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.
There are more options for budget travelers as well these days, with apartment rentals now legal and hostels popping up everywhere. However, outside of the main cities, hostels and Couchsurfing have not entered the vocabulary yet: bring a tent or make friends.
For general tips on toilets, hospitality, breakfast and a selection of top places to stay on the Silk Road, see the overview page.
Registration and payment
Be sure you know how to register your stay in Uzbekistan.
There was some confusion about paying for hotels in 2017, as the black market was abolished. You could only pay in sum, or only in dollar. This is now resolved and you can pay in either, as you prefer.
Bargaining is still totally acceptable at hotels in Uzbekistan when walking in.
A 2$ tourist tax is levied on your stay, per night. When comparing prices on booking sites, double-check if this is already included in the price or not.
Couchsurfing is no longer illegal in Uzbekistan. Outside of the big cities it is difficult to find hosts, though.
Trains and buses
Overnight trains in Uzbekistan, for instance from Tashkent to Bukhara or Khiva, are a good way 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.
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 booking.com are the 2 big players in the apartment rental space in Uzbekistan. 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 good alternative to more traditional accommodation options, they often offer the best value for money.
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. Hot water being turned off is another common feature of life in Uzbekistan.
Hostels are slowly making inroads in Uzbekistan. 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.
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 if it worries you. 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.
Best places to stay
Hotels in small places
Find a running list of hotels in small places below: updates welcome!
- 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: just opposite the airport there is the Zarafshan hotel. 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.
- Korashina (between Guzzar and Darband) has 2 hotels: Real Komfort and Gulinor.