Registan - Shah-i-Zinda Ensemble Шоҳи Зинда
Asia,  Uzbekistan

Bukhara to Tashkent: Night trains in Uzbekistan

It’s quarter to ten on a Wednesday night, and I’m standing on a station platform in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.

I’m here on a trip-of-a-lifetime, bucket-list kind of adventure – and that’s saying something for someone who travels as much as I do. But for many years now I’ve dreamed of visiting the beautiful squares and madrassahs of Uzbekistan, with their towering turquoise domes and exquisite mosaic façades. Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva: they have been on my wishlist for years, and this was the trip where I was finally able to see them with my own eyes.

My journey started in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s modern capital which is getting more modern by the day as the government invests significant money in modernisation, development and restoration, a theme I found throughout the country. From there I travelled by high-speed train to mythical Samarkand, with its historic Registan Square, before a drive across the desert, passing caravanserais and ancient water sources, to the ancient city of Bukhara.

Using the trains in Uzbekistan is a great way to experience the country, as I found out on a trip from Bukhara to Tashkent. | Tashkent Bukhara | Tashkent to Bukhara train | Tashkent train station | Uzbek railways | Uzbekistan railways | Trains in Uzbekistan
Ark Citadel, Bukhara

I must confess I fell in love with Bukhara – more than a little bit. More relaxed and remote than Samarkand, it has an even greater abundance of beautifully-restored historic buildings showcasing the best of Uzbekistan culture, as well as a central square which hummed at night with lights, laughter and the smell of good food. We visited mosques and madrassahs, hammams and citadels; we explored local bazaars full of fresh produce, and tsarist Russian palaces where we explored mirrored reception rooms, then bought beautifully-painted scenes of the Silk Road from the Uzbek vendors just outside the door, in a perfect example of the contradictions of Central Asia.

In a restaurant one night I sang Russian folk songs with a local musician while we relaxed with traditional plov and Uzbek wine. And we walked the streets, many still being modernised and upgraded, and watched historic landmarks still in the throes of restoration as Uzbekistan maintains and celebrates its deep cultural roots, neglected for so many years.

But all good things must come to an end, and it was time to head east. (Khiva? That is further west, and has given me an excuse to return to Uzbekistan one day). Our route took us back to the capital, Tashkent, and our mode of transport was the overnight train. The high-speed network that took us to Samarkand does, in fact, go on to Bukhara, but that is a modern, sleek affair that places convenience firmly above soul. Our train, however, was good solid Soviet stock, lettered inside and out in Cyrillic characters and apparently unchanged from the train I first took back in February 1992, just 6 weeks after the end of Communism, from St Petersburg to Moscow back in the “old country” to the west.

Using the trains in Uzbekistan is a great way to experience the country, as I found out on a trip from Bukhara to Tashkent. | Tashkent Bukhara | Tashkent to Bukhara train | Tashkent train station | Uzbek railways | Uzbekistan railways | Trains in Uzbekistan

On this journey we were three in our carriage, and with luggage to contend with, things were a little tight. Upper bunks were already folded down for the night, and our carriage guard handed out sheets and blankets for us to make up our beds. The carriages were air conditioned, but not until the train got underway; from sweaty heat as we waited for departure, by morning we were shivering under blankets. Old-fashioned sliding doors gave us privacy, and deadbolts on each door gave us security. Toilets were at either end of the carriage, but otherwise it was a no-frills affair.

With our train setting off at 10:30pm and arriving in Tashkent train station at 06:30am, we settled down for what proved to be a comfortable night, rocked to sleep by the motion of the carriage. We woke the next morning to the Uzbek landscape rolling past, the westerly deserts having by now made way for farmland and greenery as we approached the capital. As we rolled into our destination, we passed the sleek, futuristic nose of the Tashkent to Samarkand high-speed train, waiting to make its way back to the west. Are they more comfortable? Undoubtedly, but for sheer experience you can’t beat the Soviet night train across the desert.

night train from bukhara - 12
The new high-speed train waits to depart from Tashkent station

I travelled to Uzbekistan with Exodus Travels. Want to check out Uzbekistan for yourself? Check out their site, or take a look at these tours offered by Kalpak Travel!

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I'm Jill, and I'm a British blogger who has been travelling for two decades, visiting more than 70 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

13 Comments

  • Chandrika

    Beautiful read! You have really given me travel inspiration with this one, given that I had never considered visiting Uzbekistan 🙂

  • jin

    Omg this is all kinds of awesome! I wish I have more time to explore this part of the world and I hope one day I will. Thank you for sharing such valuable information that I will for sure reference back!

  • Sara Essop

    Visiting Uzbekistan is high up on my bucket list. It looks amazing. I’ve been looking at flights but they’re so expensive from South Africa, where I live.

  • Anshula

    I didn’t know about Uzbekistan before reading this post! And now, I really want to visit! Bukhara’s Russian palaces sound amazing! I also love that the contradictions make the city unique.

  • Travellinn

    Just returned back from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan is on my list as well. The Registan square look magical! 🙂

  • Haim Dorin

    Thanks for your blog! You write very nice !! 🙂
    I’m planning to visit Uzbekistan next May 2019, for the Silk and Spice Festival.
    I would like information about trains tickets.
    I would like to buy by a web site or other,
    Where can I get information about trains and buying tickets? Or just through a Tourist Company?
    Thanks!

  • Ruth

    What is security like before getting on the train in Bukhara? What type of machines do they use in Bukhara? Do they x-ray your luggage? Do they x-ray a person with the new scanners in airports nowadays or just use the old type of metal detectors people walk thru? Uzbekistan

  • Mr Anthony Richter

    Thanks for the interesting article
    Which class of train did you take from bukhara to Tashkent? Was the train quite open and social? Or everyone sleeps? Many thanks

    • Jill Bowdery

      Hi Anthony, sorry I didn’t see this before! It was an overnight train, so they were 4 berth compartments. We left late at night and arrived in Tashkent early the next morning, so everybody slept. But maybe it’s different at another time of day!

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