We had lots of issues at the borders and with the visas in Tajikistan. We also heard lots of stories from other travelers. So I thought it could be a good idea to collect them.
We entered the country through the border at Kyzyl-Art, south of Sari Tash in Kyrgyzstan (the southern Sari Tash, as there happen to be another one near Osh). Some people mentioned that sometimes they close it on weekends, especially on sundays.
The border west of Sari Tash, Karamik, is closed for foreigners. No matter what they might say in Dushanbe or Bishkek. At least that was the case in summer of 2014.
The Afghan border at Ishkashim is closed on sundays. The one in Khorog os closed for tourists.
All Afghan borders were closed for some weeks in early July due to some shooting from the Afghan side. Looks like some radical talibans tried to take control of 2 big towns in Northern Afghanistan, and that’s why. When we were there, everything was normal. No sign of any hostility whatsoever.
The China – Tajik border at Kulap (or Kulan, depending on where you read this) pass is still closed for foreigners.
The Kyrgyzs border at Isfara was closed for 3 days due to some shooting. They reopened it soon. The area seems to be pretty unstable, just like the area close to Samarkanda in Uzbekistan (which is closed to foreigners as well).
No visa nor GBAO permit was provided for 2 weeks due to some issues in Khorog. Police beat a local guy, and local guys got angry and burned down a gubernamental building (which, by the way, contained some passports from some tourists requesting GBAO permits!). That’s why no visa was issued in the country but they were still being issued at the embassies around the world.
Our recommendation: DO NOT WAIT TO GET YOUR VISA AT THE AIRPORT. We heard some sad stories.
The Isfara area borders with Kyrgyzstan are a mess. No matter what people say, only the one pass the airport at Isfara is open for tourist.
Also, if you want to do the Isfara – Osh bit without entering Uzbekistan, that’s the way: Isfara – Batken – Chon Grass and keep going. Do not take southern route.
They made a mistake in my visa at the embassy in Belgium so I had to apply for an extension. The process:
1. I went there on a tuesday. Filled up a form twice, included two 3×4 cm photos and one photocopy of the passport and the current visa. Also a letter requesting the visa extension, specifying dates (I hand-wrote it). I paid 1 USD.
2. I had to go back next day to know whether the extension had been approved or not. That was not the truth: they only wanted me to pay, and they accepted it the moment I paid (I don’t know why I couldn’t pay on previous day!). 25 USD.
3. I collectes my visa on friday afternoon. If necessary, I had the feeling it could’ve been ready by thursday (3 days to process this).
4. You must do all of this at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Careful if you ask around, most of the people doesn’t know where it is!!
Flights and surrounding countries.
Careful with cheap flights that include stopping at some Russian airport.
If it’s only one single stop in one international airport, you should be ok. Still, if it includes 2 different companies, you might have some troubles: they can ask you to collect your bagagge and do the check-in again. And in order to do that, you need to leave the transfer area… and you need a visa for that! No, they will not provide the visa at that moment.
Most of the times a representative of the company can help you do this so you don’t leave the transfer area. But be careful ok?
If you have 2 stops in 2 Russian airports, YOU NEED A RUSSIAN VISA. They understand you arrive to the international hall, then move to the national one. And national terminal is considered inside the country, therefore you need a visa.
No having a visa in Russia means jail and/or deportation (I’m sure you don’t care much about being deported, but this could affext any visa in any other country in the world. Do you know when they make you this random questions “have you ever been deported?”, “are you a spy?”, and you always reply NO? Not anymore).
And yes, I have friends who have spent a night in jail due to this. No joke.
Careful also in Uzbekistan. Some basic medicaments legal everywhere are not legal there (valium, altitude pills etc). We met a 60-year-old couple who spent 5 days in jail for bringing valium.