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.
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.