The greatest expenditure of an independently organized trip to Tajikistan is likely to be the transport.
Many travelers have been claiming that you have to pay for your own driver and vehicle for the Pamir Highway, and the range of costs being quoted are huge. It depends how much being truly independent is worth to you. If you can use a taxi for at least some legs of getting around the country you can save a huge amount of money. If you want to hire your own driver and car then hopefully this page will help you start making independent enquiries.
There are no rental agencies operating in Tajikistan – the roads are so bad that the vehicles would get destroyed pretty quickly. 4×4 is the best way of getting around the country.
Some of the travel agencies listed on the other page do 4×4 tours and are probably quite flexible, but to be your own boss there are not many options. As a side point, in Tajikistan when locals say they have a jeep – they just mean a generic 4×4, not the make of vehicle.
The going rate for hiring a private driver with a good 4×4 to the Pamirs is about 80c – $1
per km. It depends on the age of the vehicle and the current cost of fuel.
Taxis and Drivers
It might seem like a drag but there is a good network of 4×4 taxis crossing the country – every day running from Khujand to Dushanbe to Khorog, and from Khorog to Murghab, or to Ishkashim if you want to visit the Wakhan.
Prices that you should be able to negotiate for Dush – Khorog and Khorog – Ishkashim are mentioned below.
From Khujand to Penjikent
The going rate (in 2016) for a shared taxi from Khujand to Penjikent (eg if you were going to hike in the Zarafshan Valley) is about 100-120TJS per person in spring or summer and 130-150 in winter.
Umed Ashurov – an english speaking driver for Tajikistan tours with 6 years of experience of being English speaking guide/driver. Contact: email@example.com, tel : +992 92 835 0404. (July 2016)
From Dushanbe to Khorog
There is a turning off the main road very close to the Dushanbe Train station in which all the 4x4s and vehicles heading to Khorog accumulate in the morning. Co-ordinates 38°33’32.10″N 68°48’41.76″E .
When you arrive you will need to pick your vehicle and negotiate a rate. The majority of the vehicles are Panjero’s but if you are feeling poor you can get in one of the old Russian type buses crammed in with the locals.
The Panjero’s are comfortable – as long as you don’t get the very back seats – which could only comfortably fit a small child but they cram adults in there anyway.
The price for a seat in a Panjero from Dushanbe to Khorog should not be more than 280 Tajik Somini (in 2016). Perhaps if you get a Landcruiser or Prado and bit more space you might be looking at 300Tjs. The exchange rate in Dushanbe is about 7.5Tjs = $1
To grab your spot in a 4×4 you need to get to this place EARLY. Preferably before 8am. The 4×4 will only leave when all seats are taken and if you arrive late there may not be enough people to fill remaining vehicles. The journey should take about 15hrs and the driver will stop for meals. (See photo below for Dushanbe). The only note of caution here is that drivers often work till exhaustion and once getting to Khorog or Dushanbe will pick up people for a return trip. Trips can take much longer as a driver may need a power nap in the middle and obviously it can be unnerving having a sleepy driver on mountain roads.
The alternative way of getting to Khorog would be to take the flight from Dushanbe – it certainly will save you a lot of time and will probably scare the pants off you. The downside to flying would just be missing rather a lot of beautiful scenery and driving along side Afghanistan.
From Khorog to Ishkashim (Wakhan)
The taxi will drop you off at the Market place in Khorog. This place starts coming alive between 6-7 and taxi’s back to Dushanbe, Murghab and other destinations start rolling in. However, to get your next ride to Ishkashim you need to walk to the back of the market, cross the bridge, follow the path about 100meters and you should find in front of you a couple of marshrutkas -(little Chinese minibuses) heading in that direction. A seat costs 25Tjs and it takes 2-3hours to get to Ishkashim. Iskashim is actually after the border point for crossing into Afghanistan – by about 3 kilometers so keep your eyes open and you will spot the bridge.
If you are looking for a company who offer english speaking guides and drivers in the Pamir/Khorog region then be advised to check out a company called Pamir Voyage, they have good reviews and have been going since 2004. Alim Dorgabekov is the guide and driver, has a degree in hospitality and a long experience working with foreign tourists. Lives in Khorog. Speaks perfect English/Russian/Tajik/Shugni. The car is a Mitsubishi Pajero IO. The rate is 0.75 USD per km (negotiable) and $20 per day for the driver/guide.