Tajikistan travel guide
Following in the footsteps of ancient Silk Road traders, modern travellers come to Tajikistan to experience a magical journey across the ‘Roof of the World,’ a land of soaring mountain ranges, deep ravines and high-altitude deserts.
Although Tajikistan is one of the most remote countries in the world, even its most inaccessible nooks host life; the mountains and deserts are home to Kyrgyz nomads, who eke out simple, self-sufficient lives as they have done for generations. Intrepid travellers will endure some of the coldest temperatures on the planet to visit them, but these chilly conditions are tempered by the Kyrgyz’s warm hospitality.
An independent state since 1991, Tajikistan spent much of the last two centuries under Tsarist and Soviet rule. Ethnic Tajiks form the majority of the population, but there are also minority ethnic groups of Russian, Uzbek and Kyrgyz origin – a mix brought about by Stalin’s “divide and conquer” strategy.
Tajikistan’s landscapes are just as dramatic as its political history. In the mountainous west, lofty peaks plunge into deep valleys where villages cling precariously to the cliffs-side above fast flowing rivers. In these settlements, where most of the population are subsidence farmers, any available patch of land is terraced and cultivated with potatoes, cabbage and wheat.
Over in the east, the mountains plateau into a vast, high-altitude desert that looks like the surface of the moon. This is a hostile part of the world, as Marco Polo noted when he travelled through the region. “No birds fly here because of the height and the cold,” he wrote.
Most arrive in Tajikistan via its capital, Dushanbe, one of the prettier cities in Central Asia with its gilded palaces, leafy parks and neoclassical facades. Emerging from the shadows of Soviet rule, Dushanbe is desperate to impress; it boasts the largest teahouse and tallest flagpole in the world, which are, aside from a few museums and markets, about the extent of its attractions.
But Tajikistan isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey; a journey through history and geography, where warm a welcome awaits those intrepid enough to visit.
143,100 sq km (55,251 sq miles).
8,669,464 (UN estimate 2016).
57.2 per sq km.
President Emomali Rahmon since 1994.
Prime Minister Qohir Rasulzoda since 2013.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are standard.
Last updated: 10 October 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
During April/May 2017 there were clashes between the Taliban and Afghan government forces in north-east Afghanistan close to the border with Tajikistan. Check local advice before travelling to the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) as the area may be closed to visitors at short notice.
Several areas of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) and other parts of the country were damaged by flooding in the spring of 2017. Most of the infrastructure has been repaired. Many roads, including the Pamir Highway, are open but not fully repaired.
The government of Tajikistan sometimes suspends issuing permits for travel to the GBAO by foreign nationals who enter Tajikistan on a tourist visa. This can happen at short notice, depending on the security situation in neighbouring provinces in Afghanistan. If you’re considering travel to the GBAO you should contact the Embassy of Tajikistan for up to date information on whether permits are being issued.
There are occasional clashes along the disputed Tajik/Kyrgyz border. A Tajik civilian was killed in an exchange of gunfire near the Vorukh enclave in July 2014. There was a separate incident near the villages of Kok-Tash and Chorkuh in August 2015. There’s a risk of further localised violence and border closures at any time.
Tajikistan’s borders with neighbouring countries are subject to closure without notice. Check in advance which border posts are currently open. You may also wish to check with the British Embassy in Dushanbe for up to date information on border restrictions.
The crossing points on the Tajik/Kyrgyz border at Guliston (Isfara region), Avchikalacha (Sughd region) and Kizil Art (Gorno-Badakhshan region) are open to British nationals. The border at Karamik (Jirgatol region) is currently only open to Tajik and Kyrgyz nationals.
The crossing points on the Tajik/Uzbek border at Bratstvo (Tursunzade region), and at Fotehobod and Patar/Rabot (Sughd region) are open to British nationals holding visas.
Terrorist attacks in Tajikistan can’t be ruled out.
Tourism, health and transport infrastructure is poor and travel requires careful planning. Avoid off-road areas immediately adjoining the Afghan, Uzbek and Kyrgyz borders, which may be mined.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
There are sporadic clashes between border forces and drug traffickers along the Afghan border, particularly in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. The most recent incident on 10 June 2014 resulted in a number of injuries. Dushanbe is relatively secure, but there have been occasional muggings and petty crime against foreigners. Women should avoid going out alone at night, and may suffer harassment even during the day.
There have been instances of sexual assault, including rape, reported to staff at the British embassy. This has included suspected use of ’date-rape’ drugs targeting foreigners. Don’t accept drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended.
You should maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as in the UK. Alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. If you are going to drink, know your limit. Don’t accept lifts from strangers or passing acquaintances at any time.
Don’t venture off-road in areas immediately adjoining the Afghan, Uzbek and Kyrgyz borders, as there are both marked and unmarked minefields. Take local advice in the Tavildara region of central Tajikistan as there are a few minefields dating from the civil war in the mountains. Medical and rescue facilities are unreliable where they exist at all. Tourist facilities are under-developed and goods and services taken for granted in the UK may not be available.
The Tajik-Kyrgyz border is disputed. Localised violence erupts occasionally and the border can be closed at short notice, particularly near the Vorukh enclave. Tajik and Kyrgyz security forces clashed in this area in January 2014 leaving 8 wounded, and a Tajik civilian was killed in an exchange of gunfire in 10 July 2014. There was a separate incident near the villages of Kok-Tash and Chorkuh in August 2015. There’s a risk of further localised violence and border closures at any time.
Heavy snowfall in winter can cause delays and cancellations at airports, and can disrupt local travel, particularly in mountainous regions where there is an increased risk of avalanches. Contact your airline for current flight information before travelling, and take local advice on road conditions during or following severe weather.
