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THE BACKPACKSTERS

Suggested itinerary for Uzbekistan

There is a lot of debate on how many days make for the perfect sojourn in this Central Asian country - so here's all you need to know to get the best out of your experience!

 

The magnificent Registan Ensemble, Samarkand

 

The main sights in Uzbekistan are in Tashkent (the capital city), Samarkand and Bukhara. Another town that is much farther away, but subtly impressive, is Khiva.

Many tour operators in Central Asia, suggest a week as the best amount of time to give to exploring the country. There are some tours that include only Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara, and only take about 5 days too. But, we feel, that its BEST to spend eight full days in the country to get the best experience, and explore comfortably! 

 

Incredible architecture and rich history characterise this country

 

 

An idea of how much a trip to UZ can cost:

An average trip for 2 adults on a sharing basis or 1 adult travelling alone (using hostels) can cost as little as USD 250 for the full week, all inclusive - thats about INR 18,300 and about USD 350 (INR 25,000) for flights from Delhi (India) to Tashkent - per person. 

 

For a detailed idea of my (Navneeth's) expenses of INR 46,000 (under USD 630) on my visit in September 2018:

  • Flights (DEL-TAS): INR 24k
  • Visa (Uzbekistan E-visa): INR 1.5k
  • Internal transport: INR 7.3k
    • Flights (TAS-UGC for Khiva): INR 3.8k
    • Train: INR 1.2k
    • Taxis (including Khiva-Bukhara):  INR 2.3k
  • Hotels and hostels: INR 7k
  • Food: INR 3.7k
  • Tickets and souvenirs: INR 2.5k

 

 

Taking it slow in Uzbekistan, is the best way to experience its culture and architecture

 

 

Details on VISA:

  • Very straight forward process for Indians (with whom Uzbekis have a long cultural and commercial relationship)
  • Tourist e-visas can be obtained within three days usually!
  • It costs USD 20 (in 2018) and needs to be paid online along with the filled in application.
  • Every hotel hands out registration slips for the nights spent at their property - these may be verified at the time of exit by immigration officers - so keep them safe!
  • Obtain the visa first and then book the flight tickets (strange right?)

Look it up here - E-VISA

 

Currency - The Uzbeki Som (UZS) or "Soum" is the National currency - in September 2018, the rate (at the bank, airport, merchants, hotels, etc.) were usually UZS 8,000 per USD 1 - this worked out to ~INR 1 = UZS 112. The purchasing power is quite similar to India slightly, if not cheaper.

 

 

So what can you see in a week in UZ? Here's all you need to know - in the form of a ready-to-use itinerary! More posts are linked at the bottom of this article.

 
 

Ready to embark on the latest tale of the Arabian nights?

 

 

Option 1: Khiva to Tashkent (eastward journey)

 

Day 1: Tashkent

  • Arrive in Tashkent, and spend the evening exploring the streets and the parks.
  • If you reach before 3 pm, visit the National History Museum and spend two hours there, slowly absorbing all the theory to the actual monuments you will be seeing in the next couple of days.
  • Visit the nearby Amir Timur statue and the park around it: art and souvenir stalls are, sometimes, set up and its a lot of fun! 
  • Dine at one of the many cafes at "The Boulevard" in the park or some of the quaint coffee shops near Shota-Rustavelli street.
  • Stay at any of the budget-friendly hostels in that neighborhood. Trip.LE and Art Hostel are both very good!
  • Taxi rates are usually around UZS 2,000 (INR 19) per kilometre.
  • Use the Yandex app to get around (Russia's very own Uber) - it is cheaper than a flag-down taxi sometimes.

 

 

Day 2: Khiva

  • Take the early morning 2-hour flight out to Urgench, the airport city nearest to Khiva.
    Air fares are usually around USD 60 (INR 4,200 at the time of writing this article) or lesser - book online.
  • Alternatively, from some countries, it is possible to fly into Urgench directly, so you may not need to come through Tashkent on Day 1.
  • Taxi to the Tashkent domestic airport should not cost more than UZS 12,000 (INR 100) from the neighborhood mentioned above.
  • At Urgench, there are four ways to get to Khiva:
    • Take an "official" taxi from the airport (USD 15 or more)
    • Get one of the zillion taxis waiting outside (USD 10 - bargain hard)
    • Take a shared taxi ride (USD 5 if you manage to crack a good deal, but usually USD 8 or less) - it's not too hard to find one: either ask fellow travellers and make a little group as you exit the airport and haggle with any taxi driver, or just walk up to the driver and announce that you need only one seat/willing to share and that you will only pay "xx". This also means, you may have to wait for as long as it takes to get a fellow passenger, before the driver starts.
    • Take the bus service (it should not cost more than a couple of USDs, ask at the information desk in the airport)
  • Urgench-Khiva is a 30 km drive, takes about 20 minutes, and the taxis usually drop you off at the hotel. 
  • It is best to stay around Ichan Kala ("Old Fortress"), so that you can spend more time inside the site, than to have to traverse from your hotel everytime.
  • The Alibek BnB is a great place to stay at (good breakfast spread in the mornings). It is less than a 100 metres away from the Ichan Kala, the old city (UNESCO World Heritage Site) - if you want to stay inside a Madrassah, why not stay at the Khiva Orient Star.
  • Spend the rest of the day, exploring the old city and the numerous monuments inside, like the Kalta Minor, Islam Khoja Madrassah and Djuma Mosque. 
  • Read everything you need to know about Khiva and sightseeing in the old city here.
  • Have lunch and dinner inside the old city, at one of the many cafes. It is inexpensive! 

