Lonely Planet has released its best destinations to travel to in 2020, and the list includes some intriguing places.
For starters, Bhutan made it to No. 1 of the Top 10 Countries list, and Salzburg, Austria, is the No. 1 city to visit next year. As far as the Top 10 Regions go, the travel guide book publisher recommends exploring the Central Asian Silk Road.
“The ancient cities, bustling bazaars and wild landscapes of Central Asia are drawing increasing numbers of visitors looking for adventure along one of history’s most storied travel routes,” Lonely Planet wrote in its roundup of Top 10 Regions to visit in 2020.
It certainly helps that Tajikistan and Uzbekistan offer eVisas to U.S. citizens, and Kyrgyzstan has no visa requirements for U.S. passport holders.
Of the three countries, Uzbekistan is arguably the most interesting. The cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva—all UNESCO sites—have a lot to offer to wandering souls looking for unique experiences. So, without further ado, let’s dissect some of the best ways of traveling to Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital, with airline miles.
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Star Alliance is probably going to be your best bet when it comes to flying into Tashkent International Airport (TAS).
United Airlines classifies Uzbekistan as part of its Central Asia region. At the saver redemption levels, you’ll need the following number of miles to book a one-way flight from Mainland U.S., Alaska or Canada:
- Economy Class: 42,500 miles
- Business Class: 85,000 miles
- First Class: 140,000 miles
United doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges and, as of November 15, 2019, it no longer tacks on a close-in booking fee for flights booked within 21 days of departure.
Keep in mind that United has moved to dynamic award rates which means rates could vary based on a number of factors. It helps if you live in a city serviced by Turkish Airlines or Asiana, for example, as those airlines serve Tashkent International Airport.
If you need a connecting flight within the U.S. on United, holding the United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card from Chase could be useful as it expands availability on United flights to its cardmembers.
Searching for availability is quite easy. You don’t have to be logged in to your MileagePlus account, but if you are, the system displays expanded availability automatically, so you might want to log in if you don’t live in a big international hub.
United MileagePlus is a Chase transfer partner, and the miles earned with the Ultimate Rewards-earning cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Ink Business Preferred, can be transferred to the airline at a 1:1 ratio.
Additionally, you can earn United miles by using co-branded cards issued by Chase, such as the aforementioned United Explorer Card, the United Club Card or the United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card for small businesses.
Another Star Alliance partner, Air Canada Aeroplan, is a solid redemption choice for award flights to Uzbekistan.
Aeroplan strangely places the country into the Middle East & North Africa region—it’s neither in the Middle East nor in Africa—and a one-way redemption will you set you back the following number of miles.
- Economy Class: 40,000 miles
- Business Class: 82,500 miles
- First Class: 115,000 miles
The upside of the program is that it requires fewer miles than MileagePlus. The downside is it doesn’t display United’s expanded award availability, which lowers your chances of scoring a connection from a minor city. In this case, you might be looking at booking a separate positioning flight to a bigger city where partners Turkish Airlines and Asiana fly into.
The good news is that award flights booked on Turkish don’t incur fuel surcharges. The bad news is that mileage flights operated by Asiana do, at about $100 per ticket.
To perform a search, make sure to sign in to your Aeroplan account.
Aeroplan partners with American Express Membership Rewards and Capital One Venture Rewards.
Amex points transfer to Aeroplan at a ratio of 1:1, and Capital One Venture Miles can be converted at a ratio of 2:1.5, but because Capital One cards earn 2X miles per dollar, it’s like earning 1.5X Air Canada miles per dollar spent on every purchase.
If you’ve got Marriott Bonvoy points to burn, those can be transferred to Aeroplan at a ratio of 3:1, but remember that airline transfers aren’t the best use of these points anymore. You also get a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 60,000 Marriott points converted.
Another heavy hitter when it comes to Star Alliance redemptions is Avianca LifeMiles, which is an unfamiliar program to many casual travelers, but a go-to for many in the points and miles community.
You will need a LifeMiles account to search for space, but the search function is limited to one week of results. You’re better off using United’s website to look for flight options, but keep in mind that Avianca doesn’t always see the same award space. When using this program, set your expectations low and hope for the best.
Still, mileage rates are the best yet, at least in the premium cabins, and the taxes are low, as Avianca doesn’t pass on carrier-imposed surcharges to you.
- Economy Class: 42,500 miles
- Business Class: 78,000 miles
- First Class: 111,000 miles
Partner awards are bookable on the website, and booking a flight is pretty straightforward.
