Time is flying by and there are many practical details to be taken care of in preparation for our trip to Uzbekistan. Here are the most urgent ones.
To book flights in Uzbekistan a copy of the front page of your passport is required. I need this as soon as possible to make sure that we get all the seats we need. Please send me a scan of the picture page of your passport. This needs to be of a good quality, and include the whole picture page, including the code (numbers and letters) that appears at the bottom of the page. If you have any questions, or if you have any difficulty, please be in touch with me. It is essential that I have these before the end of the month.
Please note that there are a limited number of places on the flight from Tashkent to Bukhara. Depending on availability when I get your passport scan, I may need to divide the group between 2 flights. Some people will fly to Bukhara late Thursday night and others on Friday morning. Regardless of which flight you are on you will get to see all the sites in both cities
The passport needs to be valid at the time we will be in Uzbekistan. If you are going to be applying for a new passport please let me know, as the booking will need to be with the picture of your new passport.
You will need a visa to enter Uzbekistan. It usually takes about 2 weeks to get the visa but in can take longer. The process is different if you don’t have a UK passport, or are applying in Isreal. You can apply for a visa from 3 months in advance of a visit, so you should plan to do this any time from the beginning of June. I will send out a separate post about this in the coming weeks.
It is also time to start looking at flights.
I checked group flight options, but these are so restrictive that they won’t suit enough travellers to allow me to arrange group flights. You will need to book your own flights.
There are several flight options
Option 1: Regular Trip (No Extension)
The simplest flight combination is with Uzbekistan Airways. There is a flight out from London on Tuesday evening and a return flight a week later on Tuesday afternoon. The trip is coordinated with these flights, and you will be collected from the airport in Tashkent and brought to the airport at the end of the trip in time for the return flight.
If you choose this option your flight dates are:
Out: Tuesday 13 September 2016 – Return: Tuesday 20 September 2016
Option 2: Extended trip – Return on Friday.
If you are on the Khiva extension, you will return to Tashkent late Wednesday night at around midnight.
As there is no return direct flight to London on Thursdays, and the simplest way to return home is to stay an extra day in Tashkent, and to return to London with Uzbekistan Airways on Friday. Please note that this flight gets in to London on Friday night, and is not suitable for those who observe Shabbat. You will need to ask for an extra night in Tashkent if you choose this option.
Flight dates for this option are:
Out: Tuesday 13 September 2016 – Return: Friday 23 September 2016
Option 3: Extended Trip - Return on Thursday.
Those taking the trip extension and who wish to return on Thursday have a few options. Uzbekistan Airways does not offer a flight to London on Thursday, but it is possible to return to another European Airport including Frankfurt, Milan, Istanbul and Riga. You can choose any of these options that you wish. You will then need to book a separate one-way flight from that airport back to London.
Please note that you will be flying on 2 separate tickets, and that you will not be able to check your luggage all the way through to London. You will need to collect your suitcase in the transfer airport and then check in again. Also, if you miss you connecting flight, the airline will not take responsibility. If you fly via Istanbul, you will need a visa to clear customs in Istanbul in order to collect your suitcase and check it in again. This costs around $20 USD and can be done online.
All this means that to avoid difficulty, if you aren’t flying directly you should allow plenty of time for your transfer. Flights leave very early Thursday morning (around 5:00 am). In my experience, Frankfurt airport is fast and efficient and in the EU so the transfer is easy. The other airports are less efficient, but it comes down to a matter of personal choice.
If you choose this option your flight dates are:
Out: Tuesday 13 September 2016 – Return: Thursday 22 September 2016
Option 4: Other Airlines
Finally, if you wish to fly to Uzbekistan on different airline the choice is yours. The only European Airline flying into Tashkent is Turkish Airways. This is a world class airline, and I have flown with it several times. It flies to Uzbekistan via Istanbul. If you fly with them, you will be able to book your luggage all the way through. For more details, go to their website.
Please note that several people used Turkish airlines on the trips last year, and on one occasion the people missed their flight connection in Istanbul, due to a late departure from Heathrow. There are several options of flights from London to Istanbul, and if you to fly via Istanbul it is advisable to leave plenty of time in Istanbul to make your connection.
On the return trip there is a tight connection between their return from Khiva (around midnight) and the Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul (3.00 am). That is a 3-hour transfer window, which might seem like a lot of time in a European airport, but is actually very tight. In these 3-hours you will need to transfer from the domestic to the international terminal, and go through extra customs and security upon exit. This can take a long time. Last year we almost missed this connection because of a delay in the flight back from Khiva. If you choose to take this option, you do so at your own risk. If you are flying Turkish Airlines I advise you to return from Khiva earlier in the day (there is an earlier flight mid-afternoon) or stay an extra night in Tashkent and return to London on Friday.
You do not need to book your flight immediately, but should not wait too long as the cheapest fares go early – and there are a limited number of seats on each flight.
I have travelled back and forth to Uzbekistan several times and have tried all of the different options. I will be sending out an additional post in the coming days to tell you about my experiences on the different airlines. This will help you choose the best route for you.
Just a few additional notes and observations based on my experience from previous trips.
Walking: Some people have asked me about how much walking is involved in the trips. I have posted about this in the website. I would add that in addition to walking, there is a fair amount of standing and listening to explanations about various sites. I always aim to stop at places where there is shade and it is possible to sit. Some people found a small folding chair/walking stick to be useful.
Vegetarian Food. In my earlier posts I mentioned that it was difficult to find vegetarian food in Uzbekistan. It was actually not as difficult as anticipated, and there were tons of fresh fruits and vegetables in the markets.
Tips. There are many places where we are expected to leave tips for porters, drivers, guides etc. To make this simpler I will collect £10 from each participant at the beginning of the trip to cover all tips – and will tip as appropriate as a group. This will not include the tip to our main guide who will be with us throughout the trip. You will be able tip the senior guide at your discretion at the end of the trip.
Please note that many sites charge a ‘camera fee’ if you take pictures. The charge depends on how popular the site is, and ranges between 50p to £1 per site.
I will be sending more information in due course. I look forward to receiving a scan of your passport in the coming days, and hearing details of your flight information when you make your bookings.
Rabbi Chaim Weiner