Ed's Adventures - The Silk Road - UzbekiSTAN!

Posted by Ed 2 yrs ago
We’ve just completed a 10 day visit to Uzbekistan – if off-the-beaten-path destinations appeal to you, then this country needs to get onto your bucket list. We were expecting the country to be chaotic but it was absolutely the opposite -- the hotels were decent – the cities spotlessly clean and organized – the people very welcoming and extremely friendly - the country is extremely safe.

This is NOT Afghanistan and in fact when we mentioned that country Uzbeks indicated they would not travel there due to concerns over their safety. Uzbekistan is not an extreme country – both men and women drink alcohol – there is pork on most menus --- women wear western attire and we did not see any women wearing a hijab --- many females wear traditional outfits and did not cover their faces. There is no call to prayer as this is a secular country – very few people pray 5 times/day.

General Observations and Tips:

- The new president has made dramatic changes that make visiting the country much easier – a tourist visa can easily be arranged by simply filling out a form and coordinating with a tour agent in Tashkent by email. You will receive a form that you present on arrival and you get your visa within 10 minutes.

- We worked with Shavkat at Advantours shkhodjaev@advantour.com – they were absolutely first rate -- the drivers provided spoke excellent English and were courteous and always helpful. The city guides were all of a very high caliber. https://www.advantour.com/

- Uzbekistan Airlines flies direct to Tashkent from Hong Kong – the aircraft we flew on was relatively new and the service very good. However if you want to book online you will need to book via Expedia as the airline website has only Uzbek and Russian language options.

- Uzbekistan is one of the most affordable destinations we have ever visited – the 10 day tour for two – all internal flights – train – car, driver, guide – and hotels with breakfast cost USD1600 each. Meals are extra however it is difficult to spend more than USD10 for two in any restaurant (even the top restaurants in Tashkent are maybe USD20 for two…) I went to a gym in Samarkand and the day pass cost … twenty cents!

- We had no problem with the food – even eating salads with most meals. A couple of recommendations: http://caravan.caravangroup.uz/?locale=en http://www.oldbukhara.com/index.php?lang=en

- We opted for a 10 day itinerary however we would recommend taking a pass on the Tashkent portion – it is a very nice city but in terms of sites there is not anything of great significance. I would recommend the following: Arrive Tashkent – fly to Khiva asap. Two full days in Khiva would be sufficient. Drive to Bukhara – again two full days will do – drive to Samarkand stopping in Shakhrisabz (one hour tour of various ancient sites) – two full days in Samarkand is sufficient. You can take the train to Tashkent (2 hours) and take a car to the airport (depending on your flight times) – alternatively if the train schedule does not allow you to connect you can take a car (4 hours to the airport from Samarkand).

- There are other itineraries that you can find on the Advantours site https://www.advantour.com One of our guides mentioned that a client had visited all the ‘Stans’ except Afghanistan --- Turkmenistan and Tajikistan were mentioned frequently as very interesting destinations by guides and drivers. We understand that Advantours can arrange visas for all these countries.

- The internet in hotels outside of Tashkent and Samarkand can be spotty – I would recommend purchasing a chip from Ucell and using that for data (I bought a whopping 16 meg for around USD30 and didn’t even use half of the data) --- mobile internet was fast and reliable in all locations including Khiva.

- You can’t leave Uzbekistan without buying a carpet – there are excellent silk and wool carpets BUT there, as is generally the situation in countries that produce carpets, vendors looking to take advantage of the average tourists’ ignorance to rip them off. Do your research!

1. Silk Carpets – a decent sized authentic hand-knotted silk carpet (say 2M x 1.5M) is going to cost you in the region of USD10,000. Shops will generally inform you of that when you walk in – and if you tell them your budget is nowhere near that – they will roll out the fakes (usually made in China – often machine made – synthetic) and try to sell them to you for a fraction of the price of a real silk carpet. You may also be presented with silk on a cotton base. If you don’t have the budget for silk on silk – my recommendation is to buy a high quality hand-knotted wool carpet

2. If you opt for wool – you will be told that the best quality wool carpets are made from the neck of the camel – this is BS – almost all the wool carpets are made from sheep wool -- the softer ones are made from the neck of the sheep. Knot count is important – 80 knots is the best – 50 is good quality - you want double knots. Higher knot count with good wool will feel better and the colours will be more vivid. There is much less fraud involved in buying wool carpets.

3. The best place to buy a carpet (silk or wool) is Hudzum in Samarkand http://silkcarpets.uz/ Advantours recommended them and we were told by many people including our guides that they will never rip you off with fakes. They operate a silk carpet factory that you can tour before visiting their showrooms --- their wool carpets are made in northern Afghanistan (check out the company/family history on their website – fascinating). You will still need to negotiate the final price. I recommend getting in touch with Farik and organizing your buying trip when there are no tour groups (we visited at 7pm)

4. In terms of shipping, we were quoted by DHL over USD400 to ship an 18kg wool carpet to New Zealand (it would cost significantly less to ship to Hong Kong) – we opted to take the carpet and another 20kg of items we purchased with us on the plane --- the VERY friendly Uzbekistan airlines check in agent agreed to reduce our overweight from 40kg down to 26kg (USD57) and with a smile informed us that the reduction was a ‘gift for tourists from our new president’

- One other shop that makes our to do shopping list is Happy Bird in Samarkand https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/256117556/happy-bird/?hl=en


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anat givon 2 yrs ago
ED, that's great, going in September very excited, we have it all planned & reading your post makes it sound even better. Thanks very much for the information on carpets rip offs & recommendations of where to buy + the restaurants in Tashkent. Best regards.

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