Getting there & away
With a limited number of flights and no international land transport, Tajikistan isn’t the easiest republic to get to.
There is almost no cross-border transport between Tajikistan and its neighbours, so you have to take a combination of minibuses and taxis to get to and from the borders.
It’s possible to travel between Dushanbe and Kunduz (Afghanistan) in a day. The main and easiest crossing is at Panj-e-Payon (formerly Nizhniy Panj) in the south; don’t confuse this with the town of Pyanj (or Pyanzh) 75km further east. To get to Panj-e-Payon take a shared taxi or, alternatively, a minibus to Dusti (12TJS; six hours) from Dushanbe or Kurgonteppa (Kurgan-Tyube) and then a taxi 27km to the border. A taxi between Dushanbe and the border costs around US$50, or US$15 per seat if sharing.
After Tajik immigration and customs checks, barges cross the Amu-Darya between 10am and noon (US$10 per person), from where you take a bus 1km (US$1) to the Afghan border controls at Shir Khan Bandar. The US-funded bridge should be finished by mid-2007. After another short transfer, you’ll find transport (taxi 80Afg, one hour) running from here to Kunduz. Travellers report that the ferry and border is closed on Sundays.
The crossing at Ishkashim is easiest headed into Afghanistan; into Tajikistan you will need to show a GBAO permit and those are technically only available inside Tajikistan (though you can print out an emailed scan of your permit). It’s best to arrange someone from the agency to meet you at the crossing. The Afghan village of Ishkashim is 3km from the border crossing and you may have to walk this, as there’s little transport at the border. From Afghan Ishkashim there’s a daily minibus to Faizabad (600Afg, eight hours), or travel via Baharak.
A road has been completed from Murgab to China over the 4362m Qolma Pass, to join the Karakoram Hwy in Xinjiang north of Tashkurgan. The border is open to Chinese and Tajiks but currently not open to foreigners, though this may well change in the future. If the pass does open, you’ll have to find a way to get through the 7km of no-man’s-land between customs posts. Reports of a Kashgar–Khorog bus have not yet materialised. The border is currently only open 15 days per month.
From the Pamir Alay Valley you can cross into Tajikistan just north of the Kyzyl-Art Pass (south of Sary Tash). The Kyrgyz authorities generally don’t stamp your passport when you enter Kyrgyzstan here at Bor Döbö, so try to keep some evidence that indicates when you arrived in Kyrgyzstan.
The border crossing into the Garm region at Karamyk between Doroot-Korgon and Jirgital is currently closed to foreigners.
From Khojand you need to get to Isfara (NB not Isfana) and then take a shared taxi or bus to Batken. Onward transport to Osh normally travels through the Uzbek enclave of Sokh and this creates visa headaches if you don’t have multiple-entry Uzbek and Kyrgyz visas. (One way to avoid this is to pay a taxi driver extra to detour around the checkposts). If you are headed directly to Osh from Khojand and have an Uzbek visa it’s easiest to just take taxis through the Uzbek Fergana Valley to Kokand, Andijon and the border at Dostyk.
Most travellers making a beeline between Tashkent and Dushanbe drive to Khojand and then take a domestic flight (US$55). It’s also possible to drive via Samarkand and Penjikent, or even fly to Termiz and then drive to Dushanbe.
From Dushanbe the main border crossing is 55km west of the capital, near Tursanzade/Regar, crossing to Denau. Taxis from Dushanbe’s Zarnisar Bazaar to the border cost 8TJS per seat (1½ hours), or take a bus to Tursanzade (3.50TJS) from the main bus station. En route you pass a huge aluminium factory, once one of the biggest in the USST. At the border, minibuses run to Denau town, where you may find a shared taxi direct to Samarkand.
From Khojand there are two main border crossings; Oybek in the northwest for Tashkent, and Kanibadam in the northeast for Kokand and the Fergana Valley. From Tashkent get a bus headed to Bekabad (note that foreigners cannot currently cross at Bekabad) and get off at Oybek (two hours), near Chanak village. The border post is visible from the road. Once across the border take a taxi to Khojand (US$15) or a taxi to nearby Bustan (5TJS) and then a minibus to Khojand. From Khojand to Tashkent it’s easiest to take a taxi (US$15) to the Oybek border post, cross and then take an Uzbek taxi onwards. For a marshrutka (US$3) to Tashkent, walk a short way to the main crossroads.
For Kokand and the Fergana Valley take a bus to Kanibodom (2.50TJS), passing the massive Kairakum Reservoir en route, and then a minibus 9km to the border, cross the border by foot and then take multiple onward minibuses in Uzbekistan from Tamozhnaya to Besh Aryk (Beshariq) and then Kokand. You’ll save a lot of time by taking a taxi direct from the border to Kokand.
It’s easy to travel between Samarkand and Penjikent through a combination of minibuses and taxis. Shared taxis run from the Penjikent bazaar 22km to the border for 5TJS or 2000S (Uzbek sum) per seat, from where there are plenty of shared taxis on to Samarkand (a further 48km). The whole trip takes less than two hours. Change your Tajik somani into Uzbek sum in the Penjikent bazaar.
As long as your documents are in order you shouldn’t have any major problems. Expect a certain amount of delay and chaos, even at the airport, where visa queues can easily take an hour.
Uzbek–Tajik border crossings are hostage to the current state of political relations between the two republics (which are often poor) and sudden unannounced closure by the Uzbeks.
Regional flight connections to/from Dushanbe include Bishkek (four weekly, US$155), Almaty (four weekly, US$175) and, less reliably, Osh (Air Company Kyrgyzstan, Friday, US$95). Ariana has a weekly flight to Kabul (US$106).
There are still no flights between Dushanbe and Tashkent; most people fly to Khojand and then travel overland to the Uzbek capital (five hours). Khojand has weekly flights to Bishkek (US$90) and Moscow (US$300).