Tajikistan – Is It Safe?

Family home – near Rang-kul, Tajikistan

Family home – near Rang-kul, Tajikistan

Tajikistan is safe in terms of security issues, despite its proximity to Afghanistan. There has been unrest due to local protests in Khorog in 2012, and as a result that town was closed to tourists. This posed no physical danger to foreigners, but it obviously an caused enormous amount of frustration for those wanting to visit the Pamir Mountains (the Pamirs).  The welcome in Tajikistan is warm and genuine, and since tourists are still an uncommon site you will often be approached by curious locals. Despite it being safe with regard to security, there are three other aspects to be considered by any visitor.

Police corruption in endemic in the west of the country, but not so in the eastern Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) region. Police “checkpoints” in the west are merely opportunities to stop every driver to obtain bribes (something to remember if in your own vehicle) and police in Dushanbe will try all manner of reasons to “fine” foreigners (for me it was stepping on a portion of grass). Be prepared for this, and be ready to confront the challenge if it comes your way.

The roads in some parts of the country are perilous – negative camber corners, winding roads overlooking precipices but with no-guard rails, landslides, rockfalls, fording swollen creeks and navigating through cattle. Avoid driving at night, and be careful taking shared taxis that insist on doing so. These drivers usually will drive for 12+ hours a day, and will continue to do so into the evening.  Considering the roads, I would dissuade people from taking chances on such roads with a driver who has already been behind the wheel for more than half a day.

Altitude sickness can occur if one ascends too quickly, and it is characterised by symptoms including nausea, dizziness, fatigue and headache.  This is most likely to occur in the Pamirs, where you will often be travelling at altitudes greater than 4000 metres.  The best way to avoid such sickness is to ascend more slowly which is not only beneficial healthwise, but also enables you to enjoy more of the stunning scenery along the way. If you do suffer symptoms you should either remain at the same altitude for a while or descend to lower levels.

If you wish to visit Tajikistan, it is important to read the following information:

Lonely Planet  Tripadvisor  UK FCO