For expats moving to Uzbekistan, the country’s desert sands and awe-inspiring mountain peaks make for a fascinating landscape to explore. While it may not be the most conventional of expat destinations, Uzbekistan certainly has a unique brand of charm and can offer an interesting and enlightening stay for the open-minded.

Living in Uzbekistan as an expat

Though the expat community in Uzbekistan is relatively small, the country’s strong economy continues to draw foreigners looking for career progression. Thanks to the Uzbek government’s efforts, the country’s GDP is steadily increasing year by year. The main drivers of the Uzbek economy are gas, oil and gold, and most expats work as senior management professionals in one of these industries. Teaching English is another prospect for job-seeking expats looking to move to Uzbekistan.

Although some speak Russian, the country's official language is Uzbek. Few Uzbek people speak fluent English, so basic knowledge of Uzbek or Russian is recommended. Those planning on living in Uzbekistan for an extended period should consider enrolling in a local language course to make the transition smoother.

Accommodation in Uzbekistan is varied, with old Soviet-style apartments and newer builds available. The Soviet-style apartments tend to be in old buildings in need of maintenance and will usually be without some common modern conveniences. These are typically more affordable than newer builds that offer a wide range of amenities and modern appliances and fixtures.

While most Uzbeks are Muslim, Uzbekistan is a very tolerant nation, so expats shouldn’t have any difficulties practising their religion freely here. Regardless, expats should always demonstrate respect for local etiquette and should dress modestly.

Cost of living in Uzbekistan

The cost of living in Uzbekistan is one of its most appealing attributes. Mercer’s 2023 Cost of Living Survey ranks the country’s capital, Tashkent, at 218th out of 227 global cities. Compared to Europe or the US, life in Uzbekistan costs a fraction of the price, though it is slightly pricier than some other Central Asian countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Excellent and well-priced fresh produce can be found in local markets, and eating out also offers good value for money. Public transport is also comprehensive and affordable, while expats can also easily find reasonably priced accommodation.

Families and children in Uzbekistan

Expat families relocating to Uzbekistan with children should keep in mind that there is only a handful of international schools in the country, most of which are located in Tashkent. Public education is free, but this is rarely an option for expats since the language of instruction is usually Uzbek or Russian.

Healthcare in Uzbekistan isn’t on par with standards in Western Europe or North America, and there’s a serious shortage of doctors and medical facilities. While the Uzbek government is trying to reform the medical system, it’s best for expats to seek treatment in private hospitals. Many expats travel abroad for more complex medical procedures.

Climate in Uzbekistan

The arid continental climate in Uzbekistan can be trying, especially during winter when temperatures seem to hover around freezing. Thick, cosy coats are the order of the day at this time of year. Meanwhile, summers in Tashkent can be hot, and expats should take care to keep cool, as the temperature can climb to 96°F (36°C) at its peak.

While there is no doubt that Uzbekistan is firmly off the beaten path, its starkly beautiful landscape and welcoming local population have much to offer expats looking for something different.

Fast facts

Population: Over 36 million

Capital city: Tashkent

Neighbouring countries: Kazakhstan to the north, Kyrgyzstan to the east, Tajikistan to the southeast, Afghanistan to the south and Turkmenistan to the southwest.

Geography: Uzbekistan is primarily composed of desert terrain, with some mountainous areas.

Political system: Unitary presidential constitutional secular republic

Major religions: Islam

Main languages: Uzbek and Russian

Money: The local currency is the Uzbekistani Som (UZS). Uzbekistan is still very much a cash-based society, so bank cards are not commonly used.

Tipping: It isn’t common or expected to tip in Uzbekistan. Some upmarket restaurants may add a 10 percent service fee to the bill.

Time: GMT+5

Electricity: 220V, 50Hz. Plugs with two rounded pins are used throughout the country.

Internet domain: .uz

International dialling code: +998

Emergency contacts: 101 (fire), 102 (police) and 103 (ambulance)

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road in Uzbekistan. In Tashkent, local public transport consists of taxis, buses, trolleybuses, trams and trains that cover wide areas and are reasonably priced.

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