The best part is the ability to book mixed-class awards on the same itinerary at a lower redemption cost. Both United MileagePlus and Aeroplan would charge the higher number of miles even if some segments are in a lower class of service.
For example, if you don’t mind flying in economy class on a short segment but prefer your long segment to be in business class, you can redeem fewer miles for the whole itinerary. Similarly, if some portions of the trip aren’t available in business class, you can save your miles by opting to fly in economy on select segments.
Avianca partners with a few flexible rewards programs: American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points and Capital One Venture Miles. Amex and Citi points can be converted at a 1:1 ratio, and Capital One miles transfer at a rate of 2:1.5, giving you plenty of opportunities to pool points for a meaningful reward.
If you’re still short, LifeMiles earned with the Avianca Vida Visa Card and the Avianca Vuela Visa Card will get you there.
This program is going to be hit or miss, depending on where you depart from and the corresponding availability. SkyTeam partners Aeroflot and Korean Air fly to Tashkent, and you might be able to find availability with one of them.
However, because of Flying Blue’s convoluted search engine, you have to look one day at a time for space on partner awards. Sometimes, phone agents see more availability, and more importantly, they can find space faster, so a phone call might be inevitable.
Flying Blue moved to point-to-point award rates with dynamic rates for flights on Air France and KLM in 2018. This can make finding the saver level award rate a bit of a challenge. However, award rates on partners are pretty much set.
The least expensive flight from Salt Lake City to Tashkent with miles I was able to spot required 56,000 miles in economy class (via Paris and Moscow on partners Air France and Aeroflot). It’s quite a big chunk of miles, but there’s an opportunity to offset it with a transfer bonus from a partner program.
To find award flights, create an Air France or KLM account and log in. As mentioned before, if you strike out, consult Expert Flyer if you have a subscription. It’ll help you get an idea for what’s potentially available.
Speaking of partner programs, Flying Blue has no shortage of them. Cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Venture Miles, Citi ThankYou Points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points have got you covered. All of these points (with the exception of Capital One) transfer to Flying Blue 1:1. Venture Miles convert at a rate of 2:1.5.
Amex and Chase frequently offer transfer bonuses as high as 30%, and you can earn a few extra points by converting your bank points to Flying Blue miles during one of these promos.
Some of the best cards to hold for earning transferable points are the Chase Sapphire Reserve/Preferred, American Express Gold/Platinum and the Citi ThankYou Premier/Prestige.
And if you’re still short, top up your Flying Blue account with your Marriott Bonvoy points that can be converted at a rate of 3:1.
This isn’t necessarily the best way to get yourself to Tashkent, but it is an option. The reason this isn’t the best choice is the number of connections you’re going to take, depending on your origin. It’s likely that you’ll fly on a mix of American Airlines, British Airways/Iberia and S7, which is a pretty perplexing itinerary.
Even with the crazy routing, MileSAAver rates are set at the following numbers.
- Economy Class: 40,000 miles
- Business Class: 70,000 miles
- First Class: 110,000 miles
You want to book a MileSAAver rate because it’s the lowest for a chosen fare class. AAnytime awards usually provide more flight options, but they also require more miles and don’t offer the greatest bang for your buck.
To search for an award, go to AA’s site and enter your city pair, dates and check the “Redeem miles” box. You don’t have to be logged in to search, but you do to view how much tax you have to pay. Because these awards include so many connections on partners, you want to pay attention to the final cost, especially if British Airways is involved.
Be careful of booking business class fares with miles. American can mix up business and economy flights on one award but still require the full number of miles required for an award. For example, if your short legs are in domestic first and the long-haul leg over the Atlantic is in economy, you’ll shell out 70,000 AA miles for the itinerary. Make sure to look over it carefully.
You can earn American Airlines AAdvantage mile by signing up for its co-branded cards issued by either Barclays or Citibank. As a consumer, check out the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. If you have a small business, the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard will do the trick.
The AAdvantage program isn’t a transfer partner of any bank, but it does work with the Marriott Bonvoy program. The points transfer at a ratio of 3:1, plus you earn a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points transferred.
AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard
60,000 AAdvantage miles after first purchaseLearn more by visiting our
credit cards page.
With all these options, you should have no problem finding awards to Uzbekistan. If you’re tired of the good ol’ London, Paris and Rome circuit, it’s a destination somewhat off the beaten path. You’ll still see tourists in Uzbekistan, but not as many as in popular spots in Europe, and the country’s architecture will blow your mind.
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