Many pictures float around the internet of people with man-high stacks of Uzbek sum as inflation sky-rocketed. Until recently, the unwillingness of the Uzbek government to recognize the high inflation of the Uzbek sum made that no higher-denominated notes were printed as prices rose. In practice, this meant that you needed a stack of bills to pay for little things like a meal or a taxi ride.
The situation made Uzbeks into some of the fastest money-counters in the world. Getting the hang of their counting technique was a rite of passage of travel in Uzbekistan.
With the ascendancy of a new president in late 2016, a new 10 000 sum bill went into print in March 2017, alleviating some of the pains. A new 50 000 bill came in September, and 100 000 sum is in print as well.
Nowadays, you can just carry a wallet instead of a backpack.
On the 5th of September 2017, the Uzbek government took the momentous step of abolishing the currency black market, by raising the official rate of the Uzbek sum against the dollar from the official rate of 4210 sum/$ to 8100 sum/$, above the black market rate. At the same time, big fines were levied against those still exchanging on the black market.
In short, the black market no longer exists for tourists. You can simply and easily exchange your money at the bank. Actually, you have to.
We previously suggested to bring at least most of the money you plan to spend with you. We don’t do so anymore. There are now plenty of ATMs that are functioning.
Since you can now easily exchange money at a fair and official rate, you can also bring Euros, British pounds and Japanese Yen besides the old US dollar. These are the 4 currencies we have so far seen advertised in banks.
There are exchange offices in Bukhara and Khiva, as well as in the Tashkent airport. Elsewhere, you need to go to the bank. Souvenir shops with good turnover readily exchange small dollar notes at a c.5% penalty compared to the typical bank.
Updates and questions welcome in the ATM in Uzbekistan forum thread.
There are now exchange machines that make things easier, you do not have to wait in line at the bank anymore or get frustrated on a Sunday.
If you are exchanging money in the bank:
- Bring your passport
- Make sure your money is crisp and clean
- Bank opening hours are 9 to 18 Monday to Saturday
- You can exchange money in the airport, but not at the border (officially).
- Banks now exchange foreign money into sum, as well as the other way around.
Previously, when entering Uzbekistan, you had to declare all money you had on you. Since 2018, this is no longer necessary.
Changing sum back to USD/EUR/…
It’s difficult to exchange Uzbek sum outside of Uzbekistan. You can change sum back to USD in a bank, but changing sum back at the border is still an issue.
We have confirmation it is possible at the Dostyk border between Andijan and Osh at normal bank rates. We have not had confirmation yet it is possible at the airport or at other border crossings.
In Osh, near the bazaar, you can also get rid of your sum. On the train to Kazakhstan you can change sum to tenge at a decent rate. More places to exchange sum outside of Uzbekistan are welcome if you find them.
Paying with credit cards is possible in a few high-end hotels and restaurants in Tashkent, where you can also get cash advances on your card. Visa is more widely accepted than Mastercard, but understand that Uzbekistan is a cash economy and that paying with credit cards is highly unusual. 3% commission is normal.
ATM cash withdrawal
ATM’s in Uzbekistan dispense Uzbek sum, with some also giving out US dollars. It used to be a huge issue, but since 2018, ATMs started appearing everywhere in the major cities, and they are all stocked with money. So we can now safely say that you can definitely find an ATM to get money out in all major cities of Uzbekistan.
Most will dispense with your Maestro card or Visa card, some will also take Mastercard.
If you are wondering how much money you should take with you to Uzbekistan, check out the travel budget page.