So this is a slightly more factual post for anyone who is about to/is looking to drive in Uzbekistan. The prices and fuel situation described is accurate as of July 2017.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Uzbekistan. The people are incredibly welcoming and the scenery is beautiful. Driving here however is not without its challenges.
We can only comment on the roads we drove.
- Turkmen border to Bukhara: Appalling, I quote “bad enough to rattle the fillings in your teeth”. More pothole than road – our roof box got jolted off at one point. Max 40km/h.
- Bukhara to Samarkand: Good road. Asphalt. 70-80km/h.
- Samarkand via Tashkent to Chernayevka/Zhibek-Joly (Kazakh border): Very good. Mostly motorway (or similar). 100km/h.
Oh wow. We did not realise how much of an issue lack of fuel would be when we came to Uzbekistan and after sailing through oil-rich Turkmenistan which seems to have more petrol stations than convenience stores, the crappy, low octane black market fuel we ended up with was a nasty shock to the system for Kermit.
Gas is the fuel offering of choice here, namely propane. Petrol (Benzene) is hard to come by and diesel practically impossible. While we’d been told that it was easy (read: possible) to get fuel in Tashkent, trying to find it before let Bukhara for Samarkand turned out to be a nightmare expedition doomed to failure which set us back a good hour or two.
The government controls the fuel price, selling it at stations across the country for roughly 2500Som/L. The stations sell this on at 3300-3500 Som/L, that is when it’s available. You see, there is no shortage of stations in Uzbekistan, you can find one every few hundred metres however the semi-permanent fuel shortage means very few of them are actually open and operable.
We drove past one open fuel station in Bukhara selling petrol (the highest octane fuel available was 90) at 3400Som/L but the queues were insane – four cars abreast, the queues ran out of the forecourt and down the street for about 100m. We would’ve been waiting for hours… (even most of the day, which is apparently quite normal). We went back to the centre of Bukhara and asked in the hotel – we had two options; join the queue or turn to the black market.
Tight on time and with a trusty Daihatsu Terios who can digest just about anything, we opted for the latter.
Black market fuel is a low octane mix – somewhere between 80-85 and it retails for 4-4,500Som/L. Yes, worse octane rating and a higher price – go figure. To find black market fuel, either ask in your hotel and they’ll probably ask a local taxi driver to direct you to their supplier (taxi cost 5-10,000Som depending on your location) or just drive along and look for the bottles of fuel discretely placed at the roadside.
FYI: Filling up petrol jerry cans is illegal in Uzbekistan but you are free to bring in with you as much fuel as you wish. We wish we’d filled up in Turkmenistan…
Right hand drive?
We had read online that right hand drive cars are officially not allowed in Uzbekistan. This may be the case (and we definitely didn’t see any other right hand drive cars while we were in the country) however we had no problems whatsoever driving Kermit through Uzbekistan and the border guards didn’t bat an eyelid at him/say anything about it when we entered the country.
There are police checkpoints on the main roads between the cities in Uzbekistan every 75km or so. These are all well signposted and you are expected to stop at the stop sign (which may sound obvious but a lot of the locals don’t!). A lot of online reports document people being stopped at every checkpoint and even being asked to register their vehicle however we had no such experiences and were waved through every time.