Traveling as a single woman in Uzbekistan is really safe, and unwanted attention is not a problem. The Uzbeks are extremely hospitable and helpful. They are also very curious and you can expect to be invited for tea or a meal. I was looked at curiously. Probably because outside of tourist groups, I have met very few travellers. I have often been asked, “Where is your husband? Are you traveling alone? You do not have friends? What do you do for a living? ” because most didn’t understand why I would travel on my own.
My first destination in Uzbekistan was the capital, Tashkent. I found out through Facebook that one of my friend was working at the French embassy. I was really lucky to have her showing me around. I even spent my first evening in an old Russian palace in a karaoke with American marines and members of the British Embassy!
This is when I arrived in Khiva (or rather Urgench, where the airport is located) that the difficulties started. It’s hard to be alone in a country where I barely speak the language! I speak 5 languages and English is generally enough in most countries where I travel. Uzbekistan, presented a real difficulty because nobody could speak english. Fortunately, I had learned the Cyrillic alphabet before my trip to Russia!
Unlike in Khiva, the people in Samarkand were really keen on having a chat with me. I received a really warm welcome in a mosque a little outside the city, did selfies with soldiers and shared a tea with an Uzbek family on vacation.
Although Islam is the country’s main religion (90% of Uzbeks are Muslim), women do not wear the veil. However, they dress more conservatively than in Europe. I recommend wearing long skirts and t-shirts that cover the shoulders and no cleavage.
Elected in 2016, the new president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev made several changes in the country to help tourism. It was previously forbidden to photograph the magnificent metro stations of the capital (see article), and the police use to harass tourists. Luggage and handbags are checked before entering a station but the police is there for safety reason . If you take the train, you must first pass through a security gate and also show your passport. There are security guards pretty much everywhere, which reinforce the feeling of being safe.
Travelling alone in Uzbekistan is safe and it is easy to get around by public transports (see article for more information). Taking local buses can be quite challenging when you can’t read Cyrillic. But you will often find someone speaking a few words of English (at least to understand the destination) and willing to help.
I found the behaviour of some taxi drivers particularly annoying. They very rarely accept “no” as an answer, which contrasts with the rest of the population who approach you nicely. With the “tourist” sticker on the forehead, you have to negotiate the prices. In Samarkand, after waiting for a taxi for 15 minutes on the side of the road, I even hitchhiked to reach the center!