Of all the countries in Central Asia, Uzbekistan has the best options for staying: from renovated 17th-century merchant houses in Bukhara to paradisiac homestays and desert yurts. For budget travelers, government regulations and a lack of options push prices up.
Couchsurfing is illegal in Uzbekistan. Nonetheless, you will still find people hosting travelers. They have references, they haven’t been arrested, so consider it an ok thing to do. Just don’t shout it from the rooftops.
Trains and buses
Overnight trains in Uzbekistan, for instance from Tashkent to Bukhara or Khiva, are good ways to keep some money in your pocket, save time and get a good night’s sleep all at once. Keep your ticket to prove you could not register that night, in case someone asks. Sleeping on a bus will be highly uncomfortable and is best avoided.
Camping or sleeping in your mobile home is allowed in Uzbekistan, but campers should be aware of the registration rules. An issue in the West of Uzbekistan for cyclists is that sometimes, there is no place to register for more than 3 days of cycling. In that case, all you can do is throw your hands up. No one has ever been arrested for not registering enough, AFAIK. People have been arrested for trying to fake registrations, though. So just be honest and explain the situation.
That being said, Uzbekistan has great opportunities for camping in the mountains near Tashkent and Samarkand. The western desert is also a wild and atmospheric place to see the sun set while putting up your tent for a night of stargazing.
Homestays, yurts and ecotourism
Homestays in the countryside are an excellent way to have a look at a different side of Uzbekistan. The Nuratau mountains have a network of homestays, as does the village of Langar near Shahrisabz. Service quality is much higher than you can expect in the rest of Central Asia, with vegetarian meals, solar-powered shower and clean toilets almost a given.
People in Karakalpakstan are culturally much closer to Kazakhs and Turkmens than to Uzbeks: some still live in yurts part of the year, and you might be invited in for a cup of tea if you meet them. Desert yurt camps near Urgench and in the Kyzylkum desert are also set up specifically for tourists.
It’s a great experience, but know that they are a bit pricey. The Kyzylkum camp’s service quality is astounding though, and well worth paying for, but the Ayaz-Qala camp near Urgench is to be avoided; hygiene is a serious issue there and people tend to get sick.
Airbnb and apartment rental
Airbnb, Homeaway, VRBO and Flipkey all have spaces for rent in Uzbekistan. Apartments also get rented out on other hotel booking sites like booking.com. These apartments are generally owned by real estate moguls and you are unlikely to share a space with others or even see the owner. A decent alternative to more traditional accommodation options. Electricity black-outs are an issue in winter in Uzbekistan, though not in Tashkent thus far. Ask in advance if this is likely to happen in your apartment block.
Hostels are slowly making inroads in Uzbekistan, and they are all lovely as far as I have visited them. Outside of Tashkent, Bukhara and Samarkand, it still all has to start, and budgeteers need to take into account spending a bit more for a hotel, or camp/couchsurf.
The quality of hotels is generally high in Uzbekistan. Even in backwaters a decent hotel can be found. In the main tourist cities, some wonderful restored mansions are beautiful advertisements for the arts & crafts of the nation. These small-scale boutique hotels or bnb’s are the best option for independent travelers. In high season, the most desirable rooms are booked out weeks in advance, so secure your room early. The big hotels are used by larger tour groups; they tend to be characterless. And filled with large tour groups.
Bargaining is totally acceptable at hotels in Uzbekistan when walking in. If they don’t want to accept a deal in sum, try if they would be willing to cut a deal if you offer to pay in dollars. Bargain hunters can get great deals at booking sites or just at the reception, if the hotel charges sum at the official exchange rate. Due to the large split between the black market exchange for sum and the official exchange rate, you can get your room at 50% off.
Hot water is a typical summer issue in the FSU that is often outside of the control of hotels. When the utility company decides to switch it off, they are left standing. Ask politely if there will be hot water. Electricity black-outs also occur in winter in Uzbekistan. Ask in advance what kind of measures your hotel has in place. Heating, on the other hand, is unlikely to be a problem. In summer, air-conditioning is not an excessive luxury in Uzbekistan.
One other thing to keep in mind: a lot of hotels are not yet online in Uzbekistan. If you want to book in advance, use an agent inside the country. If you have time and you are not picky, you can simply rock up to the scene: if they are not online, they are unlikely to ever fill up completely. Find a running list of hotels in small places below: updates welcome!
Hotels in small places
- Qiziltepa: there is a hotel here but I was just sent away. First they told me they were doing renovations but later they said they didn’t accept foreigners
- Navoiy airport: just opposite the airport there is the very expensive looking Zarafshan hotel. They charge $40 for a single room but use the official exchange rate, so you get a perfect room for a bargain. They do registration.
- Navoiy: In the centre there is another Zarafshan hotel, same price, same great deal.
- Ziyadin: good looking hotel next to the wedding centre. No registration however.
- Shakhrisabz: very nice b&b called Dulon on Kapkon street 45. Very hard to find though. Kapkon street is the street leading away from the touristy part of town opposite a big stone building called the chorsu. Best to ask from there.
- Denau: hotel Denov right in the centre had decent enough rooms for only 30000 sum. With registration.