The most convenient method to travel between Uzbekistan’s main tourist cities is via rail. The main line Tashkent-Samarkand-Bukhara is serviced once a day by two express trains called “Afrosiob” and “Sharq”: The Afrosiob is a Talgo-250-type train that travels 2.5 hours to Samarkand, whereas the “Sharq” travels 600 kilometers from Tashkent to Bukhara (with an intermediate stop in Samarkand) in less than 7 hours. A daily overnight train from Tashkent to Bukhara allows you to travel through the night and win one day. Sleeping cars that are comfortable enable for a pleasant night’s sleep.
In contrast to regular local trains, express trains feature three classes: economy (2nd), business (1st), and VIP (expect some free drinks and snacks). The Afrosiob is the quickest and most costly train, costing 51,000/68,000/98,000 soms from Tashkent to Samarkand for 2nd/1st/VIP class. Taking the Sharq saves you approximately 22,000 soms ($7) in each class, but extends the journey duration by almost 1.30h.
Overnight trains operate between Tashkent and Samarkand to Urgench (3 times per week) and Nukus – Kungrad (2 times per week), making it feasible to go by rail to Khiva (30 kilometers from Urgench, taxi/bus available) or the Aral lake (Moynaq, 70 kilometers from Kungrad). On Thursdays, there is an overnight train from Urgench to Bukhara.
Sleepers are classified into four types:
- miagki vagon (soft wagon) – 2 berth compartments
- kupeiny vagon – 4 berth compartments
- platskartny vagon – benches in a large car
- obshi vagon – don’t take that one
Purchase your ticket as soon as possible (booking at the day of departure is sometimes impossible: trains can get full or computer problems can make booking impossible). If you go to the ticket counter personally, you’ll need to present your passport. Some basic Russian may also be useful. Alternatively, you may purchase your trip via an Uzbek travel agent.
By shared taxi
The second-best choice, as well as an experience. Don’t be put off – as far as people go, they are fairly safe; the roads, on the other hand, are a another matter – when they exist! However, this is the only feasible route to travel from Nukus to Khiva, or from Khiva via Urgench to Bukhara.
The taxi driver will have a destination city, so ask around at the ranks for the city you’re going to. If you match, you may then work out a price. Ask around ahead of time, since each passenger negotiates individually with the driver, allowing him to charge locals regular prices and take you for everything you have.
After that, you just wait. The vehicle only departs when it is full or when the driver becomes bored. If at all feasible, choose the front passenger seat – ‘only a lemon occupies the middle seat.’ Don’t be nice about it; you don’t want the middle seat. When it’s 50 degrees Celsius in the middle of the desert and you don’t have air conditioning (you pay extra for a vehicle with that), you want to be as near to a window as possible, with just one person sweating against you!
In addition, the roads are sluggish and, at times, non-existent – dirt paths with potholes. If you’re fortunate, it takes 6-8 hours to get from Urgench to Bukhara. Still, the vehicle will most likely make it – after you complete this part, you’ll see why you don’t want to risk the bus.
In Uzbekistan, bus travel is only for the really daring and not for those in a hurry. Except for special excursions, buses are old, dilapidated, overcrowded, terribly sluggish, and prone to breakdowns. If you must travel by bus in Uzbekistan, bring toilet paper with you and watch what you eat at rest breaks.
Take the right lane. A valid international driver’s license is needed. Minimum age: 17 years old. Speed limit: 60-80 km/h in cities, 90 km/h on highways.
In Uzbekistan, there are numerous two-lane paved highways:
- AH5 from Gishtkuprik/Chernyavka on the border to Kazakhstan via Tashkent, Syrdaria, Samarkand, Navoi and Bukhara to Alat on the border to Turkmenistan (680 km),
- AH7 from the border to Kyrgysztan via Andijon, Tashkent and Syrdaria to Xovos/Khavast on the border to Tajikistan (530 km),
- AH62 from Gishtkuprik/Chernyavka on the border to Kazakhstan via Tashkent, Syrdaria, Samarkand and Guzar to Termez on the border to Afghanistan (380 km),
- AH63 from Oazis on the border to Kazakhstan in the North West of Uzbekistan via Nukus and Bukhara to Guzar (950 km paved road, 240 km unpaved)
- AH65 from Uzun on the border to Tajikistan to Termez on the border to Afghanistan(180 km)
The metro is an excellent choice throughout the day. It is suggested that you utilize cab services after 12 a.m. It is preferable to pre-arrange for a taxi (car service) to bring you up. Some automobile services are available to foreign-speaking visitors. More information is available at the hotel.