As the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe links the Pamirs and the southern Kulob region directly overland with the northern Fann mountains, Khujand and Panjakent through a network of shared taxis.
With the exception of a few flights from Russia to Khujand, Dushanbe receives all international flights into Tajikistan.
Inside the city, different types of taxis are the most common way to get around.
Transport to/from Dushanbe
Options are very limited. We keep you up to date on the trains in Tajikistan page.
Dushanbe is not well-connected compared to other Central Asian airports. Keep it in mind when planning a multi-country tour: perhaps there is a better and cheaper link-up from Tashkent, Bishkek or others.
A lot of horror stories are told about Dushanbe’s airport, but we are happy to say that thievery and extortionist practices have become much less common in recent years.
Still, arriving at the airport is far easier than departing. It is by no means a quick entry through immigration, but bribe demands are rare, except perhaps if you need a visa on arrival. Getting out is slightly more hassle: security checks are standard, but customs officers may still summon you into a private room to beg for lunch money.
How early to arrive for a flight varies dramatically. You could arrive 2 hours in advance and barely make it to the gate on time, or get to the gate within 10 minutes. Sometimes less customs employees are on duty, for no particular reason it seems. One day the security check may be very thorough, and other days they are very quick. Your flight coinciding with a bunch of flights departing to Russia can also be a factor in delays.
Note that there is often a long line for the exit customs and x-ray, but women and children are allowed to take a priority line.
The Dushanbe airport has one ATM which does not always work (as confirmed by Information desk) and the exchange office is closed on Sundays (or maybe forever). In this case, your best option is to take a taxi which can stop at a high-end hotel where exchanging money is possible on a Sunday.
Getting to/from the airport
When arriving at the airport: a metred taxi desk stands next to the baggage carousels. The very aggressive, dishonest taxi driver mob outside no longer exists.
To depart, taking a taxi to the airport is the safest and most convenient option. However, there is a cluster of hostels that are within walking distance (within 30 minutes on foot).
Long-distance bus and (shared) taxi
There are some very old, very cheap buses going to the Kulob region from Dushanbe. We advise against using them: it will take ages and will be very uncomfortable.
Shared taxis are the main way to get anywhere overland. Cars leave when full unless you pay the price for the entire car, so you’re potentially subject to a long wait.
Prices vary with the seasons based on how many people are going each way. Travel times are almost always longer than expected and cars break down often. Be ready for this.
Onward travel destinations
Pamirs and Khorog
See our Pamir Highway travel guide for a detailed exploration of your options for travel along the Pamir Highway.
By public transport
If you decide to go by public transport, the jeeps to Khorog leave from a parking lot between the airport and the train tracks known as the Badakhshan car station (Gmaps). Ask for ‘povorot aeroporta terminal Pamira’, Badakshanskaya avtostansiya, or if that’s too hard, say “Khorog-Khorog-Khorog”. Come at 6 or 7 am for the best options, but note that it is also possible (though more difficult) to find drivers going overnight.
All drivers take the longer southern route via Kulob because the road is better. Expect to pay 250-350 somoni and drive for 12-14 hours on a good day. Delays happen. When coming from Khorog, you can stop off in Kulob to break the journey, then it is another 3 hours to Dushanbe by bus.
Note that the hostels and guesthouses that serve backpackers and independent travellers all have arrangements with drivers. They can get you picked up at your hostel. The pre-arranged drivers leave more quickly and can be vouched for by your accommodation, and you do not need to negotiate on the price.
Finding a ride to the half-way point, the town of Qalai-Khumb, is more difficult. The vast majority of drivers are going the whole way in one go, however long it may take.
A separate guide has the latest updates concerning the complicated Dushanbe-Khorog flight.
By jeep tour
If you prefer to take your time to see the Pamir Highway and don’t have your own wheels, you probably want to get a driver or a jeep tour. These are our recommendations:
If you are looking to rent a car for the Pamir Highway, have a look at our car rental guide.
Taxi stations for Samarkand, Panjakent, Fann Mountains and Khujand
Drivers to Khujand, Ayni and Panjakent (the gateway for Samarkand and the Fann mountains) leave from the parking near the cement factory (Tsement Zavod) (Gmaps) north of town. Additionally, drivers to Panjakent also leave from the intersection of Rudaki Avenue and Umar Khayyom Street by the Vodanasos bazaar (Gmaps).
Be aware of the following scams:
- charge extra for the front seat, then give it to someone else, but not charge you less.
- hand you off to a marshrutka in the far outskirts of either Dushanbe or Panjakent
- drop you off short of your agreed destination
- agree to take you to a certain spot but later change their mind
Most common is the claim that the driver has a full car ready to go and that the other, fictional, passengers are nearby. Do not put your bags in a car before it is absolutely ready to go, and keep negotiating with other drivers when you see they are filling up.
The extreme competition between dozens of drivers for few passengers makes drivers here some of the worst in Central Asia. Be tough, and be patient: it could take a while for your car to fill up.
Panjakent and Samarkand
Shared taxis connect Dushanbe with Panjakent (5 hr – 80-100 somoni/seat). They will not continue across the border to Samarkand.
For navigating the border crossing between Panjakent and Samarkand, see the Tajikistan border crossings guide. There are currently no flights between Dushanbe and Samarkand.
The gateway is the town of Artuch. To get there, you need to pay for the full trip to Panjakent and ask to be dropped off at the crossroads in the town of Shurcha (Gmaps), from where you need to find a ride to Artuch base camp (referred to by locals as lager or turbaza), or to a lower village (usually Panjrud) from where you need to find another driver (the upper part is too rough for some drivers).
