Although it is technically possible for EU and US citizens to obtain a tourist visa to Uzbekistan without a Letter of Invitation (LOI), we recommend spending the extra $30 for the letter. It enables the process to move faster and removes some of the pain. We used Stantours for our LOIs to Uzbekistan. No tour booking was needed and we received the scanned letter by email within a couple of weeks.
We expected this visa application process to be hell, but we surprisingly received the visa the same day we applied in Baku, Azerbaijan. The friendly, English-speaking Uzbek Consul there acted as if he hadn’t seen a tourist in ages and seemed to be happy to have something to do. Without the LOI, the process would have taken us 3-5 business days and would likely have been peppered with perfunctory paranoia.
We heard horror stories from people who applied for visas to Uzbekistan from other countries. “That woman is evil!” is a direct quote from a tourist describing the woman at the Uzbek Embassy in Bishkek. Some people we know gave up and crossed Uzbekistan off their itinerary altogether in order to avoid another trip to the embassy there.
When in Uzbekistan, the game of collecting registration cards from hotels and guest houses begins. We were never asked by the police or border guards to see these chits, but it’s better to err on the side of caution regarding bureaucratic issues in Uzbekistan.
Uzbek Visa Costs:
Uzbekistan Letter of Invitation: $30 per person through Stantours. (2007 Prices
Uzbekistan Visa: $100/person for a 30-day visa, payment at the International Bank of Azerbaijan in Baku. Two trips to the embassy (in the middle of nowhere) are required: one to apply and/or leave your Letter of Invitation and another to bring your bank receipt and collect your visa.