Visas are required for travel to Tajikistan; in addition a special permit
is required for travel to the Pamirs (Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast - GBAO)
and other border areas. Additional permits are required for travel to Lake Sarez
(and probably to Zorkul in the Great Pamir, although this is subject to confirmation
locally). The visa with GBAO permit is the easy part - with patience and determination you
can do the rest yourself - or you may prefer to use a Tajik tour operator: see
Tour Operators page.
I apologise for the length of the following text, but the situation is not simple -
Please read carefully! You may also want to check the following very useful website
UPDATE - 7 May 2011
ANOTHER NONSENSE PERPETRATED BY THE TAJIK GOVERNMENT
According to the Brussels Consulate, tourist visas are now only available to
travellers with a visa support/invitation letter from a Tajik tour operator. All other
tourists will obtain a "Private visa" for which the cost is higher and which
provides no exemption from registration with OVIR (current cost of registration more than
$100, plus a fee for accelerated processing, which you can be sure will be applied).
While in theory this may help cover the operating costs of Tajik consulates (and keep
OVIR and Tajik travel agencies in business), it will certainly act as a disincentive
for individual tourism and is plain stupid for a country that badly needs the foreign
exchange that tourism can bring!
UPDATE - 25 April 2011
I give below (with my comments) a statement (as official as I could get)
of the present situation.
The Tajik government decree No. 122 of 22 February 2009 provides that citizens
of the following countries may apply for a tourist visa or any other visa to
enter Tajikistan at Dushanbe International Airport (and Khujand) upon arrival.
N.B. According to information from the Official Tajik Tourism Committee in
December 2011, a double-entry visa (essential for travel from Tajikistan to
Afghanistan and back) can be obtained at Dushanbe airport for travellers of
Europe: Austria, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Hungary, Greece, Ireland, Iceland,
Italy, Cyprus, Estonia, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Latvia,
Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Great Britain,
Germany, Finland, France, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Andorra, Vatican, Liechtenstein, Monaco
Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, South Africa, Senegal
Americas: Argentina, Canada, Mexico, USA, Brasilia, Bolivia, Cuba, Chile
Asia: Vietnam, Brunei, Israel, China, Iran, Qatar, Japan, Bahrain, Jordan,
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, South Korea,
Indonesia, Singapore, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Philippines, Pakistan (only diplomatic and service visa),
India, (only diplomatic and service visa), Yemen, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
(only diplomatic, service, investment, free zone, transport, sportsman, artist visa), Mongolia
Oceania: Australia, New Zealand
Others: Stateless persons who are former citizens of the Republic of Tajikistan.
NO "invitation letter / visa support letter" is required for visa issue at the
frontier for citizens of the above mentioned countries. A visa obtained at the airport
costs 25 USD for individuals (a 50% discount is available for tourist groups) - the
same price should be applicable for single- or double-entry visas. N.B. If you plan
to travel to Afghanistan (or another neighbouring country) and return to Tajikistan
you will need a double or multiple entry visa.
N.B. The GBAO permit cannot be obtained at the frontier and must be applied for at the
Dushanbe Office of Visas and Registration (OVIR) at Mirzo Turzunzade Street 5,
Tel./Fax 227 67 22 (only Russian and Tajik spoken), 8am-5pm, this formality costs
15 Somoni and should be completed in one day.
If you are planning to travel to the Pamirs, it is advisable to get your GBAO permit
with your visa in advance - this will save hassle in Dushanbe.
There is officially a uniform pricing system for the issue of visas at Tajik consulates
(US$25 for individuals, 50% discount for groups), all Tajik consulates are authorised to
issue the GBAO permit and officially no "invitation letter / visa support letter" is
required for nationals of the above-mentioned countries.
However, current policy is not consistent and hardly helps simplify the procedures,
because if you read the Embassy websites carefully you will see that to
benefit from the $25 (sometimes €25) visa fee you actually must obtain a visa
support letter, which entails contacting a travel agency in Tajikistan and paying whatever
fee they apply for this service. See May 2011 UPDATE at the top of this page.
Without a visa support letter, a one-month visa costs $65 (sometimes €65).
In other words, the waiving of the requirement for a visa support letter is,
at best, misleading. It is worth checking the prices and policy of each consulate
on its website or by telephone - but forget the much-trumpeted reduced price: in order to avoid unnecessary
hassle you will end up paying less in total by applying directly to the consulate and paying the higher fee.
If tourists are being requested to pay a visa fee at this level, it should at least include the GBAO permit -
better still, the permit should be abolished - this would really show that the Tajik government was
serious about promoting tourism!
Taxes and permits
The GBAO permit can cover all areas of GBAO, but this must be specifically requested
in the application - to cover all possibilities, put the following on the form: Khorog,
Murghab, Darwaz, Ishkashim, Vanj, Rushan. Once you are in possession of the complete GBAO
permit, you can travel freely (except for Sarez and perhaps Zorkul - see below); any
attempt by over-zealous or greedy officials should be resisted - self-confident bluff is a good weapon.
Apart from the GBAO permit, special permission is required for travel only for Sarez.
All other areas should be covered by the GBAO permit, although it is prudent to check
with the Tajik border guards or local travel agent in Khorog before travelling to Zorkul.
