Solo Female Travel in Tajikistan
Updated in April 2020, Solo Female Travel in Tajikistan was originally written in June 2017
Yes, it’s possible!
I have spent nearly a year in total in Tajikistan over various trips. And I’m still not done yet, I can guarantee I’ll be back again in 2020. When I tell people I’ve traveled to Tajikistan I usually get a contorted facial expression from my listener. A face somewhere between shock, confusion, pure horror, and goldfish-with-eyes-bulging-out. For an added kick, throw in that I have and will continue to travel Tajikistan solo and the gasping for air in utter disbelief begins.
Yes, I, a vagina-wielding, US passport holding female went to Tajikistan by myself and lived to tell about. And guess what? I wasn’t the first, I won’t be the last, and I sure as f*** didn’t do it solely on sponsor’s dime in an 18-month race around the world in which some places didn’t even include stepping foot out of the airport.
Safety For Female Travel In Tajikistan
Tajikistan isn’t as dangerous as most people tend to assume since it does end in the suffix ‘Stan and in fact, shares a long border with Afghanistan.
To Give You An Idea Of What I’ve Done In My Solo Travels In Tajikistan…
- I’ve trekked for days on end, completely alone in the Fann Mountains and Pamirs.
- I’ve walked around cities, towns, and villages completely alone, even at night in Dushanbe, Khorog, Alichur, Karakul, and Murghab.
- I’ve eaten in restaurants and chaikhanas completely alone.
- I’ve been welcomed into countless homes in cities and in rural areas, you guessed: while I was alone.
- On my first trip, I hired a driver to bring me from Dushanbe to Khorog over the course of two days. I didn’t want to just hire him straight out for the entirety of the Pamir Highway (M41) in case he was handsy or pervy. Guess what? He wasn’t! He was a lovely, respectful man whom I, in the end, wound up hiring to take me the entire length of the M41, and Khorasan- the man who took me through the Pamirs by road became my friend. I ended up being the only passenger (although we did pick up countless hitchhikers- locals and tourists alike that joined us for usually short jaunts).
- I’ve hitchhiked various sections of the Pamir Highway, the M34 north towards Khujand, to and from various villages in the Fann and Pamir Mountains, and more. Alone.
- I’ve traveled in countless shared taxis, you guess it: alone!
Now To Cover The Bad Side Of Female Travel In Tajikistan
- I’ve been attacked once in all my travels in Tajikistan. The real kicker? I wasn’t alone, it was the first time I convinced my husband to join me in Tajikistan. A pervy shepherd in a very remote part of the country took it upon himself to shove me down and climb on top of me, trying to pin me down. But, I was able to wrestle him away. Ironically we had met this man the day prior and both Grant and I sat and chatted with him for a little while. And if you’re wondering what I was wearing to deserve such an attack: crocs, wool socks, leggings, a nearly-knee length kurta-style top, and a winter jacket with the hood pulled up– real slutty, I know.
- The man with a donkey I once hired to help porter my gear in the Fanns on my very first visit was a total perv. I did not plan to hire one as I was offered to before I left when speaking back and forth with ZTDA. After a couple of offers as I was passing through the first village on my trek I decided, why not? It may help the local economy, right? He seemed friendly at first but shortly after departing was very rude and kept insisting I should let him rub my legs (of course he attempted the upper thigh area) to prevent muscle cramps and even began trying to demand to sleep in my tent later that night wherever I was to end up camping. Needless to say, I fired him, in broken Russian. Note: if you want a guide or a herder with a donkey to porter your gear, hire them from a reputable agency.
- One weirdo in a shared taxi headed down the Bartang Highway kept waiting for me to fall asleep in the back seat and touching my feet, and at one point earlier in the drive said to me. “your eyes, they’re calling me”. I was wearing sunglasses, I’m not even kidding.
To be honest I’ve been a victim of worse treatment and ass-grabbing by men in my home country. I mean after all one time I was fully covered from my toes to my jaw in winter gear as I left a restaurant back home and some guy drove past and called me ‘A whore asking to get fucked‘. Short of a headscarf I was essentially wearing an Alaskan version of a burqa. Trust me, there are terrible men all over this planet, they’re not all located in certain regions*.
*I don’t think all men are bad, in case you think I’m attempting to go on a man-hating tirade.
Aside from this handful of incidents, I found people in Tajikistan very respectful.
My Best Advice For Solo Female Travel In Tajikistan
Tip #1: Dress Conservatively
Good go-to outfits are ones that provide good coverage and aren’t too snug. If traveling in the hot summer months loose cotton and/or breathable fabrics will be your best friend.
What I Wear In Tajikistan
Despite being a majority-Muslim country, Tajikistan isn’t as conservative as many people think right off the gate. With that said, some parts of Tajikistan are more conservative than others.
First and foremost: you do not have to cover your hair. I mean you can if you want to, but it is not required. Of course, I do think it’s a great idea to keep a scarf tucked in your bag in case you do want to pop into a mosque or holy site. Many women in Tajikistan go about their days with uncovered hair.
Avoiding showing too much skin is always a wise choice to avoid harassment. Avoid low-cut tops and shorts and skirts above the knee.
