Tashkent was the fourth largest city in the former Soviet Union, and still bears the trademarks of being in the USSR. Rebuilt after a major earthquake in 1966, Tashkent looks and feels like a communist-era Russian town.
Today, Tashkent is the capital of Uzbekistan and is one of Central Asia's major hubs. A cosmopolitan population of over 2 million lives in the city, which also has large Russian and Korean minority groups. The national purse has been heavily invested in Tashkent, resulting in the region's most modern city. It is also an important centre of Islamic culture, boasting the world's oldest Koran.
The "Old Town" has retained much of its charm. Here you will find low adobe houses with shady courtyards, narrow winding streets and many ancient mosques and madrassas.
Another New Year celebration held all across Uzbekistan is the Navruz (also Navroz, Nowruz, and many other variations). The word ‘navruz’ means ‘new day’ in Iranian, so naturally Navruz is Iranian New Year. Held every March 21, Navruz is an auspicious event for many Uzbeks because it is at this time of year they pin hopes of revival and renewal. All over the country, families and local communities prepare sumptuous feasts for all to enjoy.
Independence Day, held every September 1, is the biggest national holiday as the entire country remembers the day when it gained its independence and sovereignty after a long era of Soviet occupation. Feasts and shows are held in many cities and towns, but it is in Alisher Navoiy National Park in Tashkent where the main event takes place. From this park, the president addresses the nation, after which performances from the country’s singers and actors take place, along with a large fireworks display.
As with any Islamic country, Uzbeks also observe Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, abstinence, and prayer. It culminates in a festival called Eid ul-Fitr, which sees families unite in large celebratory feasts. As these festivals follow the lunar calendar, dates for Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr change every year.
Tashkent has a continental climate with dry conditions year round, although some precipitation falls during the winter period. Summers are hot, winters are cold (but not extreme). Summer temperatures average around 32º C during the day, around 18 °C at night. But temperatures over 40 °C are not unheard of. Winters are on average not that cold, around zero, but occasionally temperatures can drop well below -20 °C at night. The best time for a visit are spring and autumn when warm, sunny and dry conditions are the norm.
|Avg Max||5.8 °C||7.9 °C||14.3 °C||21.8 °C||27.4 °C||33.2 °C||35.7 °C||34 °C||28.7 °C||21 °C||14.2 °C||8.5 °C|
|Avg Min||-3.1 °C||-1.5 °C||4.2 °C||9.9 °C||13.7 °C||17.7 °C||19.4 °C||17.2 °C||12.4 °C||7.2 °C||3.3 °C||-0.3 °C|
|Rainfall||54.5 mm||46.8 mm||72.3 mm||63.6 mm||32 mm||7.1 mm||3.5 mm||2 mm||4.5 mm||34.1 mm||45 mm||53.4 mm|
The national airline is Uzbekistan Airways, which has flights to neighbouring countries such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as connections further away in Asia, like Japan and India. It also serves over a dozen destinations in Russia among which Moscow and St. Petersburg. Frankfurt, Paris and London as well as New York are the most important western cities to be served.
Domestically, Uzbekistan Airways provides cheap flights between Tashkent and a number of domestic airports. Destinations include Samarkand, Andijan, Karshi, Namangan, Navoi (which is 45 minutes by bus from Bukhara), Nukus and Termez as well.
There are three trains a week between Moscow and Tashkent. Trains leave Moscow on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11.15pm, arriving 3 days later at 7.15 pm in Tashkent. In the opposite direction, trains depart from Tashkent at around 7pm on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, arriving in Moscow 3 days later just after 3 in the afternoon.
Other connections to and from Tashkent include those to Ufa (3 times weekly), Tsjeljabinsk (once weekly), Kharkov (once weekly), Saratov (every 4 days) and Almaty (once weekly).
Domestic trains go to and from Termez, Samarkand, Bukhara, the Fergana Valley and Nukus.
Most services are provided on a daily basis, sometimes more.
Distances from Tashkent by road: Almaty in Kazakhstan 810km, Ashgabat in Turkmenistan 1,290km, Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan 570km, Kashgar in China 880km, Andijan 392km, Bokhara 600km, Ferghana 325km, Karshi 430km, Khiva 1,045km, Kokand 236km, Nukus 1,115km, Samarkand 295km, Termez 705km, Urgench 1,020km.
Internationally, buses travel to most neighbouring countries, including services to Bishkek, Dushanbe and Almaty.
Cheap, reliable and relatively comfortable and fast buses operate between Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and to the Fergana Valley and further east toward to Aral Sea. Minivans and shared taxis ply the same routes, and many other routes and leave when full. They usually are faster and just a bit more expensive.
