Trans Eurasia travel

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Land Border Crossings

To/From Afghanistan - Reaching Tajikistan from Afghanistan tends to be fairly straightforward, as diplomatic relations between the two countries are generally good. The two main border crossings are between Kunduz and Dusti at Panj-i Poen (Khation province), and at Ishkashim on the northern side of the Wakhan Corridor. To enter Tajikistan at Ishkashim you will require a GBAO permit in addition to your Tajik visa. Pedestrians can also cross the suspension bridge over the Panj at Khorog and, if you have a transit visa for Uzbekistan, it would also be convenient (and a relatively quick drive) to cross from Afghanistan into Uzbekistan at Termiz, then cross into Tajikistan at Denau.

These borders loosely operate 09.00-16.00 and are officially closed on Sundays and public holidays. If your arrival happens to coincide with lunch you'll have to wait, but any food, drink (non-alcoholic if you're on the Afghan side) or cigarettes you have to share will certainly liven the experience. If you are entering Tajikistan, expect your baggage and vehicle to be thoroughly searched by customs. They are looking for narcotics.

It’s possible to travel between Dushanbe and Kunduz (Afghanistan) in a long day but check the security situation in Kunduz before making this trip as it was a centre of insurgency at the time of research. The main and easiest crossing is at Panj-e-Payon (formerly Nizhniy Panj) in the south; don’t confuse this with the town of Pyanj (or Pyanzh), 75km further east. To get to Panj-e-Payon take a shared taxi or, alternatively, a minibus to Dusti (six hours) from Dushanbe or Kurgonteppa (Kurgan-Tyube) and then a taxi 27km to the border. A taxi between Dushanbe’s Sahowat Bazaar and the border costs around US$50, or US$15 per seat if sharing. After Tajik immigration and customs checks, cross the US-funded bridge and take a bus (US$1) 1km to the Afghan border controls at Shir Khan Bandar. After another short transfer, you’ll find transport (taxi 80Afg, one hour) running from here to Kunduz. Travellers report that the border is closed on Sunday. The crossing at Ishkashim in Badakhshan is one of the wildest entries into ex-Soviet Central Asia. You will need to show a GBAO permit to enter Tajikistan here so make sure you get one of these when you get your visa. The crossing is open from 8am to 4pm but closed lunchtime, Sunday and public holidays. The Afghan village of Ishkashim is 4km (and about four centuries) uphill from the border crossing and you’ll have to arrange private transport or walk, as there’s little transport at the border. Tajik immigration may try to charge you a bogus US$10 for your entry declaration form. There’s a daily minibus between Afghan Ishkashim and Faizabad (eight hours) via Baharak. Locals advise not stopping at Varduj for security reasons.  A bridge over the Pyanj River at Khorog connects the Afghan and Tajik sides of Badakhshan at the Sheghnan crossing (closed Sunday) to offer 4WD access to remote Lake Shiva but you will need to have transport prearranged on the Afghan side. The region is snowbound from October to June and roads are often washed out in early summer.

To/From China - Tajikistan does share a border with China, and a road links Murgab with the incredible Karakoram Highway. A road exists from Murgab over the 4362m Qolma Pass to the Karakoram Hwy in Xinjiang north of Tashkurgan. The border is open to Chinese and Tajiks but currently not open to foreigners, though rumours persist that this may change in the future. If the pass does open, you’ll have to find a way through the 7km of no-man’s-land between customs posts. The border is currently only open 15 days per month but again this is expected to change.

To/From Kyrgyzstan - Until recently, the border crossing at the Kyzyl-Art pass south of Sary Tash was the only place where foreigners could easily enter Tajikistan from Kyrgyzstan. Though a photogenic spot, this necessitated a drive the whole length of the Pamir Highway if you wanted to reach Dushanbe or the west of the country. The situation has improved, and you can now also enter at Karamyk, from where it is a straight run along the Rasht Valley to the capital.

If you are travelling to or from Sughd, it is also possible to cross the border between Isfara and Batken. This gets you neatly into Kyrygzstan, but you are then more or less stuck unless you have an Uzbek visa too, as the road onwards to Osh skirts through an Uzbek enclave. The alternative is to find an amenable taxi driver to detour around the checkposts.

