Uzbekistan is not exactly known as a haven for backpackers but this little known Silk Road destination should be on the radar of every adventurer looking for an alternative country to explore in 2024.

With cheap food, transport and alcohol; a growing number of good quality budget and boutique hotels and hostels; and cities with history as old and complex as Rome and Athens, Uzbekistan has plenty to offer to budget travellers.

Paths once traversed by Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and the lesser-known but equally brilliant (and nefarious) Amir Timur all wind through its ancient and mediaeval metropolises. I’ve been living here full time for years, and have been lucky enough to explore most of the country, and Central Asia as a whole. 

So if you’re looking for a more relaxing alternative to the hordes of drunken 20 year olds in Thailand, then this backpacking Uzbekistan travel guide will answer all of your questions.

Let’s get into it.

man takes a selfie with a group of dancers in Samarkand, uzbekistan
But first, a dance.
Photo: Ryan Ettenfield

Why Go Backpacking in Uzbekistan?

The main attractions of Uzbekistan are without a doubt its historical monuments. The country is home to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, four of which are cultural sites with the one natural site being the Tien-Shan mountains to the east of the country.

The land upon which present-day Uzbekistan lies has passed through the hands of all kinds of empires and dynasties including the ancient Persians and Greeks; the Arabs and Mongols; the Timurids and the Soviets.

people walking in bukhara uzbekistan at sunset
The sunsets aren’t bad either…
Photo: Ryan Ettenfield

Some of these periods resulted in the growth of civilisations with Silk Road trade and impressive architecture yet at other times conflict resulted in mass murder and the complete destruction of cities.

That which survived the destruction is a path of mosques, mausoleums, minarets, palaces, madrasas (Islamic schools), fortresses, and ancient ruins spanning thousands of years.

The best thing about these monuments is that they’re all either free or cost a couple of dollars at most to visit. The majority of them are located in only three cities, easily accessible by train as you travel across a range of landscapes including desert, rivers, valleys and farmland.

Add to this $0.20 metro tickets, hearty meals that you can find for $3-5, hostels starting from $7 per night, and more cheap vodka than you could ever stomach and you’ll understand exactly why Uzbekistan is so underrated as a budget backpacking destination.

Best Places to Visit in Uzbekistan

The main cities to visit in Uzbekistan are Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva, which are home to the majority of the country’s landmarks.

Capital Tashkent lacks the historical monuments of the other spots but as the most modern and populated city in the country it’s definitely worth visiting if only for its restaurants and nightlife! Plus if you’re flying into Uzbekistan from abroad, then chances are you’ll be passing through anyway.

Backpacking Tashkent

Tashkent is a confusing mix of Soviet-style apartment blocks, modern cafes, green parks, and long, wide streets lined with as many police officers as trees.

If you’re short on time, travelling in Tashkent can be completed in half a day with a quick tour around the city’s main attractions. Places of interest to tourists include the Tashkent metro, famous for its uniquely designed metro stations; the Hazrati Imam complex, home of what is claimed to be the oldest copy of the Quran in the world; as well as Amir Temur Square and Tashkent TV Tower.

There’s also the hectic Chorsu Bazaar where you can buy anything from traditional silk scarves and Uzbek-style dresses to spices and fresh seasonal fruit.

a monument in tashkent uzbekistan seen at night in winter with snow
Winter may not be the best time to visit for weather, but it’s ideal for peace and quiet.
Photo: Ryan Ettenfield

If you do have extra time on your hands, it’s definitely worth exploring the city a little more. There are also a lot of museums although they can be hit or miss. The State Museum of the Timurids is one of the best, especially if you want to learn a little about the history of Uzbekistan before moving on to Samarkand or Bukhara.

For Uzbek restaurants in Tashkent, try the Plov Centre close to Tashkent Tower (now called Besh Qozon), buy samosas from Alay Bazaar, or test your stomach with the meat skewers (shashlik) at Chorsu Bazaar.

Restaurants in Tashkent offer diverse cuisines including Korean, Russian, Chinese, European, Japanese, Turkish, Indian and much more. If you’re at the end of your trip and can stomach no more Uzbek food (it’s pretty heavy with meat and carbs!) then Tashkent will be an oasis.

Then there’s the nightlife! Nightlife in Uzbekistan tends to be on the quiet side, especially in the smaller cities, but Tashkent is the place to be for bars and clubs. Places to party are scattered across the city with no obvious centre, but some of the highlights for backpackers are Steampunk-themed Steam Bar and the expat-run Tashkent Tavern.

