Tajikistan is a landlocked country on the ancient Silk Road in Central Asia. The nation is unique in that the majority culture is non-Turkic, unlike its neighbors to the north and west and east. Tajikistan is the poorest country out of the former Soviet states, the poorest country in Central Asia and one of the world's poorest, largely owing to a devastating civil war that broke out shortly after independence in 1991.
|Ferghana Valley |
Central Asia's notoriously unstable, but fascinating, culturally vibrant region spans three countries in one of the world's most convoluted political geographical jumbles.
The Tajik heartland, home to the capital, Dushanbe.
Tajikistan's diverse southwestern province, and the centre of the rebellion that led to Tajikistan's disastrous post-Soviet civil war.
One of the world's highest mountain regions, with soaring landscapes, trekking, climbing and an incredible drive down the Pamir Highway.
|Zeravshan Valley |
Beautiful valleys amidst the majestic Fan Mountains, and ancient ruins by Panjakent.
- 1 Dushanbe — the capital and largest city by far.
- 2 Isfara — an ancient Silk Road town in the center of the Ferhghana Valley on the Kyrgyzstani border.
- 3 Istaravshan — an old city home to the well known and beautiful Abdullatif Madrassah and Mosque.
- 4 Khorugh — largest city of and gateway to the Pamirs.
- 5 Khujand — the center of Tajikistan's Ferghana Valley region, and the nation's second largest city.
- 6 Konibodom — in the heart of the Ferghana Valley, on the Uzbekistani border.
- 7 Kulob — the country's third largest city.
- 8 Qurghonteppa — the largest city in Khatlon, and the political heart of the rebellion in Tajikistan's last civil war.
- 9 Tursunzoda — an aluminium town west of Dushanbe on the road and railroad to Uzbekistan.
- 1 Pamir mountains, with passes between 3,200 and 4,500 metres, and Lake Karakol.
- 2 Penjikent , a town next to the border, 70 km from Samarkand, Uzbekistan, with ruins of an ancient city.
- 3 Zeravshan Valley valley including the Fan Mountains, one of Central Asia's prime trekking and climbing destinations.
|Currency||Tajikistani somoni (TJS)|
|Population||8.9 million (2017)|
|Electricity||220 volt / 50 hertz (Europlug, Schuko, AS/NZS 3112)|
|Time zone||UTC+05:00, Asia/Dushanbe|
|edit on Wikidata|
Mid-latitude continental, hot summers, mild winters; semiarid to polar in the Pamir Mountains.
The Pamir and Alay Mountains dominate Tajikistan's landscape. The western Fergana Valley is in north, and the Kofarnihon and Vakhsh Valleys are in the southwest.
The country's lowest point is at Syr Darya (300 m), and its highest point is at Qullai Ismoili Somoni (7,495 m).
The region covering today's Tajikistan was part of the Persian empires for much of its history. This region has been an important place for flourishing Persian culture and language.
Tajikistan has experienced three changes in government and a five-year civil war since it gained independence from the USSR in 1991. A peace agreement among rival factions was signed in 1997 and implemented in 2000. The central government's less than total control over some areas of the country has forced it to compromise and forge alliances among factions. Attention by the international community in the wake of the war in Afghanistan has brought increased economic development assistance, which could create jobs and increase stability in the long term.
While Tajikistan's economy grew substantially after the war, in 2014 Tajikistan was the world's most remittance-dependent economy with remittances accounting for 49% of GDP. Besides aluminum, which accounts for more than half of export value, the main export commodities are cotton, electric power, fruits, vegetable oils, and textiles. Drug trafficking is a major source of income in Tajikistan.
Today, most prospects of change are clearly being evident to help recover the country, though much of these measures are proving to be inefficient and unfulfilling.
