Due to the mountainous terrain in Tajikistan and the underfunding of the national train company, taking the train in Tajikistan is not popular. It’s scenic, but very slow. Improvement in the relations with Uzbekistan does open up avenues for international travel in the near future, but for now, trains to Uzbekistan and Russia are a complicated venture.
For more on what to expect while traveling by train in Central Asia, check out the overview page on the Silk Road by train, which includes more info on seats, route planning and timetables.
About railways in Tajikistan: two separate networks exist that are not connected to each other. The northern network joins Khujand with Uzbekistan, and a southern network spreads from Dushanbe to Kulob, Qurgonteppa, to southern Uzbekistan and to the border with Afghanistan at Nizhnij Pyanj.
To avoid going to the train station to check the timetable, you can double-check with the people from the rail office. Try any of these numbers (start with +992 37):
There is also a website that even claims to have online booking. No reports yet.
You can buy tickets at the train station or at a kassa in central Dushanbe that sells rail and air tickets. Online, you can try Tutu.ru. It’s user-friendly and in English, but the price is likely to be higher than what you pay offline, and you may still have to get the actual ticket printed for you in a station in Russia.
International rail routes
A Tajikistan – Russia by train forum topic tracks changes and trip reports of routes to Moscow.
Dushanbe – Moscow: The train is filled with Tajik migrant workers on their way to try their luck in Moscow. If you are not Tajik, this train could be a bureaucratic nightmare, since you might need a Russian visa, a Kazakh visa, a double-entry Uzbek visa, a Turkmen transit visa and a Tajik visa to complete this journey. Getting a Turkmen transit visa is the hardest bit, but the Geneva embassy at least has said they are willing to give one. Tajiks taking this train do not need the Turkmen and Uzbek visa (otherwise they need one as well).
If you’re still interested, the entire route takes 5 days. Do check out this mini-documentary on the labour migrants taking this train – well worth your time.
Khujand – Samarkand – Moscow: If stopping at Samarkand, you can only buy tickets online for this train on Russian booking sites like Tutu and on the Uzbek Railways website, but not on the train station. Updates welcome here.
Kulob – Moscow: Train 319/320 Kulob – Moscow now takes the direct route via Termez. Since 2019, you can book tickets Termez – Dushanbe (only online, though). After Termez, the train crosses into Turkmenistan, and you would need a Turkmen transit visa for that. Plans for a Moscow – Dushanbe train that would bypass Turkmenistan are on the table, though.
Rail routes to Uzbekistan
Tashkent – Dushanbe
Plans for a direct Tashkent – Dushanbe train are on the table. Samarkand – Dushanbe is definitely not bookable yet.
Dushanbe – Khujand – Konibodom: Trains 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.
Other domestic routes: There are some very slow, very cheap routes domestically in the south. Kulob – Qurghonteppa – Dushanbe takes 8 hours, for instance. Shaartuz – Qorghanteppa takes around 3,5 hours.
This is clearly for lovers of slow travel and train geeks – check the Youtube video. We keep track of domestic train routes in Tajikistan in this forum topic.