Country #45

Country #46 - Uzbekistan

The Immigration Line

When I landed back in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan I had another layover, this time of three hours. Thankfully it was not as painfully long as my first layover here. It was pretty uneventful other than finding some snacks. I had to make one more connection before being done with travel for the night and I was getting painfully tired. Going on just a few hours of airplane sleep this was going to be my fourth flight of the day.

The flight was to Almaty, Kazakhstan which I will be headed back through tomorrow for longer than a layover. I fell asleep instantly and only woke up when the plane landed (which is a pretty startling feeling). I had two hours for this connection. The bus to take us to the airport took quite some time but then immigration was a breeze. I easily checked in my bag but then the real waiting began. The wait to go through immigration on my outbound flight was painfully slow. Like, over an hour of standing.

It was incredibly inefficient. Lines would open and close randomly and I always ended up stuck in the slow line no matter what. By this point, I was delusionally tired (I forgot what country I was in for a solid five minutes). The airport experience got no better when I paid for the most expensive airport food of my life. I literally just bought two bottles of water and a packaged Belgian waffle and it was the equivalent of $14. I feel like there is no need to explain how insane that is. I had no other option though as I forgot to take a protein bar out of my checked bag and I hadn’t eaten a meal all day. Funnily enough (but not so funny after I had just spent $14) they served a small meal on the flight which was much appreciated as I didn’t expect it on such a short flight.

I fell asleep for the remainder of the flight and awoke to the most depressing immigration experience of my entire life. I hope I never again encounter anything like immigration at Tashkent airport - it was madness. There are no lines so you are basically in a giant mess of people trying to work your way up to an immigration booth. There are only a few booths and it seems to take forever, especially when you’re exhausted. It was the absolute last thing that I needed. It took about an hour of being crowded around people to finally have my turn which was very quick. I can’t understand how they don’t have a better system - like literally just a line would save everyone a major headache. And it’s not like this was just a thing for my flight - I had read the horror stories beforehand and they definitely proved to be true.

Luckily I had booked a cab through my hotel so I didn’t have to worry about being scammed and the driver was waiting when I finally made it out. It was a long walk to the car but at that point I didn’t care - I just needed to get to the hotel. I stayed at Hotel Grand Art which was a safe inexpensive place for an overnight stay. I fell asleep almost instantly and am so glad I don’t have a red eye in the morning.

The Guards

I was so glad to be able to sleep last night it’s not even funny. After a whirlwind day and a half of traveling to five countries on very limited sleep, last night was much needed. After a good nights sleep I had a much better day filled with only one flight (thank goodness!). It started by meeting the sweet staff at Hotel Grand Art who wanted to take a picture with me. They called me a taxi and wished me good luck before I headed back to the airport. The thing that I noticed most about Uzbekistan, both last night and today, is the guards positioned outside of every building. It was very strange to see and I’m not quite sure what it’s about even after a Google search. But they were at every building all the way to and from the airport.

Immigration was annoying if only for the fact that my visa was so expensive for no reason. $160 and I had to use it on this exact set of dates (if you’re wondering why I’m suddenly in the Middle East, this is why). Actual immigration at the airport was fine, but I didn’t want to tell the nice lady that no, I wouldn’t be back until $160 gets me more than a one day visa to a country that could probably use any tourism it could get.

The most exciting part of my day (sadly) was finally eating a real meal for the first time in almost forty-eight hours. I had been eating but nothing substantial. I found a grilled chicken sandwich and was so excited for it. The girl at the restaurant was very sweet and helpful! After my meal I boarded my flight to Almaty, Kazakhstan where I would be spending the night.

46 countries down, 150 to go.

Country #45 - Tajikistan

The Running

This might actually be my shortest country visit by air ever (at least I hope so). I landed in Tajikistan with approximately an hour to clear immigration, get my bag, re-check my bag, go through security, and reboard the plane. It was not an easy feat, but somehow I did it! Upon arrival immigration was simple and did not take long. However, waiting for my luggage took a bit longer than I would have liked. Thankfully I was able to use the time to find my witnesses and have my picture taken.

I met a really cool woman from Germany who has traveled to so many countries. It was really cool to talk with her while waiting! Her bag arrived before mine and as she wished me luck I was really starting to worry. If I missed this flight it would cause loads of problems! About five minutes after most of the bags arrived mine finally showed up. I ran through customs, ran (thankfully just) around the corner to recheck my bag. I was obviously very late and the non English speaking gate agent just pointed to his watch. I left my luggage and hoped and prayed that it would make it through.

I had read horror stories about having to pay bribes when going through immigration and security at the Dushanbe airport but, thankfully, they don’t care for a bribe when you are about to miss your plane. So I had no problems whatsoever! As I was the only person going through security it was very quick and I made it to my gate about three minutes before boarding - so in plenty of time! I was amazed that I had made it. It was literally the exact same plane that I had just gotten off of (going to the exact same place I had just come from) so I’m sure that the flight attendants were a bit confused.

The flight back to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan was quick and painless and, the best news of all, my bag somehow made it! It truly was a miracle. It is silly how few flights there are in and out of these countries that make it to where I had to do such a quick turn around. I definitely didn’t enjoy it and only did it as it was my only option. I’m looking forward to not having to run through my next country in under an hour!

45 countries down, 151 to go.