Is it safe to travel to Uzbekistan, especially if you want to try solo traveling and you are a female? Is Uzbekistan safe? I discover the untold truth about Uzbekistan tourism safety and unfold the five main threats that you can face when you travel to Uzbekistan.
The “stan” in the name certainly doesn’t help with the country’s perception in the west. When I announced my travel plans, my friends and family were giving me surprised and confused looks.
Uzbekistan tourism safety was of everyone’s concern, together with limited information about the country. Weirdly, if something is new or unknown to some people, it is easier for them to assume that it’s not safe. Not many western tourists travel to Central Asia, Uzbekistan included. “Is it safe in Uzbekistan? What is there to visit in Uzbekistan and why would you think about Uzbekistan travel in the first place?” are the questions I was getting.
Yet, I traveled solo to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and managed to survive. Here is what I uncovered in the process.
Is Uzbekistan safe?
Everyone was so concerned about me before I went to Uzbekistan, that I thought that there must be something about it. You know, when you hear something from one person, and then another and another, it makes your mind start to wonder, even if you don’t agree with it.
Read more: Backpacking Uzbekistan itinerary
Uzbekistan solo travel
Like, if it wasn’t enough for everyone getting scared for me going to this wild, unknown, far away land of Uzbekistan, I decided to travel to Uzbekistan solo. I love solo traveling (as well as I love traveling with company, the key is a balance), and I always wanted to visit Central Asia together with the historic Silk Road, untouched and varied landscaped of Kazakhstan and wild mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Suddenly I had the opportunity to travel there alone, so I grabbed it.
Uzbekistan solo or with a tour
I traveled to Uzbekistan solo and loved it. However, because it is still the country located a bit off the beaten path, I would recommend solo travel there only to experienced travelers. Preferably to those who speak at least basic Russian, or who can get around easily even without knowing the local language.
If you are not an experienced independent traveler, but you still want to visit Uzbekistan (you should!), you might be better with going for a tour instead.
Here are some of the most popular tours in Uzbekistan:
Uzbekistan tourism safety – 5 threats you can face in Uzbekistan
It all became clear when I finally tried solo travel in Uzbekistan and discovered it for myself. I spent a week in Uzbekistan, using transportation like train, shared taxi or a bus, which allowed me to be close to local people. I stayed in hostels, or small local hotels, most of the time sharing the room with others.
#1 Verbal threats
People will talk to you, even if you don’t understand their language.
Uzbek people like to talk. And they are very interested in visitors traveling to their country. With the limited number of western tourists everyone looking like a traveler from far, gets the attention of the locals, whether they like it or not.
The friendly Uzbek nation likes to know everything about you. Why you are there, where do you come from, what do you like in the country the most, where is your husband (or wife) and much more. As a female, and a solo female traveler, I was mainly approached by other women, curious, welcoming and friendly.
Not even once I felt threatened by the unwelcome male attention. I met wonderful people, exchanged smiles and conversations and even though I was traveling alone, I never felt lonely.
So remember, it can be a serious threat if you are just trying to have some alone time in Uzbekistan. Sorry, not sorry, you’d need to push it through and meet some locals when solo traveling in Uzbekistan. It is worth it!
#2 Physical threats
Well, there will be hugs.
There are very serious physical dangers waiting for you in Uzbekistan if you are a female solo traveler. And they all come from the elderly, sweet Uzbek ladies. They come to you, talk and smile and then give you the most encouraging hugs. By that, they want to send you strength and blessings for your journey.
Somehow, they immediately become your Uzbek mums and grandmothers. If you are not a hugger, then, well, you can try to escape. But even if you are a grumpy person who hates other people, and you think you don’t need anyone’s care or attention, after a strong hug from big Uzbek lady, you will feel like the world is a good place.
#3 Suspicious liquid
You will have liters of tea forced into you.
Imagine having to drink a never-ending number of cups of fresh, aromatic tea, multiple times a day. You will be served tea with your meal, as a dessert, when you wait for somebody or something, as a welcome treat, at the start and the end of the day. You will also be asked to join groups of locals having tea under the trees and by the ponds. This was a constant case for me in Bukhara.
Tea is the national drink of Uzbekistan. Not a fan of tea? You might be in danger of starting to like it in Uzbekistan.
#4 Bribes and “kidnappings”
Strangers will give you gifts, invite to their houses and pay for your meals.
Do you think that bribes and kidnappings are a common thing in Uzbekistan? People will give you gifts and not want anything in return. They will also try to invite you into their houses and feed you with their traditional food.
