Visa-free travel….to Uzbekistan
There’s a surprising new addition to the list of countries that do not require UK nationals to obtain a visa prior to travelling: Uzbekistan. As from 1 February this year, UK nationals will join the nationals of dozens of other countries in being able to enjoy visa-free travel to the central Asian republic.
Following the 2018 introduction of e-visas, Uzbekistan enjoyed a doubling of its visitor numbers, from 2.6 million in the preceding year to 5.3 million. Thanks to the forthcoming extension to the country’s visa-free scheme in 2019, the projected figures for 2019 are, apparently, even more encouraging.
Improved flight access
Uzebkistan Airways is working hard to ensure that all the extra visitors find travelling to the country as smooth an experience as possible. It is shortly to take delivery of three Boeing 787 Dreamliners and two new Airbus A320neos, which are expected to help the airline ply its trade to new long-haul destinations. One of these, in summer 2019, is expected to be a second UK airport (in addition to London Heathrow, from which it already operates direct flights to Tashkent).
The Silk Road and other sightseeing
If Uzbekistan is still relatively unknown in the UK as a tourist destination, that seems to be changing. Joanna Lumley’s ITV travel series on the Silk Road is responsible for surging interest in visiting the countries, including Uzbekistan, along the old Silk Road. Tashkent is the starting point for a comfortable, high-speed railway, the Afrosiyob, running to Samarkand and on to Bukhara. As viewers of the TV series will doubtless already know, both of these ancient cities offer are architectural monuments to the Silk Trade. However, as well as awe-inspiring mausoleums and mosques, there are busy bazaars and maze-like streets lined with the mud-walled buildings of another era. The keen traveller should also press on to Khiva, an ancient walled city on the western border of the country.