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 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 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 – 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 is likely to be a bureaucratic nightmare, since you will probably need a Russian visa, a Kazakh transit visa, a double-entry Uzbek visa, a Turkmen transit visa and a Tajik visa to complete this journey. Tajiks taking this train do not need the Turkmen and Uzbek visa (otherwise they do need one as well).
If you’re still interested, the entire route takes 5 days.
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.
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.
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. Let us know if you have been on one!
This is the latest timetable info we have, from 2017:
602 Dushanbe 08.00 – Kurgonteppa 12.00 – Kulob 15.40, Tuesday & Saturday
604 Dushanbe 08.00 – Kurgonteppa 12.00 – Shahrtuz 14.36, Tuesday & Saturday
601 Kulob 08.00 – Kurgonteppa 11.31 – Dushanbe 15.32, Wednesday & Sunday
603 Shahrtuz 08.50 – Kurgonteppa 11.31 – Dushanbe 15.32, Wednesday & Sunday
6373 Dushanbe 17.25 – Pakhtaabad (= Tursunzoda) 19.55, Daily
6374 Pakhtaabad 04.42 – Dushanbe 07.03, Daily