Let me guess: You are traveling to Uzbekistan and want to know if you can use your foreign debit card to pay or withdraw from an ATM.
Or maybe you’ve heard that you need crisp new US dollar bills and exchange them at the black market on the street for Uzbek Som? (Nope, these days are gone!)
Or you’re just looking for those nice ATMs that don’t charge a commission for withdrawals? (Very rare, but they exist!)
You’ve come to the right place to learn all about money in Uzbekistan as a tourist!
Currency in Uzbekistan
The currency in Uzbekistan is the Uzbek So’m with code UZS.
Persistent inflation in the country since its independence in 1991 has meant continuous devaluation of the currency. The largest denomination is 200.000 UZS (~17$) and practically nobody ever uses any coins. I didn’t see a single coin while in Uzbekistan.
The most common banknotes are the 2.000, 10.000, and 20.000. Due to the recent introduction of the 200.000 notes, most Uzbeks haven’t seen one. I had more than a few suspicious stares when I paid with this banknote. Nonetheless, it never got rejected.
Can you use you use your card in Uzbekistan?
Yes, you can use your foreign card to pay while in Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan is really opening up to the world. Ever since the death of the former
president dictator Karimov in 2016, Uzbekistan has been looking to attract more tourists and make it easy for them to spend money in the country. Today, Uzbekistan is indeed a very safe country.
As of 2023, bigger hotels, bigger supermarkets, some museums, and other establishments accept payment by foreign cards.
However, most still charge 1% to 3% commission even if you pay on a POS terminal.
Smaller supermarkets, traditional open-air markets, family-run guesthouses, etc. of course still only accept cash. Who’s to blame them?
Visa and Mastercard are accepted on most POS terminals. Maestro is accepted, but not as widely as Visa. AMEX cards are mostly NOT accepted though.
ATMs in Uzbekistan
ATMs were virtually non-existent in Uzbekistan 10 years ago. Today, they are popping up like mushrooms everywhere in Tashkent and Samarkand and tourist hotspots like Bukhara and Khiva.
Even in Nukus, your gateway to the Ship Graveyard in the Dead Aral Sea, there’s no shortage of ATMs from different banks.
There’s no shortage of ATMs in cities in the Fergana Valley either.
Most ATMs will accept Visa cards and Maestro cards. Some will accept Mastercard. Almost no ATMs accept American Express.
The maximum withdrawal amount on most ATMs is 2 million UZS, some up to 3 million.
Here comes the tricky part – avoiding those pesky ATM withdrawal fees. I’m not talking about the fees you get charged on your end from your bank – those you can avoid by using a FinTech solution like Revolut, Curve, or Monese.
Unfortunately, most ATMs in Uzbekistan charge a withdrawal fee between 1% and 3%. The most common fee is in the amount of 1.5%.
ATMs without withdrawal fees
The ATM you want to use to avoid withdrawal fees is Trastbank. They offer the ONLY ATMs without a withdrawal fee in Uzbekistan as of 2023.
And yes, I did try over 10 different banks, including O’zmilliybank, Xalq Banki, Agrobank, Turkiston Bank, Davr Bank, HamkorBank, and the Turkish Ziraat Bank which otherwise charges 0 withdrawal fees in Turkey.
What I found out is that Trastbank’s ATMs are kind of rare, so if you see one, withdraw as much as you think you’ll need for the next few days. You can find them on Google Maps.
ATMs that dispense USD
It used to be possible to withdraw USD from Uzbek ATMs and then exchange USD for UZS on the street to get the best deal.
Ever since 2017 when the Uzbek Som was unpegged from the Dollar and started floating freely, the need for a black market disappeared (see below) and ATMs that dispense USD quickly got removed.
Today, there are no more ATMs that dispense USD in Uzbekistan.
If you need to get a hold of USD (say you will be traveling to other Central Asian countries and need some exchangeable cash) you will have to withdraw UZS, then go to a bank and exchange to USD.
Exchanging Money in Uzbekistan
To be frank, you don’t need to exchange money in Uzbekistan because paying by card and withdrawing UZS from an ATM are both widespread and reliable enough.
