Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Visa Free Travel to Uzbekistan

One of the major impediments to travel across the Central Asian countries known as the stans has been the hassle and cost of obtaining visas. Now one of these countries, Uzbekistan, is offering open borders to citizens of 27 countries. The catch is that for some of them, the traveller needs to be 55 years old or more.

Older citizens of the United States, Belgium, France, Hungary, Israel, Poland, Portugal and Vietnam can now tour the wonders of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva without a visa. Citizens of a number of other developed countries of any age can visit Uzbekistan for up to 30 days with no visa. Russia is conspicuously absent from the list.

The new rules come into effect on April 1, 2017, in time for the summer tourist season. I am very glad to see that at least one of the countries in this region is becoming more welcoming to tourists. The fact that it is the stan that probably has the most interesting historical sites to visit is icing on the cake. However, Uzbekistan has also been known for its repressive government and gruesome human rights abuses.

Perhaps the change in visa policy will usher in an era of more openess to the world in this very fascinating part of the world.