UPDATE: Ever since the new president Mirziyoyev took power in December 2016, the train schedule has been in disarray. Trains get cancelled last-minute, booking is complicated, schedules are all over the map. We hope the situation stabilises soon. In the meantime, keep it in mind, and don’t rely on our train schedule exclusively.
Taking trains in Uzbekistan is a low-stress, inexpensive way to get around the country and visit the main sights and cities like Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Nukus, Khiva, Termez or Ferghana Valley. Besides the slow Soviet trains, Uzbekistan invests in new high-speed connections between the major cities.
You can find prices and timetables at the online booking sites of Tutu and Rzd. You might also be able to buy train tickets online from them, but for most trains outside of Russia, you need to pick up the ticket in a Russian train station.
At Rzd, if the train you want to book has ‘ЗР’ under the train logo, the train is e-ticketable and you’ll get a print-at-home e-ticket. If there’s no ‘ЗР’, you have to collect a conventional ticket at a Russian railway station, meaning in Russia.
Tutu will also issue a warning if you have to collect the ticket in Russia.
That leaves you with the offline variation. We can buy Uzbek train tickets in advance for you through our agents in Tashkent. This costs a few dollars more than at the station due to the corruption and endless running around involved (don’t ask). We will deliver the train tickets to your hotel in Uzbekistan.
You can also buy train tickets at the train station yourself of course. Once again, do this a few days in advance to ensure you have a seat. You might see a huge, slow-moving line in front of you on arrival at the train station. To skip this, go to the VIP desk, usually on the other side of the station, and buy your tickets there. Usually there is no one, and it will cost you just a dollar or so more.
Seat and train choice
Slow Uzbek trains have the standard Soviet platzkart (open wagon), kupe (4-berth wagon) and SV/Lyux (2-berth wagon) options. Fast trains are not sleeper trains, they have only seating space. There is quite a bit of variation in what each individual train offers, but in general, fast trains are divided in a 3rd class without AC, a 2nd class with AC and a 1st class where it’s 2 seats in a coupe.
If you are confused about this choice, read the overview page on the Silk Road by train for more seat buying and route planning advice.
The train conductors in Uzbekistan often allow you to upgrade your seat on the train, if there is space. Usually there is, even if you were told at the ticket office the best seats were booked out; it is a type of corruption.
The train experience
Come on time for your train. Security measures at the train stations are stringent and can take up to half an hour, even more in extreme cases. On the other hand, trains are not immune to being delayed for 1 or 2 hours. Do not plan tight connection times.
These trains are relatively new, clean and spacious, and are equipped with functioning air conditioning. 2nd class is the best price/quality option in our opinion. The atmosphere is closer to that of a roomy airplane rather than a train, and you will have to put up with TV’s pumping out Turkish soap operas, but the speed is usually worth the trade-off.
They are not much more expensive than slow trains.
Disappointingly, some of the older trains are not as clean as trains in Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan. Nothing disgusting, but berths can be dusty. Everything feels a bit old and in need of an upgrade. A samovar for hot drinks is posted at the end of the hallway, and you can usually order breakfast from the train conductor (eggs and sausages is standard).
Chatting and sharing food with your fellow passengers is almost obligatory in these trains. We never saw much alcohol here, but as far as we know, getting drunk on the train is still allowed in Uzbekistan.
Rail network and tips on route planning
- Tashkent – Bukhara (4 hr),
- Tashkent – Samarkand (2 hr)
- Samarkand – Bukhara (1,5 hr)
Slower trains make the same journey at different speeds, usually around 1,5 to 2 times as slow.
Other domestic lines are:
- Tashkent – Kokand (4hr) – Margilan – Andijan (5h30 hr)
- Tashkent – Samarkand – Urgench – Nukus – Kungrad – Atyrau (KAZ)
- Tashkent – Samarkand – Qarshi – Termez
- Tashkent – Samarkand – Qarshi – Denau – Sariasya
Note that there is no train service between Bukhara and Urgench (Khiva)! A good option to do it all by train and maximize sightseeing time is to take the slow night train from Tashkent to Bukhara, backtrack to Samarkand (or Navoiy) by fast train, then take a night train west again to Urgench or Nukus.
Trains to Kazakhstan and Russia
From Kungrad near the former Aral Sea you can take a train to Beyneu, from where you can continue to Atyrau and into Russia, or hop onto another train to Aqtau (aka Mangyshlak for train services). You can book this train through the Kazakh Railways or perhaps through Tickets.kz. The border control on the Kazakh side happens in Beyneu: add an extra hour after you get off the train to pass the border guards.
From Tashkent you can take a train to Almaty via Shymkent. It used to be quicker if you crossed the border to Shymkent by marshrutka and took a train from Shymkent to Almaty instead. The issue was a 4-hour border halt: very hot in summer as the AC switches off.
However, since 21st of March a direct Talgo-train links Almaty and Tashkent in about 16 hours, 10 hours quicker than before. The train runs twice weekly. Experience reports welcome here.
If you prefer the slower, cheaper version, train number 21 still runs from Almaty to Nukus. On this train, Almaty – Tashkent takes 26 hours (with long border halt). To go to Nukus, add another 24 hours. This train also stops at Samarkand.
Uzbekistan is connected directly with the following Russian cities (transiting Kazakhstan): Moscow, Ufa, Novosibirsk, Samara, Chelyabinsk, Saratov and Volgograd.
Several of these trains dip in and out of Kazakhstan before entering for good, but we have been told that you do not need multiple entry visas for these routes. But please, double-check before you leave!
Trains to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan & Turkmenistan
There are no trains from Uzbekistan to Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. The Moscow-Dushanbe train passes Uzbekistan, but does not stop anywhere. Even if it would, you would still need a Turkmen transit visa for it.
You can get close to Dushanbe by train, though, with the Tashkent-Samarkand-Denau-Sariasya service. It takes about 15 hours (11 hrs from Samarkand) and runs from Tashkent on odd days, and from Denau/Sariasya on even days. From Denau, it’s 40 km to the Tajik border by taxi, and then another 1,5 hour to Dushanbe.
There is also a train Tashkent – Samarkand – Kumkurgan – Termez. This train runs daily and you can get off at Kumkurgan and get a taxi from there to the border. Kumkurgan is still 100 km away from the border though, so the Denau/Sariasya train is much preferred.
Like elsewhere in Central Asia, all major train stations have a luggage room open 24/7 where you can deposit your luggage for a small fee. In Russian, it’s called a “kamera khraneniya”.
Bukhara train station
Bukhara’s backstreets are filled with treasures 99% of tourists will never get to see. Kagan, the settlement built by the Russians to house the railway station when Bukhara was still an independent emirate, holds, among other things, the Kagan Palace – definitely worth a short detour when you are heading out to catch the train (Gmap).Comments have closed. If you have questions or remarks, head to our forum’s transport section.