For Westerners there are only a few ways to fly into Dushanbe. It is possible to transit Moscow - Domodedovo Airport, which has daily flights to Dushanbe. There are several airlines that fly from Moscow (Tajik Air, Somon Air, Domodedovo Airlines and Sibirian S7) to Dushanbe. S7 or it's share code flies to most European countries and you could check in your luggage up to Dushanbe. Otherwise you will require a transit visa to collect your luggage and check it in again. If you have no checked luggage, you could walk stright to transit area. There is also twice a week a flight from Istanbul - Atatürk on Turkish Airlines. TA also flies to most of the major cities in Europe and your luggage will be checked up to Dushanbe. If you use a different airline and have checked in luggage you need a transit visa because the airlines will not transfer it for you. For that reason you have to collect the luggage yourself and check it in for your final flight. In order to collect it you have to pass passport control for which you need a visa (many countries get it upon arrival and free, google yours). These policies are subject to change without a notice. Check with your airline(s) to find out whether they currently transfer luggage.
China Southern Airlines also flies into Dushanbe from Urumqi.
Most of the European and North American nationals can apply for a visa upon arrival in Dushanbe. The airport is very small and the immigration is just right before the passport control. Make sure to bring 2 passport photos, and know the person's address in which you are staying. Don't lose your "beeline travel slip" which you will get at the immigration office. the luggage x-ray machines are very poor and they pay little attention to the screens. Watch the kids when you leave the airport they will offer to take your bag to the car and start to pull it off you. though not with intentions of stealing, just wanting to help and gain a tip.
Rail services to Dushanbe are limited. International connections are available only from Moscow via Volgograd, Atyrau and Termez. Trains depart from the Moskva Kazanskaya rail terminal each Monday, Wednesday and Sunday at 12:08 PM, arriving 4:16 PM four nights later. Tickets costs from 9000 RUB for a second class sleeper.
There are no international bus services. A number of bus services operate in Dushanbe, however there is not much clarity which one goes to where. Within Dushanbe it is best to take a taxi, usually it should not be more than 30 Somoni ($6). If you are planning to go to a different town in Dushanbe there are 'terminals' that you can either find a shared taxi or a minibus.
Khorog (Pamir) - the terminal is close to the airport, ask for 'povorot aeroporta terminal Pamira'. There are usually 4X4 vehicles that will go to Pamirs. The roads are not in a good shape, hence make sure you look for a nicer vehicle for a 10 to 14 hours drive to reach Khorog. Prices vary depending on a season.
Khojent (and the rest of Sugd) - the terminal is at the end of Rudaki Street towards Varzob Valley. Ask your taxi driver to drop you to the Stoyanka Khodjenta close to Vodonasos or Cemzavod. It is the end of the Trolleybus line.
Kurgan-Tybe and Kulyab - there are many private cars that will go to there, however mainly it is from Korvon Market.
Dushanbe - Afghan Border (Sherkhon Bandar) - private SUVs go to the border on daily bases from Sakhovat Market. You will have to go early in the morning 05:00 to check for a shared car. Best is to go there a day before and arrange for the next day travel.
Very few streets in Dushanbe have names, so it is important to know landmarks and how to navigate with them. Every cab driver knows the airport, Somoni statue, and opera-ballet, but beyond that, it is a toss-up. It is essential to know "straight ahead," "to the left," and "to the right" in Russian or Tajik. It is very useful to figure out the marshrukta system (private cars and minibuses), which run on a standard set of routes, which, incidentally, cannot be found on paper or online. #3 is especially useful as it runs all the way up and down Rudaki. Minibuses are overcrowded, stop more frequently, and cost 1 somoni, while private cars are much quicker and cost 3 somoni. For marshrukti, the only important phrase is "hamin jo" (ha-MEEN JOH), which means "right here," to indicate that you want to get out.
