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VISAS AND PERMITS

 

 

Visas are required for travel to Tajikistan; in addition a special permit is required for travel to the Pamirs (Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast - GBAO) and other border areas. Additional permits are required for travel to Lake Sarez (and probably to Zorkul in the Great Pamir, although this is subject to confirmation locally). With patience and determination you can do most if not all of it yourself - or you may prefer to use a Tajik tour operator: see Tour Operators page.

IMPORTANT NOTICE - 9 JUNE 2014
ANOTHER TAJIK NONSENSE


It seems that Tajik consulates are no longer issuing GBAO permits. If true, it is hard to believe that the Tajik government is serious abnout promoting tourism as a source of foreign exchange. Does it mean that tourists can no longer travel to the Pamirs via Osh? Can tour operators and individuals no longer leave directly on arrival for the Pamirs, but must hang around for a few days in Dushanbe? Pawel Palucha's practical advice (see Update 15 October 2013 below) on getting the permit in Dushanbe is increasingly relevant.

I am verifying this but, in the meantime, some of the information below should be taken with caution. N.B. Reports just in confirm that the GBAO permit is now being issued at the Consulates in London, Vienna and Geneva. - see, for example, here.

A curious report appeared in Asia-Plus on 11 June 2014 concerning a stone-throwing incident at the British Embassy in Dushanbe, during which a small group of protesters allegedly shouted 'Pamirs' - see here.

The same article mentioned that the British Ambassador was travelling to Khorog "to get acquainted with the situation in the region in order to make recommendations for British tourists." Watch out for news here.

I apologise for the length of the following text, but the situation is not simple - Please read carefully! You may also want to check the following very useful website Caravanistan.

UPDATE - 3 June 2014

Many thanks to Huw Thomas for obtaining from the Tajik Consulate in the UK confirmation that applications for tourist visas NO LONGER need to be accompanied by an invitation letter issued by a Tajik travel agency. This is one less hassle for visitors to the Pamirs. Feed-back on your experience with different consulates will be very helpful please. Huw also asked about the GBAO permit but got no reply - perhaps they were embarrassed: N.B. In view of the reports about non-availability of GBAO permits at Tajik consulates (see above) this is a very small consolation.

UPDATE - 15 October 2013

I am indebted to Pawel Palucha for the following practical information on obtaining a GBAO permit in Dushanbe:

"a) Generally you need to go to OVIR (Department of Visa and Registration), which is situated in Dushanbe at 5 Turzunzade Street.
b) But first you need to go to the nearby AMONATBONK bank branch, which is situated at Bukhoro Street 30 - N38.57126, E068.7972. You need to fill in the short form (sometime bank workers can help you with this, you need only to write your name) and pay 25 Somoni (about 5$). You will get your form stamped.
c) With filled form you go to the OVIR and give it together with your passport to the guy in the first window on the left. He will give it back with some additional papers, you give it to another guy in the third window on the left ;-)
d) If you do it before noon, you should be told that the permit will be ready at 4 pm the same day.
No more payments are necessary; also currently you don't need to state the regions you want to visit."

UPDATE - 7 May 2011

ANOTHER NONSENSE PERPETRATED BY THE TAJIK GOVERNMENT

According to the Brussels Consulate, tourist visas are now only available to travellers with a visa support/invitation letter from a Tajik tour operator (NB see Update 3 June 2014 above). All other tourists will obtain a "Private visa" for which the cost is higher and which provides no exemption from registration with OVIR (current cost of registration more than $100, plus a fee for accelerated processing, which you can be sure will be applied). While in theory this may help cover the operating costs of Tajik consulates (and keep OVIR and Tajik travel agencies in business), it will certainly act as a disincentive for individual tourism and is plain stupid for a country that badly needs the foreign exchange that tourism can bring!

UPDATE - 25 April 2011

I give below (with my comments) a statement (as official as I could get) of the present situation.