Roads outside the main towns are poorly-maintained and often only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles. Conditions are particularly treacherous in spring due to the risk of avalanches and landslides. Many interior roads are only open in the summer months. It is possible to drive from Dushanbe to the north and Tajikistan’s second city, Khujand, via a tunnel south of Ayni that has recently opened. This road is particularly dangerous in winter due to icy conditions and drivers can be trapped for a long time if caught in an avalanche because of the remoteness. Check local road conditions prior to travel.
Local vehicles are poorly-maintained and driving standards are basic. Petrol stations are rare outside towns and there are no breakdown companies. Make sure you take all you need for your journey, allowing for delays. Emergency communications such as satellite phones are advisable for travel outside towns. Neighbouring countries may close borders temporarily.
Flights in Tajikistan may be cancelled at short notice or substantially delayed. Overloading on local flights is not uncommon.
Instances of harassment by officials at Dushanbe International Airport have been reported to the British embassy in Dushanbe. This typically involves requests for payment for allegedly incorrect documentation or other offences. Some reports state that airport officials have acted in an intimidating manner. You should ensure, through your hotel or directly with the Tajikistan Office of Visas and Registration (OVIR), that your documentation and papers are in order before passing through border control at the airport. If you suffer harassment or intimidation at the airport you should report this to your travel agent and/or the consular bureau at the airport.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Tajikistan.
A list of incidents and accidents in Tajikistan can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
It is now close to 20 years since the Tajik civil war ended. The political situation is generally stable, but you should remain vigilant in public places and be alert to any security announcements by the Tajik authorities.
You should avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings of people.
Terrorist attacks in Tajikistan can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
There’s a threat of kidnapping in Tajikistan. The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage-takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Tajikistan has a secular constitution. Most Tajik citizens are Muslims. Some, particularly in rural areas, may be conservative in outlook. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times.
Women travelling alone may not be shown respect.
Homosexuality is not illegal under Tajik law but local attitudes are conservative, particularly outside the main cities. You should take care over public displays of affection.
Possession and use of drugs is illegal and, if found guilty, you could face a lengthy prison sentence in very basic conditions.
Carry a photocopy of your passport at all times. Requests to produce an ID are frequent.
Taking photos of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may get you into trouble with the authorities.
Although rarely enforced smoking whilst walking on the street is illegal and punishable by a fine.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British nationals require a visa before travel. The Embassy of the Republic of Tajikistan in London offers an online e-visa service.
Tourist visas are valid for a period of up to 45 days.
Make sure you are travelling on the correct type of visa, particularly if staying with friends or family rather than at a hotel. If you have been issued any visa other than a “Tourist” visa, you will be required to register with the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs within 3 days of arrival. Hotels may only carry out registration for the duration of your stay with that particular establishment; if your visit also includes travel to other parts of the country you may need to register again for the remaining part of your travel.
The Embassy of the Republic of Tajikistan in London also processes applications for travel permits to the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan. Entry into the region, both from inside and from outside Tajikistan, requires a special permit in advance in addition to a valid Tajik visa. You can also get a permit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Office of Visas and Registrations once in Tajikistan.
Once you arrive in Tajikistan you can apply for visa extensions at the Consular Department of the Tajik Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Multiple entry and transit visas
If you plan to travel to areas in the Khatlon Region bordering Afghanistan (eg Panj, Kumsangir) you will need to apply for a permit from the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dushanbe prior to travel.
If you are travelling back to Russia, Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan, you should get the relevant re-entry visa before entering Tajikistan. Transit visas for Tajikistan are usually valid for three days. If you wish to stay longer, you must get a longer-term visa through Intourist Tajikistan or at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after arrival.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date you apply for a visa to enter Tajikistan and must have at least two empty pages.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
You can’t enter Tajikistan with a UK Emergency Travel Document (ETD). If you lose your passport in Tajikistan the British Embassy in Dushanbe can issue an ETD, but you’ll need to get an exit visa from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Office of Visas and Registrations before you can travel out of Tajikistan. It can take at least 5 working days to get an exit permit.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
The reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and Tajikistan terminated on 1 January 2016.
Tajikistan has poor medical facilities and a shortage of basic medical supplies. Medical facilities outside Dushanbe are quite basic and in some locations almost non-existent. You should be aware that brand name drugs may not be genuine.
TB (including multi-drug-resistant TB), typhoid and cholera occur in Tajikistan. There are occasional cases of malaria in summer in the Khatlon region and in the south of Gorno-Badakhshan.
Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance including evacuation by air ambulance, and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
Don’t drink tap water and take particular care over food and drink preparation. If you plan to stay for more than 90 days you must present a medical certificate that you are HIV-free, or take a test. The FCO advise against taking the test in Tajikistan, due to the poor quality of medical facilities.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 03 (non-English speaking) and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Tajikistan is located in an active seismic zone. There’s been an increase in the number of earthquakes in Tajikistan during 2016 and 2017; most are small but affect remote areas of the country, particularly the east in Badakhshan province. Avalanches and landslides often block roads in the spring and early summer.
You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake and follow the advice of the local authorities.The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
In late spring and summer Tajikistan is prone to seasonal flooding and mudslides caused by melting glaciers. Take care, follow local advice and be aware that conditions can change suddenly.
Tajikistan is a cash-only economy. Only change money at officially authorised currency exchanges. Very few establishments accept credit cards and none accept travellers’ cheques. There is a small, but increasing number of ATMs in Dushanbe and other larger towns, but none in rural areas. US dollars are the most widely accepted foreign currency; other currencies, apart from Euros or Russian roubles, may be difficult to exchange.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.