Our travels in Uzbekistan
Whilst we were travelling in Uzbekistan, we utilised a number of different modes of transport. Below is a summary of where we went, the mode of transport used, the length of time the journey took, and how far it was.
|Journey||Mode of transport||Distance (miles)||Time taken||Cost per person (Som)|
|Aktau (Kazakhstan) to Khiva||Sleeper train/taxi||595/126||30 hrs/2 hrs 30 mins||13,400 (Tenge) /$30|
|Khiva to Bukhara||Trolley bus/train||20/263||1 hr/6 hrs 30 mins||1,500/97,500|
|Bukhara to Samakand||Train||155||2 hrs 20 mins||75,500|
|Samakand to Tashkent||Train (Talgo)||198||2 hrs 16 mins||207,500|
|Tashkent (Uzbekistan) to Almaty||Sleeper train||615||16 hrs 46 mins||312,500|
Accommodation is available to suit all budgets in Uzbekistan. Our experience is that you get what you pay for. We stayed in a number of different places on our travels throughout the country. Using Booking.com and Airbnb to book the accommodation. From our experience, the hotels, guest houses, and apartments that we stayed in were basically furnished but clean.
Don’t expect tea/coffee making facilities in hotels or guest houses. Bathrooms are western style, with bath and shower. Toiletries were provided.
WiFi may be advertised as being available, generally, it is, but the signal strength and quality can be poor in the rooms that aren’t close to the router.
Uzbekistan’s railway network has over 4,669 km track from its Soviet past. This allows travel around this vast country. Train tickets can sell out very quickly, especially during the summer. It is always best to book your tickets a few days in advance. Tickets can be booked in a number of different ways. Booking online is popular as it can be done whilst on the go. However, this isn’t always possible. Booking of tickets at the station is another option.
Online ticket purchases
Purchasing tickets online for travel on Uzbek trains can be done through a number of different sites. The most popular being –
Tutu Tutu.ru has been operating since 2003. First, the website published suburban train schedules. Then it started selling train tickets. Now it has grown to become a large ticket provider for travellers.
12Go Asia provides all travel services on a single platform for comparison and interline ticketing.
Our personal preference was to use Tutu for the purchase of train tickets while we travelled both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. We found that the fees were less than the others. The site was simple and easy to use.
Purchasing tickets at a station
Ticket purchases at the station can be a long process. Firstly, the booking clerk probably won’t speak anything other than Uzbek. This makes communicating your preferred train and seats difficult. Secondly, there will be quite a few people buying tickets.
Don’t expect an orderly queue at the counter. Older Uzbek passengers have a tendency to just walk straight up to the counter, regardless of any queue. So prepare for a lengthy frustrating wait if purchasing tickets at a station.
Once you have your ticket, the most important things to know are the date and time of departure and the carriage number. Check the signboards in the station to find the platform number of the train. The conductor will check your passport and ticket and help you, board.
There are three types of trains in Kazakhstan. The Afrosiyob high-speed train. The fast Sharq Express train and the regular train.
The Afrosiyob high speed and Sharq Express train
Modern, slick trains. Commonly found on routes to and from Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bukhara. Ticket prices are more expensive, as they are quicker. We used it for traveling from Tashkent to Almaty in Kazakhstan.
These trains have three classes
Economy class. Business class and VIP class.
The Regular train
The remnants of the old Soviet rolling stock. These trains have an average speed of only 50 km/h, making the long journeys even longer.
The Regular train has four classes of carriages. Not all available on every train.
Lyux, consisting of 2-bed compartments, with or without private bathrooms.
Kupé, consisting of 4 bed compartments.
Platzkart, consisting of 6 bed compartments, 3 beds on one side and 3 beds on the other. A further 2 beds are on the other side of the carriage. The bottom bed being able to be configured as a table and chairs.
Obshy, consisting of seats only.
Which class should you choose?
Only you know the answer to that question. In our opinion, everyone should try the platzkart at least once. It is very social and despite the language barrier, we had hours of fun communicating with the locals around us. The downside, it can be noisy, get a bit stuffy and towards the end of the journey, a bit smelly.
Lyux and kupé offer more privacy and comfort.
Ticket availability will make the decision for you sometimes.
Clean bed linen, pillow, and a blanket are provided regardless of which class you travel in.
Toilets are at the end of each carriage. The cleanliness varies from train to train and carriage to carriage. Generally, there won’t be any toilet paper. Toilets are locked anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes before and after stations. Plan using them accordingly.
All carriages have a samovar at one end. A hot water dispenser, allowing tea, coffee or even instant noodles to be made.
Luggage storage is under the bottom bunk.
General tips & advice for train travel
Allow plenty of time between connections. Trains can be an hour late.
Many train stations in Uzbekistan are opulent Soviet buildings, worth having a look at. Restaurant carriages are on some trains. Vendors also get on at most stops, selling various food and drink.
If you are lucky, you may be near an electrical point.
Take food to share (tea/coffee, instant noodles, sausage, cucumbers, bread, biscuits, apples, sweets).
A mug, fork/spoon/knife, toilet paper, plate and wet wipes are all essential on the long journeys.
Have a comfortable change of clothes to wear onboard (tracksuit, shorts, and T-shirt). Don’t be afraid to ask others to step outside while you change, it’s normal.
If you like lounging around, book an upper bed. The middle bed of platzkart will be folded against the wall, with the bottom bunk used as shared seating during the day.
If you do have a top bed, there is a knack into how to get up there. Just watch the locals and learn.
The Tashkent Metro is open every day from 0500 hrs until 0000 hrs. Made up of three lines, the Red (Chilonzor) line, the Blue (Ozbekiston) line, and the Green (Yunusobod) line. There is a ticket office at the entrance of every metro station which is indicated by a sign “Kassa”.
Tokens for the metro are purchased at the ticket office for 1,400 Som each.
Entry to the metro is by a turnstile which is operated by the token purchased at the ticket office. One token allows unlimited use of the metro, provided you don’t exit a station.
The Metro system was clean, fast, empty, and safe. Slightly confusing at the station that we changed trains at because the intersection station has a different station name for each of the lines! The stations themselves are large architectural masterpieces. It’s not uncommon for the stations to have chandeliers hanging from the ceilings.
Expect to have your backpacks and luggage put through a scanner on entering a station.
Uzbekistan is a country where cash is king. ATM’s are not common. The ones that we did find only accepted Visa and not MasterCard. Luckily we had a Visa card as well as a Mastercard. Ensure you have sufficient cash with you at all times. Paying by debit/credit card is not an option in most places.