Dushanbe (also nicknamed "The Big Dushe" by expats) is the capital of Tajikistan.
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.
FlyDubai flies to Dushanbe from Dubai's DXB Terminal 2.
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.
By bus/ Taxi
There are no international bus services. If you are planning to go to a different town, there are terminals ('vaghzal' in Tajik) where 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.
Khujand (and the rest of Sugd) - the terminal is at the end of Rudaki Street towards Varzob Valley. Take a 3 taxi and ask the driver to drop you to the 'Vaghzale Khujand' close to Vodonasos or Cemzavod. It is the end of the Trolleybus line. The price (summer 2015) should be 100 TJS per person. The trip takes about 5 hours from Dushanbe.
Qurghonteppa - Take a taxi or Marshrutka from Sadbarg/Poytakht hotel (or any other marshrutkas going towards Korvon Bazaar) to the Sakhovat Bazaar. There's a big intersection with crosswalks and many, many cars where the vaghzal is, but you can also ask someone for the 'vaghzale Qurghonteppa.' The price shouldn't be more than 15 TJS per person. The drive takes a little over and hour from Dushanbe, and the road is in comparatively good condition. When you get there, ask if you can be dropped off at the bazaar for a more central location than the vaghzal.
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.
The easiest way to get around the city is to use the system of shared taxis, marshrutkas and trolley buses, which run on a standard set of routes, but which can be difficult to figure out at first.
The #3 taxi is especially useful as it runs all the way up and down Rudaki from Vodonosos in the North to the Train Station. These taxis Just hop in, pay 3 somoni, and get off wherever you wish. The #8 taxi (there is also a mashrutka route) runs from the airport, down Rudaki, turns on Somoni, and can go as far as the US Embassy; you should take this if you need to go to Karabolo or 82 microregion.
Minibuses / Mashrutkas
Minibuses can be crowded, stop more frequently, and cost 1 somoni (or 2 if it's a longer route...if you pay only 1 and the price is two, someone will let you know), while shared taxis are much quicker and cost 3 somoni. Which one you take will depend on where you want to go and how quickly.
The #67 and #4 mashrutkas run up and down Tursonzoda from Karamova (in the North) to Green/Zilione Bazaar (and the South end of it's route).
The #25 mashrutka is a very long line, running from University of Central Asia/Merve, past Ashan (the Dushanbe mall), then across Rudaki, past Tank, Textil, the Sim-Sim factory, and Cirq, through Profsaiyus, the 82 Microregion, and to Zarafshon.
The #33 mashrutka runs from the airport to Sadbarg to Korvon Bazaar
Electric trolley busses can be crowded, also stop frequently, yet run on nicely pre-defined routes. No confusion here. They cost 1 somoni and you can hop on and aff at any street side bus stop.
The #1 Trolleybus runs North and South on Rudaki road. If you're staying in the city center, this route is ideal. (NOTE: the #1 medium sized non-electric bus does not always keep the same route as the #1 trolley bus. Look for the electric lines to be sure you're getting on the right one!)
The #8 Trolleybus runs North and South on Southern Rudaki but turns West on Somoni Rd and heads out towards the #8 taxi and mashrutka routes.
Regular buses can be a bit hard to navigate, but are perfectly safe. They cost 1 somoni and you can hop on and off at any street side bus stop.
Taxi/Mashrutka Language Tips
Important transportation language (there are many variations you will hear, but these should be fine):
'hamin-jo ba maan koned' - stop right here
'yagon-jo maan koned' - stop somewhere near here
'svetafor' - stoplight (so, 'svetafor ba maan koned' will let you off before an intersection)
'peshikhod' - crosswalk
'gozashta' - past (you can say before or as you pass an intersection or roundabout to be let off just afterwards)
combine to get exactly where you need to go!
Since 2015 in Dushanbe operates bicycle rental service.
Rent a Bike, 3 Loik Sherali street (Operation Mercy building), ☎ +992933007775 ([email protected]), . 8:00AM - 8:00PM. It offers modern and reliable town/mountain bicycles of different sizes (kids bikes 5-8 also available). All bicycles are in good technical state. You can rent a bike for sightseeing Dushanbe and the surrounding area as well as for a long trip. Bicycle tour & excursion with professional guide available upon request. Prices from the price-list are negotiable, safety payment using credit cards available. Additional information on their website and in the Facebook community. $5-$15.
