Transport in Dushanbe
AIR - The first commercial flight arrived in Dushanbe from Bukhara in 1924, and a proper airport opened just five years later. Today the vast majority of Tajikistan's visitors arrive by air, filing their way through the 1960s buildings and bemoaning the lack of facilities; we assure you, surviving 18 hours sleeping and playing cards in a staff-only corridor due to the absence of any form of transit lounge is not something we'd recommend. A brand-new terminal was under construction at the time of going to press, however, and it is expected to open during the lifespan of this edition, significantly improving the experience for all airline passengers.
It should be noted that, due to weather conditions in the surrounding mountains, it is not always possible for flights to land in Dushanbe. Delays and cancellations are common, and it is also not unheard of for planes to route via Almaty and then return to Dushanbe once conditions improve. Allow plenty of time and keep your sense of humour.
Dushanbe airport (www.airport.tj) is within easy walking distance of the city centre, and in good weather (and without too much luggage) it is a pleasant stroll. Most hotels will arrange an airport pick-up for around US$15, unless you're staying at the Hyatt, in which case you'll pay an excessive US$40. The usual crowd of taxi drivers await outside the arrivals terminal and, after haggling, will usually deliver you to your destination of choice for TJS20-30. For those on a budget, buses 1, 8 and 12 run from the airport and along the length of Rudaki for TJS1.
Tajik Air theoretically has flights to Garm, Penjikent, Ayni, Isfara, Vanj (Vanch) and Kulyab, most of them in winter only. In practice the only reliable regular services are to Khojand (US$65, three daily) and Khorog (US$80,daily). To try for a ticket on the 8am flight to Khorog, visit the airport ticket office the afternoon before, or turn up around 6am on the day of the flight. Flights are grounded at the first sign of bad weather. Tajik Air has three flights weekly to Bishkek (US$200) and Almaty (US$188) but none to Ashgabat or Tashkent. Nissor Muhammed (former Chekhov) street is lined with aviakassa (travel agencies).
Airline Offices - Air Baltic (Lokhuti 16; working hours 9am-noon, 1-5pm Mon-Fri) Represented by GlobalTrans; you’re better off buying tickets online.
Ariana Afghan Airlines (Rudaki 7; working hours 8am-3.30pm Mon-Sat) Located in the lobby of Hotel Poytaht. Weekly flight to Kabul (US$160, cash only). Confirm any booking as soon as you arrive in Dushanbe.
China Southern (Rudaki 98; working hours 9am-5pm Mon-Fri) Weekly to Urumqi.
Iran Aseman Airlines (corner Ayni & Adkhamov; working hours 8.30am-1pm & 2-5pm Mon-Wed & Fri, 8.30am-noon Thu, 8.30am-2pm Sat) Weekly to Mashhad.
Somon Air (Nissor Muhammed; working hours 8am-7pm Mon-Sat, closed Sun) Flies to Khojand, plus international flights.
Tajik Air (Nissor Muhammed 5, corner Lokhuti; working hours 8am-6pm).
Turkish Airlines ([email protected]; Vefa Centre, Bokhtar 37/1; working hours 8.30am-5.30pm Mon-Fri, 9am-3pm Sat) Popular twice-weekly flight to Istanbul.
RAIL Dushanbe's main railway station (Zheleznodorozhny vokzal) is situated at the south end of Rudaki, just past the junction with Aini. There are only a few routes in regular operation and the equivalent bus journeys are typically faster, cheaper and more comfortable. Determined train lovers can reach Kulob (Thursday and Saturday), Kurgonteppa (Thursday) or Gissar (daily). The 330 train runs from Moscow to Dushanbe on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays (from TJS1,005), but at four days and six hours in duration it is not a journey for the fainthearted. You will require a visa for every country en route.
If you are passing by the railway station, do stop to take a look at the stained-glass window, which was made in the Soviet Realist style and depicts the great and glorious communist workers.