Following the trends of other Central Asian countries, visas are increasingly easy to obtain, particularly for nationals of wealthy countries. This policy is designed to stimulate tourist activity in Tajikistan. There is no longer a requirement to register with OVIR for tourist visits under 30 days. Letters of invitation are no longer needed on arrival at Dushanbe airport, but are needed to prearrange a visa from the UK and US embassies.
Since July 2016, evisas for 45 days have been available at www.evisa.tj for US$50 for citizens of most wealthy countries. You may apply for a GBAO permit along with the evisa for an extra US$20. The evisa can be used at all land borders and airports, and is typically approved within two working days. Some people have reported teething problems with the evisa system (see Caravanistan), but for the most part the system works well and saves a page in your passport. Remember to print the e-visa before arrival, they will not accept a digital copy. Black and white is fine.
Visas have to have applied for in advance at Tajik embassies, online (see above) or may be purchased upon arrival at Dushanbe airport. However, these visas are now only available to citizens from countries with no Tajik embassy. To save time you can complete and print a form before arrival . It is best to use the Tajik form, bring two passport photos, a handful of photocopies of your passport and cash. The process takes around 10 minutes. Tourist visa in Tajikistan costs US$25 in Dushanbe International Airport and in consular representatives abroad. A separate permit is required if you wish to travel to the GBAO region. It is easily obtained when applying for a visa or in Dushanbe, cost is US$50 locally or at consulates in Central Asia, but is usually free in Europe.
If crossing a land border then get a visa prior to arrival. The embassies in Vienna and London are the more professional. You may struggle to get a visa at some consulates who will simply say “get it at the airport” (e.g. Kabul), which isn't useful if you want to arrive by land.
National carrier Tajik Air and the new private airline Somon Air are the country's two airlines. From Dushanbe, flights are available to numerous cities across Russia, including Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Samara, Sochi, Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk, Perm, Krasnoyarsk, Orenburg, Irkutsk, Nizhnevartovsk, Surgut, Kazan & Yekaterinburg. Destinations within Central Asia include Bishkek, Almaty, Ürümqi, & Kabul.
Aside from Russia, the main international destinations to/from Tajikistan are:
- Istanbul — Turkish Airlines, Somon Air
- Dubai/Sharjah — Somon Air, Tajik Air
- Frankfurt — Somon Air
- Tehran — Somon Air, Iran Aseman Airlines
Somon Air plans to add services to China in the future.
The airport in Khujand has service to about a dozen Russian cities through 8 carriers plus a weekly China Southern Airlines flight to Ürümqi.
While relations with Uzbekistan are the best among Tajikistan's neighbours, it is the most crossed by travellers and the roads to these crossings are in much better condition than those leading to Kyrgyzstan or Afghanistan. The journey from Tashkent to Khujand takes about 2½ hours and is frequently travelled by private cars and marshrutkas (minibuses) which will take you along for a small amount (under US$10). The short (60 km) trip from Samarkand, Uzbekistan to Penjikent is also frequently travelled by private cars and marshrutkas. As of 2019, the border crossing near Penjikent is open without hassle, after being closed due to strained relations between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. If you want to go to Samarkand from Khujand, you have to cross border at Oybek post (250 km from Samarkand). There are marshrutkas and taxis from Khujand to Oybek. Taxis cost from 50 to 100 somonis depending on time of a day.
In winter months, snow blocks the passes connecting Dushanbe with the north of Tajikistan. To travel to Dushanbe during these months, you need to head south and cross from Termez, which will take you around the west & south sides of the mountains and take you to Dushanbe.
From Kyrgyzstan, there are a couple of options, mostly from Osh and none make for a very smooth journey. The rugged, remote Pamir Highway (see next paragraph) is the slowest, but most popular. From the crossroads at Sary-Tash, a road leads west for 500 km through the Karategin Valley to Dushanbe. A little rugged near the border, but not nearly so as the Pamir Highway. As of May 2019, the border (crossing the border near Kara-Myk village) is completely closed to foreigners. Reasons for this are speculative but according to locals, there are a few villages near the border with extremist activity and foreigners aren't taken kindly to; best not to go anywhere near, or at least be discreet if you do. A third option is from the Batken region to Isfara. This road passes through several Uzbek exclaves and used to be a complicated process necessitating multiple-entry visas, but as of May 2019 the drive is just like any other marshrutka ride.
