Central Asia is still a fresh, off-the-beaten-track destination that, for now, is the domain of either relatively affluent Silk Road tourists or young adventure-seekers. And while the blossoming tourism market has created lots of upmarket hotels and family-run bed and breakfasts to accommodate the former group, backpackers are often left to struggle with their budget in B&Bs that lack the fun, social vibe that young travellers thrive on.
Out of all the Silk Road countries, Uzbekistan is a unique challenge thanks to an old Soviet law that requires travellers to register at a hotel every 72 hours, and makes camping or staying with local residents a very dark grey zone. Budget travellers really aren’t left with a lot of options.
Thankfully, that’s about to change. While we were visiting Tashkent, we got word of Topchan, soon to be Uzbekistan’s very first backpacker hostel. The project was conceived and executed by Rafa, Oybek and Akrom, three friends who, through their extensive experiences with Couchsurfing, saw the gaping hole in affordable, friendly and fun accommodation options in the city.
With Topchan they want to support the travel community, creating a fun, safe and affordable home base for backpackers, hitchhikers, cyclists, extreme sports enthusiasts and other overland travellers. It’s community-driven and not about making a profit. An admirable goal anywhere, but an absolute blessing in Uzbekistan.
Topchan is located in a friendly residential neighbourhood within walking distance from Tashkent’s main station. The building itself is amazing. Formerly a gigantic Korean restaurant, the decor is wacky and the set-up is almost ideal for a hostel, with toilets, a large kitchen and bar space. Dining rooms now serve as dorm bedrooms, and the ground floor has loads of space for secure bike storage. There’s a games room and, unbelievably, the place also came equipped with a sauna and indoor pool. Crazy!!
They’ve left some of the Korean restaurant kitsch, added a few licks of paint and decorated the whole place with awesome art by their friend Mokich Pavel. It’s definitely the coolest, funkiest place to stay in Uzbekistan.
They are just weeks away from emerging victorious out of the bureaucracy jungle, and expect to be able to officially open Topchan in January. If you’re planning a trip to Tashkent, check them out!