Turkmenistan remains off-limits. Things are improving in the other Stans, but crossing land borders remains a problem in some cases. This is on the one hand due to Covid restrictions, on the other hand due to long-running tensions that have flared up again. Especially Pamir will remain difficult to visit in the near future.
In general, the situation remains confusing due to a lack of information.
GBAO government crackdown & Ukraine war
If you need an e-visa, at the moment, do not ask for the GBAO permit to be included. If you do, you will automatically get rejected. You can obtain the GBAO permit on arrival at OVIR (if visits are possible).
If you have questions about the war in Ukraine and how it might affect your trip to Central Asia, please see the War in Ukraine FAQ.
COVID-19 in Central Asia
In the years since March 2020, the Covid debate in Central Asia has been dominated by misinformation and distrust. Death and severe illness have hit every family, but not everyone will agree that it was Covid.
Most people in the region do not want to get vaccinated. Kazakhstan has the largest uptake of vaccines so far, but vaccine refusal remains the standard opinion across Central Asia.
If you plan to travel in Central Asia, you should be ok with the fact that locals do not wear masks, don’t keep a distance and will not believe any fact-based opinions. Covid is a topic of discussion that falls in the bucket of religion and politics – discuss at your own risk.
You are welcome to send in any news in this forum thread. Be aware that the situation will continue shifting, so double-check before you go, and stay flexible.
From time to time governments say that new arrivals need to go into quarantine. Quarantine has never been enforced in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan or Kazakhstan with a few brief exceptions.
Tthey might say you have to at the airport, but nobody checks and in reality everybody just goes about their business. There is no quarantine.
From May 1, 2022, no need for vaccination or PCR test anymore when entering Kyrgyzstan. This has been confirmed by travelers. Previously, you could only fly in, but land borders are open as well, although that comes with certain restrictions and a level of confusion (see below).
Despite the Kyrgyz government’s claim that foreigners are welcome again, since June 2021 travelers have reported that their e-visa applications have been pending, not being refused or accepted. In July 2021, travelers have been getting more responses from the authorities regarding their applications, but no success in getting visas yet.
Coming to Kyrgyzstan is fine if you don’t need an e-visa, but if you do, it is uncertain if you can get in.
Comments welcome in this forum thread.
On March 15, 2021, Uzbekistan made entry much easier: Uzbekistan had no sharp restrictions on entry into the country anymore. Which was great news for those who are visa-free. If you need a visa, however, it’s a headache to get into Uzbekistan at the moment.
The latest reports from April 2022 and beyond indicate no PCR test or vaccine certificate is needed anymore to enter Uzbekistan. This forum thread gathers opinions and reports.
If you need a PCR test to fly out of Uzbekistan to your next destination (the Uzbeks no longer require it), here are some possible labs you can use.
The land border with Kyrgyzstan has reopened, see below. Borders with Tajikistan have reopened as well (but not all, situation is unstable). PCR test situation also unstable at land borders: some require, some don’t.
The e-visa situation has been a headache since COVID started, and it’s still a terrible mess. Many people cannot get it. Keep this in mind before you start booking flights. And don’t trust anything you read, including this.
Short history: the e-visa website was not operational for a long time. It is online again now, but so far all reports we have gotten are of a very buggy process. Recently, a few people have managed to get one through sheer power of will. The latest: not issuing anymore…
What this all means is that the most likely, or at least most reliable route to getting a visa for Uzbekistan is through the Uzbek embassy in your country.
Travelers can fly in to Tajikistan through Dushanbe Airport via Turkish Airlines and flyDubai. Although traveler anecdotes suggest you are no longer asked for a PCR test or a proof of vaccination, airlines might still ask for one.
If in need of a PCR test when leaving Tajikistan, a list of laboratories offering tests is in this forum thread.
E-visa and visa-free
After a period when e-visas were not being issued, or with a delay of several months, it seems like e-visas are being given again. However, many people are getting rejected. We do not understand why completely, but it’s best at the moment to not ask for the GBAO permit to be included. If you do, you will automatically get rejected, it seems. You can obtain the GBAO permit on arrival at OVIR (if visits are possible). .
If you have been rejected or your application is stuck in the system for weeks, we can still get a visa for you if you book a tour through us. Send us a message if you want one. Turnaround is quick. Otherwise, visa on arrival is also an option if you fly in.
Tajikistan has gone visa-free for more than 50 countries since 2022, so you might not need an e-visa anymore.
All Covid restrictions in Kazakhstan have been removed since June 8, 2022.
Questions and updates are welcome in the Kazakhstan corona travel restrictions forum thread.
Turkmenistan is completely closed for visitors with no date in sight to reopen. Please don’t ask us if we think it is going to reopen anytime soon. We don’t know. Nobody knows. But here is our prediction anyway.
The country is suffering heavily from mismanagement over the past 3 decades. Besides the Covid health crisis, many people are now going hungry in Turkmenistan, and long lines form in front of shops to acquire staple foods like flour and oil, while beggars and poor people are being pushed into state slavery.
Iran reopened for tourists in late October 2021. You need a PCR test to enter the country, a vaccination certificate is not enough. Land borders were closed again for at least 15 days on December 25th 2021, but have now reopened.
You need to go through a travel agency to get the e-visa in the old-fashioned way.
Questions and updates about pandemic travel in Iran are welcome here.
The Taliban have promised not to hinder tourism to show the world that they are a reliable partner. We will leave it up to you to decide how much faith you put in that statement. However, in 2022 our partner for trekking in the Wakhan is planning to run tours, if the situation stays calm until summer.
Other Silk Road countries
Kyrgyzstan – Tajikistan
The Kyrgyz-Tajik border at Bor Dobo between Sary Tash and Murghab remains closed. It was open for a few lucky cyclists in 2021. But now it is closed again. With the crackdown in the Pamirs underway and the beef between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan nowhere near settled, do not expect it to open soon. Latest updates here.
The Isfara – Batken border is also closed for foreigners.
Kyrgyzstan – Kazakhstan
Borders between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan have reopened for foreigners since April 2022.
Kyrgyzstan – Uzbekistan
The Dostyk border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan is open. No PCR tests or vaccine cards needed. Updates in this forum post.
In 2020, Kyrgyzstan instated a rule that only the following nationalities could cross the Dostyk border. We are not sure about this strange rule: is it still valid?
10. United Kingdom
27. South Korea
On 21 July 2021, a Facebook post from the Kyrgyz Department of Tourism said that more countries could cross by land. Your experiences are welcome.
- Northern Macedonia
- The Netherlands
- Czech Republic
- United States
- San Marino
- Saudi Arabia
Uzbekistan – Tajikistan
At a meeting between Emomoli Rahmon and Shavkat Mirziyoyev they announced that the Sarezm border (Panjakent-Samarkand) would be opening 15 June 2021. This was confirmed, and the Oybek (Khujand-Tashkent) border was also confirmed to be open for tourists.
In September 2021, we read that these borders closed again. One tourist still managed to get through with considerable hassle. Another couple breezed through without problems. Latest report: seems to be ok.
Other sources of information
It’s good to double-check. Things change rapidly and we are not always the first to know about it. Your first port of call should be the following general English-language resources: