A quarter-century after independence, the country’s cultural identity is still being created, as Tajiks living abroad return to plant new ideas and dreams in timeless soil, and younger generations mature with hope and optimism. Tajikistan is a resilient place, where exceptional beauty is found through every tunnel and mountain pass.
In this Tajikistan Travel Budget Report we share what we spent during our overland journey in Tajikistan and on what. Next, we elaborate on those expenditures, detailing information on visas, car papers, gas stations and fuel, accommodation, public transport, and more.
Of course, we all have our own budgets and levels of comfort that we need for our road trip and this is meant to give a general idea of what you may expect on an overland journey through Tajikistan. Some expenditures are fixed, such as visas, whereas travel expenditures on accommodation may be very different for you.
In this Tajikistan Travel Budget Reports we share our overland-trip experience. For all general information, please make use of guidebooks on the region. Two guidebooks we used in Tajikistan were:
- Bradt Tajikistan Travel Guide (best on where to visit what)
- Lonely Planet’s Central Asia (stronger on practicalities like where to eat and sleep).
Don’t forget to check out the Tajikistan Overland Travel Guide, which gives an elaborate overview of all things related to roads, roadmaps, navigation, traffic rules, and traffic police, language, apps, SIM cards, WiFi, and more.
As usual we made the best of our stay, using almost all days of our 45-day visa. Coming from Kyrgyzstan, we entered Tajikistan from the north and immediately drove into the heart of the Pamir Mountains. About 90% of Tajikistan consists of mountains and the biggest lure for overland travelers is the Pamir Mountain range in the east of the country, which is particularly famous for the Pamir Highway.
Those who follow our journey know how slow we travel and how we like to explore a region in depth. As such, we spent most of our time just in the Pamir Mountains and, like everybody else, fell in love with the remote valleys with snowy peaks and glaciers, high-altitude desert plains, and canyons with rivers cascading through them.
Tajikistan is an ultimate overland destination with tons of unmaintained roads or paths that challenge your vehicle as well as yourself, a world full of rough camping opportunities. Additionally, it is inhabited by the kindest, most hospitable people imaginable.
But you know, visas… They are never long enough. And so we still have much more to explore in this gorgeous, inviting country.
Tajikistan, we will be back!
Index for our Our Tajikistan Travel Budget Report
Our Overland Travel Information Pages for Tajikistan consists of two parts: The Tajikistan Overland Travel Guide, and this is the Tajikistan Travel Budget Report.
In this blog post we will discuss the following topics:
- Money Matters
- Our Tajikistan Travel-budget Pie
- Travel Budget – Documentation (Visa & Temporary Import Document)
- Travel Budget – The Land Cruiser Repairs & Maintenance
- Travel Budget – Diesel & Gas Stations
- Travel Budget – Public Transport
- Travel Budget – Sightseeing
- Travel Budget – Accommodation & Camping
- Travel Budget – Other Expenditures
1. Money Matters
The Tajikistan currency is Tajik somoni (TJS). In November 2019 the rate was 10,76 somoni to a euro (in 9,69 somoni to a US dollar).
Of particular importance when coming from Kyrgyzstan, driving down the Pamir Highway:
- The first ATM is only in Khorog. You can’t withdraw money in Murgab!
- Best is to exchange money in Osh (Kyrgyzstan) where you will find many money-exchange offices near the bazaar so you have enough Tajik somoni to last you until Khorog.
- Bring some US dollars too that you can exchange in Khorog in case the ATM doesn’t work; there are money exchange offices.
- In Khorog we couldn’t use our debit bank card for the ATM but the credit card (Visa) worked. You can withdraw somoni as well as US dollars (Visa card: we paid a ridiculous 25 US-dollar fee to withdraw 500 US dollars!).
In Dushanbe we used the ATM machine in the Hilton hotel, see iOverlander for the exact location. To withdraw US dollars and somoni we could use our Maestro debit card or our Visa credit card.
We always paid with cash, so we have no info on the use of credit cards or debit cards to pay for gas, food, or accommodation.
More details about ATMs / money exchange on Caravanistan.
2. Our Tajikistan Travel Budget Report
- Time traveled in Tajikistan: 41 days (September/October 2019)
- Average expenditure: € 26 /day (2 persons).
- Total distance driven: 2265 kilometers
- Average distance: 55 kms/day.
Not included: health insurance, electronics
Notes on our Tajikistan Travel Budget:
- Compared to other countries in Central Asia, we spent relatively much on Documents, 20%. This is a result of the E-visa and the GBAO permit for the Pamir-mountain region (see below: 3. Documentation)
- Most money was spent on diesel and groceries as we spent most of our time driving the Pamir Highway and surrounding valleys where we always rough camped and cooked our own meals.
