Bargaining is expected in the bazaars but not in shops where fixed prices are the norm.
Dangers & Annoyances
Generally Tajikistan is a safe travel destination.
- Around 7.5 sq km of landmines and UXO (unexploded ordnance) remain from the civil war in remote border zones; this is scheduled for clearance by 2020.
- Altitude sickness is a serious risk when hiking above 3500m without acclimatisation or driving the Pamir Hwy in a single day from Osh to Karakul or Murgab. Sufferers should retreat to lower ground if symptoms persist.
- Malaria is present in southwestern Tajikistan along the Afghan border and lower Vakhsh Valley as far north as Kurgonteppa.
- Bedbugs can be annoying in rural accommodation.
Embassies & Consulates
Entry & Exit Formalities
Uzbek–Tajik border crossings are prone to sudden unannounced closure and it's best to check the status of crossings immediately before departure. Caravanistan is a good resource for this. At the time of writing, the Penjikent–Samarkand and Karamyk borders remained resolutely closed but borders at Kyzyl-Art, Oybek and Isfara were functioning.
For most nationalities e-visas (US$50) are available online at www.evisas.tj. These e-visas are valid for 45 days and include the permit for GBAO (eastern Tajikistan).
Several specific destinations, including Zor-Kul and the Tajik National Park, require permits, but these are easily organised in a matter of minutes by PECTA in Khorog. Only permits for Lake Sarez take time; these can also be arranged through PECTA.
E-visas for tourists cannot be extended beyond 45 days.
Visas for Onward Travel
Only gives visas to long-term residents. Apply elsewhere.
Many travellers continue to report long delays in applying for Uzbek visas from the Uzbek Embassy in Dushanbe, with or without a Letter of Invitation (LOI). Applying from Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) with a downloaded visa form (www.evisa.mfa.uz/evisa_en) is a better option.
- Money Less than US$5000 does not need to be declared.
- Goods 'Reasonable quantities' of licit goods for personal use can be imported without charge for those over 18 years of age.
- Antiques and cultural valuables All items of antique or cultural value require special permission from Customs to be exported.
Emergency & Important Numbers
- Shoes should be removed before entering all houses, homestays and museums. Slippers are often provided even in hotels.
- Public displays of affection and impinging on personal space should be avoided.
- Public gender roles are clearly defined and offence may be given if appearing to question this.
Mobile internet coverage is reasonably widespread. Megafon and TCell are the best choices, though each has 'holes' in its coverage. Most hotels in cities and major towns offer free wi-fi.
- Marcus Hauser’s 1:500,000 maps cover Tajikistan in three very accurate, detailed sheets: The Pamirs, Northern Tajikistan and Southern Tajikistan. Each is available at www.geckomaps.com.
- A series of detailed maps is downloadable as an offline Android smart-phone app through www.oruxmaps.com.
ATMs are available in Dushanbe and northern cities but are not reliable in the Pamirs. Cash is more useful than credit cards everywhere except Dushanbe.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
- Top-end hotels Around 10TJS or US$1 per bag is standard. Gratuity for cleaning staff is not the norm but is appreciated.
- Top-end and midrange restaurants 10% is often added to the bill in Dushanbe; where this is not the case, and outside the capital, up to 10% is appropriate for good service.
- Budget restaurants Leaving change or rounding up is appreciated.
- Taxis Drivers don't expect a tip.
US dollars, euros and Russian roubles are easily changed at city exchange booths and at least one bank in any regional centre. Carrying some cash (preferably in US dollars) is advised as not all ATMs accept international cards (particularly in the Pamirs). Both Uzbek and Kyrgyz som are accepted in relevant border areas.
The Tajik somani (TJS) is divided into 100 dirham. Somani notes come in one, five, 10, 20, 50 and 100 denominations. Dirham coins are rarely used.
