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Uzbekistan 2018 Crime & Safety Report

South Central Asia > Uzbekistan; South Central Asia > Uzbekistan > Tashkent

 

According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Uzbekistan has been assessed as Level 1: Exercise normal precautions.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Tashkent does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Tashkent as being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Please review OSAC’s Uzbekistan-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

The government of Uzbekistan does not release accurate crime statistics; therefore, most data is received through informal sources. Open source reporting on crimes within Uzbekistan increased in 2017, but this does not necessarily correspond to an increase in actual crime.

Violent crimes against Americans and other foreign persons are rare. Crimes of opportunity (muggings, pickpocketing, snatch-and-grab robberies, theft of unattended bags, purse snatching) are common, especially in crowded places (bazaars, public transportation) and in more impoverished areas of Tashkent. Home burglaries and break-ins occur, even in wealthier neighborhoods. Most expatriate houses have more substantial residential security features relative to U.S. houses. In general, Americans and other foreigners are perceived to be wealthy and are prime targets of financially-motivated crimes.

Night-clubs frequented by Westerners and other foreigners are targets for illicit activity and often become the focus of law enforcement operations. Simultaneous raids on these and similar establishments occur, and a night time curfew of 11:00pm for many establishments is sporadically enforced. Application of the curfew typically involves law enforcement arriving at the venue, operations ceasing, and everyone departing without incident. However, patrons can be detained for document verification and questioning, which can take several hours. 

Unofficial news outlets and informal sources report violent crimes in some of the more impoverished areas of Tashkent, including some parts of Sergeli, Chilanzar, and Hamza districts and around the Chorsu Market (the Old City). Unsolved property and violent crimes are more common in these areas.

In 2017, the Uzbekistan government enacted measures to bring the official and black-market exchange rates for the Uzbek soum into alignment and simultaneously increased enforcement against black market exchanges, resulting in a smaller black market. The practice of exchanging currency on the black market is still illegal, and anyone engaging in black market currency exchange runs the risk of receiving counterfeit bills if exchanging soum for dollars. They also face the risk of being detained, interrogated, or arrested. Uzbekistan remains a predominately cash economy. Credit cards and U.S. ATM cards are often not accepted, and there is a substantial risk of fraud outside of major establishments and banks. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.” ATMs also regularly run out of cash. U.S. cash that is not “crispy” (clean, no wrinkles, no marks) is frequently rejected by vendors and banks alike. 

Vehicle theft (including carjacking) statistics are not officially reported, but unofficial reports advise that it does occur.

Corruption is endemic in the government and in the private business sector, and it is often closely tied to criminal mechanisms. Criminal links can be found throughout Uzbek society.

Other Areas of Concern

The U.S. Embassy advises U.S. citizens to exercise caution while traveling throughout Uzbekistan. Due to increased security measures along Uzbekistan’s borders, any attempts to navigate land-borders could be met with difficulty and delays. Despite official announcements by the Uzbek government of an increased number of border-crossing stations, many border crossings remain closed or inoperable. Proper documentation are essential for internal and external travel. Even with proper documentation, unexpected border closures and restrictions against non-Central Asians may prevent crossing.

If you plan to return to Uzbekistan after crossing the border, ensure you have a valid multiple-entry visa; some Western travelers have travelled to neighboring countries only to realize they cannot return because their visa was for single-entry. The most direct routes in certain areas of the Fergana Valley are along roads that may temporarily cross poorly demarcated or disputed borders. These so-called transit roads are used daily by locals without incident. Foreign citizens traveling in the region, however, are advised that crossing the border in this manner, even inadvertently, may be considered an immigration violation.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Traffic safety is a major concern for Americans. Roads are poorly maintained with uneven surfaces and large pot holes. Traffic lights frequently malfunction, and street lighting is poor to non-existent, particularly on secondary roads where driving at night is not recommended. Highways and roads outside of most major cities are serviceable but are best used during daylight hours for adequate visibility, as it is common for local drivers to drive at night without lights, especially outside of Tashkent.    

Local drivers exhibit a general lack of respect for traffic rules/regulations, from disregarding lane markings to driving on the opposite side of the street to making sudden lane changes without signaling. Personal vehicles operating as ad-hoc gypsy cabs will pull over without warning to pick up passengers and often make turns from any lane.

Minor and moderate traffic accidents are frequent. Officially, parties are required to contact the police and exchange insurance information; in practice, cases are often resolved on the street with a cash payment by the offending party. This is a normal, albeit illegal, practice, as formal investigations are time-consuming, bureaucratic, and cumbersome.

Rampant corruption with respect to traffic citations and accident investigations exists. Newly installed traffic cameras enforce red light and speeding violations, which has led to new abrupt traffic behaviors. Drunk drivers are also a concern, although there is a zero-tolerance policy.

