How to book train tickets in Uzbekistan
Due to f ew people asking if you need an agent, this post guides you how to book train tickets in Uzbekistan. I just booked myself three journeys by train in Uzbekistan quite easily through the Uzbekistan train booking website and it couldn’t have been easier.
Not so long ago, I was going to take my mom, husband and a friend on a trip to Uzbekistan. Sadly, every single of my fellow travellers has now noped out, citing reasons from the reasonable (surgery) to the ludicrous ( fear of airplane being shot down). After a week of soul-searching and discussion, I decided to turn my trip into a solo trip and change the itinerary, leaving out Bukhara, where I have already been, and even considering stepping into the Pamirs (not feasible due to border closure issues).
Funnily, the trigger for the mass cancellation was actually trying to book train tickets. Just as my mouse hovered over purchasing long overnight tickets in a “kupe” for the four of us.
Now I am travelling by myself, the first thing I did, was to cancel all the fancy hotels and book myself into small family guesthouses as soon as I had a rough itinerary.
Then I set about booking train tickets. I love taking trains except in my native Germany where the service can be terrible. But abroad? I love it. I get quite car sick, and taking amateur racing shared taxis is not my favourite mode of transport… done it, done the mountain pass, a hair’s breath away from throwing up. So, train it is. I will also save on accommodation costs an I tour nearly the entire length of the country by train. After I booked my trains, I was astounded how straightforward and easy it was, so I thought I share it here.
Table of Contents
Why book train tickets in Uzbekistan in advance?
Uzbekistan has a reasonably good trains network and a high speed rail links connecting Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Quarshi, with Urgench and Khiva to come at some point. This makes it great for tourists – as a result of that the fast trains get booked up quickly, and even the night trains between those popular tourist destinations tend to get booked. The fastest train is the Afrosiyob, a Spanish Thalgo train, that goes well over 200km/hour, followed by the reasonably fast “Sharq” trains.
Last time I visited Uzbekistan, I had barely peeled out of my bed in Samarkand, then I took a long trip on the city bus to the train station in order to buy my train tickets. It took about three hours altogether, and I was lucky to get tickets for an Afrosiyob Train for the next day, probably only because I was travelling in March which is considered low season. The Afrosiyob also made a rather condensed sightseeing trip of five days possible, with two days in Samarkand and two days in Bukhara.
So instead of trying to figure out shared taxis and marshrutkas and haggle for prices, I booked myself onto two night trains and an Afrosiyob train between Tashkent, Khiva and Samarkand. I will probably try to book more, but I am pleased to have the high-speed and night journeys covered now.
How to book
You will need your itinerary, your passport, a credit card (VISA works best), a translate app and a mobile. I found the mobile site works extremely well to by tickets directly from Uzbek Railways. Now, a bit of web surfing.
https://railway.uz/en is the official web site of Uzbek Railways. No tickets there. However, if you scroll down and put in your travel dates, you are led to the ticket-purchasing website, where you can start all over again. Best is to go to https://chipta.railway.uz/en/home. This takes you to a nice English language interface. Put in your destination and travel dates.
You get to a nice menu, the available trains highlighted at the top, the unavailable ones faded at the bottom. Now, the Russian lesson starts here. There are wagon type options at the top right. Пассажирский is “Passenger” i.e. a bog standard strain. Шарк is “Sharq” a somewhat faster Express train, taking roughly half the time of the passenger train. Afrosiyob, strangely enough, never gets cyrillicised.
Type of trains, seating and sleeping options
Сидячий / “Sidjatschyi” means seated – on Afrosiyob and Sharq and some daytime trains. Afrosiyob is divided into VIP, Business Class, Normal. Normal gets sold out quickly.
Плацкартный / “Platskartnui” means open berth, bit like a European couchette of old.
Купе / “Kupe” is kind of a second class, with four beds in a compartments, in a 2-2 bunk style.
СВ / SV for “Suite” is First class, with two beds per compartment.
None of these trains have private bathrooms, showers or luxuries like this.
The booking process
So, let’s say I want to travel on 18 October. It’s probably a very nice season in Uzbekistan, completely devoid of tourists. Train bookings open approximately 45 days before departure, sometimes a bit earlier. So many trains will be available now. I pick the train “Шарк” at 19:25. Note the trains leave from different stations in Tashkent, either “Южный” (Southern), or Северный (“Northern”) which is basically the main Tashkent train station . Other Stations like Bukhara and Kokand, have a “1” tagged to it, bit are usually the only major trains stations in town so there is not much confusion.
So, click “choose train” then “Continue” bottom right. Next, the site wants you to create an account, and there is no way round it. I logged in using Telegram from my mobile, but Goodle is also possible, Facebook wasn’t working when I tried.
Now, the site really wants me to have a Russian lesson, and it switches back into Russian. Switch back to English. Nice English interface comes back up. It doesn’t work so well with the mobile site, but if you can read some Russian, it is an easy way to book.
Click on the blue places you want to choose. A window with passenger details opens up, fill them in, they are all in English. For Document type, put “foreign document” at the bottom of the menu window. Don’t click anything under “travel insurance” . Press “Proceed” / at the bottom right.
For the next step, it is very important that you tick the tiny “Agree with public offer” box. Then you get taken to payment options. I chose Stripe because it has a credit card option. Stripe is SSL protected. Read more about Stripe Security here. The secure payment window also has information on what you will be paying, and what commission is charged. In my case, it is less than a dollar. I completed credit card details, and literally five seconds later, I got a confirmation – and my electronic tickets sent to my Telegram account.
When you buy tickets, just check they are actual electronic tickets – it will say so in the top left corner.
Taking the train in Uzbekistan
So, with the ticket (best print it out), you report to the train station. I found security at Samarkand and Bukhara tighter than at the airport, with luggage screening, ticket and passport checks… a security thing. That’s why the ticket offices in Uzbekistan are always tacked to the exterior of the train stations!
Allow half an hour for security checks, and have both the ticket and your passport ready!
I would not worry about not speaking Uzbek or Russian, just show ticket and passport. Generally, i found anyone in Uzbekistan really friendly, sonthere really isn’t anything to worry about.
So far, I only took the Afrosiyob train.
I will take a “platzkart” night train in a few weeks, so I will report back. When I took sleeper trains in other ex-Soviet countries, they were quite careful to separate the unrelated males and females… so, it was quite comfortable, two females sharing a four-berth compartment. But trains in Uzbekistan tend to fill up, and I was not so sure about the compartment any more, so I opted for an open compartment. Also, I like to sleep with my body in direction of the train (travel sickness) rather than perpendicular.
So far, I read that comfy clothes, flip flops, a bit of instant food (anything you can make with hot water which is provided from a samovar in each carriage) will be useful on the trip. And a roll of toilet paper as, apparantly, it runs out early.
I also bought some vegetarian Haribo sweets (meaning they are halal as well) and bars of German chocolate should i come across some generous food sharers on the train. So, let’s roll…