When we traveled across Central Asia years ago no one seems to know what was needed to get a visa to Tajikistan and a GBAO Permit to visit the Pamir Mountains. At that time it seemed to be embassy specific and heavily dependent on the relationship between Tajikistan and the country from which you happen to be applying.
Fortunately, a lot has changed — for the better — regarding obtaining Tajik tourist visas and GBAO permits.
There are several options now and the process is more simplified and streamlined for most travelers. For those who want to know what it used to be like getting a Tajik visa and GBAO permit before e-visas and visas upon arrival, skip to the Tajik visa war stories from our first visit.
Update on Tajikistan Visas and GBAO Permits – February 2018
For travelers wanting to visit Tajikistan or travel along the Pamir Highway, things have gotten a lot easier these last couple of years. The standard tourist visa is 45 days now and there is more flexibility for when you can enter the country after your visa (up to 90 days from the date on your application). In addition, registering at OVIR is only required for stays more then 30 days. So, this gives the traveler a lot more freedom and hopefully more time to explore Tajikistan.
For the e-visa and visa upon arrival, check your nationality against this list by the Tajik Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be sure you are eligible.
E-visa with GBAO Permit, Possible to Use at Any Border Crossing
We have not used Tajikistan's e-visa process ourselves, but we've talked to traveler who have and said it worked great for them. The advantage of this process is that you can use the e-visa with any border crossing, including and land border crossings in the middle of nowhere…as in along the Pamir Highway. So, if you are planning a Pamir Highway road trip beginning in Osh, Kyrgyzstan this is likely the best Tajik visa option for you.
The cost is $50 and you can pay online with credit card. The e-visa FAQ says can apply for your visa up to two days before your arrival date, but we'd suggest leaving a bit more time in case something comes up.
GBAO Permit: You can also get a GBAO Permit at the same time as your Tajik e-visa for $20. This allows you to travel in the Pamir Mountains (Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region) Supposedly, you need to enter the region on the date specified in your application form, but we don't know how enforced that is.
Visa Upon Arrival at Dushanbe International Airport (DYU)
If you are planning to enter Tajikistan by flying into the airport in Dushanbe this is a good option. Visas cost $40 (remember to have crisp, new USD bills). Although we've heard a passport photo isn't required it still might be a safe option to have one with you, just in case.
Visas to other countries in Central Asia
If you're traveling through the region and need to sort visas for other countries in Central Asia, skip ahead to:
- Tajikistan Visas and GBAO Permits (needed for the Pamir Highway and Mountains)
- Kazakhstan Visas
- Uzbekistan Visas and Letters of Invitation (LOI)
- Turkmenistan Visas and Letters of Invitation (LOI)
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.
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.
If you are not continually traveling like we were it makes sense to get your Tajik visa in your home country before departing on your trip. Consider using a visa service to reduce the bureaucratic headaches and frustrations.