A scenic, albeit rough, journey into Tajikistan is via the Pamir Highway which runs from Osh to Khorog to Dushanbe. Just about the only highway in the GBAO region, this route ranges from smooth tarmac full of buses, trucks to a single-lane road carved into a cliff. The border crossing lies at 4280 m and peaks at the Ak-Baital Pass at 4,655 m. The journey takes 2-3 days from Osh-Khorog and three on the rougher stretch from Khorog to Dushanbe, longer if you want to stop and enjoy the scenery. Minivans travel the route from Osh to Murghab every few days for US$15; hitch hiking on Kamaz trucks and ZIL petrol tankers is also possible anywhere en route for US$10. A 4-wheel drive is necessary and large portions of the highway are impassible in winter and frequently blocked by mudslides in spring.
The US has funded a couple of bridges connecting Tajikistan with Afghanistan. Roads from Qurghonteppa, Kulob, & Dushanbe lead to the main crossing at Nizhnii Pyanj. From there, a road leads south to Kunduz which, through the 2010s, has been repeated attacked by and occasionally held by the Taliban in the north of Afghanistan. There is a bridge at Khorog leading to Feizabad, Afghanistan, and a few mountainous roads elsewhere in the GBAO leading to Afghanistan.
A border crossing with China was opened in 2004. The crossing and connecting roads link the Pamir Highway with the Karakorum Highway and provides a link to Kashgar (Kashi) to the north and Pakistan to the south. As of 2010, it remains closed to foreigners.
A ferry operates across the Pyanj river between Afghanistan and Tajikistan that costs roughly US$10 one way. However, the opening of the US-funded bridge over the Pyanj will likely end this service, which crosses roughly three times per day and does not run on Sundays.
There are two international connections to Tajikistan: Moscow-Dushanbe (2 per week) and Moscow-Khujand (one weekly), both visible on the Russian Railways website. Passengers are only supposed to board them only at stations in Russia and in Kazakhstan. There are only service stops on Uzbek and Turkmen territory. Trains to Moscow are popular with migrant workers.
The Moscow-Khujand train crosses Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan so one simply needs respective transit visas.
The Moscow-Dushanbe train takes around five days and crosses Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan again. The Turkmen part is virtually inaccessible for non-Tajik citizens as Turkmenistan does not issue transit visas "from-then-again-to Uzbekistan" and one would need a standard non-transit visa (Tajiks don't need any papers for transiting Turkmenistan with this train). One could in principle leave the train before it enters Turkmenistan, take a bus/taxi and re-board it again once it re-enters Uzbekistan.
Scheduled minivans run between the major cities but otherwise hiring a vehicle or sharing one with other passengers is the only way to travel around the country. Prices are generally per person, not for the vehicle, and divided by the number of passengers.
SUVs can be hired and leave daily from Khujand's large minibus terminal located just outside the city. Prices are negotiable but should be in the range US$60 per person. Check that the vehicle is fit for long road travel, and inspect the spare tire.
As the country is broken into many isolated areas by mountain passes that are closed in winter, travel during this time is by air only, if the planes are flying. Tajik Air and Somon Air operate several daily flights to Khojand (between 35 and 70 minutes, depending on the plane) and Khorog, a thrilling plunge through mountain peaks. This flight does not go if it is windy. Ticket vendors next to the Green Market in Dushanbe can provide a reliable estimate of their timetable. Make sure you arrive early for your flight. Also, passports and visas will be checked on domestic flights, so bring them with you.
