Ishkashim Border Crossing Between Tajikistan & Afghanistan
Updated January 2021, The Ishkashim Border Crossing Between Tajikistan & Afghanistan was originally written in October 2019
The Tajikistan-Afghanistan border crossing at Ishkashim connects the Tajik and Afghan Wakhan valleys. For visiting the Afghan Wakhan crossing the Ishkashim border crossing is the only feasibly safe way to access the narrow Wakhan Corridor.
The border does close periodically. Usually in time of disease outbreak and when Taliban pushes into the Badakhshan Province to close for comfort.
Start planning: The Ultimate Afghanistan Travel Guide
Citizens of any country planning to visit Afghanistan will need a visa to enter. With the expense of the visa and the chance that the border crossing could be closed, I would recommend checking that the crossing is open and apply for an Afghan visa at the Afghan Consulate in Khorog.
Read more about how to apply for an Afghan visa here.
For a quick rundown, most nationalities pay $90-160 for an Afghan visa, Americans (US) having to pay $200-220. You’ll need to fill out an application, write a letter stating you understand the risks involved, and pay your visa fee.
I walked out with my visa about 30 minutes later, sometimes it takes a few days. Enquire when you arrive in Khorog.
Note that you should have a double-entry visa to return to Tajikistan afterward. As many people won’t have one you can apply for a second Tajik e-visa before you head off into the Afghan Wakhan and hide it on your way in.
When you return to Tajikistan show the new e-visa and you’re in. I’ve not heard of anyone having any issue doing this despite the fact that technically you cannot have two e-visas eligible within the same time frame.
For more on planning your visit in Tajikistan, I recommend picking up a copy of the Bradt Tajikistan guidebook.
How To Cross The Tajikistan-Afghanistan Border At Ishkashim
Get To Khorog
First, you’ll need to head for Khorog, the main and largest city in the Pamirs. If coming from Dushanbe plan for a 12-18 hour journey and from Murghab plan for about 8 hours drive. In Khorog head to the Afghan Consulate and apply for your Afghanistan visa.
Plan your stopover in Khorog: The Khorog Travel Guide
Next Get A Shared Taxi To Ishkashim
In the mornings you can grab a shared taxi from the Khorog Bazaar bound for Ishkashim for about 40 TJS. Let your driver know you want to be dropped at the border gate and not in the town. The bridge that crosses from Tajikistan to Afghanistan is 3 kilometers before town.
Walk Across The Bridge Onto The Island And Exit Tajikistan
At the bridge there’s a small building where you’ll go through exit immigration formalities to leave Tajikistan.
I got a little haranguing at this point in the process because there was no entry stamp on my Tajik e-visa. I had entered the country in Khujand and for whatever reason, they didn’t stamp the e-visa paper (I’m guessing because it’s a place that doesn’t see as many foreign entries, or just that it seems every Tajik border crossing or entry point has its own version of “necessary procedures” in which they can usually justify asking for a bit of baksheesh to correct–ie: the Qolma Pass still handing out and wanting migration cards) but there WAS/IS a stamp in my passport.
Now Walk Across To Afghanistan
On the Afghan side, you’ll enter another small office where you’ll show your passport and get stamped into the country. They may search your bags upon entry as well. After entering Afghanistan on the other side of the island you’ll walk across the bridge and into the country.
Getting To Sultan Eshkashim
To get to Afghan Eshkashim it’s a 5 kilometer journey down a dirt road from the border. If you haven’t arranged prior transport the border guards will call a taxi for you from Eshkashim at a staggering $20 for the short ride (though if you want to save money, you can always walk). But congrats, you’ve made it— you’re officially in Afghanistan!
You’ll most likely be brought to the well known Marco Polo Guesthouse, just up a hill from the main bazaar. Rooms including meals will come in at $30/night. You’ll surely meet guides that do trips into the Wakhan Corridor here, who can help you arrange your trip if need be.
See the Afghan Wakhan in Photos
Traveling Further Into The Wakhan Corridor
If you’d like to go beyond Eshkashim into the Wakhan Nation Park and Corridor you’ll need to get permits from police before leaving the village. Unless you can read and speak Dari you’ll need the help of a local to do this for you. Most guides will charge a flat $50 fee for this.
