Get in Tajikistan
Nationals from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia and Ukraine do not need a visa for visits up to 90 days.
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. The big change has been the abolition of OVIR registration 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.
Visas have to have applied for in advance at Tajik embassies or may be purchased upon arrival at Dushanbe airport. However due to a recent change in the law, 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 $US25 in Dushanbe International Airport and in consular representatives abroad. A separate permit is required if you wish to travel to the GBAO region; it costs $US50 and is easily obtained when applying for a visa or in Dushanbe.
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, St. Petersburg, Samara, Sochi, Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk, Perm, Krasnoyarsk, Orenburg, Irkutsk, Nizhnevartovsk, Surgut, Kazan, & Yekaterinburg. Destinations within Central Asia include Bishkek, Almaty, Urumqi, & 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 Urumqi.
While relations with Uzbekistan are the worst among Tajikistan’s neighbors, 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 current situation (June 2010) is unknown, but in recent years Tajik vehicles have not been allowed into Uzbekistan and Uzbek vehicles needed to pay large tariffs to enter Tajikistan. So your trip may require taking one vehicle to the border and catching a ride on another after crossing the border. The journey from Tashkent to Khujand takes about two and a half hours and is frequently travelled by private cars and marshrutkas (minibuses) which will take you along for a small amount (under $US10). The short (60km) trip from Samarkand, Uzbekistan to Penjikent is also frequently travelled by private cars and marshrutkas. Currently (July 2012) border crossing near Penjikent is 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 (250km 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 500km through the Karategin Valley to Dushanbe. A little rugged near the border, but not nearly so as the Pamir Highway. A third option is from the Batken region to Isfara, but it passes through several of the Uzbek enclaves within Kyrgyzstan, necessitating a multiple-entry Uzbek visa and plenty of time for border crossings; bypassing these enclaves is a pain and requires navigating lots of poor, local roads with little or no signage. Travelling through the Ferghana Valley, it also has the least interesting scenery and recent ethnic confrontations in the region make this a poor choice for travellers.
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 busses, trucks to a single-lane road carved into a cliff. The border crossing lies at 4280m and peaks at the Ak-Baital Pass at 4,655m. 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 $US15; hitch hiking on Kamaz trucks and ZIL petrol tankers is also possible anywhere enroute for $US10. 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 Panj. From there, a road leads south to Kunduz which unfortunately, as of 2010, is a stronghold of the Taliban in the north of Afghanistan. There is a bridge at Khorog leading to Feizabad, Afghanistan as well as 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 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.
There is currently a ferry operating across the Pyanj river between Afghanistan and Tajikistan that costs
roughly $US10 one way. However, the opening of the U.S. funding bridge over the Pyanj will likely end this service, which crosses roughly three times per day and does not run on Sundays.
The train to Moscow is popular with migrant workers. It takes around five days and crosses through Uzbekistan (twice), Turkmenistan, & Kazakhstan; transit visas are required for all these countries.
Train 367 – 08:08 leaves Dushanbe (Mondays & Wednesdays). 14:04 Arrives Khujand next day. Final destination Kanibadam.
Train 335 – Khujand-Samarqand-Saratov is three times a week. 18:44 depart Khujand (Mon, Thur, Sat) 02:15 arrives Samarqand.
Train 336 – 06:10 departs Samarqand (Wed, Fri, Sunday) 14:27 arrives Khujand.