 the largest note in Uzbekistan was 10,000 som (roughly $1.20) so you can imagine what a stack worth a couple of hundred dollars looked like! Thankfully they have now introduced a 50,000 note which makes things considerably more compact.
ATMs often give either som or USD. Visa is most commonly accepted but there are some that accept Mastercard too. We found Kapital Bank ATMs in most towns to be the most reliable although it charges a 1.5% fee. You can also use your credit card to withdraw money at the bank and then exchange it. The rate for USD is favourable and for Euro was not so good, not sure why.
Where to stay on your journey from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan
Osh: Asman Guesthouse - Friends of ours stayed here and highly recommend it, the place we stayed was fine but not very recommendable.
Andijan: Hotel Vella Elegant - We didn’t stay in Adijan but this place comes recommended.
Kokand: Hotel Kokand - we stayed here and although the rooms had a distinctly Soviet feel to them they were clean and comfortable. The hotel is also centrally located.
Tashkent: Topchan Hostel - Super funky and comfortable hostel with some of the best working WiFi in Uzbekistan!
Registering your accommodation
We had also heard that you needed to have a registration accounting for every night of your stay in Uzbekistan. All registered accommodation will give you this but it’s often not asked for upon departure. We weren’t asked for anything but the guy at the counter next to us was. When he replied that he didn’t have them for every night they shrugged and stamped his passport. I wouldn’t be surprised if this requirement disappears in a few months but keep your slips until your departure just in case.