Getting into Uzbekistan was no easy task. It was definitely one of the most tiresome, patience-testing, and hilarious situations I’ve ever found myself in. One of those experiences that make for a great story later on in life. I’m not the best story teller, but I’ll do my best to record what happened during my 8 hours stuck at Tashkent airport…
First Drama: To get on the flight to Tashkent or not?
My family who live in Tashkent were kind enough to take care of the visa application for me, so while I was in Istanbul I received news that the visa was approved and that I would be picking it up at the airport. So I bought my plane ticket and started packing. On the day of my flight out to Tashkent, I received a message from my cousin about 10 minutes before I was due to leave the house saying that there was an issue with the entry dates on my visa and that I should wait for a few more days before flying in. You can imagine that this was a very inconvenient development given that I was literally ready to step out of the door. After numerous Facebook messages to my cousin in Tashkent we decided that he and a friend would go to the airport and speak to their connections to see if the process could be speeded up. It would take my cousin an hour to let me know whether I should get on the plane or not – but I was due to leave the house 10 minutes ago by this time. So I got into the car with the thought that by the time I get to the airport – which is about an hour away from where I was staying in Istanbul – I would have a response from my cousin to let me know if I could get on my flight or not.
As we were pulling up at the airport, I received a call saying that I could get on my flight to Tashkent but I would likely have to wait until 11am before they actually let me into the country. My flight was due to arrive in Tashkent at 2:40am. That meant an 8 hour wait. Keeping this in mind, and hoping for the best, I decided to get on the plane.
Second Drama: Arriving at Tashkent Airport
The flight itself was uneventful. I quite enjoyed it actually, Turkish Airlines is my favourite airline – they hand out turkish delight and the food is delicious! I didn’t sleep though, the choice of movies kept me awake – Runner Runner and The Heat if you’re interested. We arrived in Tashkent at 2:40am as planned. The visa counter wasn’t open so I sat down on the metal chairs and waited. There were 3 men also waiting at the window so I didn’t feel too lonely. Eventually, the visa counter opened and I watched as the three men showed their visa approval paper, received their stamp, and moved on. I started to feel hopeful that I might be able to slip through too. But when I showed the man my visa approval paper I knew things were going sour. He was pulling his face this way and that, repeatedly touching his chin and mouth, and staring at the computer screen. He finally looked up at me and told me I had to wait until 11am. Then he got up and left.
The last of the people from my flight had already passed through passport control, and so the people working at passport control also got up and left. It seemed that all security personnel and airport staff simply left. I went and sat back down on the metal chairs and stared glumly at the people collecting their luggage on the other side of the passport control counters. At this point I really wanted to go and collect my luggage because having my luggage go missing was not something I wanted to deal with – but jumping the fence at passport control probably wasn’t a good idea either. So I just sat, and waited.
After about 15 minutes, the man working at the visa counter magically reappeared and I asked him if I could get my luggage. He spoke to a security guard who let me through – sweet relative freedom for 5 minutes was exhilarating – I was happy to see that my backpack was waiting for me. I let myself back into to wrong side of the passport control counters, and sat down in the metal chair.
The area was deserted once more. 30 minutes passed, and the floor was starting to look like a pretty good place to lie down for a nap. Before I committed myself to sleeping on the floor, a side door about 20 meters down from where I was sitting opened quietly and a man in army gear beckoned at me…
** Stay tuned for Part 2! I’ll publish it in about a week, I promise 🙂 **