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Dushanbe is the capital of Tajikistan – a landlocked country sandwiched between Kyrgyzstan, China, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Tajikistan is under authoritarian rule and the country is ‘very strictly policed’. The internet is partially blocked in Tajikistan and it remains the poorest country in the former Soviet Union, largely relying on remittances.
Dushanbe is a small city that has few sights, either from its Soviet Union rule or government buildings built since. There isn’t much in terms of private enterprises; restaurants are still suffering from the Soviet mantra of being decidedly average (with some exceptions). Dushanbe is a great city for the adventurous traveler as it presents a unique mix of people (Tajik and Uzbek) and languages (Tajik, Uzbek, Russian and a good amount of English).
Things To Do Dushanbe – Visa
Tajikistan now offers Visa on Arrival for $35 for many countries (incl. US passports). Just take a passport photo and $35 in cash and the visa will be issued on the spot before you go through immigration.
Things To Do Dushanbe – Get Around
Almost every car in town is a taxi and the local drivers also do the ‘informal UberPool’ as in many other CIS countries. Fares need to be negotiated as meters are never really used (if they even exist). You will likely pay about 2-3 times what locals pay, but rides inside the city should always be under $5 wherever you go. Official taxis (if you can get them) are newer and cheaper.
There is no Uber or Metro here. The buses are slow and not air-conditioned and the local minibuses are often way too confusing for most of us.
Things To Do Dushanbe – Safety
Dushanbe is just 250 miles from Kabul – one of the world’s most dangerous places. However, there is almost no spillover from Afghanistan into Tajikistan and the little violence that Tajikistan has comes from internal conflict and homegrown terrorism.
Dushanbe is a reasonably safe city at day and night. Sometimes it feels too well-policed but you need to really push it to become a victim of a crime. We took random taxis at night and never worried once.
Things To Do Dushanbe – Sights
What can you expect from a park with the world’s second largest flagpole? State grandiosity was the reason to build this park and besides all the symbolism it has turned out really well. There are so many angles and scenic points and you can easily spend 3 hours taking photos here. I was told it is even better after dark.
Unlike its grand name, this park (on top of a nearby hill) has seen decades of neglect and there is almost nothing left besides the view – which itself is quite good.
Yes, another ‘bazaar’! Depending on which country you visited before, you may love this place or think it’s much smaller than what you just saw in Tashkent or Almaty. Needless to say, everything is extremely cheap here.
While the concert hall is just OK, the area and the park around it is just beautiful to wander around for a bit.
The Botanical Gardens of Dushanbe look like a pleasant stroll for half an hour, though I did not have a chance to go.
Things To Do Dushanbe – Eat & Drink
This little Indian restaurant churns out surprisingly original Indian dishes. The vegetarian options are much better than the meat though and it’s moderately expensive considering you are in Tajikistan.
People kept recommending Delhi Dar Bar as an alternative.
This tea house is more known for its lovely architecture than its food or tea. I liked the fresh salads and found it a very pleasant way to see some local architecture.
This Ukrainian restaurant is consistently rated as one of Dushanbe’s best. Not that I’m a fan of Ukrainian cuisine usually, but I’d love to try it next time.
Segafredo is the city’s only real coffee shop. It comes with great coffee, low prices and friendly staff. There is free WiFi too and a great outside terrace.
Public Pub is the expat hangout and there is nothing really great here. But it DOES look like a decent night out and churns out drinks to your liking.
This Georgian restaurant came highly recommended and we really liked the appetizers. However, the meat dishes were terrible and when we tried to convince the owner that the food was bad she wouldn’t take our word for it – we had to pay for it all. Oh well.
This massive, super-modern spa features several saunas and steam rooms, many pools and even a snow room. It reminded me of the huge sauna spas in Germany and is very family friendly. Nevertheless, we had a spat with the front desk as they tried to charge us too much, but it was eventually settled and we did not have to pay the excess.
Things To Do Dushanbe – Day trips
Since Dushanbe isn’t exactly exciting after a day or two, it is a good idea to take some day trips.
The Pamir Highway is supposed to be one of the world’s most scenic drives. I missed out on the option but it’s something most people return from with fond memories.
The Nurek Dam is a huge hydroelectric dam about two hours southeast of Dushanbe.
Most visitors don’t rate the Hisor Fortress very highly in their reports but it might be worth going as it is just 20 miles outside the city.