Upper price limit is 100 somoni for the car from the main road to the Artuch base camp. Note that the town of Artuch is a long walk from the Artuch camp. Clearly state lager or turbaza.
It is difficult to negotiate a fair price for a trip to Iskanderkul from the drivers at the cement factory or Vodonasos: it’s better to book this trip in advance if you want a private car.
If you are ok with public transport, get a ride to Sarvoda and make your way from there, see the Iskanderkul transport section for more.
Sarvoda and Lake Alauddin
The best option is a driver going to Ayni (50 somoni/seat, 3 hr) who drops you off at Sarvoda, the gateway to Lake Alauddin, 25 km before Ayni. However, most drivers are going to Panjakent and will want the full fare to drop you off halfway.
In Sarvoda, it should be quite easy to find a driver to take you to the Russian base camp Vertikal Alauddin, below Lake Alauddin (300 somoni for the car).
Khujand, Tashkent & Osh
Shared taxis leave from the cement factory listed above (6 hours – 120 somoni). Somon Air operates flights to Khujand several times per week (35 min, ~35$).
Overland, the route goes via Khujand, whence a direct cross-border bus goes to Tashkent (5h, 55 somoni). Details at the Tajikistan border crossings page. Dushanbe – Tashkent flights go several times per week (45 min, ~50 euro) with Uzbek Airways and Somon Air.
Shirkent valley & Termez
Instructions to get to Tursunzoda (gateway to Shirkent valley) and onwards to the Uzbek border can be found at the Tajikistan border crossings page. From the border, you will need to take another shared taxi to Denau, and from there, another one to Termez. Count 6-7 hours of travel, 15$.
Gharm and the Rasht Valley
4-5 hours, ~70 somoni for a seat to the central town of Gharm, where you can find onward transport. Start at the ‘Garm or Kulob avtostantsiya’ on the east side of Dushanbe (OSM / Gmaps) . More detailed transport info in the Rasht valley guide.
For the latest on the Karamyk-Jirgital border with Kyrgyzstan, see the relevant chapter in Tajikistan border crossings.
All major towns in the eastern part of Khatlon (Nurek, Kulob, Danghara, Baljuvon, Khovaling, Muminobod) can be reached quickly from the Garm or Kulob ‘avtostantsiya’ (OSM / Gmaps). Qurghonteppa/Bokhtar is the hub for all western locations in Khatlon (Sarband-Levakant, Shahrtuz) and can be reached from Dushanbe via shared car, private driver, bus, marshrutka and train (see full instructions here).
Getting around Dushanbe
3 types of taxis exist in Dushanbe, metred taxis, shared taxis and independent taxis. Stick to the first 2 for the most reliable results. Ride-hailing apps have not yet arrived.
There is a fair chance your taxi drivers will not know your destination, and many of the older drivers haven’t quite figured out mobile phone maps (which, to be fair, can be useless in many respects in Dushanbe). Street addresses are useless as well; drivers go by landmarks. Some newly arrived drivers even don’t know the landmarks; you will have to give them step-by-step instructions (in Tajik).
Have your accommodation’s phone number handy. They can guide your driver to the location.
Taxis with metres are a recent addition to Dushanbe and there are now a few companies with branded taxis that stand out (in a good way) and can be seen around the city.
Overall, these are the best options and are far cheaper for foreigners compared to independent taxis. Most fares are between 10-20 somoni, 30 somoni for only the longest of trips.
Shared taxis follow a set route. The most useful are the #3 and the #8 (5 somoni/seat). The #3 goes from the Nazarshoev/Rudaki intersection by the train station straight up Rudaki Avenue 7km north to the Vodanasos neighbourhood. (Gmaps).
The #8 connects Ayni, Rudaki and Ismoil Somoni streets to end at Zarnisor station, where you can find onward transport to Hisor and Tursunzoda (Gmaps).
These cars don’t always show their numbers as they are not strictly legal. Often they flash their lights at you and display a number with their fingers or hold up a sign in their hands. Just wave your hand to get their attention.
You pay at the beginning of the ride. They appreciate exact change. When you want to stop, just say “stop please” in Russian or, in Tajik, “man kuned” (man koo-ned). To get their attention, add “aka” (uncle/mister/sir) to the command: “Aka, man kuned.” Or for a more complete sentence: “Aka, haminjo man kuned.” (Sir, please stop here). Say “rahmat” (thanks) on your way out. They usually say “khush omaded” (welcome) in reply.
They will get out and open their trunk/boot for your large backpack.
These are just regular cars with a plastic taxi sign stuck on the roof. Only use them if you have no other choice. Agree to the fare before you get in, they do not have a metre or standard fares.
The buses are now cash free, you can only get on with a bus card. In order to get a bus card, you need to go to an electronic kiosk at select bus stops. There you must enter in your local phone number. Don’t have a local phone number? You must go to a mobile phone shop and buy one in a process that could be complicated.
When you do finally have a card, beware of rush hour: the buses are jammed full. Don’t expect to get on with a backpack. Sometimes you can’t get on at all. In other words: avoid.
Marshrutkas (mini-vans) are banned from the main streets in the centre of Dushanbe. They occasionally cross over Rudaki Avenue, but they must take backstreets that are not usually places that tourists want to go. Cramped and uncomfortable, in summer they are miserable.
They cost 2 somoni, with some shorter trips going for 1 somoni. There are dozens of routes: ask locals to find out how the routes work. It’s not recommended to attempt to get on with your large backpack.
Bicycle rental is available at the Rentabike/Extremal shop at Loik Sherali 3 (Gmaps). Your comments are welcome in the Dushanbe bicycle rental forum thread. For all info regarding bicycle parts and repair as well as other tips, see Cycling in Tajikistan.