Backpacking Samarkand

Samarkand is the first stop for most cultural tourists to Uzbekistan, being only a 2 hour train from Tashkent. Home to the most polished and extravagant landmarks in the whole country, it’s a must-visit for any backpacker.

The most famous attraction here is the Registan, an open square upon which three madrasas face one another. Originally built between the 14th and 17th centuries, these three buildings alone inspire thousands of tourists to visit Uzbekistan with their giant, endlessly decorated portals.

The Tilya Kori is perhaps the most iconic of these structures with the golden walls and ceiling of its interior creating a dazzling atmosphere. See if you can spot the optical illusion here…

The Shah-i-Zinda is the second most iconic spot in Samarkand and a magnet for Instagrammers! It’s a narrow mediaeval passage lined with small domed tombs, constructed from sand-coloured brick and adorned with a myriad of blue tiles and mosaics.

the massive registan in samarkhand uzbekistan lit up at night
Did you really go to Uzbekistan if you didn’t visit the Registan?
Photo: Ryan Ettenfield

Elsewhere, there’s the turquoise-domed Gur-i Amir Complex, the final resting place of the conqueror Amir Temur after his unexpected death. Initially intended to be buried in Shakhrisabz, it is said that due to the weather, his body could not be moved, leading to his burial under this building instead.

Other things to do in Samarkand include a visit to the Ulugbek Observatory and the Mausoleum of St. Daniel. The Mausoleum of St. Daniel is particularly noteworthy as it is one of the rare places of worship that is significant to all three major Abrahamic religions: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

Eating out in Samarkand often means giant dining halls, live music, big trays of roasted meat, beer or vodka, and a few token salads thrown in to balance out the indulgence. Samarkand Restaurant and Karimbek Restaurant are both good options for this.

If you’re planning on enjoying a few drinks at the end of the day then Samarkand Blues Bar or Green Bear Bar at the bottom of Samarkand Beer Street are both very foreigner-friendly fun spots.

Backpacking Bukhara

Often described as the “most complete example of a mediaeval city in Central Asia”, Bukhara is probably the most underrated place to visit in Uzbekistan. Home to dozens of protected cultural landmarks, the city has architecture dating back to the 5th century such as the Ark of Bukhara, a huge fortress protected by walls up to 20 m in height.

The infamous Genghis Khan completely decimated Bukhara in 1220, destroying its buildings, butchering its population and turning the survivors into slaves. Very little of the city survived but the Kalon Minaret next to the Kalon Mosque are some of the few remaining monuments from that period.

reflection of a historical mosque in a small pond in bukhara uzbekistan
Photo: Ryan Ettenfield

Bukhara is one of the cheaper places to visit with hotels and restaurants both being providing good value for your money here due to the competition. Book in advance and you can find dorm rooms and even single rooms for $10 per night. Some of the best budget options are Koonjak Hostel, Payraviy, and Bobo Haydar Guest House but there are literally dozens of cheap, decent places to stay.

One of the best spots to eat in Bukhara is beside the pond at Lyabi Hauz – a central area surrounded by madrassas, a mosque, a trading dome, cafes and restaurants. For some local entertainment with cheap beer, head to Aladdin Lounge Cafe or for something fancier try the rooftop bar on top of Andara Restaurant.

Backpacking Khiva

Located close to the border with Turkmenistan, Khiva is home to the Itchan Kala, a fortress packed with mausoleums, palaces, mosques, and madrassas with over 2,000 years of history.

Two of these structures – the Tosh Hovli Palace and Kunya Ark Fortress – are themselves mini fortresses within a fortress. The whole area inside Itchan Kala is a labyrinth of elaborately decorated portals, mosques, towers, and connecting narrow alleyways.

Due to the relatively small size of Khiva, this place will feel like one of the most touristy places to visit in the country, but even at the height of peak season, it doesn’t get too overcrowded.

old tan cobblestone steps at the itchan kala khiva uzbekistan
Photo: Ryan Ettenfield

A two-day ticket for Itchan Kala costs 150,000 Som (around $12) and for this you get access to most of the fortress. It’s an extra couple of dollars to visit the Pahlavan Mahmud Mausoleum, which is well worth it for the Instagram points alone!