Taxis can be cheap after some negotiation; however some of the vehicles are very old. While there are official, authorized taxis (with the appropriate sign on the roof of the car), in reality almost any driver in Tashkent can double as a taxi driver. The local custom is to simply stand by the side of the road with your arm extended downward and slightly away from the body. A driver will pull over and then you will state your destination and negotiate the fare in advance. At least some Russian or Uzbek language skills are needed to accomplish this without difficulty. It is usually safe to use this procedure, although virtually every foreign embassy recommends against it. Directions are rarely given here using an address. Most often, a landmark is used, such as "near Hotel Russia". Moreover, many streets and hotels have been renamed in the past few years and often drivers will not recognize the current name of the street or hotel, still knowing them by their old names. Asking to be taken to the Grand Mir Hotel, for instance, will often result in a blank look. Tell the driver you want to go to the Gastinitsa Rossiya (Hotel Russia), however, and they will know exactly where you want to go. For those who speak neither Russian nor Uzbek, it is helpful to have someone draw a rudimentary map or write out directions in Russian. Few drivers will know English.
Do not expect Western-style taxi services. Taxi drivers will often smoke while you are in the car and asking them not to will most often result in nothing more than a look of disapproval. You may be paying, but you are in their car. There are many taxi services operating in the city with fixed rates and a person can order the taxi from their hotel room. There are some web sites offering complete lists of taxi services and taxi charges
Taxis within the city can be reserved by calling Taxi Express, Tel 1399999 or 16360272.
The city has a good public transport system which is cheap. The metro/underground system is typical of the old Soviet-style with large and impressive stations and is quite modern. Stations are richly themed. For example, Kosmonavtlar is a lavish monument to Uzbekistan's contribution to the Soviet space programme.
There are also modern buses and trams, many of which were renovated in 2008. Tickets (which on the metro are small blue coin size tokens) cost UZS1000 for any single journey. It is not permitted to take photographs in the metro stations. Police will usually be present on all platforms. Do not risk taking photos while the policeman is not watching because they have security cameras everywhere and policeman will approach you instantly and check your documents. In all cases do have documents while you are taking the metro (or anywhere in the city), for you can be checked any time. Tashkent Metro has three lines:
Much of central Tashkent can easily be explored on foot.
Biking is not recommended.
There are hundreds of small cafes in Tashkent (and other Uzbek cities and villages) offering these and other local dishes at inexpensive prices. A meal of salad, bread, tea, soup, and shashlik at around USD2-3 isn't difficult to find. Sanitation standards can leave a lot to be desired in many of these cafes. Especially on warm days, look to see if the meat is kept refrigerated before it is cooked. Before meals you will always be offered warm water poured over your hands from a jug. Before drinking tea, it is traditional to bless the cup with the first splash of tea from the pot. This serves ritual and hygienic purposes. Locals also believe in the sterilising properties of vodka.
As is common in other Central Asian countries, tea is drunk by most people, but without milk. Black coffee is also available everywhere. Some coffee shops and cafes offer good coffee, but the best of them is probably Amore Coffee at the MIR store just off of Broadway.
Alcoholic drinks are readily available. Outdoor bars are popular in good weather. Uzbek wine, vodka, and many different beers are available. The Russian beer "Baltika" is popular. Baltika 3 is good and similar to other international beers. Baltika 0 has no alcohol, Baltika 5 and 7 are also good, and Baltika 9 is very strong. A new local beer, Sarbast, has been launched and should be about half the price of imported beers. It is quite good and at 4.2% (red label), not too strong. Sarbast is also available with a blue label at 5.6%.
Nightclubs, as everywhere, offer expensive drinks and typically play a mix of Russian and Western music.
Tashkent's hotel scene for budget and mid-range accommodation is not very welcoming, but improving slowly.
|Ali Travel & Guest House||26/2 V. Vakhidov Street||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Gulnara||Olmazor district, Ozod street 40||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Mirzo B&B||95 Sagban Street Olmazor District||GUESTHOUSE||83|
|Boutique Hotel Tashkent||110, 1st Little Mirobod Passage Street||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Grand Tashkent||Proezd 6 A. Kahhara Street 57||HOTEL||-|
You can find Internet cafés in most of the cities. The speed varies but is generally better in more popular cities and areas.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Mobile connection works in most parts of Uzbekistan and the services are cheap. There are several popular mobile service providers in Uzbekistan like Ucell, Beeline, MTS (MTC in Cyrillic), Perfectum Mobile. A foreigner can get a SIM card after showing his passport. For activating the cell phone connection a person has to be registered. Generally some vendors are not aware of the law and refuse to sell to foreigners.
Avoid data roaming as prices are extremely high.
Uzbekistan postal services are not developed as in most developed countries worldwide, but all letters and parcels are delivered (after customs check) to its destinations. Uzbekistan postal services "OZBEKISTON POCHTASI" have introduced many new services recently and level of service is increasing. EMS Falcon (company affiliated with Ozbekiston Pochtasi) can deliver letters and parcels within Uzbekistan fast.
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