Destination

A square and path with people, lined with trees on both sides

Uzbekistan is not a country on most peoples geographical radar. When I tell people I live in Uzbekistan I’m often met with a polite smile and a mutual understanding that they have no clue where I live. That, or theyll assume I said Pakistan.

If youre also clueless about Uzbekistan, then you’re forgiven. Its a Central Asian country sandwiched between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan. Its pretty much bang in the middle of Istanbul and Beijing.

Uzbekistan is a relatively isolated place, being one of only two double-landlocked countries in the world, meaning every country around it is also a landlocked country.

Uzbekistan is quite a unique country to live in and there are a lot of pros and cons to living here.

If youre considering a move to this unique country, Ill give you an honest summary of everything you need to know before moving to Uzbekistan.

Living and Working in Uzbekistan

Living in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

While Uzbekistan may not fit the bill if you’re seeking a bustling and vibrant country to relocate to, it does provide a safe environment and the opportunity to save money, thanks to its relatively low cost of living.

As most of Uzbekistans trade is between Turkey, Russia, China, and Kazakhstan, there arent a huge number of jobs for English speakers. The biggest group of expats living in Uzbekistan are international school teachers, but there are also government representatives and independent business owners here.

If youre planning on moving to Uzbekistan to work, then youre most likely going to be living in Tashkent, the capital city. Its the biggest and most modern city and the business hub of the country.

While not exactly a hotspot for digital nomads, the city is witnessing a rise in coworking spaces. Coupled with flexible visa regulations, decent wifi, and affordable living expenses, Uzbekistan also presents an appealing option for remote workers.

Also Read: How to Work Remotely From Anywhere in the World

1. Things to Do in Uzbekistan

A large historical brown building surrounding a courtyard with many people, lit up with pink lights
The Registan

This will be the make-or-break for most people. Tashkent is a comfortable place to live but its not the most exciting place in the world.

In Tashkent youll find plenty of restaurants, cafes, bars, and parks. Eating out is one of the perks of the city as there are all kinds of cuisine here from Uzbek and Turkish to Chinese, Indian, and Korean.

As a majority Muslim country, nightlife here isnt huge. But, there are certainly some fun places to head to in the evening.

The city is also surprisingly green and there are over a dozen child-friendly parks and amusement parks if youre moving as a family.

Other things you might expect from city life can be a bit disappointing however. Shopping malls here are pretty lacklustre and cinemas play films either in Uzbek or Russian.

If youre interested in ancient or medieval history however, then Uzbekistan is a great place to live. Its home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites and has literally hundreds of cultural and historical places of interest. Its tourism scene is very underrated.

The Registan is perhaps Uzbekistans answer to the Taj Mahal. It’s a public square upon which three giant madrasas attract over a million visitors a year with giant domes, beautiful courtyards, and golden interiors. It was the heart of the city of Samarkand.

Other places to visit in Samarkand include the necropolis (an Instagram hotspot) Shah-i-Zinda and the Gur-i-Emir Mausoleum, resting place of Uzbek conqueror Amir Temur.

Uzbekistan is also the travel hub of the region and is surrounded by the other Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, which makes exploring these countries very easy to do. You can go trekking in the mountains of Tajikistan; horse riding in Kyrgyzstan; or shopping, eating, and drinking in Almaty in Kazakhstan.

2. Cost of Living in Uzbekistan

A park in Tashkent with large green trees and several people walking on a paved path
A park in Tashkent

The cost of living in Uzbekistan will be a major draw for those considering moving here but prices for certain things can be quite high.

General living costs such as food and transport can be incredibly low with metro tickets for $0.20 and taxis between $1-3. If you eat Uzbek food, you can get a meal in a restaurant for less than $5 and groceries are much cheaper than in Western countries.

If you want higher-end items such as branded clothes and comfort food then expect to pay at least as much as you would do at home. Since everything is imported by land, prices are not cheap.

Housing in Tashkent is also surprisingly expensive given the cost of living. Expect $500-1000 per month for a one or two-bedroom apartment in the city, depending on the location. If youre working for a local company like an international school however, your employer will likely cover this cost.