Hotels in Khiva are mainly small family-run guest houses with some of the best ratings in the country. Carousel Hotel, Alibek B&B, and Deshon Qala Guest House all have dorm rooms for around $13-15 per night.

Eating and drinking in Khiva is surprisingly uninspiring, especially compared to the options in Bukhara and Tashkent. Terrassa Cafe has a fantastic view of the city but is relatively expensive for Uzbekistan. Alternatively Khiva Moon, just outside of the Itchan Kala walls has a cheaper menu and a great courtyard when the weather is warm.

Getting Off the Beaten Path in Uzbekistan

Aside from the four destinations listed above, the whole Fergana Valley and the cities of Shakhrisabz and Termez will be of interest to those who really want to get off the beaten path.

The Fergana valley is the most fertile part of Uzbekistan and produces food, silk and cotton. The valley also extends into Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. This part of the country is for serious backpackers as few tourists make it out here.

It’s one of the most conservative parts of Uzbekistan and is generally safe to visit although border disputes have turned into conflict in the past.

The main cities here are Fergana, Kokand, Andijan and Namangan all of which can be navigated using a mix of old style trains, buses and shared taxis. 

Shakhrisabz is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the birthplace of Amir Temur. Although there aren’t a ton of places to see there, you can easily visit it on a day trip from Samarkand.

Termez is one of the more interesting religious sites to visit since its history includes Buddhism and Zoroastrianism and it is still home to Buddhist ruins such as the Kara Tepe. Caution should be taken if visiting Termez however as it’s located by the border of Afghanistan and the governments of many countries warn against all travel there.

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Top Things to Do in Uzbekistan

Here are six things you just have to do while travelling in Uzbekistan…

1. Eat Plov, the National Dish

Whichever city you visit, you will always find plenty of plov, Uzbekistan’s national dish, made of rice fried with red meat, vegetables and spices. Each region has its own variation of plov with Tashkent’s being one of the most popular. It’s meaty, greasy and heavy but if you’re on a budget it will quite literally fuel you for the whole day.

plov sitting on a colored dish with rice vegeatables and braised meat
Photo: Ryan Ettenfield

Most cities have their own ‘plov centre’ so search on Google Maps or ask a local where to go to find it. A plate of plov will cost you around 30,000 Som ($2.50) depending on the city and in Tashkent’s plov centre you can even walk in the back and watch it being prepared in bulk.

2. Stay in a Yurt

For most of its history, Uzbekistan has been much less nomadic than neighbouring country Kyrgyzstan yet it still offers the opportunity to stay overnight in a yurt. Safari Yurt Camp on the shores of the Aydarkul Lake will give you the chance to ride a camel, swim in the lake, sit by a campfire at night, and of course, spend a night in one of their 20 yurts.

3. Try Kurt

Kurt is a hardened ball of fermented milk with added salt to make it last longer. Popular with nomadic people for centuries, it’s difficult to describe to the uninitiated. It’s often served as a beer snack along with nuts and garlic bread. Wash it down with cheap vodka for extra credit! 

4. Go Skiing

Uzbekistan is better known for its hot weather, camels and deserts than its ski resorts but the mountains to the East of Tashkent are home to Amirsoy Ski Resort where a half day ski pass starts from only 120,000 Som ($10)!

Accommodation in the area is expensive so plan to return to Tashkent on the same day – it’s less than a 2-hour drive each way.

5. Watch a Game of Ulak-kupkari

Ulak-kupkari is a controversial sport played on horseback in which players compete to secure the carcass of a goat and bring it to their side – imagine something like capture-the-flag played with a dead animal!

men sitting on horses getting ready to play kupkari in a sandy field beneath a fortress wall in uzbekistan with the uzbek flag waving
Photo: Ryan Ettenfield

As a foreigner in Uzbekistan, these games can be hard to seek out without being invited by somebody in the know. However, the equestrian centre just outside of the Itchan Kala in Khiva hosts matches which passersby can watch (played with a fake carcass).

6. Enjoy Uzbek Alcohol

Despite being a majority Muslim country, alcohol is not only legal, it’s possible to buy in many restaurants and alcohol shops.

As a former Soviet country, vodka is incredibly popular here but Uzbekistan also produces its own wine AND the craft beer scene in Tashkent is gaining traction. Craft beer chain Pelican Beer has plenty of options to choose from!

