Lonely Planet Writer

Good news for rail travellers as Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan service launches

A newly launched passenger train service rolled into Astana’s new railway station this week, giving travellers an easy route between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Uzbekistan, Silk Road, Samarkand, listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, Registan Square, Sher Dor Madrasah.
A new train route connects to Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Image by DOZIER Marc / hemis.fr/Getty Images

The “Samarkand-Tashkent-Astana” train connects cities in the two Central Asian countries and is part of the countries’ plans to strengthen their bilateral cooperation. The launch of the train was organised by the rail service in each country, and on 3 June, it made its inaugural journey through the cities of Tashkent, Saryagash, Shymkent, Taraz, Shu, Saryshagan, Karaganda. The first passengers and dignitaries were greeted at the new station in the Kazakh capital.

Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Astana, View of city and Ak Orda Presidential Palace
A new train route will connect Astana with nearby cities. Image by Gavin Hellier/Getty Images

The train is hoped to not only improve transit connections and relations between the two countries but also to contribute to the development of tourism in each region. To push to grow tourism is particularly strong in Kazakhstan as Expo 2017 kicks off in the capital on 10 June. The international event will bring in people from around the world for the specialised expo on the theme of “Future Energy”. The expo will run until 10 September and will feature 3000 themed, cultural and entertainment events. To make it even easier for visitors, earlier this year, the country abolished visa requirements for travellers from 45 countries.

And this is not the only new connection between Uzbekistan and neighbouring countries. On 11 April, for the first time in more than 20 years, passenger planes took flight between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Flights run twice a week and take only an hour – cutting down the travel time from more than 10 hours by car.