Pedestrians have the right-of-way, and vehicles will often stop abruptly to allow pedestrians to cross at designated areas. While crosswalks are common, they are not always used. Pedestrians frequently stand in traffic to hail a taxi and attempt to cross the street where there is no pedestrian crossing. They often wear dark clothing. In the rain, many people walk in the street and are difficult to see. Some drivers are inattentive to the presence of pedestrians. This combination leads to frequent, serious pedestrian/vehicular injuries – especially at night.

Depending upon security conditions, U.S. citizens could expect restricted personal movement to certain parts of the country, including the temporary closing of roads to traffic, and frequent vehicle and personal identification checks.

U.S. Embassy Tashkent recommends drivers stay alert and drive defensively. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Public Transportation Conditions

Public transportation in Tashkent consists of an underground metro system and buses (large and micro-buses). The metro is fairly clean and affordable and is guarded by armed police. Personal items are almost always searched, and it is not uncommon for guards to review identification documents. Buses are generally crowded and offer pickpockets easy targets. Unlicensed buses and damas vans come with increased safety and security risks.

The U.S. Embassy advises its employees to use radio-dispatched, app-dispatched, or well-marked taxicabs. Unregistered gypsy cabs should be avoided for crime and safety reasons. Taxis may try to pick up additional passengers, raising the risk of crime or scams. Police will not assist victims of price-gouging or scamming for unregistered taxis. Very few taxis have seatbelts or allow the use of seatbelts. 

Travel by rail is popular, and the advent of high-speed rail lines provides an effective, alternative form of transportation. Security measures at train stations are similar to those at airports.                                

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Tashkent International Airport maintains relatively robust security. Travelers should be prepared for long lines, line jumpers, and an extremely crowded baggage retrieval area; however, improvements to customer service are being implemented. Customs regulations allow only for limited hard currency removals (if over $2,000) equal to or less than what was introduced upon arrival. When possible, travelers are encouraged to arrange transportation in advance. While taxis (marked and gypsy) are abundant, language barriers and subsequent negotiations over fares can lead to problems or exorbitant fares.

Regional airports maintain similarly robust security, although amenities are substandard or non-existent. Domestic air travel has improved with multiple flights to many larger regional cities.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Tashkent as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Uzbek security and law enforcement bodies have prevented terrorist attacks within its borders since 2004 and aggressively pursue investigations of potential radicalization or terrorism support. Radicalization of Uzbek nationals or ethnic Uzbeks has occurred abroad, raising the risk of a returning fighter or terrorist. Over the past few years, dozens of Uzbeks have been arrested in Russia for suspected ties to terrorism or having links to extremist organizations. Uzbeks allegedly participated in the terrorist attacks against the Istanbul airport in June 2016, the Reina nightclub in Istanbul in January 2017, in Sweden in April 2017, and in the U.S. in October 2017. Uzbek nationals or ethnic Uzbeks are reported to have become foreign terrorist fighters in Syria.

The U.S. government remains concerned that terrorist groups may be planning attacks, possibly against U.S. interests in Uzbekistan and Central Asia, in general. Supporters of terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), al-Qa’ida, the Islamic Jihad Union, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement are active. These groups have also been known to conduct kidnappings, assassinations, and suicide bombings. Terrorist groups do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Since security is increased at official U.S. facilities, terrorists and their sympathizers may seek softer targets.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

Members of various terrorist groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and have attacked U.S. government interests, including U.S. Embassy Tashkent, and may attempt to target U.S. government or private interests in Uzbekistan.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Tashkent as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Civil Unrest

While Uzbekistan’s constitutional provisions afford citizens the right to hold rallies, meetings, and demonstrations, these can be banned or suspended on security grounds. While the potential for civil disturbance exists, demonstrations are rare. Demonstrations of typically less than a dozen people have occurred in front of the General Prosecutor’s Office, Monument of Courage, the Supreme Court, and district courts in Tashkent, but they are typically shut down quickly by authorities. In outlying regions, larger demonstrations and road blockages, consisting of as many as 200 participants, occasionally occur in protest against utility shortages or currency issues. These too are usually quickly dispersed by authorities.

Civil unrest and political violence are uncommon due to the high degree of control and engagement by the government from the national level to the local neighborhood associations (mahallas).

Although demonstrations are typically peaceful, they should be avoided. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn unpredictable and violent; moreover, there is a significant risk that security authorities will use force to control the demonstration and/or conduct follow-on investigations and criminal proceedings against demonstrators. 

Post-Specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Uzbekistan is located on a major earthquake fault line, and tremors are frequent.

  • In the summer of 2011, there was a 6.1 earthquake that damaged/destroyed at least 800 homes in the Fergana Valley. The reported death toll was 13 people, and more than 80 people were injured.

Local housing rarely meets Western construction standards; however, major Uzbek hotels reportedly have been designed to meet earthquake standards. U.S. Embassy Tashkent strongly encourages residents and visitors to evaluate their own earthquake readiness and emergency-response capabilities. A useful resource regarding emergency preparedness can be found on the U.S. Embassy Tashkent’s website.

Critical Infrastructure

Industrial and transportation accidents are very common, as occupational safety, health standards, and traffic regulations are often lacking or ignored.

