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Important things to know before travelling to Uzbekistan (2017)

Out of the most accessible Central Asian countries, Uzbekistan is still the one that makes you feel more controlled. While in its neighbors you don’t need to register anymore, you can just go and stay wherever you want, etc, in Uzbekistan there are still many things you just can’t simply do.

As new laws appear, these things change. So these are the top 4 things I think it’s really important for you to know before traveling to Uzbekistan, as of 2017.

 

    1. Night registrations

If you like traveling totally on your own or even more, hitchhiking and wild-camping, as we do, this will be the thing you will hate the most for sure.

The law in Uzbekistan obligates tourists to be registered every few days in official hotels and guesthouses. The truth is that the law is quite open to different understandings but more or less everybody agrees on:

 

    – In Tashkent & Fergana Valley: (From Tashkent to the east)

You need to be registered every night.

This is quite strict, moreover in Fergana Valley where there are police controls in the road that will register you in or out of the region and will ask for your last registration. If you don’t have it, you may be in trouble. In the other hand, if you travel by plane or train to the region, usually they don’t ask you the registrations.

 

    – The rest of the country: (From Tashkent to the west)

Here is when the law gets a little confusing and nobody really understands it. The law says that at least every three nights you have to be registered. Now, while some understand that the other two nights you don’t need at all any proof of being somewhere you could not register, others say you should be able to, for instance, showing a night train ticket.

All our registration cards after leaving the country.

 

In any of both cases, during the first 72 hours that you are in the country, you will need to make the first registration.

Also, when you get out of the country, the officer will ask you all the registrations, but as a matter of fact, they usually don’t pay much attention to it. In our case, they asked Eugenia’s, check the last ones and gave them back to her without checking them all. And to me, actually they didn’t even ask them.

So more important than when you get out of the country, is to have them on the way because at any point, a police officer can ask your last registration. And also, every time you check in a hotel, they will ask your last one and if your last is not when it should, they may refuse to host you and call the police.

That being said, probably you guessed by now that Couchsurfing in Uzbekistan is kind of prohibited. You can do it since as you will see, there are many hosts willing to accommodate guests but you may get them in big trouble if authorities find out.

 

    2. Black market money exchange

This is a so important thing to know also.

Looks like that because of the inflation the Uzbek Som, the national currency has lost a big part of its value. The Central Bank of Uzbekistan refuses to see this problem and that’s why you will find in the official exchange businesses and in the banks a change rate totally different than the one in the streets.

While the government says that 1 USD is worth 4.100 UZS, in the streets they will give you around 8.300 UZS (in August 2017). And while the government says that 1 EUR is worth 4.800 UZS, in the streets you will be getting the same amount of USD or up to 9.000 UZS.

The feeling of being super-rich after having just changed 50 USD…

 

So basically if you change with the official rate, you will be spending double. First time they tell you about it, you feel like you are going to be a criminal in a dark street treating with the local mafia, but the fact is that everywhere you go you will find this black market change: in any bazaar, center of a city, shop, little hotel and hostels, etc.

What you need to be aware is that many people trick you in the street and since they give you so many bills, many of them are of less value than there should be. In order to avoid this, I would recommend you to change in a place you can trust the person and calmly count it before the other person disappears.

You can check the last black market rate at the website Uzdollar. Even if it’s not exact and usually indicates below that the one you can find in the streets, it will give you an idea.

 

    3. The lodging has to be paid in USD

In order to battle the black market exchange, starting this year a new law has been approved that obligates the tourist to pay their accommodation only in USD.

Get used to this while paying for your stays!

 

It’s obvious why it’s been done. If for a private room or bed in a dorm they charge you in Uzbek Som, most of the tourist will go to the black market and get the accommodation half price, right? That’s why they obligate you to pay in USD, so they make sure that at least a part of your budget doesn’t go also to the black market.

In any case, we have seen some small properties accepting Uzbek Som or other ones accepting even Euro.

And also, many tourist attractions have their prices in USD but you can pay in SOM.

 

    4. Don’t leave the country with more foreign money that you got in

This thing also surprised us a lot and you should know well about it or you will have some bad memories about when you left the country.

When you enter Uzbekistan, you will have to make a declaration with all the money in different currencies and the values of the goods you bring with you. You will have to write two copies and they will keep one and you will have to keep the other. Do not lose it since you will not be able to leave the country without it.

My declaration after the police officers checked it and approved it.

 

When leaving the country you will have to write another declaration saying the money in different currencies you bring with you, and here is the thing, if you want to get out of the country with more foreign money that you had when you got in, they will confiscate you the difference.

While we said that usually getting out of the country they don’t check much about the registrations slips, in this case, they do check. So make sure to bring quite a lot of money getting in the country instead of thinking about getting it there in ATM’s.

 
And that’s quite it. The truth is that even if we were thinking that these strict policies would kind of spoil a little our experience in the country, we have to say that in the end, they are more flexible than it would look like according to the law.

So just keep them in mind and enjoy your trip!

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