Solo Female Travel in Uzbekistan
Updated April 2020, Solo female Travel in Uzbekistan was originally written in November 2019
Solo female travel in Uzbekistan is much easier than you probably thought it was before landing on my blog. I’ve crisscrossed Central Asia several times over the last five years and have a thousand and one great experiences (and a few bad, but that’s okay).
In this women’s Uzbekistan guide, you’ll find helpful tips on how to dress, where to meet other travelers, how to get around, and how to avoid unwanted advances by googley-eyed young men.
You Don’t Have To Be Brave To Take A Solo Trip To Uzbekistan
I get told all the time I’m brave to travel to (fill in the blank) country alone. Guess what guys, I’m not that brave- it’s just not as dangerous as you think.
Uzbekistan is a fairly modern country (of course there are always exceptions) with pretty low crime rates. Uzbekistan is a bit of a police state (it’s becoming less so), so you will see police, guards, and military quite often. But bravery isn’t a prerequisite to visit Uzbekistan as a solo woman.
Heading To Central Asia? Check Out 7 Tips For Solo Female Travel In Central Asia
Uzbekistan Is Much Safer Than You Think
People love to generalize and categorize: but I’m here to tell you that just ‘cause it ends in ‘stan doesn’t make it dangerous. I get where the concern comes from: Uzbekistan’s neighbor Afghanistan is known to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world (though I’ve been three times now and have lived to tell about it).
Uzbekistan is a police state. You’ll notice right away the high number of police and military officers everywhere. From the streets of any Uzbek city to the Tashkent Metro, to any major attraction in the country there’s a security presence. This isn’t because Uzbekistan suffers high crime rates or frequent terrorist attacks, it’s due to the police state-y-ness of the country. Uzbekistan has improved quite a bit since my first visit in 2016, the country is opening up more and more
Looking For Ideas? Read: The 30 Best Things To Do In Uzbekistan To Get Excited
Learn Some Basic Phrases In Uzbek & Russian
This can take your travel from average to amazing. Having basic communication skills can greatly improve your experience, especially in Uzbekistan as English isn’t widespread.
If you bear no resemblance to the Uzbeks, most people will approach you in Russian as it was the lingua franca of Central Asia owing to the region’s history with the Soviet Union. Russian is still spoken by the majority of the population, so charting and negotiating prices in Russian is pretty standard. Most travelers don’t know any Uzbek, so if you throw out a few phrases most Uzbeks will be thrilled that you bothered to learn any from my experience.
If you speak any Tajik, Farsi, or Dari feel free to speak it especially in eastern Uzbekistan. Eastern Uzbekistan, in areas of the Fergana Valley and near the Tajik border speak Tajik owing to the area’s historical ties to Tajikistan. I recommend picking up a copy of Bradt Guide’s Uzbekistan to help you with planning (they even include a language/phrase section too!).
What To Wear As A Solo Female Traveler In Uzbekistan
Despite being an Islamic-majority population, attitudes towards women and their dress is quite liberal to what most people assume. Now with that said, some parts of Uzbekistan are more conservative than others. You will see women wearing headscarves and traditional dresses in smaller towns and villages and also in the big cities. But you’ll see women dressed in very western attire in Tashkent and Samarkand.
With all that said, I still recommend dressing modestly to avoid unwanted attention and babushkas muttering “shluha” under their breath as you traipse by in a miniskirt. And by modestly, I’m not recommending you go out and buy a burqa before you leave home, I just mean something not revealing. When I travel n Central Asia I generally avoid low-cut tops and skirts or shorts much above the knee.
So how do you dress in the blazing Uzbek heat?
From May through September Uzbekistan can be unbearably hot with temperatures exceeding 35 and even 40°C. For the amount of shade I throw to those idiotic dress-twirling Instagram influencers, this is the time their usual fashion-over-function outfit choices are a great option. Opt for light, airy, breathable fabrics. Palazzo pants with peasant tops and maxi dresses are your best friends in this heat.
October and April are typically much more present months to visit in. The temperatures during the daylight hours are still warm enough to run around comfortably without too many layers, but the evening can get chilly enough to warrant a jacket.
