For the last couple of years, Uzbekistan has been an up-and-coming destination off the beaten travel circuit. In a bid to explore captivating destinations that don’t suffer from over tourism, travellers have been making their way to Uzbekistan to discover the gastronomy scene in Tashkent, the rich history of Samarkand, and vestiges of the Silk Route.
In an exciting move to open the country up for tourism and trade, Uzbekistan’s visa-free countries scheme was announced on January 5, 2019, by the country’s president Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Travellers contemplating visiting Uzbekistan this year, who are nationals from any one of the 45 countries approved for visa-free travel from February 1, 2019, can stay in Uzbekistan for up to 30 days without a visa.
As part of the initiative, Uzbekistan’s existing e-visa scheme has been extended to 78 countries, so even visitors that don’t qualify for visa-free travel can continue to easily apply for their e-visa online by visiting their official website. Among the countries that can travel visa-free are a number of European countries (including the United Kingdom) and Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Mongolia.
Previously only the following countries were eligible for visa free-travel:
- 90 days – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine
- 60 days – only Kyrgyzstan
- 30 days – Israel, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Tajikistan, and Turkey.
In addition to Germany who can avail the Uzbekistan visa-free countries scheme from January 15, 2019, the following countries will be able to travel to Uzbekistan visa-free for up to 30 days from February 1, 2019:
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Brunei Darussalam
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- Republic of Cyprus
- San Marino
- United Kingdom
- Vatican City
As interest for countries along the Silk Route has grown, visitors to the Central Asian region have increased and even doubled since the new visa initiatives of 2018. These numbers will rise further as better flight routes and connections become available. Airlines are already stepping up their game and providing more flight options. Of course, at the heart of the Silk Route is Uzbekistan, and it’s never been easier to explore as along with opening its doors, there’s been an influx of development.
To facilitate travellers arriving in the country, Uzbekistan has constructed a high-speed railway network between Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bukhara, with an extension for Khiva already in the works. Border crossings with Tajikistan re-opened in 2018, including the Samarkand-to-Penjikent crossing, which will allow visitors to use Samarkand as a gateway to Penjikent and the stunning Fan Mountains.
Travellers visiting should be aware that even though it is a trending destination for 2019, Uzbekistan is emerging from a deep political freeze. While the new president is reform-focused and keen for the country to shed the past, Uzbekistan is not without its problems. Having said that, there is plenty of optimism as the country looks to the future and ushers in a new era and people from all over the world.
For hundreds of years, Uzbekistan has beckoned travellers with an eye for fascination from far and wide. Merchants of the Silk Route have left behind a rich and colourful history, architects have given visitors much to marvel at with their fortresses and mausoleums, and unspoiled mountain scenery will compel the wildest adventurers. The world is catching on, now is the perfect time to explore Uzbekistan’s culture, heritage and be part of the country’s burgeoning future.