Dushanbe can be very interesting. There's not a ton of tourist attractions, but there is much to explore, and you'll easily stay busy if you're willing to see more than just the few museums and statues.
- Massive Statue of Somoni: This statue commemorates the one for whom the currency is named, and is located very centrally on Rudaki beside Kohe Joma movie theater and in front of the massive National Library. Apparently, the crown is 10 kilograms of tajik gold.
- Fort Hissar (a 15 minute drive out of town). Rebuilt 13th century fort and madrassa. It is a must-see and includes small museums of ancient Tajik culture. Entrance fees are 1 to 3 somoni. Take a #8 taxi and tell you driver you need to go to ‘vaghzale Hissor,’ or ride towards the end of the route when you see a large area full of cars. From there you catch a marshrutka (minibus) or taxi to Hissar village (from 2 -5 TJS). You’ll be let off near the bazaar and can ask the taxi drivers there (or your original driver) to take you to the ‘kale.’ This should be 2 or 3 som more.
- 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.
- 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 street directly across from Opera Ballet. 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.
- Rohat Chaikhona. Old traditional teahouse located near central Dushanbe on Rudaki. Better to go for the interesting architecture, not the food.
The streets are lined with old and tall trees and benches, 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
The nightlife is not of a western standard, but fun is easily found or made. Peoples Bar, located on Turnsonzoda just down from Poytakht supermarket, is the only nightclub foreigners go to, and is usually busy on the weekends (with locals as well). Men pay a cover fee, but women are free. There are several other nightclubs, but they have a reputation for being very shady. The Cotton Club, a speakeasy style joint located at Opera-Ballet beside the ‘Vaksh’ hotel, offers live jazz music and good hamburgers, but in a less than desirable atmosphere. Public Pub, at the corner of Rudaki and Bukhoro at Dompichat/Twin Towers, remains the staple Irish pub in the city. Beside Public is Bundes Bar, a popular, modern, and stylish German-themed bar always filled with locals and foreigners alike. Tons of hookah lounges are easily found walking anywhere near the city center, if you’re into that. Galaxy (north just off on Rudaki near the ‘Sha-re Dushanbe’ shopping center, turn right, downstairs near the Imon International office) offers some English (and of course, Russian) karaoke and vodka.
- Victory Park: Hike to the top for a seasonal restaurant with topchaans offering views of the city. The gondola dates from Soviet days, and has not operated for several years. There's a Soviet memorial commemorating WWII. At the roundabout near Merve, follow the road at the top of the circle.
- The Opera Ballet regularly has free or cheap concerts sponsored by embassies and traveling companies, though not always of the best quality. The theater is lovely and full of Soviet splendor, worth going inside to see, and makes for an enjoyable atmosphere regardless of the entertainment.
- Mayakovsky Theatre for pretty good Russian plays, at the intersection with Tsum on Rudaki. (now closed)
- Zilioni 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. An easy walk from Opera Ballet or Sadbarg.
- Korvon Bazaar About a 30 minute ride from downtown, the main and very large goods market in town (Marshruktas with "Корвон" signs on their dashboards will get you there for 2 somoni, and leave from near Sadbarg. You can take a #33 marshrutka as well, or taxis for 3 somoni that leave from the same area, just across from the Poytakht hotel .) 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 rugs, although most of the rugs come from Turkey, not Tajikistan. Get lost here.
- Sadbarg – more shopping, centrally located in downtown Dushanbe. Lots of clothes, make up, and housewares. A little more expensive, but more convenient, than Korvon for those short on time or weary of the chaos of the latter.
- Sakhovat – while you’re near Korvon, explore the surrounding neighborhood. Filled with lots of Soviet-style apartment blocks, it’s a much more affordable alternative to the city center for many of Dushanbe’s residents. There’s nothing to see really, but it provides a different feeling from the tree-lined streets and metal fences near Opera Ballet.
- Watch a Tajik film in one of the theaters. You probably won’t understand anything, but some of the modern movies are quite enjoyable.
- Buy fabric at Korvon or Sadbarg and have a Tajik dress made! You will spend less than 100 somoni for the whole process (less than $20), and you can also have western-style clothing tailored just to you as well. You’ll need 3 meters for a dress with pants. Once you have fabric, take it to the doozandas at the top of Sadbarg. They’ll measure you and give you a price and a time to pick up your clothes, usually just a few days afterwards.
