Tajikistan Driving Advice and Car Hire Info
Driving in Tajikistan
Before planning a trip, check your Governments website for advice on travel within Tajikistan. Some areas are currently deemed ‘no go’ areas such as the Kamarob Gorge, in the Rasht region . Roads outside the main towns are poorly-maintained and often only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles. Conditions are particularly treacherous in spring due to the risk of avalanches and landslides. Many interior roads are only open in the summer months. It is possible to drive from Dushanbe to the north via a tunnel that has recently opened but this road is particularly dangerous in winter due to icy conditions and if stranded you would wait a long time for help. You should only drive to Gorno-Badakhshan in daylight hours and you need a permit to drive in the region.(The Pamir Highway mentioned below passes through Gorno-Badakhshan so you will need a permit if taking that route). The website below provides more detail on the permit which you should request when you apply for a Tajikistan Visa.
Petrol stations are rare outside towns in Tajikistan so you should fill up whenever you get chance. Local vehicles are poorly-maintained and driving standards are generally poor. Armed police or military checkpoints can make road travel outside Dushanbe difficult and as a foreigner you’re likely to attract attention .In certain parts of the country, including the Vakhsh and Rasht valleys and along the Afghan-Tajik border, land mines and cluster munitions form an additional hazard. If an area has land mine warning signs, or is marked off with red and white plastic tape, heed the warning and do not venture off the road. Tajikistan is a challenging driving location especially out of towns, at night and in winter and you should proceed with caution at all times.
One of the worlds classic roads runs through the region. Running through the Pamir Mountains, the M41, more commonly known as the Pamir Highway runs through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan . The road was part of ancient Silk Route and the section which passes through the 4,655-meter high Ak-Baital pass in Tajikistan is the second highest main road in the world . There is some disagreement on where the road begins with varies sources stating Mazari Sharif, Afghanistan; Termiz, Uzbekistan; Dushanbe, Tajikistan; and Khorog, Tajikistan .The highway ends in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. Assuming the road begins in Afghanistan,it passes northward through Termiz , then turns east after Denau, then crossing into Tajikistan. It then continues east through Dushanbe, to Khorog, crossing the Kafirnigan, Vakhsh, and Bartang Rivers, and running close to the Pakistan Border area. From there, it continues to Murghab, where it crosses the Murghab River and begins to head North. The highway then passes through the Ak-Baital pass and past Lake Karaqul at 3900 metres before crossing into Kyrgyzstan and on to Osh – around 420 Km from Murghab. The 700 Km stretch of road between Khorog and Osh is widely acclaimed as having some of the most stunning mountain scenery in Asia if not the World. The road is unpaved for long stretches and is also prone to lengthy periods of construction to repair landslides and weather damage. I have heard of travellers covering this stretch in a day but have also seen accounts of 60 hour journeys in bad weather.
For more information on Driving the Silk Road through Tajikistan, see my Classic Road Trips page.
Tajikistan Car Rental –
At present there don’t seem to be any self drive options in Tajikistan, though apparently Hertz are looking to open a franchise there. I have emailed a number of companies who offer tours in the country to ask if they can arrange self drive but no one seems to offer this at present. If anyone manages to locate a car rental company in Tajikistan please let me know.
You can drive a car belonging to a local as long as you have legal permission from the owner. To obtain this permission, you need to go with the owner to a notary office. There is one for each district in Dushanbe.Present the owner’s passport and your passport, and ask the notary to draw up a power of attorney document (devernost). This document can be valid for any length of time up to a maximum of three years.