Life is absolutely flying by this year and I don’t know how we are now mid-May! It has been almost a month since I returned from my trip to Uzbekistan (and done some others since even!), but before my memories get more and more blurry, I am trying to get as much down on ‘paper’ so that I can share some tips and tricks for my fellow travellers who are visiting or are planning to visit Uzbekistan in the near future. I began my series of Uzbek blog posts this Monday, featuring the gorgeous Hyatt Regency Tashkent, who I had the honour of working with whilst I was there. If you haven’t checked that out yet, click here! I would love to get your feedback! There’s more to come on that but I’ll release it in the next couple of weeks.
In the meantime, this is a short but sweet blog post sharing my travel itinerary. Needless to say, there were a whole lot of planes, trains and car rides and I thought it would be useful to share my research, so that you don’t have to start from scratch. I am also going to try my best to keep two of these blog posts coming each and every week so please stayed tuned if Uzbekistan is on your radar.
As many of you know, I live in London which sometimes feels like the centre of the world. Why? Because you can get a direct flight to practically anywhere. I’ve flown direct to some of the most obscure places, and so for us it made sense to do the same on this occasion.
Uzbekistan Airways fly from London Heathrow Terminal 4 direct into the capital, Tashkent, on a flight that lasts somewhere between 7 and 8 hours. I’ll admit it’s a long overnight flight and to my knowledge, no class offers a fully flat bed. Yes, the seats are wider in business class, and they do recline a little more, but we did not think it was worth that difference in cost. If you are flying in to Tashkent and looking for pure luxury with a fully flat bed, then indirect is the way to go. Of course, it will depend on your starting point, but I think Moscow or Istanbul are the most obvious connecting points with airlines that offer higher cabins with a fully flat bed.
So you’ve arrived at Tashkent and need to get around. You have a few options! I wasn’t up for renting a car, just because I feel like I’m not used to driving in foreign countries. Taxis are very cheap, and I would recommend booking one to collect you from the airport via your hotel. Alternatively, you can also use Yandex – an app very similar to Uber. A lot of the main sites are also pretty close to each other so you can cover a whole lot of ground on foot. If you have the time, definitely check out the metros! Just like Moscow, Tashkent has some of the most beautifully decorated metro stations I have seen anywhere in the world. A ban on photography in the Tashkent metro was only lifted last summer!
Once you’ve had your fill of Tashkent, there are three other cities that deserve your attention, and these are Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand. Bukhara is located in the middle of the three, however it’s up to you where you want to continue your journey – be it either Khiva or Samarkand. We opted for the former, so the itinerary below will reflect that, although this is by no means the only way to do it! The most time efficient way to get to Khiva from Tashkent is by plane. Internal flights within Uzbekistan Airways are incredibly well-priced and it saves so much time as opposed to trains or cars. Here, I would recommend booking business class – very well priced and worth the extra room.
You’ll need to fly into Urgench International Airport and take a cab into the old city – around $15 to $20, but ALWAYS haggle a little. Once in Khiva, it’s pretty easy to get where you want to be on foot. The walled inner town of Khiva is known as Itchan-Kala – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No cars are allowed within these walls so you are free to explore on foot. If you have the time, there are some beautiful fortresses you could visit about an hour and a half outside of Khiva. To see these I would recommend you get a driver for the day. We paid about $70 for the ride, although you could probably get it for less if you haggle a little.
From Khiva, we headed back to Urgench airport to fly to Bukhara. A shorter flight of about an hour. Of course, there is the option of a train or taxi, but since the flight wasn’t yet full, we decided to go for the fastest option. This is a really important point to note: tickets for internal flights and train tickets sell out FAST. As soon as you know you are going, make booking these a priority. Once in Bukhara, most of the sites can be seen on foot, with the odd taxi to places like Chor Bakr, Mohi Khosa Summer Palace and Bahauddin Nakshband. More to come on all that in a future post.
When it was time to move on, we decided to take the train to our next destination, Samarkand. We used the Afrosiyob train, the new high speed train that gets you over to Samarkand in about an hour and a half. Clean, modern and efficient! Do be aware that you will need to book your tickets online via website such as Real Russia. They will of course be significantly more expensive than if you were to buy them at the station, but if you don’t book ahead of time you run the risk of the trains being completely full, especially in peak season (and then you’ll have to drive or fly). Now we had opted for them to post us our tickets to London, but because I am all over the place I left these behind… (UGH). Panic. If this happens to you, fret not. Real Russia were able to send us electronic tickets. Everyone was a little unsure as to whether they would be accepted, but luckily they were!!
Upon arriving in Samarkand, you will realise that it is very different to both Khiva and Bukhara in that the city is sprawling! The sites are all a car ride away from each other, and you can either contact your hotel to organise a tour guide and car or go around solo with taxis. Average price for a car and driver is around $60.
For the last leg, once again we caught a train from Samarkand to Tashkent. It was a longish journey of around 3 hours and therefore we decided to spend a little more and get a cabin to ourselves in first class. The Sharq train was definitely not half as modern as the Afrosiab – in fact I would probably say a little dated. On a positive note though, having the private room for a 3 hour journey was great. So great in fact that I made myself comfortable and snoozed for almost the whole ride! For those wondering, to my knowledge no food or drinks were offered (and I say that as I was asleep), so you may want to consider bringing some water and snacks for the journey.
And there you have it! You may have noticed that this post did not mention any of the sites we visited and there is a reason. I really wanted this to be about planning, planes and trains, as well to give you my full itinerary so that you don’t have to start from scratch. I will be putting together separate articles on each of the towns and the various things to see in each one. I hope this has been useful to you and that you will consider this beautiful destination for an upcoming holiday soon. Please feel free to drop me an email if you have any questions, or just pop your comments below! I’m also happy to share the itinerary as a PDF if anyone wants it 🙂
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