3. Travel Budget – Documentation (Visa & Temporary Import Document)
Caravanistan is an up-to-date website to check whether you need a visa or not. Or check with the embassy.
Europeans can get a 45-day E-visa, which costs $50.
We heard of Europeans who couldn’t apply using the E-visa because the credit card wasn’t accepted. Initially ours wasn’t either, but here’s the trick that worked for us:
Don’t type your name as it is on the credit card (capital letters) but use lower case. We can’t remember whether to include the dots between your initials or not, but experiment and you’ll find out.
We got our visa within 2 days, but other travelers told us it could take 5-7 working days.
You can’t extend a 45-day visa.
For the Pamir Highway and surrounding valleys you need an additional permit (there are checkpoints along the way). There are several ways to apply for the GBAO (Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast) Permit:
- The easiest is to simultaneous get it with your e-visa. You pay an additional $20. (You can NOT first apply for the e-visa and then use the same form just for the permit. It’s either both at the same time or just the visa).
- Via a travel agency. You pay $40-$50. We did this is in Osh because we stupidly didn’t apply for the permit together with the E-visa. It was an expensive mistake (we paid $50 to Muz-too motorbike travel company, a popular place for overlanding motorcyclists).
- You can get the permit in Dushanbe, which costs only a fraction of around $4, we were told (we have no further details on this).
You can’t extend your Tajikstan visa.
1b- Carnet de Passage / Temporary Import Document for Tajikistan
Contrary to your visa, which is valid for 30 or 45 days, your TID is valid for only 15 days! This, in fact, is a bit of a headache.
Here is what we know and experienced when extending the TID:
- In Khorog (Pamir Region) it’s easy to get the first extension. Go to the military headquarters about 7 kms out of town (for GPS waypoint, see iOverlander). Some have been asked for money (about 100 somoni) but we and others, however, haven’t.
- In Khorog, however, it was less evident to get the second extension and it took Coen quite a bit of talking (“having car troubles”, etc) and then was issued another extension, also free of charge. It’s important to get a paper of this (not just a stamp) as you have to hand in that piece of paper at the border.
- In Dushanbe, many overlanders have told us, they are not helpful at all (again, see iOverlander for details).
- We know of one couple who drove to the nearest border from Dushanbe, 70 kms, and got an extension there from the customs officials (without pay).
4. Travel Budget – the Land Cruiser; Car Troubles in Tajikistan
During our 16 years on the road we have had our fair share of car troubles, but the issues were generally related to rust and simple mechanic issues that can be considered to be part of regular car maintenance.
A Broken Steering
This time, however, we had our first serious car trouble. Amidst a river crossing in the Bartang Valley, the steering snapped. Of course this is a story in itself, but in a nutshell: we were stuck for 48 hours in the middle of nowhere, 25 kilometers from the first village and without cell phone reach.
We tried a number of ways to get it fixed, failed, and in the end strapped everything together and took a full day to get to that village where they made improvised repairs that held for 2000 kilometers. The second time it snapped was in front of the Atlas B&B Hotel, where spare parts were waiting for us, which had been sent by Euro 4×4 parts (thank you for that quick and great service!)
That we have guardian angels watching over us is an understatement.
The receptionist of the Atlas Hotel, Navruz, was super kind in any possible way. The hotel was full (and above our budget anyway) so we camped in the street. We could use the toilet in the hotel, and he invited us for coffee.
Coen could replace the steering part himself (while locals stopped to share tea and fruits with us!), and after a day all was well again.
Other Land Cruiser Troubles
The Pamir Region is bound to give troubles to any vehicle driving there because of the incredibly bad roads. As we were limping out with improvised steering, two leaf springs broke, forcing us to slow down even more (we basically drove 2000 kilometers at 25 kms/hour).
The leaf springs were replaced in Khorog. It was not as evident as it sounds because most cars driving here are newer and don’t have leaf springs but coil springs. Ishkander, an officer at one of the checkpoints around the city, however, was super helpful and kind, driving Coen around to find a place to buy them and get them installed.
For two years, Okhir was in the army in Vladivostok. Being an engineer did not earn enough so he started his own little workshop in 2009. His daughter Suhaylo speaks good English. Okhir is a man who uses his improvisation skills to solve any problem.
It also helps that his place is surrounded by scrapped vehicles in order to re-use anything that can be useful. You can find him at the entry where they wash cars and where his wife inflates car tires for a small fee.
GPS: 37.487958, 71.571678
Despite the turtle pace, the Land Cruiser continued bouncing up and down on the bad roads due to its stiff suspension. The bolts on the front section, above the window, had broken or disappeared, which was fine. However, now the roof also started detaching itself from the sides of the bodywork, breaking part of the bodywork on the upper driver’s door.