ROAD Dushanbe has a number of official and unofficial bus stations, and the one you require will depend on your destination. The main bus station (autovokzal) is 3km west of the city centre at the junction of Abuali ibn Sino and M Sheralizade. You can get there from Ismoili Somoni by taking bus 18 or 29 (TJS1). Long-distance buses leave here for destinations in southern Tajikistan including Kurgonteppa (TJS20) and Kulyob (TJS25).
If you're travelling to Khorog or Qal'ai Khumb (Darvaz), you need the Badakhshan bus station (avtostansiya) near the aiport on the corner of Aini and Ahmad Donish. Minibuses 1 and 8 will get you there from the town centre. Only minibuses and shared taxis operate this route, and all vehicles depart early in the morning to maximise the hours of daylight on the road. Try to reserve a seat the day beforehand. Getting to Qal'ai Khumb takes around 12 hours and costs TJS120; the ride to Khorog is 16 hours and costs TJS220. This route is prone to rock falls and resulting delays, particularly in the spring, and consequently many people prefer to fly.
Minibus & Shared Taxi - Frequent minibuses to Varzob (2TJS) and Takob (3TJS), and irregular taxis to Khoja Obi Garm depart from the bus stand west of the Vadonasos (Varzob) Bazaar in the north of town. Shared taxis to Penjikent (8 hours, TJS120), Ayni (4 hours, TJS60), Istaravshan and Khojand (8 hours, TJS150) leave in the morning from the Tsementzavod (Cement Factory) stand in the north of town. Take bus 3 (TJS1) to get here from Rudaki. A seat to Khojand or Penjikent costs anywhere from 100TJS to 120TJS, depending on the car and the price of fuel, and takes about eight hours. Choose your car with care as there are some real rattletraps out there. Take minibus 24 or bus 3 here from along Rudaki or from near the Vadonasos (Varzob) Bazaar. Minibuses making the short run to Varzob (TJS4) and Takob (TJS3) leave from Varzob Bazaar stand.
UAZ minibuses and 4WDs to Khorog (180TJS to 220TJS, 14 to 16 hours, 555km) and Kala-i Khum (120TJS) leave early in the morning from the Badakshanskaya avtostansiya (Badakhshan bus stand) transport yard on Ahmad Donish (the road to the airport), near the railway bridge. Minibuses 1 and 8 pass here. Visit the day before to score a front seat and expect to hang around for hours for the vehicle to fill up.
Routes to southern Tajikistan (Kurgonteppa, Kulyab and as far down as Shahr-i Tuz, Dusti and Pyanj) leave in the morning from the main bus station in the western suburbs, 3km from the centre, though some services also leave from the Sahowat Bazaar in the 63rd mikrorayon (microregion) in the southwestern suburbs. Bus 29 and 18 run to the main bus station from Ismoili Somoni, or take a taxi (7TJS); bus 18 continues to Sahowat Bazaar.
Getting around Dushanbe - Dushanbe is unusual amongst Soviet capitals in that it is small enough to explore almost everywhere on foot: only the remotest microdistricts genuinely justify a cab ride. Pavements are broad, most things are easy to find and you'll be able to properly appreciate the numerous green spaces, statues and intriguing pieces of architecture that punctuate the city.
Buses (50 to 60 dirham) and private minibuses (1TJS) buzz around town. Bus/minibus 3 and trolleybus 1 shuttle up and down Rudaki, stopping frequently; others such as bus 18, trolleybus 11 and minibuses 8 and 22 turn west along Ismoili Somoni. Faster shared taxis (2TJS per seat) also run the popular routes; look for the numbered sign stuck furtively in the front window.
The airport is a quick ride on buses 2, 8 or 12, all caught along Rudaki and marked. Trolleybus 4 runs here from Ayni. A taxi will cost 10TJS to 15TJS, a little more in the middle of the night. To order a cab.