Tajik railways have no website. There are two confirmed trains running in Tajikistan: Moscow-Dushanbe (2 per week) and Moscow-Khujand (one weekly) that can be taken locally. Both timetables are accessible through Russian Railways website. There are 2 trains every week (Tuesday and Saturday) from Dushanbe via Qurgonteppa to Kulob (leaves Dushanbe at 08:00). There are also 2 trains a week from Dushanbe via Qurgonteppa to Shahrtuz. The rolling stock are still the old Soviet ones. The trains are very slow, often only 25 km/h but a good opportunity to meet local people and to enjoy the landscape. It is forbidden to take pictures of train stations and the rolling stock.
Tajik, mutually intelligible with all Persian dialects, is the primary and historical language of Tajikistan. It just so happens to be one of the several dialects of the Persian language alongside Farsi, Dari, Hazaragi, and others, although it is unique among the Persian variants that it is written in the Cyrillic script, introduced during the Soviet era. In addition, due to Soviet promotion of Russian throughout Central Asia, almost all Tajiks speak Russian. There are also ethnic Russians with Russian as their native language. Russian is widely used in government, which makes it widely spoken by government officials such as politicians. English is still not commonly spoken. Perhaps surprisingly, it is more usual to find young people with a little English in Khujand than in Dushanbe. German and Mandarin are also spoken to an even lesser extent.
There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Tajikistan: the proto-urban site of Sarazm in Panjakent and the Tajik National Park encompassing the Pamirs in the east of the country. The mountains of Tajikistan are among the highest in the world with three peaks higher than 7,000 m and more than half of the country is over 3,000 m above the sea level.
Tajikistan is a remarkable place, and there is plenty to do, from the Silk Road mystique of places like Khujand and Istaravshan, to the stunning, untouched mountain scenery of the Pamirs and their accompanying allure of unclimbed peaks and virgin trekking routes. Fan Mountains could be a good alternative to the Pamirs. They are easy to reach and provide good trekking options.
Exchange rates for Tajikistani Somoni
As of March 2020:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The Somoni (Tajik: сомонӣ) is the national currency. It is subdivided into 100 diram (Tajik: дирам). Wikivoyage uses the ISO international currency code TJS placed before the amount in all our articles. However, when you're shopping locally, you may see a variety of notations placed before or after the amount.
Banknotes come in TJS1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 denominations and you may find TJS0.05, TJS0.10, TJS0.20, TJS0.25, TJS0.25, TJS0.50, TJS1, TJS3 and TJS5 coins in circulation.
There aren't many ATMs even in Dushanbe, and it's especially difficult to get money with Maestro/Mastercard. So it might be a good idea to have US dollars or euros with you to change in a bank.
- Traditional Tajik padded coats. Comfortable and perfect for the colder weather in the mountains. The ensemble can be completed with a hat and sash.
- Mercedes Benz (~US$7,000) cars and Land Cruisers from Dushanbe's Sunday Car Market. Also available: Russian cars, jeeps, minivans and an assortment of other models.
- Vodka. Ruski Standard is the best one by far.
- Rugs and carpets. The good ones are imported from Afghanistan or Uzbekistan.
Food in Tajikistan is a cross between that of Central Asia and that of Afghanistan & Pakistan along with a bit of Russian influence. If you like Russian food, you will probably have a good culinary experience. If you find Russian food bland, you may have a rough time here.
- Plov: The national dish is made with rice, beef or mutton, and carrots. All fried together in vegetable oil or mutton fat in a special qazan (a wok-shaped cauldron) over an open flame. The meat is cubed, the carrots are chopped finely into long strips, and the rice is coloured yellow or orange by the frying carrots and the oil. The dish is eaten communally from a single large plate placed at the centre of the table. Plov is generally referred to as "osh" in Tajikistan.
- Qurutob is a traditional dish that is still eaten with hands from a communal plate. Vegetables and flaky pastry in a yogurt-type sauce. Before serving the dish is topped with onions fried in oil until golden and other fried vegetables. No meat is added. Qurutob is considered the national dish.
