Crossing the Dostuk Checkpoint and Travelling to Uzbekistan from Osh
Osh borders with Uzbekistan and thousands of people travel back and forth by crossing the Dostuk checkpoint every day. The close proximity to Uzbekistan makes Osh the best places to start your historic and cultural journey to the jewels of the Silk Road. Yet, crossing the Dostuk checkpoint sometimes becomes challenging. Things like people queues, currency exchange, and unknown customs procedures can pose some issues and consume lots of time. To avoid such a case, here is everything you need to know before crossing the border to Uzbekistan. With the following information and tips, your border crossing experience will be easier and faster.
COVID-19 and new entry requirements for Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan
Entry to Uzbekistan and PCR-tests in Osh
As of summer 2022, Uzbekistan has cancelled the requirement of PCR tests and vaccination certificates for entering Uzbekistan. But if you still want to test your health no matter what, here is the information regarding the laboratories in Osh.
In Osh city, PCR-tests are available at the State Sanitary Epidemiological Center (SSEC) and several private laboratories. The SSEC operates Monday through Saturday and closed on Sundays. The test costs 947 som (roughly $10) and the results are ready within 4 hours. At private labs the cost is a bit higher (1400 som) but these labs are located closer to the city center and some of them operate even on Sundays. Take a look at the embedded map below to find out the location and details about these labs.
The map indicates the State Sanitary and Epidemiological Center and private labs located closer to the city center. The private labs have branches at several locations the city.
Getting to the Dostuk Checkpoint
Dostuk checkpoint is only a few kilometers away from Osh. You can get there within ten-fifteen minutes by taxi and a bit longer on public transportation (from the spot indicated as “A” on the map below take a mini-bus labeled 138 and 116). I highly recommend you to take the private taxi that costs about 200 som (around $2). Make sure to order the corporate taxis that charge with taximeters (call 141, 144 or 185). The public transportation costs only 15 som/person, but it is slower, over-crowded and extremely hot during summers.
Currency exchange (Kyrgyz som to Uzbek sum)
As soon as you arrive at the border checkpoint, you will notice dozens of currency exchange shops. Their rates are ok, but if you want to make a better deal on that, start to compare the rates while you are in the city. Generally, banks don’t sell/buy the Uzbek sum. You have to go around the currency exchange shops around Osh bazar for a slightly better rate. Again, it is fine to change money at the border because the difference is insignificant.
Make sure to make proper calculations in advance! The exchange between any currency and Uzbek sum might be confusing. Google converter can help in this case. Also, ask the dealer to give a significant amount of your Uzbek cash (maybe 70%) in big banknotes. By this, you will avoid (un)intentional miscalculation and carrying a big junk of Uzbek cash in your bag or pocket (for example, $115 is approximately 1 million Uzbek sums).
Long lines along the border
Dostuk is the largest checkpoint between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It connects densely populated Fergana Valley of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan’s Osh province. There is a strong family, economic, social and cultural connection across the border. As a result, a permanent movement of people across Dostuk sometimes causes the people queues. You will less likely encounter long lines if you are crossing to Uzbekistan at the beginning of the week. At the same time, there will be a huge crowd crossing from Uzbekistan to Osh. And the situation is opposite at the weekends. Longer lines will be standing in the direction of Uzbekistan and few to Kyrgyzstan.
Foreign citizens crossing the border
Now, if you are a foreign citizen you have a high chance to avoid human traffic jams. Usually, the border guards and customs let the foreigners bypass the lines through the green corridor. Make sure to let them know that you are a foreigner if they won’t see it themselves.
As soon as you ender the protected zone, please, don’t take photos because the rules strictly prohibit it. Try to follow this rule! Otherwise, you may hear “nice” words from the rich vocabulary of local vulgarities.
Strangers asking to help with transferring some packages
After leaving the Kyrgyz immigration office you will end up at no man’s land. Right before the immigration office of Uzbekistan, you may encounter people sitting outside. They usually ask people passing by to help with transferring some bags across the border. These are the merchants who want their goods transferred without import taxes. I don’t think that they ever ask foreigners for that (language barrier and etc.). Neither, I think that I should warn you not to take anything from strangers.
Uzbek customs checking the electronics
Sometimes, Uzbek customs officers go after checking the luggage. Some people get “lucky” and asked to present the content of their smartphones, laptops, and cameras. It happened to me twice when officers browsed through my images and videos. When I asked the purpose for that, the reply was to see if I have pornography (do people still store porn in their devices??? I mean, with modern internet and ability to watch anything anywhere and anytime?). But their concern is also related to the presence of extremist content. I have never seen foreigners getting their devices checked. But, just in case, make sure not to have anything provocative on your devices.
And delete your porn (just saying)!
Transportation in Uzbekistan
After finally making it through the border you will encounter dozens of taxi drivers. They serve to most cities of Fergana Valley and capital Tashkent. You won’t find a taxi to Bukhara, Samarkand and other regions of Uzbekistan due to proximity reasons.
Even so, if you are willing to take a road trip from Osh to Samarkand and Bukhara or order a private car across the border, I can help you with that. I saved a few contacts of reliable drivers who can serve you if booked in advance.
The shared taxi to Tashkent will cost you 120 000 – 150 000 Uzbek sum ($7.5 – 9.5) based on your bargaining skills. If you want to travel to Tashkent by train, you need to go via Andijan. There are daily trains to Tashkent that leave at 6 am, 12 pm, 2 pm, and 4 pm (check for a time in advance). The taxi to Andijan costs nearly 20 000 – 25 000 ($1) and the bus is even cheaper.
There are also cars to Fergana city that cost 40 000 – 50 000 ($3.20 – 3.70). Fergana city is the best place to organize trips to Margilan, Rishtan and Kokand cities.
Prices may change every month and depend on the cost of fuel and exchange rates in relation to the US dollar.
I hope that this information will ease your experience of crossing the Dostuk checkpoint between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. I will be traveling back and forth and update this post. Also, I will be glad to incorporate your recommendations and answer your questions regarding this topic.