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The Pamirs

Getting there & around

The major transport options for the 728km Pamir Hwy between Khorog and Osh are hitching on trucks, renting a 4WD with driver or cramming in the occasional minivan.

Car & motorcycle

Car hire

Hiring a private vehicle (normally a Russian UAZ Jeep but possibly a Lada Niva) and a driver is relatively expensive, but gives you a flexibility that you will value on this scenic and fascinating trip. Please note that the transport rates listed in this section will doubtless change as the price of fuel rises.

At the time of research, META in Murgab was offering 4WDs at between US$0.34 to US$0.38 per km, plus 15% commission, which worked out at US$315 from Murgab to Osh (420km), or US$330 from Murgab to Khorog via the Wakhan Corridor (you have to pay for the car’s return trip to Murgab). To shave costs from Osh you could take a shared taxi to Sary Tash in Kyrgyzstan and arrange for a META 4WD to pick you up there.

Great Game Travel charges US$0.70 per km for Land Cruiser hire. Independent car hire from Dushanbe to Khorog costs around US$200 for a Lada Niva.

The availability and cost of fuel is a significant factor in the cost of transport (prices generally rise in autumn, when supplies are scarcer), but what really counts is whether you have to pay for the vehicle’s return trip; this essentially doubles the cost. META was considering introducing a one-way rate of between US$0.60 and US$0.70 at the time of research.

Hiring a 4WD independently costs less than going through an agency but you’ll need to negotiate hard and speak decent Russian. Generally speaking, car hire is cheaper in Murgab than in Khorog. Make sure any rate includes petrol, vehicle maintenance and the driver’s pay, food and accommodation. For every extra day that the driver waits for you (if you wish, for example, to do an excursion), add about US$10. Give the vehicle the once-over, check that the 4WD is operational and, if coming from Osh, check that the driver has a GBAO permit.

As a rough guide, a Russian UAZ Jeep needs around 16 litres of petrol per 100km, which works out at around US$0.16 per km for the petrol alone. Lada Nivas are generally cheaper than Jeeps, though the spiffier Chrysler Nivas cost more. The main problem with Russian Jeeps is the limited visibility from the back seat.

Finding petrol can be a problem in the Pamirs. A trip into remoter corners of the region generally involves at least one dash around town to find a obliging local with a jerry can of diluted fuel and a bucket.

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Traffic is light along the Pamir Hwy and hitching is hard work. The main commercial traffic these days is the Chinese trucks which shuttle between the Qolma Pass, Murgab and a terminal 30km east of Khorog. It helps if you speak a few words of Chinese. If you break a journey you could end up waiting a long time for another ride, as trucks midroute are often full. Controls at checkpoints are particularly tedious for trucks.

Hitching from Osh is possible but finding a ride from Sary Tash to Murgab is problematic, as most vehicles are full by the time they get here.

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