Dangers & Annoyances - Tajikistan is a generally safe travel destination. Don’t drink the tap water in Dushanbe, as there are occasional water-spread typhoid outbreaks. The remote mountain passes between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have been landmined, as have parts of the Pyanj River banks that form the border with Afghanistan, so don’t go for a stroll in these areas. If you’re going to be travelling the Pamir Hwy, particularly if you are headed from Osh to Karakul or Murgab in one day, there are serious risks associated with altitude sickness for more information). A few lone cyclists (particularly women) have been hassled or assaulted while pedalling the remote border roads between Dushanbe and Khorog. Southern Tajikistan has a malaria risk along the Afghan border and along the lower Vakhsh Valley as far north as Kurgonteppa.
Festivals & Events - Eid-e Qurban and Ramadan are celebrated in Tajikistan. Ismaili communities in Badakhshan celebrate
24 March as Ruz-i-Nur, the Day of Lights, celebrating the first visit of the Aga Khan in 1995, as well as 11 July, the Aga Khan’s birthday (Day of the Imam). With its links to a Persian past, Navrus is the year’s biggest festival and you are likely to see song and dance performances, and even buzkashi (a polo-like game), during this time (the latter most easily seen at Hissar).
July sees the annual Roof of the World festival in Khorog, which features music, singing and dance from across the region. The third weekend in July has a horse festival in Murgab, part of Kyrgyzstan’s At Chabysh festival, aimed at reinvigorating horse traditions among the Pamiri Kyrgyz. Expect horse races, Manas recitals and plenty of kymys (fermented mare’s milk).
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
27 June Day of National Unity and Accord
9 September Independence Day
6 November Constitution Day
Internet Access - Internet cafes are widespread in Dushanbe and Khojand, and cost around 5TJS per hour. Khorog has some internet access and you might get online in Murgab.
Money - The Tajik somani (TJS) is divided into 100 dirham. Somani notes come in 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 denominations. Dirham come in coins and notes. You’ll find a credit card and cash the most practical ways to carry your money, especially if you are headed into the Pamirs. Cash in US dollars, euros and Russian roubles are easily changed at numerous exchange booths. There is no black market for currency transactions. In Dushanbe, Khojand and Khorog you can access ATMs but at the time of research it was still impossible to cash travellers cheques. Both Uzbek and Kyrgyz som are accepted in border areas.
Post - Tajikistan’s postal service is ropey and it’s not uncommon for mail to take a month or more to reach its destination, if it arrives at all. An international letter/postcard up to 20g costs around 2.15/1.35TJS to all countries except Russia. A package up to 1kg/2kg costs a pricey 83/120TJS. Rates to Russia are half this. Couriers are the only reliable way to send important documents, though they charge up to US$70 for a 500g package. DHL has offices in Dushanbe and Khojand.
Telephone - To call internationally (including to other Central Asian republics) dial #10, followed by the country code, the area code (without the 0) and the number. International rates are around US$1 per minute. Cheaper are the Internet Phone (IP) cards sold at telecom offices, with per minute costs as low as US$0.05. Buy a card, dial #009, then the card’s pin number, #8-11 and then your number. Most internet cafes in Dushanbe and Khojand offer headsets, webcams and Skype software for around 5TJS per hour. Dual-band GSM phones work in Tajikistan. Mobile network providers include MLT (www.mlt.tj), the Tajik-American joint venture Indigo (www.indigo.tj), Beeline (www.beeline.tj) and Babilon-M (www.babilon-m.com); websites are in Russian only. Indigo supposedly has roaming agreements with Cingular, O2 and Vodafone, and Babilon-M has similar arrangements with T-Mobile and Bell Wireless. There are dozens of places in Dushanbe (with a concentration around TsUM) where you can buy a SIM card for your phone. Cards cost around 180TJS, which includes 150 minutes of local calls and free incoming calls for a month.