The Tajik government decree No. 122 of 22 February 2009 provides that citizens of the following countries may apply for a tourist visa or any other visa to enter Tajikistan at Dushanbe International Airport (and Khujand) upon arrival. N.B. According to information from the Official Tajik Tourism Committee in December 2011, a double-entry visa (essential for travel from Tajikistan to Afghanistan and back) can be obtained at Dushanbe airport for travellers of these nationalities:

Europe: Austria, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Hungary, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Cyprus, Estonia, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Great Britain, Germany, Finland, France, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Andorra, Vatican, Liechtenstein, Monaco

Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, South Africa, Senegal

Americas: Argentina, Canada, Mexico, USA, Brasilia, Bolivia, Cuba, Chile

Asia: Vietnam, Brunei, Israel, China, Iran, Qatar, Japan, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Philippines, Pakistan (only diplomatic and service visa), India, (only diplomatic and service visa), Yemen, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan (only diplomatic, service, investment, free zone, transport, sportsman, artist visa), Mongolia

Oceania: Australia, New Zealand

Others: Stateless persons who are former citizens of the Republic of Tajikistan.

NO "invitation letter / visa support letter" is required for visa issue at the frontier for citizens of the above mentioned countries. A visa obtained at the airport costs 25 USD for individuals (a 50% discount is available for tourist groups) - the same price should be applicable for single- or double-entry visas. N.B. If you plan to travel to Afghanistan (or another neighbouring country) and return to Tajikistan you will need a double or multiple entry visa.

N.B. The GBAO permit cannot be obtained at the frontier and must be applied for at the Dushanbe Office of Visas and Registration (OVIR) at Mirzo Turzunzade Street 5, Tel./Fax 227 67 22 (only Russian and Tajik spoken), 8am-5pm, this formality costs 15 Somoni and should be completed in one day.

If you are planning to travel to the Pamirs, it is advisable to get your GBAO permit with your visa in advance - this will save hassle in Dushanbe.

There is officially a uniform pricing system for the issue of visas at Tajik consulates (US$25 for individuals, 50% discount for groups), all Tajik consulates are authorised to issue the GBAO permit and officially no "invitation letter / visa support letter" is required for nationals of the above-mentioned countries.

However, current policy is not consistent and hardly helps simplify the procedures, because if you read the Embassy websites carefully you will see that to benefit from the $25 (sometimes 25) visa fee you actually must obtain a visa support letter, which entails contacting a travel agency in Tajikistan and paying whatever fee they apply for this service - but see 3 June 2014 UPDATE at the top of this page.

Without a visa support letter, a one-month visa costs $65 (sometimes 65). In other words, the waiving of the requirement for a visa support letter is, at best, misleading. It is worth checking the prices and policy of each consulate on its website or by telephone - but forget the much-trumpeted reduced price: in order to avoid unnecessary hassle you will end up paying less in total by applying directly to the consulate and paying the higher fee.

If tourists are being requested to pay a visa fee at this level, it should at least include the GBAO permit - better still, the permit should be abolished - this would really show that the Tajik government was serious about promoting tourism!

Taxes and permits

The GBAO permit can cover all areas of GBAO, but this must be specifically requested in the application - to cover all possibilities, put the following on the form: Khorog, Murghab, Darwaz, Ishkashim, Vanj, Rushan. Once you are in possession of the complete GBAO permit, you can travel freely (except for Sarez and perhaps Zorkul - see below); any attempt by over-zealous or greedy officials should be resisted - self-confident bluff is a good weapon.

Apart from the GBAO permit, special permission is required for travel only for Sarez. All other areas should be covered by the GBAO permit, although it is prudent to check with the Tajik border guards or local travel agent in Khorog before travelling to Zorkul.

The Sarez permit can be obtained free of charge at the Committee for Emergency Situations at Lohuti Street in Dushanbe, opposite the Tajik Sodirot Bank. There is no fee - N.B. if you use the service of any tourist company, they will charge a fee.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Committee for Emergency Situations has recently (early 2011) closed all roads and trails to Sarez due to dangerous conditions and present inability to help trekkers and travellers in emergencies. The closure is expected to be in effect for at least the next two years. Officially, the only way to get to Sarez at the moment would be to request a Tour Operator for a helicopter. N.B. As in so many cases in Central Asia, prohibitions are subject to negotiation and it may be worth asking for a permission anyway and at least try to trek to the lake from the south coming from Bulunkul or Bachor.

