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Uzbekistan

Getting around

Car & motorcycle

Car

Driving your own car is possible, provided you have insurance from your home country and a valid international driving licence. Be prepared for the same kind of hassles you’ll experience anywhere in the former Soviet Union: lots of random stops and traffic cops fishing for bribes. There are no car-rental agencies. In Uzbekistan, motorists drive on the right and seat belts are not at all required.

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Bus & tram

Bus & marshrutka

Clapped-out state buses are fast disappearing from Uzbek roads, undercut by a boom in private buses that do not keep schedules and leave when full. They are newer and more comfortable, but can be slow as drivers and touts are preoccupied with over-selling seats and transporting cargo and contraband.

Marshrutkas take the form of 11- to 14-seat vans, or seven-seat Daewoo Damas minvans.

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Train

Trains

Trains are perhaps the most comfortable and safest, if hardly the fastest, method of intercity transport. That said, the new ‘high-speed’ commuter trains between Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara, with airplane-style seating, are not much slower than a shared taxi and a lot more comfortable. Book them a couple days in advance, as they are popular.

Other long-haul trains are of the deliberate but comfortable Soviet variety, with platskartny (hard sleeper), kupeyny (soft sleeper) and sometimes dirt-cheap obshy (general) compartments available.

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Air

Most routes along the tourist trail are well-served by domestic flights to/from Tashkent, if not to each other. If you book fewer than three days in advance, Uzbekistan Airways will usually say the plane is full. In that case, paying a ‘finder’s fee’ (to the ticket agent or touts on the street) of US$5 to US$20 should free up a blocked seat. Buying a ticket for a later date and flying stand-by often works too.

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