- Laghman: a pasta soup dish served with vegetables and lamb or beef. Try the stir-fried Uyghur varieties available at several restaurants in Dushanbe.
- Sambusa: baked pastries
- Shashlik: shish-kebab. Grilled-on-coal fish, liver, chicken, mutton and beef.
- Tushbera soup: like ravioli, or pasta with meat in it
- Ugro soup: handmade spaghetti soup served with cheese cream and basilic
- Jiz-biz: fired freshcut lamb or mutton on its own juice
- Dolma: steamed rolls with grape leaves and meat inside, served with sour cream and red pepper)
- Mantu: steamed dumplings with meat inside, served with sour cream and fried onions
- Shurbo: fresh vegetable soup with lamb or beef, served with green onion and basil
- Many types of bread like chappoti, kulcha, nan, fatir, qalama, etc.
- Damlama: like an English stew, steamed lamb or beef with vegetables in its own juice
- Khash: soup with sheeps' legs, joints and tendons
- Melons and watermelons are extremely popular among locals and are very cheap in local markets
Take care with street food and do not eat unwashed vegetables and fruits. It's best to soak them in distilled water and cook thoroughly.
The national cuisine is becoming more popular in Tajikistan, including dishes such as Shurbo, Oshi Palov, Mantu and Sambusa.
- Green tea- Tajiks customarily enjoy drinking unsweetened (or sweetened) green tea all throughout the day. Hence, it is the country's national beverage.
- Compote- A distilled fruit punch.
Sleeping options in Tajikistan include the following:
In Dushanbe, there are a few large hotels, including the Hyatt Regency and the "Tajikistan" in the central city. Most are ex-Soviet era and tend to be over-priced and in poor condition. There are a couple of newly built hotels offering western standards of accommodation for around from US$70 to US$220 per room.
The Aga Khan's Mountain Societies Development Support Programme has a network of guesthouses in places like Kalaikhum and Khorog, offering a good standard of accommodation. Full board is around US$40 per person
The French NGO ACTED is establishing a network of Homestays in the Pamir region, around Murghab. For around US$10 per person per night you get a comfortable bed in a family home. The facilities are basic, i.e. no running water and an outside toilet, but guests can expect comfortable clean rooms, good local food and a very warm welcome.
In Dushanbe, Khorog, and Murghab there are a small but growing number of independent guesthouses. These are similar in standard and price to the ACTED homestays.
Online accommodation (couchsurfing)
Many cities of Tajikistan offer free accommodation in homestays through the couchsurfing.com
At embassies, NGOs , some hotels. A few hundred expatriates live in Dushanbe. There used to be a weekly electronic newsletter called WhatsOnInDushanbe which has now been discontinued. Instead, work opportunities might be found via networking on the Dunshanbe Expats Facebook page. For investors, cf.  and similar publications.
Habitat for Humanity-Tajikistan,  [dead link], constructs homes for needy, low-income families in addition to completing many unfinished Soviet-era homes and apartment blocks, provides seismic retrofits, works to provide sanitary water, and more. Once or twice a year, volunteer trips (through HFH "Global Village" program, ) are offered, entailing 2 weeks of building houses combined with a few days of sightseeing.
Tajikistan is a safe country, though some factional fighting spilling over from nearby Afghanistan (as well as local warlordism) still occurs in Tajikistan. Visitors should keep abreast of the security situation and not take any unnecessary risks. After sunset, it is not advisable to walk around outside alone; and generally do not travel unaccompanied to rural areas.
Of significant concern is the inability of Tajikistan's law enforcement entities to provide adequate and immediate assistance. Lack of manpower, low salaries, and inadequate training all contribute to a lack of professionalism among law enforcement entities. Police officers in Dushanbe have been known to ask for bribes from expatriates and tourists, even when no crime has been committed. It is always best to travel in groups if you are travelling at night and avoid areas heavily patrolled by the police (including Rudaki Park) if you have been drinking. If you are asked for a bribe, play dumb. Even if you speak Russian or Tajik, it is best to pretend like you do not understand the officer's request. They will usually lose patience and leave you alone. Never argue with or provoke the police. If you are the victim of a crime, consult to your embassy. Your embassy may be able to help you locate stolen items or to renew your passport.