Outfit choices are going to greatly depend on what you’re planning to do in Tajikistan and when you plan to visit. Here are some options depending on a few variables:
Option 1: Hiking in the summer or fall
- A good hiking boot and trekking socks
- Leggings or lightweight trekking pants
- Tops that can be easily layered (t-shirts and long-sleeves are wise)
- Sports Bra and underwear
- A warm, lightweight jacket (though you may need to bring something bulkier depending on the month you plan to trek and how high in elevation your trek might take you)
- Hat and gloves
- If you’re bold enough for winter trekking, I’d recommend full-on winter gear
Option 2: Cities & lower lying areas in the summer
- Long, flowy dresses made of breathable fabric (summer temperatures in Dushanbe, the Fergana Valley, Khatlon region and other low-altitude parts of Tajikistan can be unbearably hot)
- A comfortable walking shoe or sandal
Option 3: Cities & lower lying areas in the fall & spring
- Trousers or jeans
- Long-sleeve tops
- Lightweight jacket
- A comfortable walking shoe
- For winter this will suffice, but I recommend adding a heavier jacket and hat and gloves
What To Pack For Tajikistan
The good news is, if you’re arriving in Dushanbe you can find most items there, and those starting from Khujand shouldn’t have major problems. The other probability is that you’re arriving from Kyrgyzstan– likely passing through Bishkek or Osh, or from Uzbekistan where you’d pass through Tashkent or Samarkand. You can find almost any essential items in any of those cities as well.
I found traveling with a 65L Osprey Ariel backpack and my daypack with camera gear in it to be plenty enough to tote all my belongings in. Another great purchase to make prior to arriving is sun cream as it can be tricky to track down. Bring a Diva cup with you so that you don’t have to do the burden of going on a hunt for tampons. A water filter is a good item to bring along so that you aren’t always searching for bottled water, and is great for hiking.
For a more detailed list check out the packing list section of my Tajikistan Travel Guide
What Tajik Women Wear
Outfit choices among Tajik women vary greatly depending on where in the country you are. In Dushanbe and Khujand, you’ll see women sporting the traditional Tajik dresses pictured above (similar to a shalwar kameez worn with loose trousers), as well as women wearing typical western and business outfits. In more remote parts of Tajikistan, you can expect to see more women wearing traditional Tajik dresses. You can have a Tajik style dress made in bazaars in Dushanbe, Khorog, Khujand and beyond.
Tip #2: If You’re Feeling Uncomfortable, Look For Other Women
If a man is ever following you, trying to touch you, or just, in general, are making you uncomfortable, look for other women. Tajik women are quick to take you under their wing and protect you.
Tip #3: Be Assertive
If you end up in a situation where a man is being inappropriate, say no and be serious. Don’t be afraid of being a bitch, cause let’s face it: Bitches get shit done. In most situations, this usually puts a stop to any bad behaviors.
Tip #4: You’re Married
Even if you’re single, having a fictitious husband back home can make things a lot easier. Wearing a wedding ring and having made up children (bonus points) can wield off a lot of unwanted male attention. This is a tactic used by women traveling solo the world over. You may find it helpful to show pictures of your fabled (or not) husband and children.
Tajik women do travel without men, although solo women will almost always be asked why they’re on their own and if they’re married or if they have kids. Saying you’re single opens up an idea that you’re up for grabs.
Tip #5: Wear That RBF, Wear It Loud, Wear It Proud
RBF = Resting Bitch Face
If you have a tendency to walk around at home without a welcoming smile this will come naturally. If not, fight the urge as it makes you look approachable. Eye contact can even welcome unwanted interaction. So if you don’t wanna deal or don’t wanna explain why you’re alone, just look pissed off with eyes forward. However, smiling and making eye contact with other women can open you up to a great experience.
Tip #6: Avoid Going Out To Nightclubs Alone
I’ve never had much issue wandering around late at night alone, even in Dushanbe. I’ve never had any issues going to bars or nightclubs either, but that said, I’ve always gone with others. Some men may assume you’re a prostitute if you’re out at a nightclub on your lonesome and may approach you.
Tip #7: Ignore The Cat Calls
On occasion, you may find men cat-calling or whistling to you. It’s best not to give it the time of day.
Tip #8: If A Man Does Anything To You, Make A Scene
This is a good tactic I’ve found traveling through Central Asia, the Middle East, and even Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Afghanistan. In conservative cultures (especially in this neck of the woods) men touching, groping, or saying inappropriate things to women is generally not tolerated. Making a scene, as in screaming at and/or hitting the offender will generally draw a crowd that will come to your side.
Tip #9: Learn To Read Cyrillic Script
Okay, this one goes for anyone planning a visit to Tajikistan, not just the solo girls. Trust me, it’s not too hard and being able to at least read signs will make travel in Tajikistan a lot easier. Learning a few Tajik or Russian phrases will make your trip more enjoyable.
How I Was Treated As A Solo Female Traveler In Tajikistan
Quite well, actually. In the Fanns and on the Pamir Highway people aren’t strangers to seeing women traveling. I’m not the only foreign female to have trekked in the region on my own. You will even see Tajik women traveling their country alone or with other women.
Many people assume that Tajikistan, a predominantly Islamic country is oppressive to its women, but it isn’t what most think. Women have a decently high literacy rate and do make up a chunk of the workforce. Is the treatment of women equal to that of men? No. Are child brides still being married off? Yes. Is the rate of domestic violence against women high? Yes.
Tajikistan isn’t perfect, but it seems to be making strides toward getting better. There are women serving in parliament. And there were even laws put in place in 2013 making domestic violence illegal, despite being late to the game- but it has been outlawed nonetheless.
Most Tajik women still live a very traditional life. They marry young (in rural areas it may even be arranged), the average women will have 2-3 children, and yes, bridenapping- although rare, does occur.
My #1 Tip For Solo Female Travel In Tajikistan?
Take the normal precautions you’d take at home or most places you’d travel and all should be well. I also recommend purchasing a copy of Bradt’s Tajikistan to help you trip a phenomenal trip.
Have Any Questions About Solo Female Travel In Tajikistan?
Ask any of your solo female travel in Tajikistan questions in the comments section below!