Tajikistan Visas and GBAO Permits

No one seems to know what is needed to get a visa to Tajikistan. Even the Foreign Ministry in Tajikistan had problems advising Audrey’s former Tajik colleagues at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty regarding what was required. It appears to be embassy specific and heavily dependent on the relationship between Tajikistan and the country from which you happen to be applying. In other words:

  • Uzbek-Tajik relations = bad, therefore obtaining a Tajik visa at the Tajik Embassy in Tashkent = hell
  • Kyrgyz-Tajik relations = good, therefore obtaining a Tajik visa at the Tajik Embassy in Bishkek = heaven

Focused Women at Market - Ishkashim, Tajikistan
Serious looking Tajik women in the Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan.

If you would like to visit the Pamir Mountains, then you will need a GBAO permit in addition to your Tajik visa. Luckily, it is now possible to obtain both at the same time.

The Tajik Consul in Bishkek gets the award for the friendliest Consul in Central Asia. He not only helped us fill out our visa applications (which did not require a Letter of Invitation) but he also filled out the GBAO permit application for us and ensured that every possible Pamir Mountain and Wakhan Valley location was included. Oh, and he treated us like humans. It’s somewhat sad, actually, that receipt of humane treatment can be cause for celebration. It’s equally sad how scant both respect and courtesy are in Central Asia’s bureaucratic offices.

Take, for instance, the chaos that surrounds the Tajik Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. There, even ethnic Tajiks with Uzbek passports find it difficult to apply for visas to visit their relatives just over the border. Clouds of humanity can fill a city block; several people we had spoken to had been waiting there most of the week. A few entrepreneurial 10-year-old boys run a photocopy machine and distribute visa application forms across the street.

Kyzyl Art Pass, Tajik Border Controls - Tajikistan
Crossing the border into Tajikistan, Pamir Mountains.

When you arrive in Tajikistan, you are supposed to register at OVIR within three days. We tried to do this in Murghab, the first Tajik town we stayed in, but the office had run out of forms. We were forced to register in Khorog instead. The woman at the Murghab OVIR office was very kind, though. She noted our passport details and said she would call ahead to the military checkpoints along the road to ensure we didn’t have any problems. While we trusted her, we had visions of young military recruits hassling and extorting our passage through their checkpoints. We asked the woman to write us a note, indicating our passport details and explaining why we didn’t have our OVIR registration cards. For added assurance, we asked her to affix it with an official OVIR stamp. As informal as the document was, it was rather impressive. We showed it several times at the checkpoints on the way to Khorog and never had any problems. Bureaucracy always knows the value of the stamp.

Upon arrival in Khorog we spent a morning running between OVIR, photocopy shops and the bank. The registration fee is around $20 per person, paid at the bank next door. Electricity, paper and toner are all in inconveniently short supply, so you may have to make multiple visits until you get someone with all three.

Tajikistan Visa and GBAO Permit Costs:

  • Tajikistan Visa: $60 per person, includes 30-day, single-entry tourist visa and GBAO permit (needed for the Pamirs).
  • Tajikistan OVIR Registration: Around $20 per person.

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Comments

  1. says

    I’m gearing up for a second trip through Central Asia, and reading through these has me somehow excited about frustrated at the same time. Thanks for collecting all this info and putting it out there for others!

  2. says

    @Stephen: You are welcome. Getting your visas and Letters of Invitations and various registrations is all part of the journey in Central Asia. Good luck and have fun!

  3. Vladimir Halme says

    I’m just starting the visa & permit rally. Today I talked with 3 different people at the Tajik embassy in Moscow over the phone.

    All of them had contradicting information about GBAO permit and one even got angry. He adamantly insisted that no permission is required for GBAO and he knows that because he is from GBAO himself. And all internet sources are just lies.

  4. says

    @Vladimir: If you can find the phone number, consider contacting the Tajik embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan by phone or email (if that is even possible, I don’t know). Our experience there was pretty good and it was not very busy. The problem with speaking to someone in the Tajik embassy in Moscow is that it’s probably VERY busy, plus the ease of getting your visa will depend on the relationship between the embassy (Tajikistan) and in this case, Russia.

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