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