Ripping off the tourists in Uzbekistan is endemic


(eTN) “Apologies to all of our recently acquired Uzbek friends, but rip-offs in Uzbekistan – particularly along the touristy parts of the Silk Road – seem endemic.”- says one of the tourists, who recently paid a visit to the historic sites of Uzbekistan.

Today, being a tourist in Uzbekistan is really difficult. People, for who the tourism is the only source of income, do their best to get more money as possible from western (and some eastern) tourists, who are considered to have wallets full of “greens” (the slang local people use referring to US dollars). The “overcharged” journey of tourists begins from the airport, when a group of taxi drivers, seeing that a foreign is coming out of a terminal, literally attacks him/her trying to speak English they were taught at school.

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Then, of course, the journey is continued at hotels, cafes and restaurants, and even in state owned banks. Tourists at Uncornered market, who recently paid a visit to Uzbekistan, write about their “best experiences” of the trip that turned out to be very disappointing regarding financial issues. Being overcharged and cheated several times, they share their experience with others, who are planning a trip to the historical sites of Uzbekistan.

Banking – always count your money. One of their worse experiences happened in Urgench city branch of National Bank of Uzbekistan, which is considered to me in the list of top three banks of the country. After spending 90 minutes to the simplest banking operation – exchange of dollars to Uzbek soms, they left the bank not counting the exchanged money.

“When they [bank staff] finally forked it over, we didn’t count it [money], somehow satisfied with the official looking paper bands wrapped around each stack of 50 bills. Only later did we discover that two of our officially-banded stacks were short a few bills. Although we only lost a few dollars in the transaction, the bank’s audacity was infuriating.”

Restaurants without menus. In tourist-attractive parts of Uzbekistan, like Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva, some restaurants and cafes do not bring menus to tourists. It is because they overcharge the tourists several times higher than the normal price of the food indicated in menus. Usually owners of the restaurants or cafes do not know about this. This is done mostly by the service personnel of the restaurant or café, who want to earn some extra pocket money.

“[As waitress did not bring menu] Our friends asked the price of the main dishes before ordering to ensure the place was still within everyone’s budget. However, upon receiving our bill, we were all shocked by the amount which was a bottom line figure without any detail and several times higher than we had calculated.”

However, not all people in Uzbekistan want to rip off the tourists. Tourists from Uncornered market met a young girl, Star (Yulduz), a ceramics seller in Bukhara, who treated them very nicely and told about the life in Bukhara and politics in Uzbekistan. Tourists were pleased to talk to Star.

“We enjoyed one of our most enlightening discussions in Uzbekistan in the least likely of places – a ceramics stand in the most touristy area of Bukhara.”

It is true that sometimes it is frustrating to be a foreign tourist in the touristy places of Uzbekistan. Everywhere local people try to rip you off, as they think you have piles of dollars in your pocket. However, we can understand these people, as every day the life in Uzbekistan is becoming really difficult. The prices are rising and the government is not doing any effective actions to solve the problem. Hope things will change soon.