Uzbekistan’s crazy currency

A way to describe the Uzbek som is to say there’s a lot of it. Another way is to say that it’s as much fun to play with as monopoly money.

Officially, one Australian dollar will get you 2042 som, an NZ dollar will buy 1583 som and a greenback will get you 1932.

On the black market, you’ll get about 2800 to the US dollar.

All of which means that US$100 leaves you with upwards of 280,000 som, depending on your negotiating skills, handed over quite openly at the entrances of bazaars in wads of 100 thousand som notes.

Unofficial money changers haunt city bazaars and it is rare to pass the gates without hearing, “Dochka, dochka, dollar?” (Dochka means daughter and along with ‘sister’ and, strangely, ‘senora’, is a standard way to claim the attention of a strange woman).

Samarkand’s main bazaar is the only one I’ve been in so far where the black marketeers been chased off by the official money changers.

The standard tourist joke is that if you’re changing more than US$100, bring a backpack.



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