The Sarez permit can be obtained free of charge at the Committee for Emergency Situations
at Lohuti Street in Dushanbe, opposite the Tajik Sodirot Bank. There is no fee - N.B.
if you use the service of any tourist company, they will charge a fee.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The Committee for Emergency Situations has recently (early 2011)
closed all roads and trails to Sarez due to dangerous conditions and present inability
to help trekkers and travellers in emergencies. The closure is expected to be in effect
for at least the next two years. Officially, the only way to get to Sarez at the moment
would be to request a Tour Operator for a helicopter. N.B. As in so many cases in Central Asia,
prohibitions are subject to negotiation and it may be worth asking for a permission anyway and
at least try to trek to the lake from the south coming from Bulunkul or Bachor.
There is also a fee of 10 Somoni payable on entering National Parks and other protected areas.
However, beware of scams: some unscrupulous individuals pose as Park rangers at places where
there is definitely no National Park and try to collect much higher fees (the National Parks
and other protected areas are clearly marked on Markus Hauser's maps). Some border guards and
local police may try the same trick. Ask for documentary proof that an individual is authorised
to collect fees and threaten to go to the police - again, bluff is a good weapon.
Finally, beware of scams on exit from Dushanbe: some corrupt officials at the airport try to
extort money from tourists claiming that they have not registered with OVIR (this is not the
same thing as the GBAO permit). If they have been in the country for thirty days or less,
tourists are NOT required to register with OVIR. Claiming a fine from tourists on these
grounds is therefore illegal and should be vigorously refused, threatening if necessary
to report the official concerned to the head of airport immigration or to the Tourism Minister Mr. Lochin Faizulloev.
N.B. It is very important that you check your visa immediately on getting your
passsport back from the consulate to be sure that it is indeed a tourist visa: a tourist
visa is indicated by the category "T" (or cauëxu, tourism in Tajik). Travellers
with a private or business visa MUST still register with OVIR (see May 2011 UPDATE at the top of this page).
Addresses of some Tajik consulates:
Embassy of the Republic of Tajikistan in Brussels
Consul, Anzor Tanibekov
Boulevard General Jacques 16
Tel : +32 (2) 640 6933
Fax : +32 (2) 649 0195
Email : taj-emb(at)dpnet.be
Embassy of the Republic of Tajikistan in Berlin
Contact Sohibnazar Gayratshoev
Perleberger Str. 43,
Tel : +49 (0)30 347 9300
Fax : +49 (0)30 347 93029
Email : info(at)botschaft-tadschikistan.de
Embassy of the Republic of Tajikistan in the Swiss Confederation
93 rue de la Servette
1202 Geneva, Switzerland
The Third Secretary, Rustam Oymahmadov, speaks good English
Tel. +4122 734 1140, mobile +4176 576 6116
Fax +4122 734 1158
One-month tourist visa Euro 25 plus Euro 20 for GBAO permit - delivered in three working
days - but the Embassy website contains the ominous condition that this price is
for visas delivered "with Visa support letter from Consular Department of the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan." In other words, if you don't have an
invitation letter (for which a tour agency based in Tajikistan will charge you), your
tourist visa is going to cost you Euro 65 for one month!
Other visas can also be obtained here.
A list of Tajik Embassies and their website links and addresses can be found
here. A downloadable visa application form can be found
Loic Paulet from France reports that in July 2011 he obtained a 45-day Tajik visa with GBAO permit at
the Tajik consulate in Bishkek for $75 plus 50 Kyrgyz som - the whole operation took only
15 minutes, which must be a record.
I welcome first-hand accounts by
travellers of how this works in practice but as noted above, on the basis of the current
information (April 2011), my best advice is to send your visa application to the Brussels
consulate in good time before your departure, asking for the GBAO permit at the same time.
Travel via Osh
Kulma Pass to or from China
There is no official confirmation that it is possible for foreign tourists to
cross the Kulma pass into or from China. (If anyone has done so successfully, please
send me an e-mail via the link on the
Ed Hannam, an intrepid Australian traveller, tried and failed to cross in 2008
coming from Tashkurgan. He reported, however, that the Tajik Embassy in Beijing and
local officials in Tashkurgan were courteous and helpful (N.B. the former was unable
to deliver a GBAO permit).
However, Professor Hermann Kreutzmann, reports (July 2010):
"The crossing of Kulma into China was successful although time-consuming. We waited two
hours before the respective parties understood that all permissions had been granted -
on the Chinese side it took four hours to clear all group members. The rumour was spread
that from next year onwards third-party travellers are permitted as well to use the road."
Note that Hermann had all the permissions - probably because of the academic credentials
of his mission - which tourists may find difficult to obtain.
Apparently, a notice posted by the US Embassy in Dushanbe states that an agreement was signed
between the Tajikistan and Chinese governments on December 29, 2011, whereby the Kulma pass
border has now become a full-fledged border that will be open year-round. However,
according to the Tajik Foreign Ministry, the Agreement signed is not yet in force and
is only a framework agreement - no date has been agreed for entry into force.
Kalmyk Pass (Daroot Kurgan) crossing from the Alai valley in Kyrgyzstan to the Rasht valley (Garm) in Tajikistan
To the best of my knowledge, this crossing is not open for tourists. The Kyrgyz
border guards have recently strengthened their presence on the Kyrgyz side to prevent
drug trafficking, smuggling and terrorism. Don't even try to cross here. See press article
If anyone has relevant personal experience, please send me an e-mail via the link on the
All text and
photographs (c) Robert Middleton 2002
Web master Romanyuk