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.
Prices and timetables
The site of the national railways of Uzbekistan may or may not work, and may or may not have reliable information on its train schedules.
Beware: trains tend to sell out, especially fast trains to/from Tashkent. Book in advance if you can to avoid getting in a shared taxi or plane instead.
It seems that Afrosiyob fast trains are put up for online sale only 2 weeks before the respective data. Local and international trains on the other hand are sold much more in advance.
With Uzbek Railways
Online booking for trains has started working since August 2018. You can book here, reports on the process are gathered in this forum thread. Be warned, a lot of people have failed to book tickets through this website, with various bugs being reported: no activation e-mail, payment not allowed, Australians get the cold shoulder, …
With other platforms
You might be able to buy train tickets online from Russian booking sites Tutu and Rzd (keep in mind the commission might be quite big), but for most trains outside of Russia, you need to pick up the ticket in a Russian train station.
Trains originating in Kazakhstan can easily be booked online through Kazakhstani platforms. Previously you were not allowed to use Kazakh e-tickets while boarding in Uzbekistan, but it seems this issue is now resolved.
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 (trying to wing it in Uzbekistan is not advised).
Tutu will also issue a warning if you have to collect the ticket in Russia.
However, at least 1 person has been able to get on a train with a simple print-out, where officially he needed to pick up 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. However, this is much more expensive than buying it at the station, so it is not advised for price-sensitive customers!
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.
A better option than the train station is the ticket office inside the city. It has a central location, and usually smaller lines. Every city has one.
Is possible, and not difficult. Just return to the ticket office and ask to cancel the ticket. You will get your money back minus a little commission of around 10% of the cost of the ticket.
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.
Every train has a restaurant wagon. Good place to recharge your phone on older trains (which don’t have a lot of charging points), and have a chat with other passengers.
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 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
Fast trains roll along the following lines
- Tashkent – Bukhara (4 hr)
- Tashkent – Samarkand (2 hr)
- Samarkand – Bukhara (1,5 hr)
- Tashkent – Qarshi – Shahrisabz
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 since 2018, train service between Bukhara and Urgench (Khiva) has started (forum Q&A)! Previously, a good option to do it all by train and maximize sightseeing time was to take the slow night train from Tashkent to Bukhara, backtrack to Samarkand by fast train, then take a night train west again to Urgench or Nukus.
This advice still holds, but it means there are now more options.
A new station has been built in Khiva (previously you had to get off in Urgench). So far, we have not received news about trains actually arriving there yet. Updates welcome at the Khiva train station forum thread.
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) (Aqtau-Nukus train reports and Q&A). You can book this train through the Kazakh Railways or perhaps through Tickets.kz.
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 2017 a direct Talgo-train links Almaty and Tashkent in about 16 hours, 10 hours quicker than before. The train runs twice weekly either way. Experience reports welcome here. We recommend you do not buy a ticket online for this trip if you are starting from Tashkent – issues are currently being reported.
If you prefer the slower 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. Prices fluctuate and the slow train could be more expensive.
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
From March 22, 2018, a train ran between Tashkent and Bishkek with final stop at Balykchy (Issyk-Kul) for the summer season until September 10. The train passes through Kazakhstan, so make sure you have a valid visa if you need one. Kyrgyz Railways uses Moscow time and Kyrgyz time intermittently, so make sure you know what time the train leaves.
We don’t know details for the 2019 season yet. Reports and questions in the Tashkent-Bishkek train topic.
Trains to Turkmenistan
There are no trains between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Trains to Tajikistan
A Tajikistan – Russia by train forum topic tracks changes and trip reports of routes to Moscow.
Khujand – Moscow: Does this train run? Does this train stop in Uzbekistan? Does this train pass Turkmenistan? Questions we do not know the answer to.
Kulob – Moscow: Train 319/320 Kulob – Moscow now takes the direct route via Termez. Since June 2018, you might be able to get off in Amuzang, a small Uzbek town just beyond the Tajik-Uzbek border. Or even a bit further, to Termez or Qarshi. Still very confused at the moment.
After that, it crosses into Turkmenistan, and you would need a Turkmen transit visa for that. Plans for a Moscow – Dushanbe train that would bypass Turkmenistan are on the table, though.
Tashkent – Dushanbe
You can now book tickets Moscow – Samarkand on pass.rzd.ru (still only when picking up in Russia!) for the train to Khujand so our resident train geek Milad says he is now 99% sure that you can take the train from Samarkand to Khujand as well. We are not sure if it still goes through Turkmenistan between Samarkand and Beyneu.
Plans for a direct Tashkent – Dushanbe train are on the table.
You can already 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. 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.