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Getting around by air

Depending on your confidence in the pilots of Tajik Air, the Khorog–Dushanbe flight (440TJS) might be one of the most exhilarating or terrifying experiences of your life. For most of the 45-minute flight the aircraft scoots between (not above) mountain valleys, flying with wingtips so close you could swear they kick up swirls of snow. In Soviet days this was the only route on which Aeroflot paid its pilots danger money.

Flights originate in Dushanbe and, in theory, run daily but they are grounded at the first sign of bad weather or if there are insufficient passengers exiting Dushanbe. Even when flights operate, buying tickets is a frustrating game. Budget an extra day or two into your itinerary in case flights are cancelled and be prepared to travel overland if need be.

The airport ticket office is 3km west of town by minivan 1, diagonally across the main road from the airport terminal at the rear of a faux-brick–fronted buiding simply signed Khorogh. Ideally you need to get your name on the list for the day you need to fly, returning one day before with your passport. But the ticket office has a single, absurdly small tunnel window through which to misunderstand the latest news of impending flights and the lack of tickets therefor. If you manage to get on the list, turn up at the airport by 8am the day before you want to leave and see if the plane is actually coming and whether you've been bumped.