Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Uzbekistan - The Hot New Travel Destination! 10 Things to Know Before Going to Fun Filled Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is the high point of the ancient Silk Route. For decades it used to be part of the former USSR. It is a fascinating, affordable part of the world. A few words of advice before you go:

1. Make photocopies of your passport and visa. Allah forbid that you lose any important documents while traveling. Photocopy all your travel documents, and keep them in a location separate from the originals. These copies will save you time and headaches at your Embassy.

2. Learn a few phrases of Russian and Uzbek. Uzbeks will love you if you learn a few phrases of Uzbek, such as 'A-salaam aleikum' (hello), or 'Yak shamisez?' (how's it going?). Old Uzbek women have been known to cry with joy when hearing a white person try to speak their language - seriously. Russian, which is spoken in the big cities, will also come in helpful. Find a phrasebook and learn a few words.

3. If you are invited home for dinner by a trusted acquaintance, take him/her up on the offer. Many Uzbeks have rarely met foreigners, especially Americans. If a trustworthy acquaintance invites you home for dinner, take them up on the offer. You will sit on the floor and be served rice pilaf, and be peppered with questions, while being treated like royalty.

4. Stay away from meat products. Nu-uh, don't go there. If so, partake only in the cleanest appearing restaurants in the big cities. Otherwise you'll be making Jackson Pollock proud in the outhouse.

5. If stopped by the police, be polite, but watch your belongings closely. This isn't Kansas anymore. Show the police respect. If stopped, shake hands, and be courteous. If they want to take your passport or visa for a closer inspection, insist that you accompany them. Usually police are only curious about tourists, but always keep your eye on all your bags if they want to inspect anything.

6. Find a trusty taxi driver, and hire him for your whole stay. There's a special place in hell for most Uzbek taxi drivers. Ask at your hotel for a trusted driver. If a driver quotes a price, bargain hard with him down to 30% of the quote. When you find a trustworthy driver, communicate that you want to keep him for the length of your duration in your city. A tourist will always be overcharged by a driver, but the damage is minimal, only by a few dollars.

7. Carry a bottle of drinking water with you. The summer temperature in Uzbekistan can soar to 120 degrees. Always keep a bottle of water with you. Avoid the tap water.

8. Carry a roll of toilet paper with you. You never know when nature will call. And when it does...

9. Overcome your fear of pit toilets. If you dread squatting over a hole in the floor, Central Asia is not your kind of travel destination.

10. Be ready to enjoy the fascinating cities along the ancient Silk Route. Samarkand is a must. If time allows, travel further east to Bukhara. And even further east is Khiva. Wander amongst the mosques and alleyways, and pretend as if you stepped into a tale from the 1001 Nights.

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