Cheapest Shopping For Nuts and Dried Fruits in Tashkent and Samarkand

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mamra Almonds (soft shell) with or without shell, and shelled walnuts are perhaps the two types of nuts that most tourist purchase during their holiday in Uzbekistan. The shops stock dried apricots, raisins, and flavoured almonds too and some tourists buy those. Almonds and walnuts in Uzbekistan are not only cheap but of top quality too. I am not an expert on the quality of nuts but here is what I know. The better quality and more expensive almonds in Uzbekistan have darker colour shells and there are no tiny holes in the shells. There will be a gap in the shell on one side and you will easily be able to crack open the shell just with your thumbnail of one hand while holding the almond in the other hand. The bigger sized almonds will cost more but that will not make any difference to the quality. The nuts will have a good sweet taste and no unpleasant smell. I have given below a picture of the almonds that I bought in Tashkent. Keep reading for tips on the best prices...

Indian Gala Dinner And Belly Dance in Tashkent 2017

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Like it or not, this gala dinner with belly dance is the main selling point used by Indian tour operators when they market package tours to Tashkent. The travel agent that I used for my first and perhaps the last package tour to Uzbekistan in January 2017 - McTrip Holidays (, promised an Indian buffet dinner along with a "world-class" dance show every night of the tour duration. Later in this page you will get to see a video of the dance show that was presented on our first night in Tashkent. You can decide on your own whether it was "world-class" or not. This tour operator cheated our group in so many ways that I had to write an exclusive article just on the fraud aspect. Read it here: Delhi To Tashkent Tour Fraud. Anyway, since these so-called belly dance shows always become an important part of the tours from India to Tashkent, this is what you can expect to see:

Best Money Exchange Rates in Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bukhara (Uzbekistan)

The official currency of Uzbekistan is Som (UZS) and the official exchange rate for UZS against US Dollar at the time of writing this article (February 2017) was 3294.74 Uzbekistani Som against one US Dollar. The market or real exchange rate for USD in Uzbekistan at that time was approximately 6900 UZS for every USD. Yes, there are two different exchange rates in this country. To see the current official rate at any time, go to Google and type "usd uzs rate" in lower case without quotes and press enter. The current exchange rate will be displayed by Google at the top of the page. This official rate is sort of a reference or "inter-bank exchange" rate but not the official buy-sell rate relevant for foreign tourists who wish to exchange money with authorised money changers in Uzbekistan. This buy-sell is likely to be different from the inter-bank exchange rate. So what is the official "buy-sell" rate? On the day I arrived at Tashkent International Airport, I spotted two things after clearing Customs formality. An ATM and a foreign exchange counter. The ATM seemed to be working but the exchange counter was closed. It was approximately 6.00am om 26th January 2017. But there was a display board kept in front of the exchange counter where exchange rates of UZS against four major currencies - Euro, USD, GBP, and Japanese Yen were displayed. Keep reading...

Is Indian Tourists' Tashkent Dream Over?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Looks like it is. And maybe I am too late in saying so because I discovered this only during my first and perhaps the last trip to Uzbekistan in January 2017. The change had in fact started a few years ago when the male tourist-oriented "entertainment" industry of Tashkent was chased away from the city by the police and forced to relocate to outskirts from where it started operating in an even shadier and riskier manner. Now its a tired show that is somehow being kept alive to serve the unsuspecting or unrelenting members of the few tour groups still coming from India. Even that may not last very long because Indian tourists are fast discovering other destinations, such as the nearby Kyrgyzstan (called Thailand of Central Asia) where "entertainment" is legal and much easier. Tashkent is losing out very fast. The stars of the Uzbek "entertainment" industry have migrated to Kyrgyzstan in search of more business and more money. The entire chain of conducted tour business from India (Delhi) to Uzbekistan, be it the Indian or Uzbek travel agents, Ubzek hotels, or the airline of compulsion - Uzbekistan Airways - have all lost respect for the Indian tourist. Only one Indian restaurant is said to be operational in Tashkent (Raaj Kapoor) because it partly caters to tour groups. The erstwhile "Tata Hotel" in Tashkent, now called "Le Grande Plaza" is just a rundown lodge with dirty rooms and broken bath fittings. Interestingly, despite all this, Uzbekistan Airways still operates full flights between India and Tashkent. Well, there is something else going on...