For men, consider buying a Tajik hat (with different styles depending on the region it’s from. In Dushanbe it’s easy to find both Kulobi hats and Khujandi hats.) or a ‘chopaan’---like a thick robe for winter.
- In summer, the fruit is absolutely delicious. Definitely try the cherries, apricots, and watermelons from the bazaar.
- In gift shops around time or in Tsum, look for a ‘suzani’ or embroidered national fabric that can be hung on the wall for decoration, a nice souvenir, price will depend but be prepared to spend at least 300 somoni
- Traditional Tajik fabric, or ‘atlas’ can be purchased at Korvon or Sadbarg and made into dresses, scarves, pillows…anything you can imagine. Pick the color and print you like best!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Salaam Namaste, 81, Rudaki str., . Indian restaurant, good service. Visited by foreigners and locals alike.
- World of Chocolate (The Escalator Cafe), Rudaki Street 113. More commonly known as 'the escalator cafe,' this cafe and restaurant is located on the ground floor of Rudaki Plaza. It's a convenient stop for a reasonably priced bite to eat. They have satisfactory coffee options, above average ice cream and chocolate fountains from which anything can be garnished (try the chocolate covered waffle, or have your double chocolate scoop topped with even more chocolate). More recently they have enlisted the help of western food consultants to create new and improved sandwich options. Try the Banh-mi and Mediterranean sandwiches. They will remind you of what a sandwich should be without breaking the bank.
- Longcheng Restaurant (Dragon City), Near Somoni Statue, ☎ 951729999. This restaurant caters to the ever-growing PRC presence in Tajikistan and Dushanbe in particular. The restaurant offers standard, fairly authentic if not outstanding Sichuan dishes. There's a karaoke in case you want to sing off the calories. From the statue, proceed on Rudaki towards the Opera House. Take a right at the first traffic light. You'll see the building, a shopping center, on the right about 200m ahead. At present, there is a red banner with the name of the restaurant in Chinese characters. It's on the 3rd floor.
- 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 12 somoni 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.
- Bundes Bar: Just up the street from Public Pub is a new hip establishment that has outdoor seating in the summer and a fairly large indoor area. It seems to be a popular place for locals and tourists.
- 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.
- Hyatt Regency Dushanbe, Prospekt Ismoili Somoni 26/1 (in City Park, near Lake Komsomol), ☎ +992 43 377 1234 ([email protected]), . 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 $242.
- Atlas B&B, 63, Mirzo Rizo, . Very good Tajik Guesthouse... US$ 80.
- 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)
- 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.
- Hotel Tajikistan, Shotemur 22.
- Hotel Mercury, Leo Tolstoy 9.
- Green House Hostel, 98a Khusravi Dekhlavi street, ☎ +992880082725, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. All rooms have air conditioning, as well as flat-screen TV with satellite channels. Shared bathroom facilities, large communal lounge area, and a leafy garden with outdoor furniture. The city centre is 5 km away. Both the Dushanbe Railway Station and Dushanbe Airport can be reached in less than 10 minutes by car. Green House Hotel can arrange shuttle services at an additional cost. $15.
- Sheraton Dushanbe Hotel, 48 Aini Street, . Located in the city center and only a five-minute drive from the airport, the Sheraton Dushanbe offers 148 tastefully decorated rooms and suites. Dining outlets include an all-day-dining Mediterranean restaurant and a Pan Asian restaurant.
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.
- United States, ☎  (37) 229 20 00 ([email protected], fax:  (37) 229 20 50, 236 04 30), .
- United Kingdom, 65 Mirzo Tursunzade Street Dushanbe 734002, ☎  (37) 224 22 21 ([email protected], fax:  (37) 227 1726), .
- Germany, 59/1 Somoni Street Dushanbe 734064, ☎  (37) 221-21-89 (fax:  (43) 377-3080).
- Iran, No. 18 Tehran St., ☎ visa and consular: (37) 221.1345, general: (37) 221 0072 ([email protected], fax: (37) 251 0089).
- China, Street Rudaki 143.
- Afghanistan, Ismoil Somoni Ave, .
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.