Uzbekistan is a country full of highs and lows. This country has been on my radar for years, and was one of the places I was most excited to visit during the trip. It was also the most disappointing country of the trip. The part where our adventure turned for the worse and I was minutes away from booking a one-way ticket back to Australia.
After a wild and corrupt taxi ride to the Tajik Uzbek border where the car broke down multiple times, the driver would slow down yelling at passing women and children through the window, and tried to scam us out of more than the agreed price (and nearly got into a fist fight with Tim), my blood was boiling and I was ready to GTFO.
Our entrance into Uzbekistan was a promising start. Border guards smiled and welcomed us, and locals gave up their spots in the customs line so we could enter more quickly. After passing the final customs control gate, we were met with a hoard of taxi drivers climbing over each other to get our business. We agreed on a set price of $10USD to get to our hotel, boarded the taxi and were off.
Uzbekistan is known for its intricate architecture, most notably the blue tile work and mosaics covering historical buildings, and its prominence as a major trade outpost during the Silk Road. What most don’t realise is that Uzbekistan is one massive desert. Apart from the stunning architecture and dried up Aral Sea (a dark tourism hot spot), there aren’t many draws to Uzbekistan. Nature and nomad culture of Central Asia is owned by Kyrgzystan, whereas Kazakhstan sports big city allure, and Tajikistan is the remote mountain escape, Uzbekistan certainly owns the architecture label, but lacks in other departments.
As we made our way toward Samarkand the temperature climbed. It was mid-afternoon and the thermometer read 45 degrees Celsius (113 F). Electricity was spotty in the country, and my fear that air conditioning would be off the menu grew.
Alas, we reached our hotel, handed the taxi driver a $10 note, at which point he threw a full grown adult temper tantrum exclaiming that the price was $10 per person. We’ve heard every excuse in the book, mate. This aint my first rodeo, and I aint falling for your sleezy scam. At my wits end with no remaining patience for taxi drivers, I simply exclaimed, “I’m not dumb and I’m not falling for your stupid trick,” and walked away.
As our journey continued, we would remain prime prey for scammy taxi drivers. Many simply doubling or tripling the price, others pulling the same “price per person” trick, or simply lying about the price which was agreed on at the beginning of the trip. I compared the situation to giving a bone to a feral dog: you never know whether the driver will happily take the money and leave, or if he will bite your hand off in a fit of rage demanding more money.
Little did we know, scammy taxi drivers were about to be the least of our concerns in Uzbekistan.