I think most travellers would agree that overland border crossing days always make them slightly nervous. For me crossing into Uzbekistan was no exception and I have to admit I was more nervous than normal as Uzbekistan has a reputation for being quite bureaucratic with border requirements that are quite particular with respect to a number of things.
Border crossings are also notorious for often taking some time to negotiate with long lines and/or long waits not uncommon so the morning of my border crossing into Uzbekistan I set out from Osh, Kyrgyzstan early in the morning. My stomach was a knot of nerves and I has happy that from Osh the border was only a short 15 minute taxi ride away.
When I arrived big closed gates blocked the road. My taxi driver pointed to a small gate to the right and indicated that’s where I should go. I hefted my backpack onto my shoulders and approached the solider standing at the gate. As the solider flicked through my passport I couldn’t help feeling a little disconcerted about the big gun he was carrying.
The solider waved me into a small building where another solider behind a desk checked my passport and asked ‘tourist’. I said yes and he stamped my passport. I was now stamped out of Kyrgyzstan.
I followed the path next to the road. Barbed wire fences followed my progress and soon I was outside Uzbekistan’s immigration and customs. A large group of locals milled around and I felt comforted to see some other tourists up ahead. Inside I was given two declaration forms to complete. They were both in Russian! But thankfully there were some examples in English on how to fill them out. I declared all of my currency and also declared I had medicines and listed my electronics (NB: Uzbekistan is extremely particular about the information completed on these declaration forms – see below for more details).
My completed forms were checked and stamped and I was given one to keep for when I was leaving. Next my bags were x-rayed and then I was asked to open my backpack. The customs officials wanted to see my medicines to ensure I wasn’t bringing in any opiate based medicines nor any psychotropic drugs. The also wanted to check my iPhone and laptop. They were particularly interested in checking/looking at my photos. I was then asked if I had anything pornographic or religious on my computer! I answered ‘no’ and I was waved through.
I was now in Uzbekistan!! While not too difficult or worrying it was more thorough than most countries and I was happy to have the whole border crossing process behind me.
As I walked out of the customs buildings I saw a group of shared taxis waiting. Now to negotiate a price for the trip to Fergana. Unfortunately there was no-one else around to share a taxi so I ended up paying for an entire taxi to take me the four hours to Fergana.
Fergana Valley is the most populous and industrial region in all of Uzbekistan. It’s also the centre of Central Asian silk production and Uzbekistan is the world’s third largest producer of silk. Given I was following the Silk Road I decided a stop at a traditional silk factory was definitely in order.
The Yodgorlik Silk Factory at nearby Margilon was traditional in all sense of the word. In a cluster of small buildings the production of silk starts and ends. From buildings which steam and unravel the cocoons to colouring the precious silk strands to the weaving of the stunning fabric in wonderful traditional patterns. When I arrived the factory was extremely quiet and I was lucky to have a tour all to myself.
Back in Fergana I was constantly struck by how much more developed and prosperous Uzbekistan is in comparison to Kyrgyzstan. There was a clear and marked difference, and I was curious and excited to see more of the country at the heart of Central Asia.
The border crossing I used is called Dostyk/Dustlyk between Osh, Kyrgyzstan and Andijon, Uzbekistan.
Biy Ordo Guesthouse in Osh helped organise my taxi to the border. The taxi took 15 minutes and cost 300 Kyrgyz som.
From the Uzbekistan side of the border I took a taxi straight to Fergana as this saved me changing shared taxis in Andijon and also meant no waiting for a shared taxi to fill up. The taxi took four hours and cost USD40.
IMPORTANT: When completing the Uzbekistan declaration form make sure you declare every cent of every type of currency you bring into the country or face possible penalties. Also note you’re unable to take out of Uzbekistan more money than you brought in (NB: this is particularly important to keep in mind if you’re continuing overland to Turkmenistan and Iran).
Uzbekistan also has strict regulations as to what medicines can be brought into the country. I recommend you check these regulations online before you enter Uzbekistan. I also recommend ensuring you have a letter from your doctor detailing all your prescriptions.