ATMs in major cities. Currency reforms in 2017 brought major change, making the black market obsolete.
ATMs can be found in most of Tashkent's top-end hotels, in a couple of hotels outside the capital and in a few banks, but they are frequently out of order. Try to avoid using ATMs on a Sunday, when they are almost always out of cash.
In the provinces, cash advances are generally possible at Asaka Bank for MasterCard holders and at Kapital Bank or the National Bank of Uzbekistan (NBU) for Visa cardholders. If these are not working, try Orient Finanz Bank for MasterCard, or Ipak Yuli Bank for Visa. Commissions are standard at 3%.
The currency in Uzbekistan is the som (S), sometimes spelled s'om or soum. It's easy to feel rich in Uzbekistan – the highest Uzbek note (50,000S) was only introduced in 2017 and is currently worth around US$6.
Until recently tourists used to have to pay for accommodation in hard currency, meaning you had to bring wads of cash US dollars with you, but since September 2017 tourists now have to pay in Uzbek som, meaning you now have to travel with large wads of Uzbek som.
Cash US dollars are still the easiest way to change money into som. Make sure they are pristine notes with no marks on them. Euros can also be used and changed, but it's not as easy.
Banks in major cities can give you a US dollar cash advance on a Visa or MasterCard for a 3% commission but these can take time to track down. Most midrange and top-end hotels accept Visa cards.
Official exchange booths at airports, hotels and the National Bank of Uzbekistan and several private banks will change most currencies into Uzbek som, though US dollars and euros are the easiest currencies.
Since currency reforms in 2017 the government exchange rate now reflects the market rate and so there's no need to seek out the black market, which has largely evaporated.
In general tipping is not all that common in Uzbekistan.
- Restaurants A service charge of 10% to 15% is added to many restaurant bills; it's good form to add a similar amount if it's not added automatically.
- Guides Will often expect a tip, especially from larger groups.
The Black Market
Until 2017 Uzbekistan had a thriving currency black market that offered travellers 50% more som for their dollars than the artificially low fixed government rate.
In September 2017 the currency was deregulated and instantly lost half of its value, bringing it on a par with the former black market, which effectively disappeared overnight. A black market might return, since Uzbeks can still can not freely convert som into US dollars, but it is unlikely to have the prevalence or advantages of the old black market.
2017's Currency Reforms
In September 2017, the Uzbekistan government introduced major currency reforms, bringing the previously artificially low Uzbek som in line with free market rates and thus effectively doing away with the black market.
It also reversed the law requiring foreigners to pay for their accommodation in foreign currency, meaning that foreigners are now required to pay in Uzbek som. The rate you pay will be similar to the amount previously listed in US dollars, but will have to be paid in Uzbek som converted at the current bank rate.
In general, prices in som for hotels, food and transportation have remained the same since the reforms and the currency remains relatively stable, but be prepared for price variances, especially for entry fees, which will likely rise in many places, as these were previously calculated using the government's artificially low som rate.
One anomaly is domestic flights with Uzbekistan Airlines, which at the time of writing were still being priced in Uzbek som using the artificially low pre-reform government rate. It's unlikely that this system can be maintained, but as long as it is, travellers can enjoy bargain-priced domestic flights.