But if you want to be safe, here’s what you need to know about exchanging money in Uzbekistan.
What currency to bring
As with almost any country in the world right now, the US dollar is king.
Other currencies that are traded and exchangeable in Uzbekistan (in order of ease of exchange) are:
- Russian Rouble;
- Kazakh Tenge;
- British Pounds;
- Swiss Francs;
- Japanese Yen;
- Chinese Yuan.
The black market is dead
Before 2017, the UZS was officially pegged to the dollar at 4210 UZS for 1$. However, the real rate was at least double that, which meant the black market was where you wanted to exchange money for good value.
You’d have had to go near the market and ask around to find a shady dude on the street, who’d whip open a massive box of Uzbek cash (back then the biggest banknote was 10.000 UZS, equivalent to around 2.5 dollars officially and around 1 unofficially) and take your pristine USD bills.
It was very illegal and yet everyone did it. Also, everyone walked around with large piles of cash (100$ was at least 100 banknotes, sometimes more) and the Uzbeks were known as the fastest cash counters in the world.
Those days are gone! After 2017 the Uzbek som was unpegged and allowed to float freely on the currency market, including the USD. That removed the need for a black market and today you won’t find dodgy guys exchanging money on the street.
Long story short – no black market exists anymore, exchange your money in a bank or an exchange bureau.
Exchanging at a bank
Exchanging money in a bank in Uzbekistan is pretty straightforward and not any different than anywhere else in the world. Mind these points:
- Bring your passport with you;
- Your foreign currency banknotes must be clean, crisp, and have no signs of wear or tear;
- Banks’ opening times are 09:00 to 17:00, shorter on Saturdays, closed on Sundays;
- You can exchange money at the airport, but will face a little lower exchange rate;
- Officially you cannot exchange money at the border. In reality, there will always be 1 or 2 guys that will offer you some rate to exchange Kazakh Tenge, Kyrgyz Som, Tajik Somoni, USD, or Euro;
Exchanging using a money exchange machine
Next to some proper ATMs, you will find automatic money exchange machines. They only take US dollars.
The way it works is pretty straightforward.
- You will be shown an exchange rate that is a little lower than the one in the banks;
- Insert a US dollar note. The accepted notes are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100;
- Take your UZS notes from the machine.
These exchange machines are open 24/7 and are a good substitute for the bank if you urgently need cash on a Sunday.
How much cash to bring to Uzbekistan?
This depends on your needs, of course. Since using your card in Uzbekistan nowadays is pretty easy to both pay and withdraw cash, you don’t need to bring as much foreign currency as cash inside the country.
My advice is to have at least 200$ just in case something goes wrong with your bank cards and you need emergency cash until you sort it out.
When I went to Uzbekistan I had exactly that much stashed away but since I exclusively used my Revolut and Curve cards, I didn’t have to exchange a single time.
On the other hand, if you’re wondering how much money you need to travel to Uzbekistan, you can check out my backpacker’s budget report for Uzbekistan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s answer some of the internet’s (and most certainly your) most burning questions about money in Kyrgyzstan.
What is the ATM withdrawal limit in Uzbekistan?
The maximum withdrawal limit on most ATMs in Uzbekistan is 3,000,000 UZS (246$). Not all ATMs have this limit, some have a limit lower than that.
Where to exchange money in Uzbekistan?
You can exchange money in various places:
- At the airport just after you arrive. All international airports have change bureaus, although their rates are bad compared to the city;
- At a land border. Look for exchange bureaus just before or just after land borders with neighboring countries;
- At a change bureau in the city (probably the best rates);
- At a bank;
- At a dodgy-looking guy at the corner of a bazaar (please don’t).
Can you use US dollars in Uzbekistan?
You can use US dollars to pay for things in Uzbekistan but it’s extremely rare.
However, the US dollar is easily exchanged for local Uzbek S’om.
Can you use Revolut in Uzbekistan?
Yes, Revolut cards work in Uzbekistan. Both VISA and Mastercard work. Similar fintech apps like Wise, Monese, and Curve also work there.
If you are going to the other Central Asian countries, you may want to read my money guides for them too: