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Uzbek visa rules change frequently and depend entirely on the state of the country’s relations with the US and EU. At the time of writing, citizens of the following countries were technically exempt from letters of invitation (LOIs) : Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Malaysia, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. Everybody else needs LOIs, as do citizens of the above countries who are applying for visas outside their country of citizenship. No matter what your citizenship, it will always be much easier and quicker to obtain an Uzbek visa with an LOI. See the website of the travel agency Advantour (www.advantour.com) for updated LOI requirements.

Any Uzbek travel agency can arrange LOI support, but most demand that you also purchase a minimum level of services – usually hotel bookings for at least three nights. A few agencies provide LOI support for a fee with no strings attached, including Arostr and Stantours. Allow two weeks for LOI processing or pay double for four- to five-day processing.

The standard tourist visa is a 30-day, single-entry visa. They cost a flat US$100 for US citizens, slightly less for most other nationalities. Multiple entry costs an additional US$10 per entry. Tourist visas lasting more than 30 days are almost impossible to obtain. Three-day transit visas cost US$30 and require a visa for an onward country (eg Tajikistan).

Visa processing time depends upon the embassy. London, Dushanbe, Bishkek and Almaty can issue on-the-spot visas with an LOI. It may be possible to pick up your visa upon arrival at Tashkent International Airport if there is no Uzbek embassy in your country of residence, but you’ll need full visa support for this from a travel agent.

Visa extensions

A one-week visa extension costing about US$75 is available from the Ministry of Foreign affairs booth at Tashkent International Airport. Travel agents will be reluctant to perform this service so go there on your own. Longer extensions are time-consuming, expensive and involve much red tape. Many frustrated travellers give up and go to neighbouring Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan and buy a new visa. If you insist on trying, seek support from a Tashkent-based travel agency.

Visas for onward travel

Contact David at Stantours for updated information and honest advice. If you can avoid purchasing LOI support, Stantours will tell you.

Afghanistan A 30-day visa costing US$40 is issued on the spot.

Azerbaijan A 30-day visa costing US$40 is issued in maximum three days. No rush service available. An LOI is technically needed but it’s possible to get one without.

ChinaA 60-day visa costs US$30 for five-day processing time, double that for same-day processing. An LOI helps here.

Georgia No visas required for US, EU, Canadian or Japanese citizens staying 90 days or fewer. A 90-day visa forAustralians, Kiwis and South Africans costs about US$40.

India A six-month multiple-entry visa costs US$60 for US citizens, US$40 for UK, EU, Australian citizens; seven-day minimum processing time.

Iran This embassy can be difficult but travellers report recent service improvements. First you must apply for an authorisation through an Iranian agent such as www.iranianvisa.com. From Uzbekistan this costs $US39/72 for regular/rush service. When this finally arrives (check to make sure it has), you can apply for a 30-day tourist visa (valid for three months), which costs $US45 for seven- to 10-day processing, or $US72 for three- to seven-day processing. Women must have hair covered in application photos.

Kazakhstan A 30-day visa (US$35) takes two days to process. An LOI is needed for multiple entry or for visas longer than 30 days.

Kyrgyzstan A 30-day visa costs US$40 for same-day processing. No LOI needed for US, Commonwealth, and most EU citizens.

Pakistan A 30- or 60-day visa costs about US$72 for EU citizens, US$120 for Americans and US$42 for Australians. An LOI is recommended but not mandatory. Two-day processing.

Russia Present original travel voucher and booking confirmation to apply for a 30-day tourist visa. Prices for 10-day processing are about US$70 for US citizens and about US$30 to US$50 for EU and Australian citizens. Pay $25 extra for five-day processing and US$85 extra for same-day rush. Be prepared for long queues.

Tajikistan If at all possible get your Tajik visa elsewhere because this embassy is a nightmare. One-week/two-week/one-month visa costs US$30/40/50. Allow 12 days to process or pay double for a rush, which takes two to five days. Allnationalities require an LOI. Surly staff will direct you towards their favoured travel agent – do not listen to them!

TurkmenistanFive-day transit visas issued without LOI for US$46; allow 10 days to process. Arrive two hours early to put your name on a waiting list. You can keep your passport during processing, but when you pick up the visa you must show a visa for an onward country (eg Azerbaijan). Tourist visas require difficult-to-obtain LOIs and cost US$45 to US$90, with one- to three-day processing. You’ll also need to present a complete itinerary.