Sleeping Near the Afghanistan Border: My Night at Sorxan Atlantic Hotel, Termiz, Uzbekistan

“Before you take my heart; reconsider.” – Texas.

Sleeping Near the Afghanistan Border: My Night at Sorxan Atlantic, Termiz, Uzbekistan

Sleeping Near the Afghanistan Border: My Night at Sorxan Atlantic, Termiz, Uzbekistan

On route to Afghanistan from Uzbekistan, I had a night and half day to “kill” in the city of Termiz. Billed as a backpacker’s classic, this joint arguably looks out of place in Uzbekistan. I could easily have jigsaw puzzled this place into El Salvador, Honduras or Ukraine and it would have done OK. But, geographically, scattered Termiz is in Uzbekistan.

Downtown Termiz, Uzbekistan

Downtown Termiz, Uzbekistan

Getting here was ridiculous. And I mean completely ridiculous. You need a hell of a lot of patience and stamina to backpack your way to Termiz. This is no pleasure cruise and not a day out for a spring chicken or a travelling simpleton. At the best of times, I pulled my own beard hair out. At the worst of times, I lay on the floor praying for the next flight or marshrutka back to mighty Bishkek.

The frustrating drive to Termiz

The frustrating drive to Termiz

After I survived twenty thousand gold teethed taxi drivers (think Jaws from James Bond), winding roads the Beatles wouldn’t even write about and the most stringent police and army checks of all time on the Karshi to Termiz route, I was finally breathing freedom on my pumped up border crossing into Afghanistan. But I needed somewhere to stay for the night, and I didn’t book up in advance, at any rate a Doogle search for hostels in Termiz replied with a “laptop says no”. I gathered there would not be many backpackers in sight. I guessed right. I was all alone here. It was me, myself and I. Backpacking in Termiz. The travelling Northern Irishman.

Karshi to Termiz winding roads

Karshi to Termiz winding roads

After arriving on a shared taxi – bumpy, dirty, lacking common sense and making more stops than a shit formula one driver, it was time to backpack the streets in search of a Termostel (Termiz-Hostel) to sleep in.

Termiz by Uzbekistan to Afghanistan border

Termiz by Uzbekistan to Afghanistan border

I found the Sorxan Atlantic Hotel (also called Surhan Atlantic or Sorhan Atlantic) on the main street in the city centre and I couldn’t be bothered going anywhere else. So – $10 US a night for a single room, that will do me. No Wi-Fi but hot water, a great view and the chance of a strifetime to sleep in a bedroom whose window view includes glimpses of Afghanistan. The hotel was clean, safe and tidy. A Godsend in these parts.

Surhan Atlantic Hotel in Termiz

Surhan Atlantic Hotel in Termiz

It’s an old Soviet Style Hotel. It reminded me of being back whacking in Belarus or the time I toured the Hotel Viru in Tallinn in Estonia. It even bizarrely shot me back to Pyongyang and my vivacious stay on a high floor at the swanky 5 star Yanggakdo Hotel.

It's all gone dark in Termiz, Uzbekistan

It’s all gone dark in Termiz, Uzbekistan

Here are a few photos from my room and the hotel. You can hopefully feel the extreme pleasure within from my stay here. It felt so surreal, going to sleep in this ex-Soviet style concrete hotel block, knowing I’d be up at the crack of dawn to backpack it alone across the border into Hayratan, Afghanistan. This is textbook extreme rock’n’roll whackpacking at its finest.

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Sleeping Near the Afghanistan Border: My Night at Sorxan Atlantic Hotel, Termiz, Uzbekistan

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Sleeping Near the Afghanistan Border: My Night at Sorxan Atlantic Hotel, Termiz, Uzbekistan

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Sleeping Near the Afghanistan Border: My Night at Sorxan Atlantic Hotel, Termiz, Uzbekistan

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Sleeping Near the Afghanistan Border: My Night at Sorxan Atlantic Hotel, Termiz, Uzbekistan

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Sleeping Near the Afghanistan Border: My Night at Sorxan Atlantic Hotel, Termiz, Uzbekistan

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Sleeping Near the Afghanistan Border: My Night at Sorxan Atlantic Hotel, Termiz, Uzbekistan

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Sleeping Near the Afghanistan Border: My Night at Sorxan Atlantic Hotel, Termiz, Uzbekistan

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Sleeping Near the Afghanistan Border: My Night at Sorxan Atlantic Hotel, Termiz, Uzbekistan

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Sleeping Near the Afghanistan Border: My Night at Sorxan Atlantic Hotel, Termiz, Uzbekistan

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Sleeping Near the Afghanistan Border: My Night at Sorxan Atlantic Hotel, Termiz, Uzbekistan

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Sleeping Near the Afghanistan Border: My Night at Sorxan Atlantic Hotel, Termiz, Uzbekistan

It was quirky as hell and I loved my night here, in fact Termiz was rather charming, despite the ridiculous checks of bags and passports on route.