If planning to travel into the corridor you’re *supposed* to take a tourist taxi. A one way trip from Eshkashim to Sarhad e Broghil to access the Little Pamir comes at a staggering $300-350 (or $600-700 return). There are shared taxis that make this trip for locals for far less, however, you may run into problems at checkpoints and will likely have to pay off baksheesh (bribes) to continue on.
Most who will travel into the Great & Little Pamir will employ the help of local guides (they’ll find you in Eshkashim before you find them) who know the trails and can translate conversations with the local people for you. I traveled with Malang Darya on my Wakhan Corridor trip that I arranged on the spot.
Crossing From Afghanistan To Tajikistan
It’s essentially the same process outlined above just in the reverse direction. It was smooth sailing for me, plus all the Afghans that happened to be around the border (including soldiers) all excitedly posed for photos when they found out I had a camera.
The only problem this posed was that we all spent so much time goofing around at the border on the island that I missed all the shared taxis headed back to Khorog that day, so I had to spend a night in Tajik Ishkashim at the Hanis Guesthouse.
Planning to spend some time in Tajikistan before or after the Afghan Wakhan? Read the Tajikistan Travel Guide for ideas
Getting Out Of Tajik Ishkashim
To get away from the border you’ll need to either hitchhike or walk the 3 kilometers back to the village of Ishkashim (I hitched and had no issues). Alternatively, you could try to hitch the opposite direction back to Khorog.
In the morning shared taxis depart the main road through Iskashim bound for Khorog. The last ones usually leave by about 10 am. There will also be shared taxis heading in the opposite direction for those planning to head further into the Tajik Wakhan.
In Sultan Eshkashim on the Afghan side, there are money exchangers in the bazaar. USD seem to be the favored currency.
Since you’ll be coming back to Tajikistan you’ll likely still have some leftover Somoni or at very least USD (I really recommend making sure you do have some money leftover because I am unsure that the ATM in Ishkashim takes foreign cards).
Tajikistan-Afghanistan Border Crossing Hours
These are always subject to change, can close at a moment’s notice, and can be closed on holidays. I recommend checking with the PECTA office in Khorog when you arrive in Tajikistan for the most current days, hours, and holiday closures.
Tajik side: 8 am-12 pm and 2 pm-4 pm.
Afghan side: 9 am-11:30 am and 2 pm-4 pm.
The border is said to be closed on Sundays, sometimes on Fridays too.
I did have to wait to cross the border as the Ishkashim border crossing was closed for several days in celebration of Eid al Qurban.
Traveling the Tajik Wakhan too? Read the Tajik Wakhan Valley Travel Guide
Finally, About The Cross Border Market
Once upon a time, there was a border market that took place on the island (technically on the Afghan side of it) at Ishkashim where merchants came from Tajikistan and Afghanistan on Saturdays to trade goods. You could leave your passport with the guards and thus technically enter Afghanistan for the day (9 am-3 pm) to attend the market.
Unfortunately, the market was running intermittently the last few years and now was not been happening at all. It’s not known if or when it will resume.
Alternatively, there is the Tem cross border market near Khorog next the Sheghnan crossing on most Saturdays, though it is also subject to closures.
For those looking to dip a toe into Afghanistan, I’m sorry to report that this cross border market does take place solely on the Tajik side of the river, but you’ll get to see Tajiks and Afghans trading and selling goods.
In general crossing the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border crossing at Ishkashim is safe to do. The border is usually shut at times when the Taliban pushes in too close for comfort or at times of disease outbreaks (cholera seems to be most prevalent).
If you want to travel further into the Wakhan Corridor employing a local guide to take you can be extremely helpful especially for translating. I recommend Malang Darya.
Tips For The Ishkashim Border Crossing
- Bring a stack of passport photos with you. You’ll need to hand over a few for various registrations for permits in Eshkashim. If you didn’t don’t sweat it, you can pay a few dollars to get all the copies you need.
- There are no ATMs that I am aware of in Afghan Eshkashim. I recommend stocking up on cash (USD preferably) before leaving Khorog, but I would advise getting it in Dushanbe or Osh depending on the direction you’re coming from. I ran into problems of not being able to get cash out of the ATM (ATMs in Khorog had no money in them) in Khorog and had to Western Union myself money before I went to the Afghan Wakhan.
- Traveling into the rest of Afghanistan from the Wakhan is not recommended as it would take you through Taliban-infested areas of Badakhshan, Takhar & Kunduz Provinces.
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