Health and safety in Tajikistan

Health

The medical system in Tajikistan is seriously overstretched. The quality of medical training has fallen since the end of the USSR, many doctors have left to find work abroad, hospitals are run-down and equipment is out of date. Outside the major cities there is also a shortage of drugs and other medical supplies.

If you are ill or have an accident, you will be able to receive basic emergency treatment in Dushanbe, Kulob or Khujand but will then require evacuation (MEDEVAC) to a country with more developed medical infrastructure for ongoing care. One of the best hospitals in the country is in Khorog, opened with the help of the Aga Khan Foundation, with doctors who have often trained or worked overseas and tend to speak a good level of English.

Most towns in Tajikistan have aptekas, small pharmacies selling a range of generic drugs. You do not need a prescription to purchase medication, but should read the instructions carefully or get someone else to explain them to you.

Do not drink tap water – it can be a serious health hazard. Use bottled water, which is widely available, or even better, take a reusable water bottle and filter with you. Water purification tablets can be used when trekking or camping.

Safety

Tajikistan is generally a safe country for tourists to visit. All parts of the country are accessible to foreigners, though you will need a permit to visit GBAO. It is advisable to check the FCO travel advice before travelling, however, as issues such as Covid-19, natural disasters, and border openings/closures may influence how and when you travel.

Women travellers

Tajikistan is generally a safe place to travel, whether you are male or female. That said, you should exercise the usual personal safety precautions and dress modestly, especially in conservative rural areas. It is not culturally acceptable to wear revealing clothing (including shorts, vest tops, or T-shirts which reveal your stomach) in Tajikistan. If in doubt, look at what ordinary women are wearing on the street, and dress with commensurate modesty.

LGBTQ travellers

Homosexuality has been decriminalised in Tajikistan but there is, to our knowledge, no open gay scene in Dushanbe. Many people in Tajikistan are deeply conservative, especially when it comes to the issue of sexuality, and homosexuality is still often seen as a mental illness (a hangover from the Soviet period). 

If you are travelling with a same-sex partner, you would be wise to refrain from public displays of affection and be cautious when discussing your relationship with others: it is often simplest to allow others to assume you are simply travelling with a friend. Double rooms frequently have twin beds, so asking for one room is unlikely to raise eyebrows in any case.

Travellers of colour

Travellers of African descent, and those with red or blond hair and very pale skin, tend to stand out while travelling through Tajikistan, despite millennia of cultural mixing in the region. You may be stared at on the street, or approached to have your photograph taken, especially in smaller towns and rural areas. Many of these  interactions are out of curiosity and easily, even humorously, managed. However, alcohol-fuelled aggression is not uncommon, so try to avoid physical confrontation if possible.

Travelling with a disability

People with mobility problems will experience difficulty travelling in Tajikistan. Public transport is rarely able to carry wheelchairs, few buildings have disabled access, and streets are littered with trip hazards such as broken paving, uncovered manholes, and utility pipes. Hotel rooms are often spread over multiple floors without lifts and assistance from staff is not guaranteed. If you have a disability and are travelling to Tajikistan, you are advised to travel with a companion who can help you when the country’s infrastructure and customer service fall short. 

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