Downtown Termiz. Drab yet charming.

Downtown Termiz. Drab yet charming.

In terms of sightseeing, I spent about 4-5 hours exploring the city and I ended up back here again after my time in Afghanistan. There were some good bars, a nice restaurant, a cool church (which looked a tad out of place) and a lively bazaar. In fact, it was in this bazaar that I almost made the biggest mistake on my travel journey so far.

Inside the bazaar in Termiz, Uzbekistan

Inside the bazaar in Termiz, Uzbekistan

Dining and beering out in Termiz, Uzbekistan

Dining and beering out in Termiz, Uzbekistan

Hotel soap

Hotel soap

Writing my book in Termiz

Writing my book in Termiz

A million Som

A million Som

Secret Soviet Style Hotel

Secret Soviet Style Hotel

I had a great time in Termiz and I really should write more about this kind of carnage. Literally everyday in my lifestyle in the last 13 years is worthy of 4-5 separate stories. None of us will ever have time to read, remember or write about this.

Join 15,017 Monthly Readers! If you enjoyed this article and LOVE travel and SAVING money, get e-mail updates from Don’t Stop Living – a lifestyle of travel! (It’s Free) 😉 Jonny

10 thoughts on “Sleeping Near the Afghanistan Border: My Night at Sorxan Atlantic Hotel, Termiz, Uzbekistan

  • Excellent tips, this is Afghanistan border my night at Sorxan Atlantic hotel which contain the unique touring.

  • Hi Dave, It’s one for the book to come and if I don’t release the story in the book, I’ll publish it on here before the years out. You can come back on 31st December and remind me in case it hasn’t been written yet. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hey Nemanja again, I am going to Dublin soon and I want to check out Belfast too! so I was wondering what the best transport was, like train or bus and maybe you can remenber some prices as well, that would be wonderful! If you were ever in Dublin and wanted to go to Belfast what would have you chosen?

    -Nemanja

  • Hi Nemanja, it’s easy – take the train from Dublin the Republic to Belfast in Northern Ireland – they leave often daily and with no border checks any more. They leave from Connolyy Station in Dublin and get you to Belfast City in 2 hours. I wrote about the opposite journey: http://dontstopliving.net/world-borders-how-to-get-from-northern-ireland-to-the-republic-of-ireland-belfast-to-dublin-train/ . There are also buses from O Connell Street and they take 2.5 hours to 3 hours depending on stops. Once you get to Belfast, stay in the YHA there – http://dontstopliving.net/backpacking-belfast-staying-largest-hostel-northern-ireland/ Enjoy, Northern Irish Ulster is my homeland!! Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi guys, thanks for the comment, bit of a spam comment though, as this is not about the Taj Mahal, it is about a hotel in Uzbekistan 😉 Safe travels regardless! Jonny

  • Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for the comment. I realise I didn’t mention it exactly at the time. I think it is a chapter in one of my next 2 books. It’s easy to understand if you have ever been to Uzbekistan on a multiple entry visa and gone through those land border checks. To cut a long story short – before I had EVER been to Uzbekistan, I was in Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan trying desperately to get visas for 6 countries there – Tajikistan, Gorno Badakhshan, Uzbekistan, India, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. At the time I didn’t need a visa for Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan (where I’d return to – twice).

    When you travel you meet many other travellers and you often ask them for tips and advice about places they had just been. I noticed a ridiculous trend of people telling me the SAME thing about Uzbekistan. In retorspect, what they told me was cow excrement and untrue completely. Yet more than 6 people told me this – “When you arrive and exit Uzbekistan you MUST have the exact same amount of money on you. No less, no more. It is that strict. They count every penny, so declare every currency”. The first time I heard this, I laughed and said it was a lie, but more and more people told me the same thing, so stupidly I believed it.