Dushanbe is an interesting city, but only for a few days. The center is basically one long street, with a few other main streets crossing it. Other than a few musea and monuments, there is not much here. The nightlife is not of a western standard, however, there are an increasing number of expat-friendly establishments. Peoples Bar, located on Turnsonzoda just south of the Poitakht supermarket, is a very busy nightclub on Fridays but less so other evenings of the week. The Cotton Club, a speakeasy style joint covertly located at Opera-Ballet, offers live jazz music and reasonably priced drinks. Public Pub, at the corner of Rudaki and Bukhoro, remains the staple Irish pub in the city.
The streets are lined with old and tall planetrees, so in the evenings a stroll along Rudaki is quite pleasant. Rudaki Park also features numerous fountains lit by coloured lights, and the Botanical Gardens (behind the Chinese Embassy, somewhat north along Rudaki) is the best place to escape the dust and noise of the traffic for peace and quiet.
Massive Statue of Somoni: This statue commemorates the one for whom the currency is named. It is on Prospekt Aiani. Apparently, the crown is 10 kilograms of tajik gold. Beware: the police at the bottom may ask for money if you take photos, so stand far back and use your zoom! (and don't encourage this bad behaviour!).
Victory Park: Hike to the top for a seasonal tiki-themed beer garden offering views of the city. The gondola dates from Soviet days, and has not operated for several years. Turn left off of Rudaki at the TSUM and pass the beer factory.
Fort Hissar (barter with a taxi to drive you 10 km out of town). Rebuilt 13th century fort and madrassa. It is a must-see and includes small museums of ancient Tajik culture. It was destroyed by Soviet troops in their hunt for Enver Pasha. Entrance fees are 1 to 3 somoni. The cheapest way to get there is taking local bus #8 (available from Rudaki ave.) to Zarnissor bazaar. From there you catch a marshrutka (minibus) to Hissar village (2 TJS) where you can easily flag down a car for 1 TJS/seat. That means a roundtrip is roughly 7 TJS/person. Alternatively you can hire a cab for around 80 TJS.
Rudaki statue. Recently opened for the Shanghai summit, the new park on Rudaki Avenue has a huge statue of Rudaki, a new government palace, and enough fountains to drain the whole of Dushanbe. Go at night to see the lights.edit
Gurminj Musical Instrument Museum: This small museum (located a block east of Rudaki near the Iranian Embassy) has an interesting variety of Central Asian musical instruments. That alone is worth a peek if you like instruments, but better still is to go when a musical or cultural event is being held, or hope to catch the folk musicians who practice there and can demo many of the instruments in the collection.
Museum of Antiquities on the main square near the Sadbarg shopping center. It is quite old fashioned and includes a number of exhibits that detail the country's history. It is great for historians of contemporary Tajikistan and the current President, but only if they speak Russian or Tajik, as there are very few English signs. The museum is very poorly funded (there is a man who follows you to turn off the lights after you are finished with an exhibit room) but charming and contains a number of interesting artifacts highlighting the syncretistic character of Tajik culture throughout the millennia. The huge (14m long) statue of a reclining Buddha on the second floor validates a visit on its own merits. The Museum of Ethnography, which displays traditional Tajik dress and costume, is next door costs less and is certainly worth a visit.
Museum of Archaeology (same as above). See the Sleeping Buddha.
Rohat Chaikhona. Old traditional teahouse located near central Dushanbe on Rudaki. Better to go for the interesting architecture, not the food.
Shakhmansur Bazaar (rus: зеленый базар, green bazaar) is the biggest bazaar in downtown Dushanbe and has a huge variety of foods (very cheap by Western standards), including dried fruit, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, spices, meats, and bread, as well as an odd assortment of tools and household products. It is possible to see the entire bazaar in an hour or two. The locals always charge foreigners more, so do your best to strike a bargain.
