There is one weekly train from Tashkent to Almaty. It’s actually the train from Nukkus to Almaty, leaving Nukus on Wednesday night. It stops in Tashkent (not the main train station, but one on the outskirts apparently, but I didn’t research) on Thurdays night and gets in Almaty on Friday night.
But I had to leave Tashkent on a Saturday morning so decided to take a bus from the border post near Chernaevka.
I left Tashkent around 10ish, took the metro to the northern most station. The current station is Habib Abdullaev although it seems there is a extension project to go beyond Yumusobod (and was announced at least three years ago). But I had to take a short taxi ride to Yumusobod. I could have got a bus, bus the bus station was of course not close to the metro station.
Yumusobod is the spot I was interested in. I thought I could get a Mashrutka from there to the border in Chernaevka, but eventually, I had to take a shared taxi. I paid 5000 SUM.
The border area in Chernaevka is rather nice, with eateries and stalls along the street leading to the border post. This is were I indulged in a my last Uzbek Plov to spend my last SUMs, and it was probably the best I ever got…
This all came at the right time. Walking to the post after lunch, I realized it was closed from 12pm to 1pm. I arrived just on time a little after 1pm, right before the big rush.
The Uzbek side (exit) really started to get busy while I was filling out my customs form. By the way, people in Chernaevka will try to sell you those customs form. It’s just a scam, they are given for free at the border post of course.
By the time I passed the scanner, the post was really getting chaotic, and I had to fight to get to a window to show my passport. Mums with kids, elderly, or just the commoner would pass in front of you, so you really have to stand up and resist… and hold your passport at the window, occupying as much space as possible to hold your position… don’t be afrais to be rude, this is the way here! I was even greeted with pleasant smiles and ‘where from? what is your name?’ questions.
I had to give out all my registration slip, and the officer seemed to have looked through them carefully. They seemed to be all fine despite the few suspicious sticky notes or other random bits of paper on which the were scribbled. But they were indeed checked indeed! Only one night was missing, so they complied with regulations, and passed control.
Once passed through the jungle, I got to the Kazakh entry side, which was far less busy, slightly more spacious and clearer. It was also better organized, signed, and equipped.
The form to fill out is small if insignificant, but it gets stamped when crossing in, and you have to keep it untill exiting the country when it’s collected.
Once passed passport control, the officers at customs only asked me very informaly the reason of my visit, and the amount of foreign currency I was carrying with me.
If the Kazakh side of the border post was more pleasant, there is nothing once in the country apart from abandoned buildings and annoying taxi drivers and money changers. I really took my time with the latter, and could change USD to KZ Tenge at the excellent rate of 160 tenge per dollar. Then an old lady insisted to take me to the bus to Almaty, which was a just few hundred meters away because she probably got a commission on my bus ticket.
I realized when I asked the time of departure that KZ is one hour ahead of UZ.
The bus leaves at about 7pm, and seats cost from 2500 to 3500 tenges depending on placement from back to front. I got the cheapest one, and was quickly invited by the drivers for a chat in the haul(!), and later for tea. This was a great moment, as the waiting was a few hours, and I got this nice picture as a souvenir!
The bus arrived around 9am he following morning, but this was really not a nice ride.
Of course I was crammed in a seat with absolutely no legroom, next to another tall Uzbek, but hopefully I had the aisle seat to stretch my legs a little. The bus was an old French coach, and I noticed later that all buses and most lorries were recycled vehicules from western Europe (mostly France and Germany).
The road is paved all the way, but in very poor condition, and it was like trying to sleep on a roller coaster for 14 hours. There were a few stops for convenience and food along the way, but neither the food nor the toilets looked any good…!
The bus gets into a new Bus station way outside Almaty, much further out west than the main Sairan bus station where most buses and shared taxis to Bishkek can be found. From those two different places, bus 16 goes to the centre.