Uzbekistan to offer visa-free travel for 45 countries, including the UK

Helen Coffey

Uzbekistan is becoming even more accessible for tourists on 1 February 2019, when it will allow visa-free travel for 45 more countries, including the UK.

Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev wants to build on the country’s initiative to stimulate tourism.

Last year saw the introduction of e-visas to smooth the process for visitors from approved countries, as well as nationals of France, Israel, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Turkey being offered a visa waiver.

German tourists will be allowed to visit without a visa from 15 January, while those from countries including Cyprus, Austria and Italy, as well as the UK, will get the same privilege from February.

The existing e-visa scheme will also be extended to cover nationals of 76 more countries, and will allow for double and multiple entries to the country.

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Visitor numbers to the Central Asian country have already doubled since the visa reforms of 2018, from 2.6 million the previous year to 5.3 million. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs understandably expects significant more growth for 2019.

Uzbekistan will also become more accessible to UK tourists thanks to increased flight routes. Uzbekistan Airways says it will take delivery of two new Airbus A320neos and three Boeing 787 Dreamliners in spring 2019, enabling it to add new long-haul destinations. The flag carrier already offers direct flights between London Heathrow and Tashkent, and plans to add a second UK airport to its network in summer 2019.

Tourist interest in the countries along the old Silk Road route – including Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan – has been steadily increasing in recent years, and was given a further boost in September 2018 thanks to the ITV series Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure.

The journey via Uzbekistan is one of Independent travel correspondent Simon Calder’s top picks for 2019. He says: “Just as there is more than one Great Wall of China, there are also multiple Silk Roads connecting Europe with Asia. But from a traveller’s perspective, the heart of the network is Uzbekistan – happily more accessible than ever in 2019.”

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Airbnb named Uzbekistan as one its top trending destinations for the year, while Abta also named it in its 12 places to visit in 2019.

Other decrees announced on 5 January will help contribute to Uzbekistan’s tourism appeal.

Hotels must now offer accommodation “regardless of the place of residence, citizenship, kinship and marital relations of individuals, as well as other factors that restrict the right to privacy”. This means previous restrictions on unmarried couples staying together have been lifted.

“Prohibited sites” will be listed by 1 February and clearly marked – other than these, tourists are free to photograph and film whatever they like.

New specialist visas will also be available for pilgrims, students, academics and medical tourists, all of which will be issued within one month of application.