A few years ago we still wrote here that accommodation in Tajikistan was not a good deal. A lot has changed since then. Decent mid-range options have cropped up in Dushanbe and Khorog, as well as a bevy of hostels.
In the countryside, homestays are basic. Backpackers might scoff at paying 10$ for a basic bed and an outdoor toilet, but Tajikistan is an expensive country and, believe us, no one is milking you: these people really do need the money to survive.
For general tips on toilets, hospitality, breakfast and a selection of top places to stay on the Silk Road, see the overview page.
For an overview of accommodation in Dushanbe, see our Dushanbe accommodation guide.
Western-style toilets are generally hard to find in Tajikistan outside of hotels and the nicer homestays. Keep it in mind if you have knee problems.
Also, bring your own toilet paper.
Couchsurfing & people inviting you in
Couchsurfing is a possibility in Tajikistan, but few hosts are available, and most are single men, which complicates things for female travelers. Keep in mind that if your host is Tajik, they will be very eager to socialise, even if you are tired from traveling.
Outside of your host’s home, you should probably pay for transportation and food, unless they are well-off. Tajik hosts’ insistence that they will pay might be a part of tarof.
People are often found to be very hospitable in Tajikistan, and many travelers have found themselves invited in to stay the night. Or have they? It’s tarof!
Tarof governs the rules of hospitality: a host is obliged to offer anything a guest might want, and a guest is equally obliged to refuse it. This ritual may repeat itself several times (3 times minimum) before the host and guest finally determine whether the host’s offer and the guest’s refusal are real or simply polite.
If you accept on the first go, you might have saddled your host with an unwanted guest and an extra mouth to feed. So make sure the offer is genuine.
In rural Tajikistan, and especially in the Pamirs, food security is an issue. But when you offer to pay your way, all money is refused. Pamir experts advise you should try to give money anyway: tuck it in the hands of a child, stuff it under a pillow, fold it in an envelope. A family might go hungry for days proudly feeding an unsuspecting cyclist or hitchhiker.
Of course, you could say, that is their problem: they invited me in, it’s their own fault they don’t want to accept payment. You would also have a point: giving beyond your means is indeed part of tarof, and compensating their proud hunger with your money is perhaps another inadequate response. Not a very popular opinion, though.
In trying to wrap our head around this dilemma, we find ourselves at the edge of a cultural faultline. Crossing (or perhaps better, straddling) it takes time, empathy and a self-questioning attitude.
Possibly the best way to enjoy Tajikistan’s marvelous landscapes. Be sure to stock up on food for the more desolate parts, and to keep warm in the higher reaches. Beyond that, enjoy the ride!
Buying camping gear & fuel
There are 3 places you can buy camping gear in Dushanbe. The selection, price, quality and range of products cannot compete with what is available in Bishkek, so shop there if you can.
The ultra-low-budget shop is the Korvon Bazaar (OSM). We found a random assortment of gear here, including tents that sell for 170 Somoni. These tents are likely only good for keeping the sun off and the mosquitoes away. They are not waterproof and they look like very low quality.
More tips welcome in the Dushanbe camping gear forum thread.
Camping gas availability
For gas canisters and other types of camping stove fuel, check out the shops listed above, or call around to the hostels and ask if they have any for sale (City Hostel, Greenhouse Hostel and Yellow House are the best bets). Osh also has some hostels that sell fuel for camping stoves – we don’t know of a place in Khujand yet.
We keep a running list of places where you can get stove fuel in:
Homestays are often not the greatest value for money, but staying here is one of the best ways to inject some cash directly into the local economy without local power players or the president’s family getting their grubby hands on it. If you are not camping, it’s also your only option outside of the big cities.
Homestays charge around 10$/night per person and generally consist of shared well-heated rooms with roll-out mattresses on the floor. It’s very comfy if you don’t have a bad back and are not too fussed about privacy. The best ones have Western-style toilets, a shower and private rooms with beds. More often toilets will be of the crouching type located outside of the house, and washing facilities will be a heated banya with bucket showers.
If you are staying at homestays, watch out with the food. A lot of travelers come down with worms, amoebes, dysentery, … after eating in homestays. In other words: lots of time on the toilet (if there is one). Watch out with what you eat.
Airbnb and apartment rental
Airbnb and Homeaway all have spaces for rent in Tajikistan. Apartments also get rented out on other hotel booking sites like Booking.com. These apartments are generally owned by real estate moguls and you are unlikely to share a space with others or even see the owner. A decent alternative to more traditional accommodation options.
Electricity black-outs are an issue in winter in Tajikistan. Ask in advance if this is likely to happen in your apartment block. The center of Dushanbe generally does not have issues, anywhere else is in the danger zone.
Hotels & hostels
The quality of hotels is generally still low in Tajikistan, but improving year over year. Expect to get less than what you paid for. Dushanbe and Khorog have some expensive international-standard options catering to the humanitarian crowd with high-ish standards.
Hostels exist in Dushanbe and Khorog, and the number of good ones is rising. Bargaining is acceptable if you did not book in advance.
Hot water is a typical summer issue in the FSU that is often outside of the control of small-scale hotels. When the utility company decides to switch it off, they are left standing. Ask politely if there will be hot water. Electricity black-outs also occur in winter in Tajikistan.
Ask in advance what kind of measures your hotel has in place. In summer, air-conditioning is not an excessive luxury in Tajikistan. At all.