Tashkent – What a nice place!

We didn’t really know what to expect from Tashkent and have been pleasantly surprised. It’s open, airy, spacious and there seem to be very few people around. I asked someone if they ever had traffic jams and they said ‘once or twice a year’. The streets are wide, everything sprawls over vast distances and most people move around underground on the Metro.


There are policemen at least every 100m on every main street, looking bored, stopping cars, extracting bribes, getting together in groups and having a cigarette. What they are there for I have no idea, on the Metro there are several wandering around each station, in different uniforms, making sure the population obey the rules. This is one of the few indications that Uzbekistan is a police state, along with the necessary foreigner registration in every hotel.

 We had heard reports that travellers get hassled by these policemen, but no-one ever stopped us in our time in Tashkent, and on the road we have been flagged down a few times but have just ignored them and carried on….
The city has lots of large buildings and loads of expensive hotels, the Intercontinental, Radissons etc with gold encrusted Russians and fat business men milling around their foyers.


Money is a real hassle, the largest note is worth 60 US cents so if you change money you are left with a wad of notes several cm thick. ATM’s (Bankomats) consequently never have any money in them as all it takes is a few customers to exhaust their supplies and no-one has thought to issue bigger notes or fill them up more quickly. Most people just use dollars so Uzbekistan is one of the weird countries where the dollar goes up in value all the time, as no-one wants their own currency ‘Som’.

One thing to note is that if you have a Mastercard/Maestro then you can withdraw dollars for 0% commission from the Bankomats, those of us with only Visa/Plus etc have no option but to get advances on their cards from Banks. The rate for Soms is 30% less than the black market and you also pay charges for the cash advance!!! so taking dollars from the cash advance is the best method, and then change them on the street for Soms, being careful not to do it near any policemen.
For all it’s oddness, and the obvious huge disparity of wealth between the few rich people and the majority of the population, the people of Tashkent are incredibly friendly and helpful and surprisingly many speak good English. We never had any problems finding anything and also discovered a row of useful bike shops where we were able to pick up some spare spokes and replace a cycle computer.IMG_3166

One of the more interesting places was the market in Chorsu, full of gorgeous food and friendly people.

We were able to sort out our onward visas quite quickly so after 3 days we headed off down the road towards Samarkand, excited to be finally able to start covering some distance again.


For more info about visas for Turkmenistan and Iran go to the visa section of this site.

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