Privacy Concerns

Visitors and residents have no expectation of privacy. Security services closely monitor foreign visitors and may employ surveillance practices. It is reasonable to expect that hotel rooms, offices, cars, taxis, gyms, and other public places may be monitored on site or remotely. Privacy in one’s communications should not be expected. Personal possessions may be searched without your knowledge/consent. Visitors should maintain direct control of all electronic devices.

Personal Identify Concerns                             

LGBTI rights are very limited to non-existent, with same-sex practices being punishable by up to three years in prison. Same-sex couples may experience discrimination by the local population. 

Religious congregation is only allowed by registered religious communities. The registration process is strict and complex. Proselytizing, importing, and disseminating religious literature and offering private religious instruction are subject to criminal penalties/deportation. Carrying religious literature and/or open displays of worship can catch the attention of security authorities. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Putting Your Faith in Travel: Security Implications.”

Drug-related Crimes

There is a risk of narco-terrorism issues, given the geographic proximity to Afghanistan and its location within a major corridor of trade and transport routes for Afghan heroin and opium. Several times each year, Uzbek authorities announce the seizure of large drug shipments at border crossings, likely representing just a fraction of what is transiting the country. Corruption and lack of training/equipment for law enforcement agencies hampers efforts to stem the flow of narcotics. The drug addiction problem is also likely significantly worse than acknowledged by the government. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that there are 10 times as many drug addicts in Uzbekistan as officially acknowledged. The expatriate community is not generally impacted.

Kidnapping Threat

Kidnappings have occurred; however, the U.S. Embassy is not aware of any recent instances involving the expatriate community. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Kidnapping: The Basics.”

Police Response

Police training and equipment is often below U.S. standards. Very few local law enforcement officials speak English. Police reportedly commonly solicit bribes to supplement their salaries or may readily accept bribes when offered. While police response capability is available, there is little investigative ability to solve crimes primarily due to limited training, funding, and equipment. 

Taking photographs of military or security installations or other locations of strategic significance (ministries, border and other checkpoints, bridges, tunnels, reservoirs, mountain passes, the subway system, etc.) is strictly prohibited and enforced. Obey all signs restricting photography; the absence of signage does not imply permission. Photography of cotton harvesting should also be avoided. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.”

Travelers are subject to frequent document inspections. Travelers are advised to have proper identity documents or a copy of their passport with them and to cooperate with police authorities if stopped for questioning.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

The risk of abuse while in police custody is a potential danger. 

Crime Victim Assistance

If an American citizen is the victim of a crime, s/he should immediately report the incident to the U.S. Embassy Consular Section, American Citizen Services Unit at +998-71-120-5450.

Uzbekistan has an emergency response telephone system. Dial 102 on local phones for police services. Fire services can be reached at 101 and medical services at 103. Dialing 1050 reaches the Ministry of Emergency Situations where all other critical incidents can be reported. Emergency dispatch services will likely not speak English: only Russian or Uzbek.   

Medical Emergencies

The health care system is not adequate to meet the needs of many serious emergencies. There is a lack of basic supplies and little modern equipment. Emergency medicine is very basic.

Emergency medical services can be reached locally by dialing 103. Emergency dispatchers do not speak English: only Russian and Uzbek.

Uzbek customs authorities strictly control the importation of controlled pharmaceuticals and psychotropic medicine for personal use. Even arriving with personal prescriptions of common medicines can meet unexpectedly stringent requirements. For more specific information please refer to travel.state.gov, the U.S. Embassy website, and OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

Air ambulance response times can easily stretch beyond 24 hours. This is mostly due to the bureaucratic process for obtaining aircraft clearances and visas. If an air ambulance is needed for an expatriate patient, The Tashkent International Clinic should be your first contact (Tel: +998-71-291-0142/0726).

Insurance Guidance

Because of the high costs associated with an emergency medical evacuation, it is recommended that travelers obtain emergency medical evacuation coverage. Medicare and Medicaid do not apply overseas.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

There is the risk of exposure to multidrug resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB). The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Uzbekistan.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Tashkent Country Council has 50 member organizations from the private sector and 10 member organizations from the diplomatic community attending meetings. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s South and Central Asia team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

American Embassy Tashkent

3 Moyqorghon Street

5th Block, Yunusobod District

Tashkent 100093, Uzbekistan

Hours: 0900-1800, Mon-Fri

Embassy Contact Numbers

Main Operator: +998-71-120-5450

Website: http://uz.usembassy.gov

Embassy Guidance

The U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan provides services to American citizens on an appointment only basis. Emergency calls are accepted 24 hours a day at +998-71-120-5450. Travelers are encouraged to check their visa to ensure it is valid through the length of their stay and should register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

Additional Resources

For additional security information in the region, visitors can consult the Country Specific Information and the current Travel Advisories for nearby countries. The U.S. Embassy in each of these countries can provide current information about local crime and safety issues. Information about how to contact each U.S. Embassy directly is available on the State Department’s Consular Affairs home page.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the State Department's travel website.