You don’t really know what to do when people give you stuff and ask to visit them in their house? Then you might have a problem in Uzbekistan. The hospitality of Uzbekistan people (and Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, too) shows with them wanting to give you the best the country has to offer.
I ended up with a wall frame of the Uzbek president that was supposed to protect me for the rest of my trip. I was also invited to the house of locals, but unfortunately, I had to leave the city. Another time, in Khiva, I was invited to the meal in the restaurant by a group of Kyrgyz travelers. It looks like all the nations from Central Asia share this characteristic – hospitality.
#5 Breaking of your (diet-related) resolutions
Forget about your diet, you will put on weight anyway.
If you are trying to lose some weight, do not come to Uzbekistan. The food is so delicious and cheap (and full of carbs!), that you will not be able to stop eating it.
Lagman, manty, shashlik, fresh tomatoes, crispy cucumbers, juicy pomegranates, sweet halva, amazing bread, a variety of milk products – simple but delicious. Overeating is a serious threat in Uzbekistan!
Is it only roses and unicorns?
Of course not. As in every other country, petty crime can happen and you need to be careful. But it’s all within the normal common-sense limits.
Also, traveling alone anywhere in the world requires us to be focused and cautious at all times. And traveling, in general, has its downsides, too.
I had a few bad moments in Uzbekistan. When I was walking hungry and angry passing by the marvellous things to do in Samarkand on the weekend, but I couldn’t care less since I wanted to eat and couldn’t find any working ATM, bank or money exchange for kilometres. Or when the owners of my hostel in Khiva were rude and money-focused, and after a tour that I paid extra for, they left me stranded alone in the middle of the motorway, 5 km away from the airport where I soon had a flight from.
Yet, these situations are exemptions and can happen anywhere. Generally, I loved my solo travel time in Central Asia.
On a more serious note – Uzbekistan safety facts
One thing to note before you travel to Uzbekistan is that the country is changing. Before my Central Asia trip, I’ve read multiple reports about common bribery, invigilation on the borders, police control of the travelers and exchanging money on the black market.
This is now in the past. The new president Shavkat Mirziyoyev is working hard on the improvement of the public perception of the law in Uzbekistan and encouraging international tourism. In the Solo travel safety report that compiles data from Gallup Global Law and Order Report, Global peace Index and the guidelines from FCO, Uzbekistan ranked as the fifth-safest country for solo travel in the world after Singapore, Norway, and Iceland.
For me, the immigration in Uzbekistan was a breeze, I didn’t get asked a single question on the departure, nor been asked for the registration slips (which are still required by the law enforcement). I also didn’t have any problems with local police officers.
As usual, it is not advised to take photos of government buildings or workers.
Uzbekistan is predominantly a Muslim country and as a traveler, you need to respect that and act accordingly.
From other laws, it’s worth noting that homosexuality is illegal and punishable for up to 3 years in prison. The terrorist threat can happen (as it can happen in London, for example), so it is always advisable to check your government websites for advice on a current situation and travel safety in Uzbekistan. If you are wondering, the land crossing with Afghanistan is one of the most guarded in the world.
Where to stay in Uzbekistan to be safe?
I stayed in a variety of accommodations during my trip to Uzbekistan and I didn’t have a problem with any of them. Here are the places I stayed in.
- Sunrise Caravan Hotel – Check prices and availability here.
- Tashkent Amir Khan Hostel – Check prices and availability here.
- B&B Emir – Check prices and availability here.
- On the other side of town Tilyakori Hotel or Hotel Caravan Serail
- Bukhara Rumi hotel – Check prices and availability here.
- A hotel closer to the main tourist attractions check Old Bukhara – check prices and availability here.
- For nice hotels with a bit higher price range, Hotel Malika Bukhara and Boutique Hotel Minzifa are recommended by travelers. Check prices and availability here.
So is it safe to travel to Uzbekistan?
In case you didn’t get it from my overly-long, and hopefully funny, post above – yes, it is safe to travel to Uzbekistan. Even if you plan to try some Uzbekistan solo travel and if you are a female.
Just remember, as in any place in the world, you need to follow common sense, and exercise normal caution. Remember, that typically, bigger cities like Tashkent are more common to have petty theft and crime than smaller rural villages.
Keep your wits about you, and you will be just fine. Always check the current travel advisories from your government website and the current news on Uzbekistan, as the political situation can quickly change.
Read more about Central Asia:
Would you travel to Uzbekistan? Have you ever been? What do you think – is it safe to travel to Uzbekistan or not? Let me know in the comments!
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