SAMARKAND, UZBEKISTAN — The desert climate makes Uzbekistan extremely hot in summer (more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the south) and cold in winter. The best months to travel are May, June, September, and October. Since the bureaucracy facing tourists can be daunting, and independent travel is not encouraged, careful research and planning are advised, including booking your hotels through a travel agent or tour operator prior to departure. If possible, before you leave obtain your visa from the embassy in Washington (202-887-5300). If you must obtain it on entry, you can do so at Tashkent airport. Both methods require letters of introduction from contacts in the country or a tour operator.
If you travel and eat as the locals do, Uzbekistan is a very cheap destination. However, foreigners are often required to pay more than locals. The local currency is sum, which you will need to pay for food, souvenirs, and local transport. You can change money at most hotels, officially or unofficially. Traveler's checks are not widely accepted; we had great difficulty changing one even at the international airport in Tashkent. Bring US dollars in cash - new bills in small denominations are preferred. Taxis are widely available in the cities; drivers will try to have you pay in US dollars. It's best to negotiate the fare, either in sum or in dollars, before you get in. Intercity buses and trains are cheap but less comfortable than in the West.
English is spoken in the tourist hotels, though not widely outside, where Russian is often more useful. Hotels in Tashkent range from expensive international chains to budget accommodations. Outside the capital, most hotels that are open to foreigners are the former Intourist (Soviet tourist agency) hotels, where a Russian-style breakfast and sometimes dinner is included. Ask your tour operator or travel agent about your options.
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