Korvon Bazaar. While somewhat cheaper than Shakhmansur, Korvon is also farther away and is very large (Marshruktas with "Корвон" signs on their dashboards will get you there for 3 somoni, or less than a dollar). Korvon has a massive indoor clothing and shoes section as well as a smaller food section. It is also the place to go to find fabric rugs, although all of the rugs come from Turkey, not Tajikistan.
Cafe Merve: Excellent turkish owned Restaurant: Kebab, Pizza, salads, french fries, cakes, coffee and delicious breakfast (feta with olives). Yet loved by local people. It is on Rudaki 92.
Delhi Darbar: The most well-known (and possibly the best vegetarian food in all of Tajikistan) of three local Indian restaurants serves excellent butter chicken and spinach. It also offers private "family rooms." It is on Rudaki near the Pedagogical Institute.
Merve: Happening, casual Turkish cafeteria always packed with students and young locals. Have several choices in mind, as they never ever have everything on the menu, no matter how basic. It also serves an authentic Turkish breakfast. It is on Rudaki next to Orima supermarket.
Salsa: The only Ecuadorian restaurant for hundreds of miles. It is a reasonable imitation of Latin cuisine and popular with Europeans. It is located just off the north end of Rudaki near Starry Night (Zvezdnaya Noch) billiards.
Tiflis: One of two Georgian restaurants in the city with some of the best meat dishes in the city (and a substantial wine list). It is located behind the opera-ballet, across the park. As of August 2013, is in a state of disrepair and appeared to be closed for the long term.
Georgia Cafe: the other Georgian restaurant, located about a block north of the Opera Square on Rudaki Avenue. It has simple and tasty dishes, good cheap house wine, and a nice friendly atmosphere. Be sure to either book or come early, as the seats go fast.
La Grande Dame: The only French Restaurant in town. It serves great steaks and other food at a hefty price. It is, however, popular with consultants with hefty per diems. The place offers a good taste of the West for those missing their homes. On the corner of Bukhoro and Shevchenko.
Kellers, Ismail Somoni #6. A nice, well-hidden restaurant that serves European and National style food (although the lines between the two are often blurred). Also, the home made beer (3 som.) is well worth trying. It is on the left side of Somoni street near Rudaki end, at the side of a block of flats.edit
Steakhouse (The Steakhouse). Despite the name, Steakhouse is one of the only places in Dushanbe to get sushi. Other meals include steaks, pasta, and other American style cuisine. Live entertainment nightly. Try the mojito. edit
Segafredo, Rudaki Ave (Near the corner of Rudaki Ave and Ismoil Somoni Ave, across from Hotel Tajikistan), . Western food -- sandwiches, soups, chicken dishes. Great place to get coffee or a snack (one of the only places in Tajikistan to get Iced Coffee?). When even moderately busy the service is very slow so its wise to order drinks as soon as you are shown to your table. Try the salmon, its surprisingly good and fresh. Downside: Smokers. You will see many foreigners here. edit
Salaam Namaste, 81, Rudaki str., . Indian restaurant, good service. Visited by foreigners and locals alike.edit
Public Pub (Қаҳвахона Халқӣ): This establishment opened in November 2012 and quickly established its presence in the city. It's the "go-to" location for a relaxing beer and burger in the afternoon, or a more hearty meal as the evening progresses. It has the best burger in Dushanbe for about $5, although the French fries are a little weak. It has Guinness for 38 somoni, but the local draught beer is a mere 8 somoni ($1.65) for half a liter. The biggest negative about this place is that it has only one toilet! It's located immediately to the north of Dushanbe Plaza, also known as the "Twin Towers," corner of Rudaki and Bokhtar.
Irish Pub: This so-called Irish pub sometimes serves Guinness in a can, but you will find little Irish charm in this establishment. (considering this is Central Asia). Unfortunately the enterprising owners of this restaurant have discovered that foreigners are willing to pay absurd amounts for a Guinness, and now one can costs 40 somoni, or close to $8 (other beers cost around 12-15 somoni) To find it, go to the Gurminj museum, head south to the corner and turn left.