There is also a fee of 10 Somoni payable on entering National Parks and other protected areas. However, beware of scams: some unscrupulous individuals pose as Park rangers at places where there is definitely no National Park and try to collect much higher fees (the National Parks and other protected areas are clearly marked on Markus Hauser's maps). Some border guards and local police may try the same trick. Ask for documentary proof that an individual is authorised to collect fees and threaten to go to the police - again, bluff is a good weapon.

Finally, beware of scams on exit from Dushanbe: some corrupt officials at the airport try to extort money from tourists claiming that they have not registered with OVIR (this is not the same thing as the GBAO permit). If they have been in the country for thirty days or less, travellers with a tourist visa (see below) are NOT required to register with OVIR. Claiming a fine from tourists on these grounds is therefore illegal and should be vigorously refused, threatening if necessary to report the official concerned to the head of airport immigration or to the Tourism Minister Mr. Lochin Faizulloev.

N.B. It is very important that you check your visa immediately on getting your passsport back from the consulate to be sure that it is indeed a tourist visa: a tourist visa is indicated by the category "T" (or cauxu, tourism in Tajik). Travellers with a private or business visa MUST still register with OVIR (see May 2011 UPDATE at the top of this page).

Addresses of some Tajik consulates:

Embassy of the Republic of Tajikistan in Brussels
Consul, Anzor Tanibekov
Boulevard General Jacques 16
1050 Ixelles
Bruxelles
Belgium
Tel : +32 (2) 640 6933
Fax : +32 (2) 649 0195
Email : taj-emb(at)dpnet.be

Embassy of the Republic of Tajikistan in Berlin
Contact Sohibnazar Gayratshoev
Perleberger Str. 43,
D-10559 Berlin
Germany
Tel : +49 (0)30 347 9300
Fax : +49 (0)30 347 93029
Email : info(at)botschaft-tadschikistan.de

Embassy of the Republic of Tajikistan in the Swiss Confederation
93 rue de la Servette
1202 Geneva, Switzerland
The Third Secretary, Rustam Oymahmadov, speaks good English
Tel. +4122 734 1140, mobile +4176 576 6116
Fax +4122 734 1158
e-mail: tajikistanmission@bluewin.ch
One-month tourist visa Euro 25 plus Euro 20 for GBAO permit - delivered in three working days - but the Embassy website contains the ominous condition that this price is for visas delivered "with Visa support letter from Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan." In other words, if you don't have an invitation letter (for which a tour agency based in Tajikistan will charge you), your tourist visa is going to cost you Euro 65 for one month! Other visas can also be obtained here.

A list of Tajik Embassies and their website links and addresses can be found here and here. A downloadable visa application form can be found here.

Loic Paulet from France reports that in July 2011 he obtained a 45-day Tajik visa with GBAO permit at the Tajik consulate in Bishkek for $75 plus 50 Kyrgyz som - the whole operation took only 15 minutes, which must be a record.

I welcome first-hand accounts by travellers of how this works in practice but as noted above, on the basis of the current information (April 2011), my best advice is to send your visa application to the Brussels consulate in good time before your departure, asking for the GBAO permit at the same time.

 

Travel via Osh


Kulma Pass to or from China

Despite official confirmation that it is possible for foreign tourists to cross the Kulma pass into or from China, it seems (19 July 2013 - see here) that this is not the case. (If anyone has done so successfully, please send me an e-mail via the link on the Home Page.)

N.B. Another scam by Tajik border guards - when going through the Kara Kul checkpoint on your way out of the Pamirs to Osh be careful to get back your immigration/landing card from the border guards. Otherwise, it has been reported, their colleagues at the exit checkpoint at Kyzylart will impose a heavy fine because you don't have it. I have written to Lochin Faizulloev, Deputy Minister of tourism on this issue asking that the persons concerned be punished as it will destroy tourism.

Karamyk Pass (Daroot Kurgan) crossing from the Alai valley in Kyrgyzstan to the Rasht valley (Garm) in Tajikistan

To the best of my knowledge, this crossing is not open for tourists. The Kyrgyz border guards have recently strengthened their presence on the Kyrgyz side to prevent drug trafficking, smuggling and terrorism. Don't even try to cross here. See reports here and here.

If anyone has relevant personal experience, please send me an e-mail via the link on the Home Page.



All text and photographs (c) Robert Middleton 2002


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