The other day, Lonely Planet published an article on the Top 10 best value destinations for 2012. One of the destinations which lured my attention is Tajikistan. According to LP, one of Tajikistan's assets is the scenery. This makes me think about Kyrgyzstan, one of its neighbours.

Suppose that I would like to discover Central Asia. In how far, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are competitors or to put it differently, suppose that I would like to go to Central Asia, which one of these two countries should I pick? The answer should take into account the following points:

  • Interest regarding scenery and culture
  • Budget
  • Ease of reaching the country from Europe (Germany, France, Netherlands or Belgium) by air.
  • Tourist infrastructure
  • The possibility to travel independently
  • The ease of entering the country (visa procedures)
  • Safety concerns
  • 3
    Neighbouring countries (friendly) deathmatch! This should be fun to watch. Dec 8, 2011 at 21:59
  • 2
    Maybe we should call the respective tourism offices and invite them here!
    – Pekka
    Dec 8, 2011 at 22:17
  • Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have different culture, history and landscape. Each of them has unique environment. So they are not comparable countries. If you want to see and learn Tajik culture and tradition you have to visit Tajikistan. Some pictures of Tajikistan can be found here [traveltotajikistan.org/photos-of-tajikistan](http://… ) Mar 21, 2013 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


Ah, a place I want to return to - Central Asia! What about Uzbekistan too? ;)

Interest regarding scenery and culture

Tajikistan is basically a country on mountains. Kyrgyzstan has the flat area around Bishkek, but quickly climbs in any direction out of there. Kyrgyzstan has the lakes (Issyk-Kul is stunning, like a Kyrgyz Cancun!), while the trekking in Tajikistan is superb! Of course, if you're heading here and can, you'll want to hit the Pamir Highway (M41) between Kyrgyzstan and Tajiksitan in the east of the countries - follow in the footsteps of Marco Polo!

The Pamir Highway between Dushanbe and Khorog

Kyrgyz culture is very much like Mongolian, with the more nomadic culture. They have yurts - movable tent-huts. The food is heavily oriented around meat, especially lamb shashliks (kebabs). Tajik is more rice and crops, but also beef/lamb in stew or plov. Generally I found the Kyrgyz food more varied, interesting and tasty, however.




Tajikistan is cheaper than Kyrgyzstan. The Lonely Planet claims that the average wage in Tajikistan is $2 a day, but I and others would debate this. However, it is cheaper. The food is repetitive (you'll grow tired of plov very quickly), but there are supermarkets and markets available.

Ease of reaching the country from Europe (Germany, France, Netherlands or Belgium) by air.

Flights into Almaty in Kazakhstan are common, and then connecting flights to Bishkek or Dushanbe are the easiest. However, a useful and seemingly little-known fact is that Baltic Air has regular flights in and out of both Bishkek and Dushanbe, from/to Riga, Latvia. Most European travellers leaving/arriving were using this route, and then connecting from Riga to their home.

Tourist infrastructure

Kyrgyzstan has CBT - a group called Community-Based Tourism to try and make sure the incoming money makes it back into the communities. However, some viewed their prices as rather inflated.

A yurt!

Tajiksitan - not so much, there are companies around if you search enough though, including tours from Khorog up the Pamir Highway. Often locals will suggest that their sister's husband's cousin's son could be your tour guide, for a nominal fee...

The possibility to travel independently

Both are possible. Both are not easy if you don't speak the language - either local or Russian, but as I and many others I met there can prove, it's certainly possible to do it completely independently! And you'll have some fantastic stories afterwards about when it inevitable goes wrong (I tried to evac one city for medical reasons, and my urgent flight was cancelled due to a sandstorm in Dushanbe, leading to a 16 hour road trip in the back of a Landcruiser...)

The ease of entering the country (visa procedures)

Tajikistan requires an entry visa to be obtained in advance. Visas are for 30 days, and although it's arguably possible to extend this in Dushanbe, I've seen the act of people trying to get visas in Dushanbe cause breakdowns and tears. Backpackers! Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, however, it's possible (citizen dependent) to obtain a visa as you arrive at the international airport. Also for 30 days.

Safety concerns

Do you really want to know? ;) Tajikistan has a problem with drug running from Afghanistan, and as such the border is a crazy, crazy place, especially around the two routes between Dushanbe and Khorog, where landmine warning signs abound...

Exhibit A

Kyrgyzstan doesn't have those same problems, but I found the police worse here, and in both countries you have to have ALL your papers on you at all times, and be prepared to be searched, harassed and accused of things. Don't give in tho - you're in the right, and you have no need to bribe.

Saying this, I did have a vehicle accident in Bishkek where our bus hit a car...but hey, all part of the fun ;)

  • +1 for the drug problem in Tajikistan. There are some rumors that publication in this list is some part of tourist program of Tajikistan government.
    – VMAtm
    Dec 12, 2011 at 5:32
  • Couple of minor updates: as of 2013 there was much less bribe-seeking in Kyrgyzstan (and generally less corruption it seems since Bakiyev was booted out), and it's worth mentioning that CBT have very helpful English speakers and reliable drivers in most towns and villages you might visit: if you want to pay extra for a pretty easy trip, it's possible. "Reliable drivers" is an important one - non-CBT drivers often like to take a racing line in the wrong lane round blind corners. Long journeys often involve passing the aftermath of at least one head-on collision (prob similar in Tajikistan too?) May 16, 2014 at 12:53

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