Registration in Uzbekistan
Русская версия Uzbekistan is a country very pleasant for a traveller in different ways: food, people, architecture, nature, cheap and developed (if compared to the rest of Central Asia) transport. There is only one trouble there, killing all the fun. The Soviet legacy – registration – is a problem for both tourists and locals. Everyone coming to Uzbekistan must register in some accomodation within three days and have this registration for every day of the stay. Locals travelling from one region to another also must register. Registration is the concentration of bereaucracy; because of it, grandchildren cannot visit their grandparents in summer, and the tourists are sometimes deported from the country because they do not have a registration for just one of the days. Here we suggest several ways which will hopefully help you not only to avoid deportation, but also achieve valuable cultural experience in coping with bereaucracy.
Just to let you know: deportation really happens. Tourists tell paranoid stories how their friends were arrested, removed from the country, fined, and prevented from the return to Uzbekistan for the next 10 years, etc. On the one hand, you do not want to believe them; on the other hand, we remember our own feelings at the border when we did not have a registration for just one day. The young border guard was not sure what to do and left to ask from the older colleagues. Our waiting was difficult and thoughts – paranoid. It is not the border guard who may ask you about the registration, but also a policeman in the middle of a city. Some tourists report that it is impossible to buy train tickets without registration. The whole life of the traveler is concentrated around this stupid paper. But how to get it?
1. Train tickets and business trip checks
Some travelers assume that if they spend a night in the train, the ticket they have works as a registration for that night. This is not true. We had a ticket at the border for one night, and the officers did not even wanted to look on it. The so-called komandirivochnye cheki (business trip checks) – another legacy of the Soviet Union – also will not work. People going to some city on a business and staying with their relatives there buy these checks from the hotels or random people selling them to ask their organization to reimburse the stay (they pay less for the check less than the check claims it is paid). Such a paper does not work as a registration. A real registration should have a “registration” word on it.
2. Hotels and guesthouses
There are two types of hotels in Uzbekistan: for Uzbeks and foreigners. The latter are enabled to make a registration for the clients. You may also request to make a registration for several days, even in case you do not stay there so long. In this case, you will have to pay about 10 dollars per person per day (the hotels also pay for the registration). Moreover, if you register in this way in Bukhara and then go to Tashkent, Tashkent policeman (if he stops you) will certainly wonder why you are registered in Bukhara hotel, but stay in Tashkent. In short, this method of registration is effective only if you stay in the right hotel every day and register there. This is rather expensive option travelling on a budget, compared to the possibility to stay with the hospitable locals for free.
3. Staying with locals
You may ask locals (e.g. couchsurfers) to go with you to OVIR to register you. This is free (unless the locals ask you to pay), but again not applicable in every situation. For instance, it takes about a week to make registration in OVIR in Tashkent, and you will spend this week without any registration. It is much easier in small cities, however, and takes 1-2 days.
4. Crossing the border
Three days after you enter Uzbekistan, you may leave and enter it again. Thus, you will get three more days to forget about your worries until you have you registration in OVIR done, leave the country, or just cross the border again. This method is almost free and very effective. It requires some time, hardly more than you spend in OVIR, however. Your possibilities depend on your passport: e.g. former Soviet citizens, as well as the citizens of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Netherlands, the UK, the UAE, and the US are not required a visa for neighboring Kazakhstan. The border with Kazakhstan is reached by marshrutka from Unusabad in Tashkent, the ride takes 20 minutes and 1000 soms (ask for Chernyaevka border crossing). It is better to go in the second part of the day, when there are less people. We went at about 4 pm, and the queue to each officer was just 4-5 people. They asked us where we were staying in Uzbekistan, how we got there, and why we were going to Kazakhstan (here we had to lie). As we mentioned, the border guard was not happy about the train tickets, and left to ask the older officers. These were the hard 10 minutes of waiting. But when he returned, he stamped the passport, setting us free! We passed the Kazakh border quickly, and turned back. The guard between the borders laughed at us: “Are you already coming back?” You feel so stupid: everybody around understands why you cross the border, but you still have to pretend you have some other reason. Coming back to Uzbekistan you meet dear Uzbek taxi-drivers promising to give you “the cheapest ride in the world”. You may rest for the next three days…