Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, is not known as a tourist destination and most people usually spend only a day or two visiting the museums and/or market. So when I started planning what to see in Uzbekistan I’d originally thought I might miss Tashkent all together. It was therefore quite ironic that I ended up spending eleven nights in the sprawling ex-soviet city that is Tashkent (and yes, eleven nights is a VERY long time to spend in Tashkent!).
So you might be wondering how it came to be that I not only visited Tashkent but I ended up spending so much time there. Well it all started in another Central Asian capital, Bishkek, when my visa plans completely fell apart and I had to re-think my Central Asian travels completely. It was a disappointing, stressful and challenging time. It also meant that I now needed to apply for two visas in Uzbekistan.
From the Fergana Valley in the east of Uzbekistan I travelled all day by shared taxi to Tashkent. I arrived on Sunday afternoon and first thing the next morning I went straight to the Iranian embassy to arrange my first visa.
I had already obtained the pre-required code from Stantours and was extremely grateful that I could apply for and obtain my Iranian visa in one working day (for an extra fee of course!).
The next day I went early to the Turkmenistan embassy. After waiting for a couple of hours I was finally called inside. Once inside I learnt the visa for Turkmenistan would take over a week to be processed, possibly two. However, after some haggling and pleading the embassy staff confirmed my visa would be ready in six working days (that’s eight days in total!).
Now I simply had to wait and I settled in for the longest stop on my trip so far.
My days soon took on the shape of a routine. Breakfast in the cute little courtyard of my guesthouse, followed by some internet time organising future travel and catching up on admin stuff from home. At lunchtime I would often wander down to Chorsu Market, Tashkent’s most famous market, full of fresh vegetables and fruit, meat, cheese, cheap shoddy clothes and some great people watching.
From Chorsu I would take the cheap and reliable metro to visit a museum, to buy train tickets to my next destination, or for a general explore of another part of the city.
Riding the metro was an experience in itself. At every single entrance a policeman would be stationed. The policeman would occasionally conduct a cursory check of my backpack but more often they didn’t. On one occasion the policeman wanted to check my passport and visa. Each metro station platform was like a work of art – chanderliers, marble, mosaics – it reminded me of the metro stations in St Petersburg and Moscow, although not quite ornate and grand.
Slowly the days crept by and I was finally back at the Turkmenistan embassy to actually get my visa. In the morning I lined up and waited to drop my passport off for processing. In the afternoon I returned to pick up my passport complete with one of the most elusive visas in all of Central Asia. I was excited not only had I successfully obtained my transit visa for Turkmenistan I was also now able to finally leave Tashkent and continue my Central Asian adventures!! Next stop the glorious city of Samarkand.
I stayed at Gulnara’s Guesthouse. Close to Chorsu bazaar and Chorsu metro it has a great location and the family who run the guesthouse are lovely and helpful. Dorm bed = USD15
Tashkent is a big sprawling city and the best way to get around is by metro. It costs 1,000 som per trip.