Opening hours for bazaars, shops and restaurants vary considerably from town to town. Typically, shopping takes place mid-morning, followed by lunch around noon and a quiet period in the afternoon. A few city bars stay open until 1am or 2am in the morning. Some traditional restaurants close during Ramadan or open after sunset.
Bazaars 8am to 4pm (closed first Monday of each month)
Cafes 8am to 11pm
Offices 8am to 5pm Monday to Saturday
Restaurants 10am to 11pm
Shops 9am to 8pm
Using Tajikistan’s postal service is not recommended. Mail can take a month or more to reach its destination, if it arrives at all. Couriers such as DHL are the only reliable way to send important documents.
1 January New Year’s Day
8 March International Women’s Day
21–23 March Nawroz, or Navrus (Persian New Year), called Ba’at in Badakhshan
1 May International Labour Day
9 May Victory Day (a commemoration of WWII)
27 June Day of National Unity and Accord (for reconciliation after the 1990s civil war)
9 September Independence Day
6 November Constitution Day
Major Islamic hoildays are also celebrated including Idi Kurbon (Eid al-Adha, Feast of Sacrifice) and Idi Fitr (Eid al-Fitr; the end of Ramadan).
As well as national holidays, Ismaili communities in Badakhshan and beyond celebrate Imamat Day (July 11, the anniversary of the current Aga Khan taking over the Ismaili Imamat), Ruz-i-Nour (Day of Lights; May 25, commemorating the first visit of the current Imam to Gorno Badakhshan 1995) and Ruz-i-Mavlud (December 13, the Aga Khan's birthday). On all three days concerts, folklore shows and/or sports events take place in Khorog City Park, Dushanbe's Ismaili Centre and almost any Ismaili village.
Area codes are assigned to each part of the country but few landlines exist. Mobiles are more commonly used, especially outside towns.
The widest coverage for mobile networks is on TCell (www.tcell.tj/en), which reportedly covers 99% of the country. Megafon (www.megafon.tj) is the only carrier in parts of the Zerafshan Valley and Alichur; Beeline (www.beeline.tj) and Babilon-M (www.babilon-m.tj/en) also provide targeted coverage.
Male gay sex is illegal in Tajikistan. Affection shown between members of the same sex in public is generally considered a sign of friendship not of intimate relationship. In common with other parts of Central Asia, there is no obvious signposting of the LGBTIQ community.
There are severe criminal penalties for possession of drugs, leading to expulsion, arrest or imprisonment.
Allowed in restaurants. However, new government legislation is likely to come into effect in 2018 requiring some segregation of smoking and non-smoking zones in cafes and restaurants. The new law will also ban smoking from public transport and all administrative buildings. No-smoking hotel rooms are hard to find.
Taxes & Refunds
Value-added tax (VAT) is added to all goods, but no refunds are available to foreigners on departure.
Western-style toilets are available in most parts of Tajikistan in public areas. Squat and long-drop toilets are more common in homestays and rural areas.
- GMT plus five hours (for all but Murgab region)
- GMT plus six hours (Murgab and around)
A number of local tourist associations have been established in Tajikistan. PECTA and META were founded as nonprofit organisations, with international help, to enhance the potential of tourism in the Eastern Pamirs.
PECTA Has a very helpful centre in Kurog. Lists homestays and tour operators.
META Operates out of Murgab.
ZTDA Lists homestays in the Fan Mountains area.
Travel with Children
Children are welcomed by Tajik people who are highly family oriented. That said, few choose to travel with youngsters as health and safety issues abound from problems with drinking water to lack of car seats and seatbelts on hazardous roads. Supplies of nappies and baby food are hard come by outside of towns and access to healthcare limited by the remoteness of much of the country. A few attractions (including fun fares and parks) are dedicated to children in Dushanbe.
Within Dushanbe, there are a few stores with ramps and many hotels have lifts. Other than this there are minimal facilities for travellers with disabilities and outside the capital there are none.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used.