'Tashkent Tour From Delhi' Fraud

Saturday, February 4, 2017

I have been writing this blog since the year 2010 and all my trips in India and abroad during all these years have been self-arranged. I booked air tickets myself, booked my own hotels and did all sightseeing on my own. There never was a need to buy a tour package from a travel agent. I have been a happy traveller. But all that had to change this time in January 2017. I decided to go see a different destination that required a different approach to travel. I decided on Tashkent, Uzbekistan. This Central Asian country, which was a part of the erstwhile USSR, does not issue visa to individuals from India unless some local (Uzbek) travel agent is involved. In other words, the only option for most individuals wanting to travel to Uzbekistan is to buy a package tour from a travel agent. Of course there are some less than legal workarounds available to this visa issue and are used by the individuals who are in the know, but for my first trip I did not see the wisdom of taking such extra risks. As such, I ended up buying a tour package to Tashkent from a travel agent in Delhi - McTrip Holidays and thus became the victim of this tour fraud. This article is also a review of McTrip Holidays Delhi and iTravel Uzbekistan. Keep reading...

No More Direct Visa-Free Entry Into Hong Kong For Indian Citizens - Pre Arrival Registration Is Now Mandatory

Friday, February 3, 2017

Hong Kong was among a few countries in the world that used to offer a visa-free entry or a visa on arrival for Indian citizens. Better still, Hong Kong never charged any fee for that visa-free entry. Well, no more. A "Pre-Arrival Registration" has become mandatory for Indian nationals willing to visit Hong Kong. This registration will be free of cost but there are other problems associated with the new system. First, only India has been singled out for this requirement of pre arrival registration. Second, the pre arrival registration form is lengthy and requires some information that will certainly take a lot of your time and effort. Third, the funds being carried while visiting Hong Kong (value in HK Dollars) including the cost of accommodation need to be declared in the pre arrival registration. There is no specific requirement mentioned anywhere as to how much money is to be carried, one may just need to guesstimate as to how much to carry and declare. Keep reading for details and some useful links...

Hotel Red Planet Asoke Bangkok Review

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I had booked this hotel with a lot of hope and with a good reason too. I had stayed at Red Planet Pattaya twice and both my stays there had been perfect. Absolutely no complaints. But this one - Red Planet Asoke in Bangkok ended my lucky streak. Its a problem hotel. The shadow of the old 'Tune Hotel' culture appeared to be everywhere in the property. The unconcerned staff, and the forced limited hour use of air-conditioning just reminded me of the guest reviews of Tune Hotels that I used to read on Tripadvisor. Read on to know why this Red Planet is undoing whatever good name the Red Planet in Pattaya is earning...

Cheapest Indian Food in Pattaya

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Where to find the cheapest Indian food in Pattaya? Its a fair question because the prices of Indian food anywhere in Thailand seem to be unreasonably high. I get surprised when I find some of the Indian restaurants in Thailand charging prices similar to those that are charged by their counterparts in Hong Kong which is a much more expensive place as compared to any city in Thailand. I have been to an Indian restaurant in Bangkok that charged 70 THB for a 500ml bottle of water that was sold in 7-Eleven for just 7 THB. This restaurant then added a 10% service charge on top of the bill. On the other hand, there are restaurants in Pattaya that serve a western breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausages, toast, and coffee, all for just 70 THB. What is going on there. In Pattaya, Indian restaurants are springing up everywhere. So is a profitable business or what? Keep reading...

Where To Buy A Prepaid SIM Card in Nana / Asoke Bangkok

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

You need to know this if you do not want to pay 300 THB for a 50 THB SIM. Prepaid SIM cards, especially the ones that tourists look for in Thailand, are sometimes sold at ridiculously higher prices as compared to their official prices. I was once asked to pay 200 THB for a 50 THB SIM at Nana Square Mall in Bangkok and another time was quoted a price of 290 THB for a 49 THB SIM in Pattaya. That had prompted me to call it Thailand's SIM Card Scam. Actually, the simple way around this problem is to buy a prepaid SIM from a telecom company's official shop. There are official shops of all Thai telecom companies at Suvarnabhumi airport where prepaid SIM cards including the "tourist" SIM cards can be purchased. Similarly one can buy prepaid SIM cards even at Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok. However, if you neglect buying one at the airport on arrival, this might become a troublesome issue for you. Keep reading...


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I left my day job in October 2013 and became a full time blogger. I love travel and hence a travel blog was the obvious place to start from. The result is I currently live in Bengaluru, India. - Narinder Singh.


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