Tajikistan is not completely without it’s security concerns (it is next to Afghanistan after all). Foreign Office advice is generally on the conservative side and there is also some variation between (for instance) the UK advice and Australian advice. There is a UK Embassy in Dushanbe and no Oz embassy so I have put a link to the UK one on here.
The every day issues are:
*Being ripped off – whether it is a taxi or a hotel. Always try and get an idea of what you should be paying before you try to do something.
*Security at night time – generally in the cities it is best to not walk alone, particularly if a lone woman. There isn’t a big problem in Tajikistan but you should try to do this. Police will often approach foreigners at night time – even if it is just to tell them that they shouldn’t be walking around on their own – so there is a perception of risk.
*Conservative areas / more volatile areas – the road that splits from the M41 and runs through Garm to the Kyrgyzstan border is an area seldom visited by travellers. There are often questions about whether the border is open but communication with that border post is poor. There are reliable reports that the Tajik side will stamp out tourists even when the Kyrgyzstan side is closed – which leaves people with problems. The road passes through some beautiful areas but it is also the most conservative part of the country and there has been some recent militant activity and unrest. Generally travelers need to be careful if considering this route. There is a fair chance it may also be blacklisted by the FCO so check first – and if so be aware this may invalidate your insurance.
* Borders – tensions exist along just about every border and they are often mined. Tajikistan usually has signs where areas are mined – and they are quite obvious. However, if going off the beaten track then it would be wise to have a guide.
*Soldiers – alongside Afghanistan border and in the Pamirs. They are very young and often not very well commanded. It can be a bit intimidating and certainly at night time along the Afghan border it can feel uneasy so if there is somewhere to stay that would be advised. If travelling on your own – in a car or on a bike – it is generally a good idea to carry some cigarettes (even if you don’t smoke) as these can be used to break the ice and if you’ve been approached it is likely that is what they are after. It also common if you have your own car to be asked for a lift – by border guards, soldiers, strangers, etc. It is generally the right thing to do and expected considering the lack of transport in the area.
*Single Women – Being a lone woman can sometimes be tricky. It is advisable to ALWAYS say you are married. Have a think about a cover story if asked as to why your husband isn’t with you. It is standard for (especially western) single women to be approached by men who can be quite persistent.
*Smuggling – Tajikistan is known for being a major conduit for drugs from Afghanistan but there are also other forms of smuggling. Generally if driving at nighttime there is a chance of coming across this although it isn’t likely. However, smugglers don’t like to draw attention to themselves or cause trouble. So if you come across something suspicious then looking ignorant and moving on is the thing to do.
Tajikistan does lack infrastructure, including basic medical services. Many insurance companies do not cover Tajikistan even though it is not blacklisted. Definitely ring up beforehand and check. In addition, if visiting the Pamirs – considering the complete lack of facilities – please pack a decent first aid kit that includes altitude sickness drugs and preferably either have a Sat phone OR a Spot tracker.
Malaria – does exist in the country, particularly in the south in the Khatlon region and along the border with Afghanistan. It is not very common although not all malaria is reported. It is advised to use repellent, take malaria medication and use a mosquito net for all areas that are under 2000m.
Travellers diarrhea – you will get it! At least it is highly likely if you are in the country for more than a couple of days and especially if you eat outside of the very best restaurants in Dushanbe. Take a variety of antibiotics with you and preferably a small handy medical book for diagnosing yourself such as the one I’ve linked to below. I’ve taken this wilderness book with me on my travels and it has been a great help.
A simple precaution to avoid diarrhea / stomach problems is to take antibacterial gel and a water filter. I use the Aquapure Traveller because it is a cheap and effective backup (I’ve got it on a link on the right). A filter like this is great for long car journeys where there are lots of waterfalls but no shops and generally if hiking or getting off the main road.
Diseases – Tajikistan has plenty. Get your vaccinations and if you question whether to get the rabies jab based on the time you may spend in the country – get it anyway. There are rabid dogs and with the complete lack of medical services outside of the capital you would most definitely need the time the jab buys you to get treatment.