When I decided on travelling to Uzbekistan for my solo trip of the year, I had my own reasons which included ticking this country off my travel bucket list finally (Yes, Uzbekistan had been on my travel bucket list since childhood). However, after spending 8 fabulous days in this fantastic country, I realised that Uzbekistan had so much to offer for Indian travellers and it makes for one of the best destinations from India within the South/Central Asian region/sub-continent. As an Indian traveller/travel lover, if you haven’t thought of travelling to Uzbekistan, you should and here are top 10 reasons to visit Uzbekistan for Indian travellers:-
1. Easy and Short Flight from India to Uzbekistan – It takes only 3 hours flight from Delhi to Tashkent (capital of Uzbekistan). The Uzbekistan Airways (a national carrier) runs many flights from Delhi and it will take the same amount of time to reach Tashkent as it does to reach Bangkok (and less time it takes to travel to Hong Kong from Delhi).
2. Easy and Cheap Transportation – Uzbekistan is well connected not only internationally via flights but the domestic transportation within the country is also easy & cheap (at least to the major town and cities). There are easy domestic flights, High Speed Trains (we rode the Afrosiab and it was such a delightful experience), Buses & commercial taxis. For Indian travellers, transportation does not come expensive as the Dollar & INR conversion rate to Uzbek Som is quite strong.
3. Strong Forex/Currency Conversion Rate – The Uzbek currency is Soms and both US Dollar and Indian Rupees are quite strong in conversion to it. The official exchange rate of Dollars to Soms in 3000 but in open market it goes upto 6500 Soms. To give you an idea how much it translates to Indian Rupees, here is an example – I got a hair cut for 20000 Soms or 250 INR in a salon there. The strong currency rate makes travelling and shopping in Uzbekistan an attractive proposition for Indian travellers.
4. Rich Culture and Heritage – For History and culture lovers, Uzbekistan is a gem; located on the strategic point of the historically famed Silk Road/Route, it has some of the most stunning historic monuments, cities and destinations. The cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand are UNESCO World heritage sites among many others. The Uzbek Ikat is world famous and so is the ceramic crockery among many interesting crafts. If you are a textile lover or a crockery lover like me, you can literally shop till you drop here!
5. Shared heritage and history with India – The mughal empire in India has its origins from Uzbekistan, as Babur (the first emperor of Mughal empire) was the great grandson of the great ruler & founder of Samarkand – Amir Timur (famously known as Timur Lane). It is fascinating to visit Samarkand and learn about the history of the empire and its geographic journey into India. A lot of our language, cultural practices and customs are similar to Uzbek people, I learnt during my visit there.
6. Delicious Uzbek Cuisine – If you are a food lover (or not), Uzbek cuisine will make you fall in love with it. Though I am a eggitarian vegetarian, I had the most delicious and fun time there. The Uzbek people known how to enjoy food and any meals consists of many different (and interesting salads), breads, soups and ofcourse meat items. I never had so many different kind of salads in my life before I went to Uzbekistan and I thoroughly enjoyed the food there. Ofcourse for meat lovers, there is a vast range of dishes to try out when in Uzbekistan including the famous Samarkand pilaf.
7. Excellent Wine & Alcohol based drinks – Uzbekistan produces some of the best wines in the Central Asia region and has many vineyards. Not only that, it has some of the best vodka, cognac and other alcohol based drinks. We thoroughly enjoyed our wines during the trip and I brought back 2 bottles (allowed limit in baggage) of a wine & vodka for the husband.
8. Exciting Night life – The Uzbeks love to party and know how to have a good time. There are many restaurants with dancing area/discotheque and Uzbeks prefer to come with the family and have a nice time over dinner. Since I was with a women group tour, every night we would head out to a famous restaurant (in the city we were staying at) and have a gala time dancing away. I think I never danced so much on any trip as I did on this trip.
9. Safe Country for travel – As per my experience and chatting with fellow travellers I met on the trip, our tour leader and local travel agent, I found that the country is very safe for travellers, including women travellers. As a small group of women travelling and partying till late night, we did not face any problems in general; in fact I remember taking taxi with 2 of my women mates at 11 in night and reaching hotel safely.
10. Uzbeks love India & Indians – Yes, Uzbeks love India and Indians. Eveyrwhere we visited, locals would ask us which country we were from and when they got to know that we were from ‘Hindustan’ (that’s how they prefer to call India), we would be warmly greeted and asked about the country. Many girls took selfies with us too. The best part was when we hit the dance floor every night (see point 7), the DJ would definitely play the Indian hit song – Jimmy Jimmy, Aaja, Aaja!! I think I have reached my quota of dancing to this number in Uzbekistan (and shall dance no more to this number from hereon!!).
In short, Uzbekistan has the best of culture, heritage, nightlife and natural beauty and it’s just a 3 hour flight away from India. So, if you are thinking of an easy destination to travel this holiday season, take my advice and head to Uzbekistan.