Due to the mountainous terrain in Tajikistan, the difficult relations with Uzbekistan and the underfunding of the national train company, taking the train in Tajikistan is not popular. It’s scenic, but very slow. The Tajik board of tourism also warns travelers to “sit with their back to the engine, as throwing rocks at the windows of passing trains seems to be a popular pastime among local children.” However, this shouldn’t stop you from taking a local train, where plenty of opportunity exists for a friendly chat with the locals and relaxed sight-seeing.
For general information about what to expect on a train journey in Tajikistan, check the page on trains in Central Asia, which includes the Central Asian rail network map for route planning and more information on timetables.
About railways in Tajikistan: two separate networks exist that are not connected to each other. The northern network joins Khojand with Uzbekistan, and a southern network spreads from Dushanbe to Kulob, Qurgonteppa, to southern Uzbekistan and to the border with Afghanistan at Nizhnij Pyanj. All international trains from Dushanbe go south to Termez in Uzbekistan, before climbing up again.
Dushanbe – Khojand – Konibodom: Train 367 & 368 have stopped running since March 2011. It became unprofitable since the new Dushanbe – Khojand highway opened. By car it now takes 5 to 8 hours, while the train route took 32 hours in the past, including a part in Uzbekistan. There has been talk about a new, straighter Dushanbe – Tursunzode – Khujand, but we’re not holding our breath.
Dushanbe – Moscow: The train is filled with Tajik migrant workers on their way to try their luck in Moscow. A great videoreport about their experiences was made by 2 journalists of Radio Free Europe. For non-CIS-passport holders, this train is not the best idea, since you will need a Russian visa, a Kazakh transit visa, a double-entry Uzbek visa and a Tajik visa to complete this journey.
If you’re still interested, the train leaves Moscow Kazanskaia station at 12.08 and arrives in Dushanbe at 16.14 5 days later. From Dushanbe, it leaves at 3.51 am and arrives at Moscow Kazanskaia 3.28 am.
Khojand – Samarkand – Saratov: Train 335 departs from Khojand in Tajikistan at 20.03 and arrives in Samarkand, Uzbekistan at 3.35 3 times a week. In the other direction, it leaves Samarkand at 6.46 and arrives in Khojand around 15.00. The schedule seems to be (couldn’t find out for sure): Monday, Thursday and Saturday departure from Khojand, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday departure from Samarkand.
Domestic routes: There is very little demand and very little information about domestic routes, but have a look at the Central Asia railway map, there are definitely places to go in the South. Shaartuz – Qorghanteppa takes around 3,5 hours for instance. Go for it, and let us know how it was.