Small Restaurants in front of the Opera, (At the small square in fron of the Opera, just off from Rudaki.). There are about 6 small restaurants selling shashliks, beer and softdrinks in front of the Opera Ballet. Pick a table in the shade and watch people walk by while sipping your cold draught beer which will cost around 3 somoni or $.62 (Dushanbe is reported to have the cheapest draught beer in the world!).beer: 3 somonis. edit
Gastnitsa Vakhsh, Rudaki 24 (Just next to the opera). checkout: 12:00. A nice, clean and very centrally located hotel. The staff might try to sell you to more expensive room first but ask for the more economical options. All rooms have a bathroom and a tv while some of the rooms have nice balconies toward the square in front of the Opera. Some English and German is spoken at the reception (sometimes).dm: 60 TJS, d: 120 TJS ste: 180 TJS. edit
Hyatt Regency Dushanbe, Prospekt Ismoili Somoni 26/1 (in City Park, near Lake Komsomol), ☎ +992 43 377 1234 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . A 5 star hotel with 202 rooms and suites. Amenities: floor-to-ceiling windows, sitting area, heated bath floor, iPod docking station, wireless internet and free access to pool and health club. Regency Club Lounge for free continental breakfast and evening cocktails. US $242. edit
Atlas B&B, 63, Mirzo Rizo, . Very good Tajik Guesthouse...US$ 80. edit
Yeti Hostel, 34/1 Gafurova str. (Opposite to Saodat trading center at 82 district), ☎ 992987133005, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 11:00. Located in the heart of the sleeping area of Dushanbe, 7km west from the center. Nearby attractions include waterpark, trading center, and a great number of cafes and restaurants. Hostel has 3 rooms with 8 bunk beds total. 24/7 front desk, free WiFi is provided. Rooms are instantly cleaned and maintained well.USD 15. (38.579979,68.738108)edit
Serena Hotel, Rudaki 14, . 5 star hotel convenient to the airport, government offices, and attractions. Bar and restaurant on the lobby floor and rooftop pool.edit
In general, Dushanbe is safe but robberies and street crime do sometimes occur even in broad daylight although this is rare. The police force can sometimes seem a little ineffective. Avoid attracting police attention, as the law enforcement officials are primarily concerned with augmenting their small income. People tend to be private and conservative but with a little effort they can be incredibly welcoming and genuine.
Never drink the water from the tap, nor use the water to brush your teeth. Always wash fresh produce, especially when bought from the local bazaar. Some melons—although they are incredibly fresh and sweet—can be irrigated and fertilized with manure, so sometimes washing them will not help. As a rule of thumb all foreigners from developed countries will get sick at least once while in Tajikistan, but this can be delayed by avoiding unwashed/unpeeled fruits and vegetables (be especially wary of this in restaurants).
Embassy of Uzbekistan, (Note that the embassy is no longer behind Hotel Avesto but in a new location: take Sanoi Street to the west from Rudaki just south of the Medical Institute. Sanoi Street is between the MedInstitute and the Tajik Matlubot, one block south of the Chinese embassy. Walk until the bend where you see soldiers guarding the building.). 9:00-12:00. Visas to Uzbekistan can be obtained here. You need to bring a passport size photo, a copy of your passport (and maybe a copy of your Tajik visa) in addition to your passport. Some nationalities (including Finnish), need to bring an invitation. The visa is issued on the same day you submitted your application so that the processing takes, depending on how busy it is at the embassy, about an hour. The staff is neither friendly nor helpful. Limited English, but one staff speaks basic German.65 USD. edit
There are many drivers for hire who will take you to lakes and mountains nearby. Varzob River also has some vacation areas with raised platforms above the narrow river, which is quite refreshing on a hot day. Be aware that the drivers will most likely not speak English, so a working knowledge of Russian or Tajik is advisable, as are haggling skills.