Getting there & away
The Friendship Bridge linking Termiz with northern Afghanistan was finally opened to tourist traffic in 2005. While Afghan officials seem happy with this arrangement, the Uzbeks frequently close their side of the border for security or other concerns. Contact OVIR or a reliable travel agency in Tashkent before attempting this border crossing, which may require – and in any case will be easier with – official (written) permission from the Uzbek government.
To get to the border from Termiz, take marshrutka 21 from Yubileny Bazaar (200S, 20 minutes). The bridge is 10km south of town. From the Afghan side you’re looking at about a US$10 taxi ride to Mazar-e-Sharif.
Despite their very long common border there are just two main places to cross. The more common is the Chernyaevka crossing between Tashkent and Shymkent. By all accounts this is a chaotic, unpredictable border; some travellers report breezing through, others report waits of up to six hours. If it looks bad it may be worth paying a US$10 to US$15 fast-track fee to one of the ‘facilitators’ hanging about on both sides of the border. There are reports of corruption on both sides, but especially on the Kazakh side.
It’s a 6000S cab ride to the border from central Tashkent, or you can take a cheaper shared taxi or marshrutka from Yunusabadsky Bazaar. You’ll have to walk the final 200m through a series of check posts. The border is open 7am to 9pm (Tashkent time). On the Kazakh side, pick up a shared taxi or marshrutka to Turkistan or Shymkent (US$4). There is also a Tuesday Tashkent–Almaty train (55, 000S, 25 hours) that originates in Nukus.
The other crossing is by train or road between Karakalpakstan and Beyneu in western Kazakhstan. Uzbek customs is in Kungrad, a good 225km southeast of the border crossing. The daily trains from Kungrad to Beyneu leave at 7.40am (10 hours).
The only border crossings into Kyrgyzstan that are open to foreigners are at Uchkurgan (northeast of Namangan); Dustlyk (Dostyk), between Andijon and Osh; and Khanabad (between Andijon and Jalal-Abad). These crossings are generally hassle-free, although they have become more strict since the Andijon incident in May 2005. Shared taxis and minibuses are plentiful on the Kyrgyz side of any crossing you take. Most travellers use the Osh crossing. Take a marshrutka from Andijon to Dustlyk, walk across the border and pick up public transport on the other side for the short trip to Osh.
Thrice-daily Tashkent–Bishkek buses (US$8, 12 hours) pass through a long section of Kazakhstan and you will need a transit visa. You must catch this bus on the Kazakh side of the Chernyaevka border crossing north of Tashkent.
Most travellers making a beeline from Tashkent to Dushanbe drive to Khojand via the pain-free Oybek border crossing and then take a Tajik domestic flight. To get to this border from Tashkent take a marshrutka or shared taxi from Qoylok Bazaar to Bekobod and get off at Oybek (marshrutka/taxi per seat 2500/5000S, 1½ hours), about 35km shy of Bekobod, near Chanak village. The border post is visible from the road. Once acrossthe border take a taxi to Khojand (US$10) or a taxi to nearby Bostan (5TJS) and then a minibus to Khojand. An ordinary taxi between Tashkent and Oybek costs about US$30.
The other main border crossings areSamarkand–Penjikent and Denau–Tursanzade. Marshrutkas to the Penjikent border depart regularly from the Registan stop in Samarkand (1500S, 45 minutes). Walk across the border and pick up a shared or ordinary taxi (per seat US$2) for the 22km ride to Penjikent. You may have to remind the Tajik border guards to stamp your passport.
Denau is a two-hour drive from Termiz, a five-hour drive from Samarkand, or a six-hour drive from Bukhara, with regular shared taxis making the trip from each city. Shared taxis from Samarkand (per seat 20,000S) and Bukhara (25,000S) do not go through Termiz. From Termiz, there are regular marshrutkas to Denau (departing from Yubileney Bazaar) and a morning train to the border town of Sariosiyo (5000S, four hours). In Tajikistan, a taxi from Tursanzade to Dushanbe takes 45 minutes and costs US$10.
The three main border points are reached from Bukhara, Khiva/Urgench and Nukus. You have to pay US$12 to enter Turkmenistan (US$10 entrance fee, US$2 bank charge) and you need dollars for this. Each crossing requires a potentially sweltering walk of 10 to 20 minutes across no-man’s-land.
From Bukhara, regular shared taxis (per seat 2000S, 40 minutes) and marshrutkas (1000S) make the trip from the Kolkhozny Bazaar to Olot (or Qarakol), about 7kmshort of the border, from where you’ll haveto hire your own car for about 2000S. Ashared taxi from there to Turkmenabatshould cost you around US$0.50 for the 40-minute drive. Readers report that this bor-der crossing closes for lunch between 1pm and 2pm.
From Khiva or Urgench it costs about 15,000S to hire a car to the border, from where it’s a short, US$1 taxi ride to Dashogus. Alternatively, you can take a cheaper shared taxi or marshrutka to Shovot and catch a taxi there for about 3000S. In Khiva, shared taxis to Shovot leave from a stand about 100m east of the East Gate; in Urgench they leave from the bazaar.
From Nukus it’s about a 10, 000S, 30km ride to the Konye-Urgench border crossing. Alternatively, take public transport to Hojeli and take a shared taxi fromHojeli to the border (per seat 1000S). Once you’ve walked across the border you can pick up a shared taxi to Konye-Urgench (US$0.75).
As long as your papers are in order, entering Uzbekistan should be no sweat. You will be asked to fill out two identical customs declarations forms, one to turn in and one to keep (which will be handed in upon departure). The customs form is necessary for changing travellers cheques and will smooth your departure, so don’t lose it. Be sure to declare every cent of every type of money you bring in; travellers have reported being hassled for the most minor discrepancies, especially at land border crossings.
If arriving by air, your grand entrance into Uzbekistan will most likely occur at Tashkent International Airport (37-40 28 01, VIP 37-54 86 48). A few flights from Russia arrive in regional hubs such as Samarkand, Bukhara and Urgench.
The numerous aviakassa (private ticket kiosks) scattered around major cities can help book international tickets on Uzbekistan Airways and other airlines.
Sample fares on Uzbekistan Airways to/from Tashkent at the time of research were (one way/return) Almaty US$185/330; Ashgabat US$170/279; Astana US$230/396; Baku US$324/375; Bangkok US$540/622; Bishkek US$145/259; Delhi US$345/460; Frank-furt US$560/755; London US$560/780; Moscow US$270/429; Paris US$560/760. It’s not a bad idea to reconfirm international tickets with Uzbekistan Airways a week or two before your departure in high season.
There is no departure tax for domestic or international flights from Uzbekistan.