3. Uzbekistan Culture

two older men and several boys sitting outside in Uzbekistan

Uzbek people can be very warm, which is quite unusual for cultures of former Soviet Union states. Strangers arent afraid to speak to you in the street and bemused old ladies might even crack out a golden-toothed smile (after sizing you up!).

One thing that is particularly distinct about Uzbek culture is the marriage mindset that many Uzbeks have. Uzbek people marry at quite a young age and if youre single, dont be surprised if strangers offer to introduce you to their unmarried family members.

Although it might feel strange and even uncomfortable for Westerners, it is done so lightheartedly.

4. Uzbek Language

In Uzbekistan, Uzbek and Russian are both commonly spoken and sometimes interchangeably. For an outsider it can be confusing at first knowing which language to learn but for the most part, you can get by speaking only English and a few Russian words and phrases.

Uzbek is the official language in Uzbekistan but many Uzbeks speak Russian as their first language. Knowing some Russian is helpful but learning some basic Uzbek will gain you more respect.

Its a Turkic language and quite different from English but the grammar is not too tough and the pronunciation is quite forgiving (unlike Russian!).

5. Food in Uzbekistan

A table filled with a lot of plates of food
Food at an Uzbek wedding

There is nothing more divisive amongst foreigners in Uzbekistan than the food! To some, its rich, hearty and filling and yet to others, its bland and unhealthy.

Uzbek food is very meat-centric. The national dish is plov, a fried rice dish with beef, carrots, chickpeas, and spices. Its sometimes served with quail eggs or kazy, a sausage made with horsemeat.

Some other types of Uzbek food include:

  • Shashlik – Grilled meat skewers.
  • Somsa – Uzbek-style samosa filled with meat, potato, or pumpkin.
  • Lagman – fried noodles with meat and vegetables served with egg.
  • Manti – dumplings filled with minced meat and served with yogurt.

Thankfully its not all red meat and carbs. Uzbek salad known as achichuk is a simple yet tasty tomato and onion salad. Russian-style salads and soups such as beetroot-based borscht are also popular.

Despite having bazaars full of spices, Uzbek food can often be lacking in spice. Cumin is often used but chili pepper is rarely used and most Uzbeks dislike hot and spicy food.

The abundance of cheap fruit in Uzbekistan is great, especially in late summer and autumn as the bazaars are filled with watermelons, apricots, pomegranates, grapes, cherries, strawberries, oranges, apples, and more.

6. Nightlife

A modern looking bar with dimmed lighting and many people
Tashkent’s nightlife

Nightlife in Uzbekistan is fairly quiet but as one of the most liberal majority Muslim countries in the world, there are plenty of bars and restaurants serving alcohol.

Alcohol is completely legal and as a former Soviet state, vodka (white tea) is particularly popular here among the older generation!

Uzbekistan can often be a unique and unusual mix of cultures and the epitome of this is perhaps Tashkents Steam Bar. Here, you can listen to chill-out Middle Eastern-style house music upstairs, while downstairs staff dance with fire to the music of Rammstein or Barbie Girl.

If Steampunk-themed bars are not your cup of tea then there are plenty of quiet rooftop bars, gastro-pubs, and modern craft beer bars.

7. Money

The currency of Uzbekistan is Uzbek Som and the rate of exchange at the time of writing is $1 = 12,500 Som. With such a high conversion rate, expect a lot of zeros on your paycheck!

One thing to be mindful of when accepting employment in Uzbekistan is the currency in which you will be paid. The value of the Uzbek Som has been falling against the US dollar for years so if working here you will want your salary to be fixed in dollars, not Som.

Uzbek banks offer insanely high rates of return for locked savings accounts, sometimes above 20%. This is an astronomical amount on paper but be wary of the risks such as currency devaluation and counterparty risk.

The Uzbek banking system is still developing and at times can be frustrating but sending money back to your home country can be very simple to do via banking apps once youre able to set them up.

Banks dont always have English speaking staff so youll need the help of your HR department or a local friend when dealing with issues in person.

8. Transport

A modern looking train stopped at an almost empty platform

Getting around Uzbekistan is very convenient and relatively cheap.

Uzbekistan has invested in its trains, particularly its high-speed Afrosiyob trains which travel between Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara. Although prices were raised considerably in 2023, you can still travel between each of these cities for around $16 each way.