 

The beautiful, unfinished, Kalta Minor in Khiva

 

 

Day 3: Khiva to Bukhara

  • The best way to reach Bukhara, is to take the shared Taxi.
    • At UZS 100,000 or USD 12 (INR 1,000), it is the MOST economical way for a solo/two traveller(s).
    • It is a 6 hour, 450 km drive through the desert! (No air-conditioning in the car, with one/two rest stops of 15 minutes midway) - it is tiring.
    • All you need to do, is book with your hotel/hostel reception the previous evening, so that they can call a taxi in, the next morning.
    • If you want to have the whole cab to yourselves, just buy out the remaining two seats in the car as well - 4 passengers share a small taxi, usually - and expect to pay between USD 50 to USD 80.
    • You can also take a Marshrutka (a larger van, that ferries about 12 or more people) for about the same price, but takes an hour longer, generally.
  • Most taxis stop at Lyab-i-Hauz, the central part of the city. Backpacker hostels and budget hotels are located there - like the Nazriddin Navruz.
    It is only a 2 minute walk from the centre.
  • Spend the evening in leisure and explore all that Lyab-i-Hauz has to offer.
    If you have some time, walk to the Chor Minor (Four Minar) in the east.
  • Read all about Bukhara's sights here.
  • Dine at the cafe at Lyab-i-Hauz, enjoying the music and the atmosphere!

 

The Chor Minor is only a 15 minute walk from Lyab-i-Hauz.

 

 

Day 4: Bukhara

  • After a delicious breakfast, get out early, preferably before 8 am and start exploring the western side of the city!
  • Visit the Ark, Bolo Hauz Mosque, the city gardens, the 12th century Po-i-Kalyan complex (Siddique Madrassah and the Mir-i-Arab Madrassah).
  • Don't hesitate to explore the alleys of the old town - they have some beautiful homes and mosques, hidden away from the regular tourist (like the House Museum of Fayzulla Khodjaev) - see here
  • Stop by the Aladdin Restaurant near the Bolo Hauz Mosque for a simple lunch - the hosts are extremely friendly!
  • Stop for an Uzbeki Hammom (steam bath) and experience a new level of relaxation!
  • Dinner at Lyab-i-Hauz makes for a perfect end to a long day. 
  • Keep in mind that you can easily walk the western section of the city through the day whilst enjoying the sights.
    But if you need a taxi, it is very easy to move between these places.
    Every hotel arranges short sightseeing trips - so ask your host for one!
  • Spend the night in Bukhara, and get ready for an early morning/mid-day transfer to Samarkand.

 

The Madrassahs of Bukhara are incredibly fascinating

 

 

Day 5: Bukhara to Samarkand

  • Take the high speed train from Bukhara to Samarkand (Afrosiyob or SharQ) - you can book the tickets here, cheap.
    • This is the government website where we booked tickets directly, without the help of an agent. 
    • Although the page loads in English, station names might still appear in Uzbeki/Russian (like Bukhara might appear as Buxoro in the search bar) - so familiarise yourself with the station names. 
    • Economy class tickets are priced at USD 8 or under.
      Buy the ticket type that allows direct boarding (see on the website, it's easy). 
      Read more in the transport section of the post on Bukhara here
    • The taxi charge to the Buxoro Vokzal (train station) is usually UZS 25,000 to UZS 30,000 (Under USD 4 or ~INR 280). 
  • On arrival in Samarkand, either take a taxi to your hotel, or take the excellent Tram from outside the Vokzal.
    At UZS 1,200 (INR 11), this is the cheapest way of moving around inside Samarkand. 
  • Preferably stay near the Registan, so that you need not walk too far for sightseeing and dining.
    We recommend the Emir BnB, for a warm, wallet friendly experience.
  • Venture out to the Gur-E-Amir (Amir Timur) Mausoleum and the Registan Ensemble for a spectacular decoration in lighting.
  • Grab dinner at the Magister Cafe, near the Amir Timur statue.