    At the time, I had about 10 different currencies on me and if those rumours from fellow tourists were to be believed, it meant that I would have to write them all down, spend nothing in the country and leave with the same amount of cash to the exact penny. I was trying to work out why this had to be done and what was it all about. Uzbekistan was something like my 130th country and I had NEVER had any country that strict about money so far. So…the night before I left Tajikistan, I was in Dushanbe in Marianne’s Guesthouse and I counted EVERY single penny/ cent of every single currency. I collect banknotes and coins, so for example at the time, I’d probably only 5 Polish zlotych in coins and about 6 in groszy. I did the same for all the other currencies. Some of this was simpyl my banknote collection. I wrote everything down to be exact.

    The next morning, I crossed from Tajikistan into Uzbekistan and some of what those rumours said were correct – the border guys at the bag checks searched everything – every file on my computer and hard drive (which they almost broke), they looked at the money thing, asked to see some of that money, but when the guy saw I had written down like 5 or 6 Polish zlotych he basically ignored it, saying it wasn’t important.

    About 3/4 days later I was due to leave Uzbekistan by land for the first time (I had a multi entry visa and knew I’d be coming back into Uzbekistan after a few days in AfghanistAN). So when I got to Termiz, I looked at all my documents and checked that all my money was the same.

    Polish zlotych – the same, Ukrainian Hvarna – the same, Euros – the same, Kazakhstan Tenge – the same, Kyrgyz Som – the same, Tajikistan Somoni – the same, British pounds – the same, Northern Irish pounds – the same.

    All good so far. I entered with the same, I’d leave with the same. Except for these two currencies –

    Uzbek Som and US Dollars.

    I cannot remember how much Uzbek Som I changed at the border, or in Samarkand, or in Bukhara. I am not sure how many US Dollars I had when I entered the country. Let’s say it was $425 (for example).

    At the time, the black market meant that swapping say $100 US would get you DOUBLE the rate that a bank would give you in Som. But I did all my changing on the black market – it’s what you do in Uzbekistan. You find a guy in a market and you swap the money there, often round the back of a place so that nobody sees it happening.

    So if I had $425 US and if I believed all those people that told me the money had to be exactly level when leaving, I would have to leave the country to Afghanistan with the EXACT amount that I arrived there in. That seemed impossible.

    Let me make up the figures for the example – I think in Samarkand I swapped $100 US of that, so I currently had $325 US and $100 US worth of Som, which was actually $200 US. So in other words, I was now UP by $100 US.

    When I backpacked there, all my tours and accommodation was sponsored as part of being a blogger so I’d have no outgoings in that sense, but then again, I couldn’t exactly tell the police or border guys that could I? They’d think I was a spy or a journalist or something. And I wasn’t – I was just a tourist. Also in 2016, when I visited you needed to have a DOCUMENT proof of where you slept EVERY night! Yes that is true and at the time they checked it very very strictly.

    For whatever reason, I decided to swap another $100 US for Uzbek Som in the market/bazaar in Termiz. This was what I meant by “almost the biggest mistake of my travels”. I still can’t remember why I did it, but it meant I clearly now had much more money after 4/5 days in the country than I did when I arrived. This would be so suspicious, and I was worried would they arrest me, fine me, rob me, imprison me, but most of all would they stop me from living my dream and backpacking across the border into Afghanistan. When I got back to the hotel I realised I now had way too much money for the border crossing so I thought of 3 options –

    1.Spend loads of money on one night (hard to do in Uzbekistan).
    2.Leave some of that money hidden under a bed in my room in this hotel and demand to stay in the same hotel and same room when I returned in 3/4 days time – this would be tricky. Someone could find the money, check that I was in that room and tell the police. Or someone could move into that room and I’d never see my money again.
    3.Cross into Afghanistan with more money than I had 4 days ago when I entered from Tajikistan (They’d probably ask for ATM/payment receipt etc.)

    It felt like Brewster’s millions but I didn’t know what to do.

    In the end, I thankfully chose option 3 and hid all those millions of Uzbek Som all over my body – in my socks, pants, shoes, coat pockets etc. I expected paper money wouldn’t bleep in the scanner. And I’d have the exact money on leaving as what I had when I entered.

    When I was leaving Uzbekistan, the border checks were crazy, I was there for 2-3 hours I think, they checked everything, but they never checked the money.

    On the same trip, I left and entered Uzbekistan 4 times and actually – it was all a big lie. They don’t need the money to match up and be the same. They don’t care – it was a big lie. I still have no idea why many other fellow tourists started spreading those rumours, but they just weren’t true…

    Safe travels!

    Jonny

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