09 November 2006

24 Hours with the Uzbeks

An Uzbek who you have just met who insists on calling you "my friend" is most certainly out to rip you off. Beware.

Uzbek taxi drivers will want to know where you are from. This is to put you at your ease and build rapport, such that they might rip you off more successfully in the nearest future. As an interesting experiment, tell them you are from Bolivia. They will immediately tell you tales of their great friend John from Bolivia, who they helped extensively while he was in Uzbekistan. And they didn't charge him a single cent!

There are random documents and reciepts exchanged with every transaction in Uzbekistan. Throw these away as soon as you get them. On the way out of the country, be sure you are not holding any currency - ideally you are travelling back to the real world where your bank or credit card will be useable. Any money you are taking out with you will be assumed by the customs officials to be a present for themselves. If the customs inspector asks you any questions, just play stupid. You don't understand. Explain to him that in the free world you never had to collect reciepts like this, so you just assumed it was the same in Uzbekistan. Don't get angry, just smile and laugh. Show him your empty pockets.

At the government run hotels, every member of the female staff, from hairdresser to cleaning woman to receptionist, will offer you "massage services". What they are actually suggesting is that you give them money to have sex with you. Be sure you negotiate the price prior to the start of the "massage" - if you don't, the fee will rise dramatically and will be negotiated with the help of hotel security.

Don't trust Uzbeks with matches.

Never let an Uzbek policeman or security official hold your passport. If he must look, be sure you continue to hold it, with both hands.

Do not agree to follow an Uzbek policeman or security official anywhere - they are only wanting to take you to a more intimate location where they can more conveniently extract a bribe. Conduct any official business with them in as busy a public place as possible.


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