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Backpacker Accommodation in Uzbekistan

Although Uzbekistan doesn’t have an abundance of super cheap accommodation, each main city has at least a couple of cheap places to stay for around $10 per night. Tashkent is the most expensive city for hostels and hotels but you can still find some dorm beds for $7 a night.

Bukhara and Khiva have plenty of cheap hotels for around $20 per night for a private room which includes breakfast although cheaper options are harder to find in Samarkand. Make sure to book way in advance as last-minute hotels are not always available.

mongolia bucket list adventures
Yurt life.
Photo: Sasha Savinov

A night in a yurt can be relatively costly starting from $50 per night but is worth it for the experience if you have the budget.

Going Couchsurfing is possible in Uzbekistan although not that popular. One thing to note is that every foreigner must be registered at an address during their stay here. Hotels will do this automatically but if staying with a Couchsurfing host make sure that they have the ability to do this.

Airbnb is also possible in Uzbekistan but the quality is relatively low, especially compared to the high price so unless you’re planning a long stay, hostels and cheap hotels are more cost-effective.

Uzbekistan Travel Costs

Travelling in Uzbekistan is generally very cheap although it’s not quite the bargain it was a few years ago. Most tourism-related costs such as hotels, food and travelling between cities are very reasonable. 

Getting between cities is not only cheap but very affordable. A one-way bullet train ticket between Tashkent and Samarkand costs 200,000 Som or 125,000 Som for a slower train. 

Although it’s not the norm, if you book at the right time you can find promotional flights from Uzbekistan Airways from $10!

As for food, cheap meals can be found in plenty of places for $3-5 per dish. Budget more for Tashkent, especially when ordering foreign food.

Public transport is incredibly cheap with a metro ticket between any station in Tashkent costing around $0.20. Buses are a similar price to the metro although much more difficult to navigate. Otherwise, private taxis across town will cost between $1.50 and $4 depending on the distance.

man selling pomegranate juice street food in uzbekistan
Street food and drinks are always cheap.
Photo: Ryan Ettenfield

Luckily, Samarkand and Bukhara are fairly easy to navigate and are very walkable if you’re staying in the centres. Khiva is a 30-minute taxi from the airport but requires no public transport upon arrival in the old town.

Uzbekistan can become expensive when booking tourist activities. As the tourism industry isn’t huge, there are relatively few English speaking tour guides (another reason to brush up on your language skills) and day trips and tours can be much higher than you might expect considering the relatively low cost of living.

Keep in mind that admission to many of Uzbekistan’s historical buildings is either free or very affordable, allowing you to explore cities on your own. However, there are often few signs providing historical context, so it’s a personal choice whether to invest in a guide to gain deeper insight into the history.

A private guide can be booked for around $80 online but it’s possible to haggle for lower rates.

Uzbekistan Daily Budget

This is a rough guide to prices in 2024, bearing in mind that Tashkent is a little more expensive than the other cities.

Backpacking Uzbekistan Daily Budget
ExpenseBroke BackpackerFrugal TravellerCreature of Comfort
Totals per day$20-$45$75-$130$220+

Money in Uzbekistan

Local currency in Uzbekistan is the Uzbek Som and at the time of writing the exchange rate is $1 USD = 12,500 Som.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to exchange money before arriving in the country but ATMs are available across all main cities.

Money can also be exchanged upon arrival at the airports but it’s wise to have some US dollars with you just in case the ATMs aren’t working. These days ATMs are more reliable but it’s not that uncommon for them to be out of order just when you need them.

There is a substantial black market for currency exchange in Uzbekistan, and at major bazaars, you may be offered dollars or rubles. However, it’s not recommended to exchange money here. As a foreigner, you’ll likely receive a poor exchange rate, and it’s also highly illegal, despite often being overlooked by the police!

For all matters of finance and accounting on the road, The Broke Backpacker strongly recommends Wise – formerly known as Transferwise!

Our favourite online platform for holding funds, transferring money, and even paying for goods, Wise is a 100% FREE platform with considerably lower fees than Paypal or traditional banks.

