I had read horror stories about the Tashkent airport, but was still unprepared for the oddities. If I were fresh and well rested, I would probably have been amused by some of the quirks, but, given flight schedules, the international airport operates primarily in the middle of the night, so everything seems particularly surreal.
Arriving at 1:30am from Istanbul, I stumbled off the bus from the plane to find two women in theatrical nurses uniforms wearing oversized surgical masks scanning the faces and movement of arriving passengers. We then all passed through some sort of medical scan. There was no explanation of any kind, but it was an alarming first impression.
There were 5 stations open for passport control, 4 of which were for Uzbek citizens (20% of the passengers) and 1 for all other nationalities. The Uzbek nationals breezed through their lines, while the foreign visitors waited for over an hour. The passport agents from the Uzbek lines sat there for over half an hour doing nothing before they opened a second line for visitors.
Other countries distribute customs forms on the inbound flight so people can complete them before arriving. At Tashkent, the only forms I could find were written in Russian and I had to scramble to find a form I could read. The forms for Uzbekistan are not only much more complex than other countries,' but they also need to be completed in duplicate, something I only learned when I finally made it to the front of the line. There was no sign or instruction on the form itself fowarning that you need to complete it twice.
A week later, I returned to the airport to leave the country. I had connected from a domestic flight from Urgench and I arrived outside the new terminal at 10:30pm only to learn that the terminal didn't open until midnight.
While waiting, everyone else paid to have their luggage wrapped with clear plastic. Again, there were no signs to explain to foreigners whether this was a requirement. I sat nervously, wondering if I would be denied admittance with my naked luggage.
When the doors opened at last, the crowd surged forward and I was literally lifted off my feet and carried toward the security screening area. Since they had ample guards in place at least from 10:30pm onward, I was mystified as to why they didn't open the airport to allow people to trickle in as they arrived instead of creating a mob scene each night for those with flights leaving shortly after midnight.
It is sad, because it is an attractive airport and it could operate so much more smoothly with a little thought to traveler comfort and communications.