The most comfortable way to travel between the major tourist cities in Uzbekistan is by train. The main line Tashkent – Samarkand – Bukhara is served once a day in each direction by two express trains named “Afrosiob” and “Sharq”: The Afrosiob is a Talgo-250-type train that makes a respective distance in 2.5 hours – it even meets most definitions of high speed rail at 250 km/h (160 mph) top speed – to Samarkand and the “Sharq” makes the 600-km-journey Tashkent – Bukhara (with intermediate stop in Samarkand) in less than 7 hours. A daily overnight train to and from Tashkent to Bukhara offers the possibility to travel during the night and so a day is not lost travelling. Comfortable sleeping cars allow a good sleep.The timetable is available online. The server is often down, but you can use the Russian Railways website to see timetables.
Unlike to ordinary local trains the express trains have three classes: The economy class (2nd) with 36 persons per carriage and still plenty of space and comfort, the business class (1st) and the VIP class (expect some free drinks and snacks). The Afrosiob is the fastest and most expensive train which costs from Tashkent to Samarkand for 2nd/1st/VIP 51,000/68,000/98,000 soms. Doing the same trip with the Sharq will save you around 22,000 soms ($7) in each class, but increases the travel time for almost 1.30h.
Overnight trains also run from Tashkent and Samarkand to Urgench (3 times weekly) and to Nukus – Kungrad (2 times weekly), so it’s also possible to travel to Khiva (30 kilometers from Urgench, taxi/bus available) or to the Aral lake (Moynaq, 70 km from Kungrad) by train. On Thursdays, there is an overnight train in Urgench that also stops in Bukhara.
There are four types of sleepers:
- miagki vagon (soft wagon) – 2 berth compartments
- kupeiny vagon – 4 berth compartments
- platskartny vagon – closely packed beds in a commonspace
- obshi vagon – as above but beds used in the seating configuration, therefore used for day trips
BY SHARED TAXI:
The second best option, and an experience. Don’t be put off – these are pretty safe as far as the people go, the roads are a different story – when they exist! But for getting between Nukus and Khiva, or Khiva to Urgench to Bukhara, this is the only realistic way to go.
The taxi driver will have a destination city – so at the ranks ask around for the city you’re headed to. If you match, you then negotiate a rate. Ask around beforehand, you can quite easily get ripped off, because each passenger negotiates separately with the driver, so he can charge locals normal rates and take you for all you have.
Once you’ve done that, you wait. The car only leaves when full, or when the driver gets bored enough. If possible, get the front passenger seat – ‘only a lemon takes the middle seat’. Don’t be polite about this – you do not want that middle seat. When it’s over 50°C in the middle of the desert, with no air conditioning (you pay extra for a car with that), you want to be as close to a window as possible, and with only one person sweating against you!
Also, the roads are slow and sometimes of very poor quality. It takes 6-8 hours from Urgench to Bukhara if you’re lucky. Still, the car will probably make it – when you do this section you’ll understand why you don’t want to risk the bus.
10,000 som per hour in a shared taxi between cities is a good rule of thumb, depending on your haggling skills.
If you travel any distance on a bus in Uzbekistan, take toilet paper with you and be careful what you eat at stops along the way.
Intercity buses are uncomfortable. No more uncomfortable than other intercity buses in this part of the world, but the constant hooting, bickering locals, tinny Russian music videos and ever-present smell of sausages can make for an irritating journey.
On the bright side, if you’re lucky you might be offered some sausages.
Drive on the right. International driving permit required. Minimum age: 17. Speed limit: 60 to 80 km/h in urban areas, 90 km/h on highways.
There are several paved highways with two lanes in Uzbekistan:
- AH5 from Gishtkuprik/Chernyavka on the border to Kazakhstan via Tashkent, Syrdaria, Samarkand, Navoi and Bukhara to Alat on the border to Turkmenistan (680 km)
- AH7 from the border to Kyrgysztan via Andijon, Tashkent and Syrdaria to Xovos/Khavast on the border to Tajikistan (530 km)
- AH62 from Gishtkuprik/Chernyavka on the border to Kazakhstan via Tashkent, Syrdaria, Samarkand and Guzar to Termez on the border to Afghanistan (380 km)
- AH63 from Oazis on the border to Kazakhstan in the North West of Uzbekistan via Nukus and Bukhara to Guzar (950 km paved road, 240 km unpaved)
- AH65 from Uzun on the border to Tajikistan to Termez on the border to Afghanistan (180 km)
During the day the metro (underground train) is the good option. After 12 midnight you are recommended to use taxi services. It is better to call the taxi (car-service) to pick you up in advance. Some car-services can serve the foreign speaking tourists. You can get more information in the hotel.