Travel Tips – Uzbekistan on a Budget

To keep your spending to an absolute minimum whilst travelling in Uzbekistan I recommend sticking to these basic rules of budget adventuring….

three skewers of kebabs on a plate with bread
Shashlik is always a cheap idea.
Photo: Ryan Ettenfield
  • Camp: With plenty of gorgeous natural, untouched places to camp, Uzbekistan is an excellent place to take a tent and a good sleeping bag.
  • Cook your own food: I took a small gas cooker with me and cooked a lot of my own meals and made my own coffee whilst hitching and camping, I saved a fortune – check out this post for info on the best backpacking stoves.
  • Haggle: Learn how to haggle – and then do it as much as you can. You can always get a better price for things especially while in local markets.
  • Tipping: is not expected but if you encounter amazing service or want to tip a guide then go for it – just keep the amount reasonable so other backpackers are not hit by guides expecting heavy tips. Five to ten percent is plenty.
  • Use Couchsurfing: Not only does Couchsurfing mean free accommodation, but more importantly it allows you to connect with Uzbeks you may not encountered otherwise. Just be prepared for some pretty wild experiences! In the best way possible, that is.

Best Time to Travel to Uzbekistan

The best times of year to visit Uzbekistan are spring and autumn when the sun shines and the temperature is warm but not overbearing. April, May, September and October are the optimal times to visit. During these months, Uzbekistan experiences its peak tourist season, yet it seldom feels overrun with visitors.

July is a particularly hot month as the temperature regularly exceeds 40°C/104°F, making sightseeing impossible for all but the toughest.

Don’t tell everybody but if you can handle the cold then winter can also be a great time to visit. Winter temperatures in Uzbekistan often drop below freezing but as it’s a dry climate, it’s bearable. Late November and early December is the sweet spot, striking a balance between comfortable temperatures and minimal crowds.

There are barely any tourists around in the winter giving you the chance to explore medieval architecture often completely alone. Hotels are also at their cheapest at this time of year.

What to Pack for Uzbekistan

On every adventure, there are just some must-have travel essentials you should never leave home without.

Somewhere to hide your cash
Pacsafe belt
Somewhere to hide your cash

Travel Security Belt

This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off.

For those unexpected messes
For those unexpected messes

Microfiber Towel

Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

When the power goes out
Gifts for backpackers
When the power goes out

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

A decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples, or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must.

A way to make friends!
A way to make friends!

‘Monopoly Deal’

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Keep your laundry organized and stink free
Keep your laundry organized and stink free

Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

Staying Safe in Uzbekistan

Many travellers have safety concerns about visiting Uzbekistan but in general the country is very safe to visit.

Street crime is very rare and there is a heavy police presence across the country. All of the common tourist areas also have tourist police units and you’re very unlikely to be a victim of a crime.

people sitting at tables at large open air bar in tashkent uzbekistan that's filled with numerous lush hanging plants
Uzbekistan’s nightlife scene isn’t bad at all.
Photo: Ryan Ettenfield

Walk around the cities in the evening and the most surprising thing you’ll notice is the number of young children out past their bedtime!

That being said, it’s advisable to take normal precautions such as not wandering alone late at night and being cautious of your belongings in busy areas. Bazaars and border crossings can be very hectic so it’s wise to secure your valuables carefully in these locations.

Driving in Uzbekistan can be quite hazardous, so it’s advisable to book reputable transportation services. If using taxi apps, I recommend you avoid opting for the cheapest taxis, as they often employ younger and less experienced drivers.

Travel with peace of mind. Travel WITH a security belt.
Active Roots Security Belt

Stash your cash safely with this money belt. It will keep your valuables safely concealed, no matter where you go.

It looks exactly like a normal belt except for a SECRET interior pocket perfectly designed to hide a wad of cash, a passport photocopy or anything else you may wish to hide. Never get caught with your pants down again! (Unless you want to…)

Hide Yo’ Money!

Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll in Uzbekistan

Being a Muslim-majority country you’d be forgiven for thinking that alcohol is either banned or limited here. Uzbekistan is not exactly a place to go party but you can always find restaurants and shops serving alcohol.

Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara all have bars, the majority being in Tashkent where you’ll find somewhere to go party around the clock if you ask the right people!

Nightlife prices in Uzbekistan will depend on the type of place. Drinking beer in a regular-style bar will be surprisingly cheap at around $2 a drink but sipping cocktails in one of the popular clubs will almost cost as much as in Europe.

Getting Insured BEFORE Visiting Uzbekistan

Good travel insurance should definitely be on your Uzbekistan packing list.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

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Entry Requirements for Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan has been opening up to more and more countries, removing its visa requirements for over 70 nationalities now. Citizens of most of Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and many more can travel in Uzbekistan for 30 days without a visa.