In some places it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in prison.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Tajikistan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
The number of items that can be exported may be limited. It is illegal to export or possess unprocessed stones and metals and jewelry without a hallmark (mark of authenticity). Even if visitors have a receipt confirming legal purchase of such items at a store in Tajikistan, the items must be declared upon departure.
Travelling in Tajikistan is generally safe for solo women who have already experience of travelling solo in other countries. However, there are a few points to keep in mind when visiting Tajikistan, including:
- dress code: especially outside of the capital Dushanbe, it's advisable to cover shoulders and avoid wearing shorts or short skirts. Wearing a headscarf is not necessary and is discouraged by the local authorities, but keep one on you when planning to visit a mosque.
- it's not unusual to be catcalled on the streets of Dushanbe and the best policy is to simply ignore the calls.
- some people recommend wearing a (fake) wedding ring and pretending to be married with children to avoid unwelcome male attention.
- when visiting a nightclub, always go accompanied as single females in night clubs are often considered to be prostitutes.
- the Pamirs Eco-Cultural Tourism Association (PECTA) has female guides for when you want to go trekking and you don't feel comfortable going alone with a male guide.
The health care system in Tajikistan is significantly underdeveloped below western standards, with severe shortages of basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics and antibiotics. Elderly people are at great risk. Most medical personnel are not qualified, adding on a significant concern.
Do not drink tap water. There is no working purification system, and outbreaks of typhoid are common, and even cholera (rarely). Other preventable endemic illnesses are hepatitis A, rabies, poliomyelitis and tick-borne encephalitis. The occasional anthrax case comes in, but it's rare nowadays. There are, during the hot season, a few pockets where malaria can occur. HIV is a growing health threat in Tajikistan. There is now an English-speaking comprehensive primary care clinic in operation by the name of Prospekt Medical , right behind the Embassy of China. In the Pamir mountains, the risk of altitude sickness is substantial. In case of ANY accident, call your embassy. Health insurance and medical evacuation insurance are strongly recommended.
Longer stays may consider the hiring of private drivers and home security guards. Rent out secure known owners places.  [dead link]
Tajikistan is a conservative society, and women should be fairly modest in public. Headscarves and face-coverings are exceptions and not the norm. For men, shorts will generally attract disapproving stares, even in larger cities like Dushanbe. Although some Tajiks can be extremely friendly, it is not uncommon for people to be equally rude. Tajiks in general are very welcoming to tourists. While you should be wary of scams in the larger cities, do not be alarmed if young people approach you to say hello and practice their English. When speaking to older Tajiks, place your right hand over your heart: this is a sign of respect reserved for older men or women in Tajik society.
Tajik telecom companies charge for internet usage by the amount downloaded. This is especially important to note for persons planning on living in Tajikistan and paying directly for the service, for example US$50 per month for up to 1GB of downloads. You will need to have a Ministry of Immigration registration form to purchase private internet service.
It is wise to download a good VPN for Tajikistan. As of late May 2019, access to most popular social media platforms and Google has been blocked. The government is known to restrict and lift access seemingly at random. According to local advice, Megafon is the only network provider that works in the Pamirs. US$1 for the SIM card, then US$10 for one month of unlimited social media use and 3GB Google. Take a local and their passport with you to buy a SIM card, the process is a lot simpler.
- United States - 109A Ismoili Somoni Avenue, Zarafshon, Dushanbe 734019, tel: +992-37-229-23-00, fax: +992-37-229-2309. The consular section is open M-F 08:00 to 17:00, and closed on US and Tajik holidays.