Winter is a budget travel and low season bonanza In Uzbekistan. Yes, temperatures can be downright freezing and dip below the 0°C mark, so dress accordingly- but plan to have more sites to yourself and rake in the savings on accommodations and tours.
Read: A Two Week Uzbekistan Itinerary
Where To Meet Other Travelers
Still not totally onboard with traveling solo? Don’t worry, you usually can meet others to travel with similar enough interests.
A great place to start is on these forums to search for others that may be traveling near the same time as you or to make a post of your own. Another great option is to opt to stay in hostels. I’ve lost count of the time that I’ve met another traveler and joined up with them for the day or for a week or more to explore a destination deeper.
If You’re Ever In Doubt Look For Other Women
Even if you aren’t having a problem as a solo female traveler in Uzbekistan, I find that women and girls come over and introduce themselves and chat with me. Uzbek women (well, everyone in general) are friendly and kind. But if you are ever being hassled by a man, it’s always good to seek the help of other women. Older women will especially look after you as if you’re her own.
Where To Go In Uzbekistan
As a solo female traveler In Uzbekistan there’s not really anywhere that’s off-limits or that even poses any special challenges. Here is a list of places most people visit and rave about in Uzbekistan:
Samarkand was nicknamed the crossroads of cultures owing to its Silk Road history which brought many a traveler, near and far here on the great expedition between Europe and Asia. You’ll need at least two days in Samarkand to hit the wealth of architecture and history that draw in most tourists, including; the Registan, Gur e Amir, Shah i Zinda, Bibi Khanym Mosque, Ulugbek’s Observatory, and more.
Start Planning Your Samarkand Itinerary With My Samarkand City Guide
Home to buildings with over a millennia of history, Bukhara still feels like you’re taking a step back in time wandering through its old city of mosques, madrasas, and minarets. As the capital of the Samanid Empire and the Khanate of Bukhara, the city boasts impressive history and architecture. Must-see stops in Bukhara include; Labi Hauz, Kulkadesh Madrasa, Ulughbek Madrasa, Kalon Minaret & Madrasa, the Ark, and more. Much like Samarkand, I’d recommend at least two days here.
Start planning: The Bukhara Travel Guide
Khiva is my favorite of Uzbekistan’s Silk Road cities, firstly because it feels quite different from Samarkand and Bukhara, and secondly, because it’s far enough away from the main Uzbekistan attractions that many give the city a miss. Most of the major sites around Khiva can be seen in a single day if you hurry, but I personally spent three days in Khiva on my first trip and didn’t get bored.
Make sure and visit the Kuhna Ark; the Ichan Kala Gates & Walls; Mohammed Rahim Khan, Islam Khoja, and Allakuli Khan Madrasas; Pahlavon Mahmud, and Said Alovaddin Mausoleums, and the Tash Hovli and Isfandiyar Palaces.
Plan your visit to Khiva: The Khiva Travel Guide
Many travelers use Tashkent as their arrival and departure point without bothering to see much of the city. I quite like Tashkent and found that even with three days in the city I was trying to run a marathon to visit everything I wanted to. Don’t miss out on the Tashkent Metro Stations, Chorsu Bazaar, Khast Imam Complex, Amir Timur Square, Sheik Khantur Mausoleum, amazing restaurants, and the plethora of museums.
Read: The Tashkent Metro In Photos & Travel Guide
The Fergana Valley is Uzbekistan’s breadbasket if you will– as the Fergana Valley is where most of the country’s fruit and cotton is cultivated. The Fergana Valley ended up split between Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, which has undoubtedly caused some tension over the years. This region of Uzbekistan is known for being the country’s most religious, with Namangan being the most religious city in all of Uzbekistan.
Fergana Valley’s cities are great places to visit for those interested in locally made handcrafts, like the famed silk of Margilan.
Karakalpakstan is often skipped over by travelers, but this far west semi-autonomous region is one of Uzbekistan’s most interesting in my opinion. From what remains of the Aral Sea to the edge of the world town of Moynaq, peculiar little Nukus and its Avant-gard Savitsky museum, to the fascinating Khorezm Castles, Karakalpakstan is worthy of venturing westward from Khiva for.
Looking To Get Off The Beaten Path In Uzbekistan? Check Out My Karakalpakstan Travel Guide
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