The souvenir market scene in Uzbekistan is strong, especially in the touristy towns of Bukhara and Khiva. You can’t walk down the road or enter a madrasah without walking past the colorful embroidered tapestries, bags, and jackets. Ceramic plates line the sidewalks of the roads to get to the tourist shops. And vendors call out “come into my shop, just looking, just looking!” as you pass.
It’s nearly impossible not be mesmerized by all of the shops as you wander through the madrasahs or the trading domes. You’ll want to buy everything you see in Uzbekistan! But where should you begin? And what should you pay for your Uzbekistan souvenirs? We’ll tell you all of that, and more, below. Enjoy!
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Guide to Shopping in Uzbekistan
Prices and Negotiation in Uzbekistan
No matter where in the world you are traveling, souvenir shopping involves a bit of price negotiation. My standard recommended tactic is to first determine how much you love your future souvenir (meaning, are you willing to walk away?) and what price you are willing to pay for it.
Next, you ask the shop keeper for the price. If it matches the price you thought of in your head, woohoo! Buy it and move on to your next activity. If not, you should counter with something that is about 50% of their asking price. If they shake their head no and turn away (meaning “no more negotiation”) then you know you’re way off. But if they come back with a counter offer, you know you’re getting somewhere.
I generally try to shoot for 75% of their initial asking price. So if they say $100, I counter at $50 and hopefully we end up around $75. If you are too shy to negotiate, the best trick is just to walk away. Usually the price will drop immediately as they begin calling after you, asking you to return and reconsider.
Shopping in Uzbekistan is no different. You’ll need to negotiate for everything you buy here – even snacks in the market. Be prepared to respond “discount?” to their starting price and don’t be afraid to say no and walk away.
Where to Shop in Uzbekistan
Most of the small shops that sell souvenirs around Uzbekistan are concentrated in the rooms of the Madrasahs that you’ll be visiting during your trip. It’s almost impossible to visit any tourist site without running into at least a few vendors.
We found the highest quality Uzbekistan souvenirs were sold in the small shops inside of the Barakhan Madrasah in the Hazrati Imam Complex in Tashkent. There were beautiful (but expensive) woven rugs that we never saw again in Samarkand, Bukhara, or Khiva. The starting price for a 5×7 rug was $250. There were also gorgeous silk jackets with the traditional embroidery that would probably cost $1,000 in the states, for a starting price of $200.
The starting prices in Bukhara are quite a bit higher than in Tashkent or Samarkand. You’ll have to be shrewd in your negotiation tactics to get a good deal here.
What to Buy in Uzbekistan
Many of the things in the Uzbekistan markets are trinkets you can find anywhere in the world. Even the things that are made locally are easy to buy in other countries (and even on Amazon). If you want a quality treasure to take home with you that is traditional to Uzbekistan, you’ll want to buy a “suzani”.
Technically, “suzani” just means embroidery, or something that has been sewn with a needle and thread. You’ll see the classic patterns that are popular in Uzbekistan repeated on blankets, jackets, pillowcases, and purses in all of the shops in every town. These are popular with locals and foreigners alike and you’ll definitely want to get something woven to remember your trip to Uzbekistan!
Attitudes of Shopkeepers
We found the shopkeepers in Uzbekistan to be some of the most pleasant in the world! They are generally not at all pushy (the exact opposite of our shopping experience in Morocco). They ask you to check out their shop but if you decide not to buy anything, they simply smile and say “have a great day!” You’ll rarely encounter anyone who tries to push you to buy something.
What to Buy and How Much to Pay in Uzbekistan
You’ll see silk jackets all over Uzbekistan – both in the shops and being worn by Uzbek women. They all have a specific style of colored print that is called “ikat”. These ikat jackets are not made entirely of silk, unless you go to a high end shop and pay an exorbitant price. They are made with a silk blend and that blend determines the price. But generally you can expect the starting price of an ikat jacket to be between $20 and $40 USD.
We found the widest selection of silk jackets to be in the small shops on Tashkent Road that leads from the Registan to the Siab Bazaar in Samarkand.
If you like the ikat design but don’t want to bother with shipping, you can find some cute pillows and blankets with a similar design on Amazon.
We only saw a few embroidered jackets in Tashkent and Samarkand, but the prices were far lower than those in Bukhara. I bought my suzani from a little tent shop on Sailgokh Street in Tashkent which is also a nice pedestrian area in the evenings. The price started at $50 USD and I was only able to negotiate down to $45 USD.
And after seeing the prices in Bukhara, I know I got a great deal! Prices on the embroidered jackets in Bukhara are twice that, starting at $100 USD for just a waist-length jacket.
There are also a few spectacular silk embroidered jackets in the shops in the Barakhan Madrasah in the Hazrati Imam Complex in Tashkent. Their starting price was $200 but you could tell that the quality of the silk was incredible and that they were hand-stitched.
You can check whether the jacket is handmade or machine-made by looking at the inside. If you can see knots on the back-side of the fabric where knots have been tied, it’s been done by hand. If not, it’s been made by a machine and should cost less. This will be more difficult to determine if you purchase a jacket that has a lining.
Unlike some Muslim-majority countries, tourists don’t actually need to cover their heads at all. Not even to visit the religious sites (of course, it’s nice to do so anyway out of respect). And if you do decide to cover up, there’s no shortage of vibrantly colored scarves around town for you to purchase.
The silk scarves that are made of thin, almost see-through material have a starting price of around $8 USD while the thicker, embroidered scarves start closer to $20.
You’ll see these crochet hats all over Uzbekistan. They are similar to the hats that religious men wear, but are made of colorful woven patterns. The new ones start at around $10 USD, while the older, antique hats are quite a bit more expensive.