From the Pamir Alay Valley you can cross into Tajikistan just north of the Kyzyl-Art Pass. The Kyrgyz authorities sometimes don’t stamp your passport when you enter Kyrgyzstan here at Bor Dobo, so keep some evidence that indicates when you arrived in Kyrgyzstan. The border crossing into the Garm region at Karamyk between Daroot-Korgon and Jirgital is closed to foreigners. From Khojand you need to get to Isfara (not Isfana, which is in Kyrgyzstan) and then take a shared taxi or bus across the border to Batken. Onward transport to Osh normally travels through the Uzbek enclave of Sokh and this creates visa headaches if you don’t have multiple-entry Uzbek and Kyrgyz visas. (One way to avoid this is to pay a taxi driver extra to detour around the checkposts). If you are headed directly to Osh from Khojand and have an Uzbek visa it’s easiest to just take taxis through the Uzbek Fergana Valley to Kokand, Andijon and the border at Dostyk.

To/From Uzbekistan - Relations with Uzbekistan are a little more unpredictable, and sometimes the most useful border between the two countries, the crossing between Samarkand and Penjikent, can be closed.  The Tursunzoda-Denau crossing west of Dushanbe remains open, and this is currently the best option if you are going to or from anywhere other than Tashkent and the northeast of Uzbekistan. It is well served by minibuses running in both directions, and providing you're not stuck behind a busload of returning migrant workers carrying all their worldly possessions, processing is fairly quick.

Travelling to or from Tashkent you need the Oybek crossing 60km north of Khujand. The closest settlement on the Tajik side is the town of Buston. This crossing is open 24/7 for foreigners (locals have to camp out at the gates if they arrive at night) and it is relatively well organised on the Tajik side. Uzbek customs are utterly paranoid, want to X-ray every last sock and allow their admittedly very cute sniffer dog (a spaniel) to jump over everything.

The border crossing at Bekhobod, just to the south of Oybek, is currently closed to foreigners.

You can cross to the Fergana Valley from Konibodom, northwest of Isfara. This border is little used by foreigners and onward transport is poor; try to arrange a taxi to meet you on the Uzbek side.

Most travellers making a beeline between Tashkent and Dushanbe drive to Khojand and then take a domestic flight (US$65). It’s also possible to drive via Samarkand and Penjikent, or even fly to Termiz and then drive to Dushanbe. From Dushanbe the closest border crossing is 55km west of the capital, near Tursanzade/Regar, crossing to Denau. Taxis from Dushanbe’s Zarnisar Bazaar to the border cost 8TJS per seat (1,5 hours), or take a bus to Tursanzade (3.50TJS) from the main bus station. En route you pass the huge aluminium factory, the world’s third largest, which allegedly sucks up three-quarters of the nation’s entire electricity supply. At the border, minibuses run to Denau, where you may find a shared taxi direct to Samarkand, or take one of three local trains to Termiz from the Uzbek border town of Sariosiyo. From Khojand there are two main border crossings; Oybek in the northwest for Tashkent, and Kanibadam in the northeast for Kokand and the Fergana Valley. From Tashkent’s Kuyluk Bazaar get a bus headed to Bekabad (note that foreigners cannot currently cross at Bekabad) and get off at Oybek (90 minutes), near Chanak village. The border post is visible from the road. Once across the border take a taxi to Khojand or a taxi to nearby Buston and then a minibus to Khojand. From Khojand to Tashkent it’s easiest to take a taxi to the Oybek border post, cross and then take an Uzbek taxi onwards. For a marshrutka to Tashkent, walk a short way to the main crossroads. For Kokand and the Fergana Valley take a bus to Kanibodom, passing the massive Kairakum Reservoir en route, and then a minibus 9km to the border, cross the border by foot and then take multiple onward minibuses in Uzbekistan from Tamozhnaya to Besh Aryk (Beshariq) and then Kokand. You’ll save a lot of time by taking a taxi direct from the border to Kokand. It’s easy to travel between Samarkand and Penjikent through a combination of minibuses and taxis. Shared taxis run from opposite the Penjikent bazaar 22km to the border (30 minutes), from where there are plenty of shared taxis on to Samarkand (a further 48km). The whole trip takes less than two hours. Change your Tajik somani into Uzbek som in the Penjikent bazaar.