Transport in Pamir
Getting There & Around - The major transport options for the 728km Pamir Hwy between Khorog and Osh are hitching on Chinese trucks, renting a 4WD with driver or cramming in the occasional minibus.
Minibus - There are daily-ish minibuses between Murgab and Khorog and, less frequently, between Osh and Murgab. In Kyrgyzstan daily public buses run from Osh to Sary Tash. From Khorog, minivans and shared 4WDs shuttle to villages in the surrounding valleys such as Jelandy, Ishkashim, Rushan, Langar and Roshtqala, though the timings generally require an overnight stay.
Car Hire - Hiring a private vehicle (normally a Russian UAZ jeep but possibly a Lada Niva) and a driver is relatively expensive, but gives you a flexibility that you will value on this scenic and fascinating trip. Please note that the transport rates listed in this section will doubtless change over time. The availability and cost of fuel is a significant factor in the cost of transport (prices generally rise in autumn, when supplies are scarcer), but what really counts is whether you have to pay for the vehicle’s return trip; this essentially doubles the cost.
To shave costs from Osh you could take a shared taxi to Sary Tash in Kyrgyzstan and arrange for a META 4WD to pick you up there.
Hiring a 4WD independently may cost less than going through an agency but you’ll need to negotiate hard and speak decent Russian. Generally speaking, car hire is cheaper in Murgab than in Khorog. Make sure any rate includes petrol, vehicle maintenance and the driver’s pay, food and accommodation. Give the vehicle the once-over, check that the 4WD is operational and, if coming from Osh, check that the driver has a GBAO permit.
As a rough guide, a Russian UAZ jeep needs around 20L of petrol per 100km, which works out at around US$0.20 per km for the petrol alone. Lada Nivas use around 10L per 100km so are generally cheaper, though the spiffier Chrysler Nivas cost more. The main problem with Russian jeeps is the limited visibility from the back seat. Finding petrol can be a problem in the Pamirs. A trip into remoter corners of the region generally involves at least one dash around town to find a obliging local with a jerry can of diluted fuel and a bucket.
Hitching - Traffic is light along the Pamir Hwy and hitching is hard work. The main commercial vehicles these days are the Chinese trucks which shuttle between the Qolma Pass, Murgab and a terminal 30km east of Khorog. It helps if you speak a few words of Chinese. If you break a journey you could end up waiting a long time for another ride. Controls at checkpoints are particularly tedious for trucks. Hitching from Osh is possible but finding a ride from Sary Tash to Murgab is problematic, as most vehicles are full by the time they get here.