In the last couple of years there have been rumors and small movements towards the easing of Uzbekistan's visa regime. There have been a few baby steps that reduce the paperwork and wait time for visas, and hopefully by the end of 2018 it will be a lot easier for many more travelers to get a tourist visa to visit Uzbekistan.
But, until that time, there are still a few hoops to jump through.
Currently, citizens from 50 countries (check the list here) are not required to a Letter of Invitation (LOI) to get a tourist visa. However, we have read and hear rumors that submitting a LOI will speed up the visa approval process. So, it's best to inquire with the Uzbek Embassy where you are applying for the visa to check what the updated status is on this. Rumors are that an Uzbekistan e-visa process will begin from July 2018, so fingers crossed as that would simplify and speed up the process considerably.
Supposedly, it's also possible to arrange for a visa upon arrival in Tashkent Airport if you have an authorized LOI stating that you will pick up the visa there. We have not tried this ourselves, but know a few people who have done this. Read more on this possibility.
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. It was worth the extra money to speed up the process and try to avoid any problems.
Visas to other countries in Central Asia
If you're traveling through the region and need to sort visas for other countries in Central Asia, skip ahead:
- Tajikistan Visas and GBAO Permits (needed for the Pamir Highway and Mountains)
- Kazakhstan Visas
- Uzbekistan Visas and Letters of Invitation (LOI)
- Turkmenistan Visas and Letters of Invitation (LOI)
Our Experience Getting an Uzbekistan Tourist Visa in Azerbaijan
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.