The USA, India, China and several other countries can apply online for a 30-day single-entry e-visa for only $20.

Extending a tourist visa within Uzbekistan is difficult if not impossible but it’s possible to do a border run into neighbouring Kazakhstan at Zhibek Zholy crossing which is only a 45-minute drive from Tashkent.

How to Get Around Uzbekistan

By far the most enjoyable way to travel around Uzbekistan is by train as they’re comfortable and very reasonably priced. The Afrosiyob trains are the most modern and convenient but prices were raised considerably at the end of 2023. Other trains such as Sharq trains are slower but considerably cheaper.

The Afrosiyob from Tashkent to Bukhara is currently around $27 and takes 4 hours but the Sharq train is around half that price, taking 6 hours.

chandeliers on the ceiling of a modern metro station hall in tashkent uzbekistan
What Tashkent’s modern metro looks like.
Photo: Ryan Ettenfield

If your budget is tight, it’s possible to travel by bus between cities but be prepared for some seriously long journeys!

As a backpacker, saving money by hitchhiking around can be a great experience but it’s not typically done this way in Uzbekistan and a fee will usually be expected.

During the days of the Soviet Union, it was legal for any car to pick up passengers on the street for a fee. These days, this is still practised and you can flag down cars in the street and negotiate a price. This is typically done for inner city journeys but there’s nothing to stop you from trying anywhere else. You’ll probably need to know a bit of Russian or Uzbek to do this, however.

Onwards Travel From Uzbekistan

girl sitting in a msr hubba hubba 3 person tent while camping in front of a snow capped mountain in tajikistan central asia
Tajikistan is not far away and always a good idea.
Photo: @intentionaldetours

Uzbekistan is perhaps the easiest country of the Stans to arrive in but the surrounding countries are equally worthy of a visit. 

Kazakhstan is a huge country with modern cities and plenty of places of natural beauty to visit for backpackers. Capital city Astana has huge shopping malls to rival Dubai but is not particularly exciting. Go backpacking in Almaty for the best nightlife in all of Central Asia!

Kyrgyzstan has plenty of unique things to do for backpackers such as watching nomadic games, eagle hunting, and going white-water rafting. It’s also popular for trekking in the mountains or swimming in the Issyk Kul lake.

Lesser visited Tajikistan has a much less developed tourism industry but also has some beautiful trekking in the Fann and Pamir Mountains.

What to Eat in Uzbekistan

Uzbek food is very heavy on red meat and most meals will have some form of lamb or beef. The national dish plov is great to try but will be heavy on the stomach eventually. Here are some more Uzbek dishes.

Must Try Dishes in Uzbekistan

  • Shashlik are grilled meat skewers and tend to be lamb or beef but can also include chicken, fish and vegetable only. They sometimes have a subtle cumin or vinegar-based marinade and come served with sliced onions and a tomato sauce.

  • Somsa, more commonly known elsewhere as samosa, are cooked in a big outdoor oven known as a tandir. They’re filled with beef, lamb, potato or pumpkin and you can buy them as a cheap, hot snack in most bazaars.
  • Beshbarmak: is the national dish of neighbouring countries Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan but is also popular in Uzbekistan. Typically made from large flat egg noodles, boiled horse meat and onions and can also include other vegetables such as carrot and potato.

  • Uzbek Lagman: Lagman is an Uighur noodle soup dish originating from Xinjiang in China. You can find the original version of this in Uzbekistan but the Uzbek take on this recipe is more of a fried noodle dish, typically served with fried egg or chopped omelette.

Final Thoughts on Backpacking Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is far from being a mainstream tourist destination and due to its fairly remote location, perhaps never will be. This is a shame as there are plenty of things to keep backpackers entertained here.

From ancient, mediaeval and Soviet architecture to the huge plates of cheap food and alcohol, a trip to Uzbekistan offers a nice balance between culture, adventure and a touch of indulgence.

Whilst it might not have the nightlife of Thailand, backpacking in Uzbekistan offers a lot more on a personal level. Haggle with a smiling gold-toothed lady in a bazaar, wake up early to be the only tourist in a world heritage site, and find yourself giving speeches to locals after shots of vodka.

a historical minaret at a mosque in uzbekistan at night
Perhaps I’ll see ya there?
Photo: Ryan Ettenfield

And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!