 

The Gur-E-Amir, illuminated in the evenings

 

 

Day 6: Samarkand

  • Explore everything that Samarkand has to offer:
    • Gur-E-Amir Mausoleum (in case you only got to see it the night before, see it in day light on this day)
    • The Registan (3 madrassahs in an ensemble)
    • Bibi Khanym Mosque
    • Islam karimov mausoleum, built in honor of the first Uzbeki President, who passed away in 2016.
    • Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis
    • Ulugh Beg Observatory (need a taxi for this one, its about 3 kms away from the Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis)
  • There are many fun things to do near the Registan, at the Islam Karimov statue - rent a bike, eat some local snacks, get family portraits and more!
  • Lunch at one of the many coffee houses or restaurants, for the best Uzbeki meal.
    Western food is more easily available here than in Bukhara and Khiva.
  • The walk through the city covering all the above places (other than the Ulugh Beg Observatory) is about 6 to 8 kms, from the Gur-E-Amir.
    If you do it in the order given above, you can take a cab back to your hotel from Shah-i-Zinda or Ulugh Beg Observatory.
    Taxi rates are usually ~UZS 2,000 per km.
  • Attend the El Merosi cultural show in downtown Samarkand (near Hotel Registan) at 6 pm. Read about it in this article. There is a cafe at the theatre.
  • Dine at one of the local restaurants and call it a night!

 

The Shah-i-Zinda necropolis is so incredibly beautiful

 

 

Day 7: Samarkand to Tashkent

  • Check out early in the morning, and head to the Vokzal (train station) to catch an Afrosiyob high speed train to Tashkent - you can book the tickets here
  • If you have packed breakfast (which you can request your hotel to do for you, the previous night), you can have it on the train.
  • Use the Yandex app to get a cheap taxi ride to your hotel/hostel. 
    Trip.LE and Art Hostel are both very good!
    But if you are looking for classic Soviet era hotels, then consider staying at the Hotel Uzbekistan.
  • Must see: the National History Museum of Uzbekistan - it is about 1 kilometre away from the Amir Timur park.
    Spend about 2 hours there - you can learn a great deal about the evolution of man in the Central Asian region.
  • Visit the Amit Timur square and the gardens near Hotel Uzbekistan. 
  • Take the Metro (the connectivity is excellent, and the network is very clean and efficient, and cheap!) to Chorsu Bazaar, one of the oldest markets in the region.
  • Spend an hour or two at Chorsu Bazaar, sampling the incredible variety of food items.
    You can even buy dry fruits at the upper floor of the market!
  • There is a large mosque behind the Bazaar to consider visiting.
  • Head back to the Amir Timur park for some leisure time in the evening and have dinner at the cafes there.
  • Head to one of the clubs in the city - Tashkent is very popular with the younger crowds - just ask your hotel where you can go for the night!

 

Amir Timur Square, with the iconic Hotel Uzbekistan in the background

 

Day 8: Tashkent

  • Check out from your hotel and head to the airport for your ride back home!
  • If you have more time that day, consider exploring more of the city on your own or just relax at the pool in your hotel - after all, you have, most probably, walked about 40 kilometres in the last few days, at the least!  

 

Of course, you can write to us for any questions you may have on this itinerary - just head to the contact page.

 

Uzbekistan is absolutely charming - just look at that!

 

 

You could do the exact same thing in reverse too... which is what many people do, especially while travelling with tourist agencies:

 

Option 2: Tashkent to Khiva (westward journey)

Please read this itinerary with the day-wise list above - (use days marked in brackets below for reference)

  • Day 1: Arrive in Tashkent and sightseeing in Tashkent (see day 7 above)
  • Day 2: Tashkent to Samarkand (by Afrosiyob train) and explore Samarkand (see days 5 and 6)
  • Day 3: Explore Samarkand (see days 5 and 6 above)
  • Day 4: Take another Afrosiyob or SharQ train to Bukhara (see days 3 and 4 above), sightseeing in Bukhara
  • Day 5: Explore Bukhara (see days 3 and 4 above)
  • Day 6: Bukhara to Khiva by shared Taxi/private car/Marshrutka (minibus) and sightseeing in Khiva (see days 2 and 3 above)
  • Day 7: Explore more of Khiva and take a flight back to Tashkent - flytime: 1.5 hours, costing ~USD 50 (see day 2 above)
  • Day 8: Explore Tashkent and fly back home! (see days 1 and 7 above)

 

 

Read more about UZ here:

 

 

Want to know about what more you can do? Ask us right away!

 

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