This required repairs before driving on more bad roads in the next country, Uzbekistan. It took quite some driving around and talking with people – 2 days – before finding the right guy for the job.
Read More: Driving the Pamir Highway
5. Travel Budget – Diesel & Gas Stations in Tajikistan
Coming from Kyrgyzstan, driving into the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan, the first gas station is in Karakol. Next is Murgab.
Our Land Cruiser being an oldie, it drinks anything and requires no specific quality of diesel. For newer cars, however, this may be different and so some overlanders stock up on fuel and bringing extra in jerry cans in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.
Along the Wakhan Corridor you will find gas stations in some of the towns/villages.
In the Bartang Valley, however, this is not a matter of course. Maybe when asking around, people will sell from their homes but we had enough fuel and don’t have first-hand experience with this. If you are coming from Murgab, you need to calculate at least 100 kilometers to the turnoff and then another 300 kilometers to Khorog where you will be sure to find fuel again.
6. Travel Budget – Public Transport in Tajikistan
Public Transport is a standard category on our travel budget report, however, in Tajikistan we used only a couple of taxis in Dushanbe. That cost pennies and thus had no effect on our travel budget.
7. Travel Budget – Sightseeing in Tajikistan
In Tajikistan, we spent almost all our time in the Pamir-mountain Region. We will be back to explore more of this amazing country and then will include hiking too.
Driving the Pamir Highway and connecting valleys is reason enough to come to Tajikistan. A separate post will follow on the different road trips we did there.
On the Pamir Highway between Khorog and Dushanbe we stopped at two places that surprised us in particular:
- Just east of Kalai Khum, are the remains of an ancient city, Karon. It was only ‘discovered’ recently. At the top of the mountain you can walk among the remains of the settlement. While this is interesting as it is, the views from here are spectacular and a reason in itself to drive all the way up. There is an elderly man living next to the site, who served us tea and delicious apples. We paid him 10 somoni pp but we have no clue whether that was for the entrance fee, tea, or both 🙂
GPS waypoint: 38.450466, 70.848252
- In Kulob is the Khulbuk Fortress. The outer walls have been rebuilt, giving it a somewhat tacky/fake feel, yet at the same time it also adds to giving a better sense of the grandeur it once had. The caretaker will probably run from across the road (where the museum) is to show you around and tell the tales. He was part of the archeologists’ teams. We paid 20 somoni pp for the fortress & museum.
GPS waypoint: 37.776203, 69.555956
8. Travel Budget – Accommodation & Camping in Tajikistan
Wild camping is possible everywhere, and often amidst fantastic scenery. The wind was often fierce, stopping us from using our rooftop tent, but the landscapes made up for it (and it’s good to be able to sleep in the car as well). Again we can speak only of the Pamir Region and a separate post will follow on awesome wild camping spots.
‘Homestay’ is a big word in the countryside. Forget about hostels, of Bed & Breakfasts; everything is ‘homestay’ and the word to ask for if you are looking for paid accommodation in Murgab, Karakol or any village on/around the Pamir Highway.
A homestay may provide a good opportunity to meet local people and to get a feel for their way of life.
In Dushanbe we stayed at:
- The Latifa Hostel. We booked a room for 2 nights. Very basic, terrible bed (even though it seemed alright when testing it on arrival). Wifi not particularly good. Laundry a ridiculous $5 per load (will be hand washed). Nice little shady field with charpoy and a good place for a very quiet rest.
- The Green House Hostel. We truly liked this place and stayed a week. We feel it’s ridiculous to pay $10 to sleep in your own car ($5 pp) but we were in need of a place for a rest, plus the overlanding crowd there was great fun. The staff is super friendly. Laundry 10 somoni per load (7kg; self-service), WiFi is good (if not everybody is watching YouTube movies online); hot shower.
Whether wild camping or staying in hotels, iOverlander is the best overlanding resource to find places to stay. It’s a non-profit project, started and maintained by fellow overlanders. To keep this great resource for overlanders going, you can contribute in (at least) two important ways:
- Donate (you will find the donate button on the website)
- Share your own experiences of camping that add value to other overlanders (camping spots or otherwise useful points).
9- Travel Budget – Other Expenditures
I keep a journal with the above-mentioned travel-budget expenditures. All money spent minus these registered expenditures is Other Expenditures. This basically comes to money spent on groceries and eating out.
Tips, Suggestions, Feedback?
We hope you find this Tajikistan Travel Budget Guide useful. Do you have questions or your own experiences to add? Feel free to do so in the comment section below. Thanks!
Don’t forget to check out the Tajikistan Overland Travel Guide, which gives an elaborate overview of all things related to roads, roadmaps, navigation, traffic rules and traffic police, language, apps, SIM cards, WiFi, and more.
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