Uzbekistan is quite a large country so if you plan to travel long distances such as to Nukus in the West, youll need to book a sleeper train.

Inner city travel is especially cheap and can be done by metro, bus, or private taxi.

A taxi across Tashkent will cost no more than $3 when booked via an app and is even cheaper in the other cities of Uzbekistan.

The Tashkent metro is one of a kind and due to its uniquely decorated stations, its as much of a tourist attraction as it is a mode of transport. For 2,000 Som (around 20 cents) you can travel between any two stations.

Buses are also cheap in Uzbekistan although much more difficult to navigate for English speakers as information is in Uzbek or Russian.

9. Safety

Being such an unknown part of the world and sharing a border with Afghanistan, its natural to want to know how safe it is to live in Uzbekistan.

Let me assure you, that its a very safe place to live and the level of crime is very low. Walk around the parks at 10pm and youre more likely to be shocked by young children out past their bedtime than anything else!

One of the main concerns of foreigners here is road safety and this is a genuine issue. Driving in Uzbekistan is not the best in the world and accident rates are quite high.

If using taxi apps, we always pay extra for a higher class as these drivers tend to be older, more patient, and experienced drivers.

Long distance journeys between cities are best done via train rather than the highways. Its much more fun and comfortable to travel by train anyway.

The general consensus amongst foreign governments is to avoid the border areas between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan such as the city of Termez.

10. Weather

A statue of a man on a horse with a high rise building in the background

Uzbekistan is a wonderfully sunny country for most of the year and has a particularly dry climate. The best months for sunny, enjoyable weather are April, May, September and October. Afternoon temperatures start to hit 40 at the end of June and it continues to be hot until August.

This hot period in Uzbekistan is known as chillya, lasting for about 40 days. Unfortunately, power cuts arent uncommon at this time of year, meaning its best to leave the country if you have holidays around this time.

Winters in Uzbekistan always bring at least a little snow but the temperatures are generally bearable. The winter of 2022/2023 was abnormally cold however, as temperatures dropped as low as -20C. So be prepared for this possibility.

11. Visas

If you already have your employment in place then the visa process will be taken care of by your employer and is fairly easy to do.

If youre coming to Uzbekistan to look for a job then its possible to arrive on a tourist visa. Uzbekistan is open to over 80 countries visa-free which includes European countries, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and many more.

Citizens from countries such as the USA, India, and China need a visa. You can apply for this online, and it costs $20 for a single-entry 30-day E-visa.

A few years ago the idea of having a digital nomad visa was also floated around but unfortunately, nothing came of it. If you work online and want to live in Uzbekistan short to medium term then your only easy option is to exit and reenter the country once a month.

This can be done at the land borders with Kazakhstan and is fairly straightforward if your passport allows you to enter both countries without a visa.

Final Thoughts About Living in Uzbekistan

Scenic view of green hills and a bright blue lake
View from the top of Kungurbuka Mountain

Uzbekistan is an unusual mix of Muslim and Soviet culture: an old, traditional country currently experiencing development. It’s one of the most unique countries you could visit.

Although it can be a cheap, fun and interesting place to live, it does have its drawbacks too.

On the one hand, its possible to have fun and save a good portion of your monthly salary. Its also a very safe place and is a great spot for tourism and for traveling to other countries in Central Asia.

If you spend your free time wisely you can visit medieval mausoleums and palaces, walk through ancient fortress ruins, and even ride camels in the desert.

On the other hand, bear in mind that imported items can be expensive, some foreigners complain about a lack of diversity in the food, and there may be limited options to keep you entertained in the cities.

None of this is to put you off moving to Uzbekistan – its just to give you a realistic impression of life in the country.

If youre considering moving to Uzbekistan, then Id definitely recommend visiting as a tourist first.

Also Read:

Author: Ryan Ettenfield
Ryan Ettenfield is a travel writer and journalist based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. A maths teacher by profession, he’s travelled and lived all over Asia and Europe including China, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Bulgaria and more. When he’s not using thesauruses and spell checkers, he’s writing terrible code or exploring the golden ratio of kebabs to beers. He shares travel tips for Central Asia on his website Tourcentralasia.com

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