Exchanging money is quite an interesting experience in Uzbekistan. The official exchange rate for the USD is 1650 som, the black market rate 2350! It’s a flourishing black market as Uzbekistan has kept away from currency convertibility.
We’d read beforehand that it is best to exchange money on the street close to the bazaar – I thought we’d do it with a “legit” money exchanger with an office. Well, I have to start listening more carefully to what people say. On a fairly busy lane off a main street in Tashkent, we were approached by a young man in a black tracksuit. And out came a wad full of Uzbek soms from his pockets. We struck a rate – I handed over a pristine $100 bill – got two thick wads of soms and more (235,000 to be precise). And in less than a minute, we were done. I was giddy holding all that cash in my hand in the middle of a street – and felt quite rich too. Warning: They vanish pretty quickly. So the joy is rather short-lived!