Fur jackets and hats are commonly sold in shops around Bukhara and make for a fun Uzbekistan souvenir. The extremely furry ones are quite silly looking and good for a gag gift for friends back home. The starting price to buy one is $30 USD but most shops will charge you just $0.15 if you want to snap a photo wearing one.
Other fur products around Bukhara are generally good quality pelts. Expect to pay a pretty penny for fur jackets and the over-the-ear hipster style will cost about $30-40 USD.
There is a style of crochet that is very common around Uzbekistan. It’s used to make the hats listed above, as well as small pouches and larger handbags. It’s a good souvenir to bring anyone back home as each pouch is relatively inexpensive, they start around $5 USD, and they are easy to pack.
Embroidered purses and bags are another Uzbekistan staple that you’ll see at shops all over the country. They have a wide range in terms of price and quality. The cheaper bags start at around $15-$20 USD for a medium-size.
You won’t find many high quality, well-made purses or bags in the markets around the mausoleums. They are all quite similar in style and usually have a thin lining and a flimsy zipper. It probably won’t be a bag that you’ll want to use every day, but it’s a fun accent piece for a night out on the town.
We found a few unique bags that were unlike anything we’d seen before in the small market inside of the Dor-Us Siyadat Complex in Shakrisabz. And there are quite a few bags that are made in the same style as the embroidered blankets (below) found all over Bukhara.
Embroidered Blankets (Suzanis)
You’ll find that the suzani blankets have a wide range in terms of quality and price. And where you are in the country will determine what kind of deal you get as well.
Most of the shops carry suzanis that are made of a cream-colored cotton material and have brightly colored floral patterns weaved on the front side. A suzani in a standard queen size will start out at around $100 USD in Samarkand and closer to $150 in Bukhara. I bought mine in a madrasah in Samarkand and was able to negotiate the price from $100 down to $55 USD.
You’ll also see blankets that have similar embroidery but the actual cloth material of the blanket is a much nicer material. It is a blend of silk and cotton. These will generally start at a price that is closer to $200 USD for a queen size. If you’re looking for a statement piece to bring home with you, it’s worth paying a bit more for a higher quality suzani. It will be the perfect Uzbekistan souvenir!
You can also find much smaller sized tapestries that can be used as table runners or tablecloths for much cheaper. And pillow cases are also quite inexpensive, around $5-10 for a cotton case.
If you would rather not lug a big blanket around during your adventures in Uzbekistan, consider buying one on Amazon! There are some high quality, colorful options to choose from at totally reasonable prices.
Rugs vary wildly in terms of price and quality in Uzbekistan so it’s difficult to even give an idea of what to expect for a starting price. We did find that they were priced quite high, upwards of $800-1,000 USD for a camel hair or silk carpet.
If you want to invest in a rug, be sure you do your due diligence. Everyone is going to tell you that it’s handmade, even if it isn’t. A good test is to pull at one of the fringe strings on the end. If it is handmade, you should be able to see the string pulled for the entire length of the rug. If not, the fringe was added last and the rug is machine-made.
You’ll see beautifully painted ceramic plates in the markets all over Uzbekistan. It’s a great purchase if you want a statement piece for your coffee table, but will take some careful packaging and packing to get it home in one piece.
As with everything else, the ceramic plates vary in terms of quality. There are simple plates, shown below, that usually come in sets. You can purchase an entire set that includes a teapot and 4 teacups (they look like bowls but that is what everyone drinks tea out of in Uzbekistan) for a starting price of $15 USD.
You will also see more intricately painted plates in every market in Uzbekistan. A large-sized plate will have a starting price of around $15-20 USD. Be sure to ask the seller to package your plate well, preferably with bubble wrap if they have it.
Hand Forged Steel
There are several shops in Bukhara where you can actually watch as men forge steel to create unique knives, scissors, and swords. They aren’t just knives, they are works of art. Some have designs carved into the blades, others have bones as handles. These knives are on the pricey side, starting at the $30-100 USD range depending on the size, but it’s a treasure that you’ll have forever.
These little wooden dolls are great to take home to the little ones in your life. They have hard heads that are made out of wood or plastic, and soft limbs. They are dressed in traditional-looking Uzbekistan attire. You can get them quite cheap anywhere in the country. The starting price is $3 USD for the smallest size, ranging up to $9 USD for the largest size.
These cute little ceramic figurines are everywhere and in all sizes. You’ll see tiny ones for sale in the shops around Uzbekistan, and extremely large ones guarding the doors of others. It would be a cute addition to a potted plant back home or just a whimsical yard ornament. The small figurines start at around $2 US and the really large ones will run you about $15.
One of the most common things that you’ll eat during your trip to Uzbekistan is bread. Lots and lots of bread. And the common way to bake bread in the country is in a round shape with a large indent in the middle. Kind of like a giant bagel if the hole in the middle didn’t go all the way through.
And the center section of the bread usually has a unique pattern that has been made with a bread stamp.
Bread stamps have a metal base for the stamping, and wooden handle for gripping. And if you want to go home and stamp your own baked goods, you can easily pick one up in one of the countless shops around the country. Plan on a starting price of $6 USD – $10 USD depending on the size and design.
These are also easy to buy online if you’d rather skip the hassle of getting them home.
We had a difficult time getting a grasp on what copper plates in Uzbekistan should cost. One of the shops we visited had men actually etching the plates in-person, and a large plate on display there had a starting price of $80 USD. And a small shop inside the Bukhara Ark gave me a starting price of $150 USD for a plate of similar size and quality.
But we can’t imagine that anyone ACTUALLY pays that much for these plates. They are pretty and unique, but outrageously priced. If you do want to take one of these home with you, start off with a ridiculously low counter-offer, like $25 USD, and see where things go from there.
Have a blast shopping for treasures in Uzbekistan!
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