Tajikistan-Afghanistan border crossing, Ishkashim border, Ishkashim

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


Afghan visa, Afghan registration card

Visas

Afghan Visa

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.

Tajik Visa

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.

Ishkashim border crossing, Tajikistan Afghanistan border crossing
The bridge crossing to the island

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.

Ishkashim border crossing, Tajikistan Afghanistan border crossing
Looking out from the Ishkashim border crossing bridge

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.


Check out what it was like to travel the Afghan Wakhan as a woman


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.

Afghan Wakhan, Eshkashim Bazaar, Badakshan, Afghanistan
Eshkashim Bazaar, Afghan Wakhan

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


Wakhan photos, photos Wakhan, Afghanistan, Great Pamir, Great Pamir Afghanistan, Wakhan, Wakhan Valley, Wakhan Afghanistan, Wakhan Corridor
Trekking in the Great Pamir

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.

Wakhan, Tajik Wakhan, Wakhan Valley, Wakhan Tajikistan, Wakhan Valley Tajikistan, Tajikistan, Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, Badakhshan, GBAO, Pamir, Yamchun, Afghanistan, Hindu Kush
Yamchun Fortress in the Tajik Wakhan dwarfed by the Hindu Kush just across the Afghan border

Money Exchange

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.

Eshkashim Bazaar, Badakshan, Afghanistan

Safety

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).

Guides

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.


Looking for info about all the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border crossings? Check out my post on all the Tajik border crossings


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.

Need Travel Insurance for Afghanistan?

Start shopping plans over at battleface.

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5 thoughts on “Ishkashim Border Crossing Between Tajikistan & Afghanistan”

  1. Wauu, very interesting. Thanks! What about walking that 5 km? Is it safe to do that? Did you meet travelers who hitchhike there? As for the ride between Eshkashim to Sarhad e Broghil, the same applies? I mean because of the mafia there is no way to negotiate?
    Also, 30 dollars / night for a guesthouse is a lot. (The thing is I generally spend max 430 USD per month when I travel.) Did you meet travelers setting up a tent there or any possible way to find something cheaper?

    1. I have friends who’ve walked the 5km into town, it’s not bad if you don’t have much luggage (I actually was figuring I might have to walk prior to finding out there would be someone crossing my same day).

      The same issue for the car to Sarhad e Broghil exists. They have it at a fixed $300 each way, $600 return in total. Tourists aren’t allowed to hitchhike, but people have done it- I’ve read reports on the Caravanistan forums (you pay maybe 1/10 of the cost), but the risk is then getting caught and having to pay big bribes to continue on (I recall reading about a guy who got busted and they were asking for bribes in the hundreds of dollars).

      I know of a woman who biked the road (if I’m not mistaken)- @themarshajean on Instagram- she likely can give you some pointers there.

      Before leaving Eshkashim and traveling further into the Wakhan you’ll need to get permits for travel into the national park. This usually take a day or two and you’ll end up hiring and paying someone about $50 to handle it all for you unless you’re able to speak Dari.

      As for guesthouses they seem to average between $20-30/night in most places (where they even exist) this includes your room as well as dinner and breakfast usually. Once to Sarhad (or wherever you plan to take off trekking from) you’ll be tent camping or may have nights spent in family yurts in the mountains (but you should still offer some amount of payment as they do treat you as a special guest and often times offer even more than they can).

      Unfortunately the prices for traveling in the Afghan Wakhan are quite high for a number of reasons. But the biggest thing I see is that it’s an extremely remote and cut off area, they do (at least nearer to Eshkashim) have occasional clashes with the Taliban. Much of the food aside from the wheat grown in the area (aside from a few types of root vegetables) is flown up there. So I think partially the prices are reflective of the harsh and difficult living situation there, but also another part is the price fixing.

      There have been meetings in the past among operators in the area to try and reduce costs in hopes to increase tourism numbers, but it seems to have fallen flat every time.

  2. Hi Nicki, I’m planning to travel to Afganistan. I don’t get the taxi prices. How come you paid so much? It would be nice to explain why you would pay 20 bucks for 5 km? When looking at the petrol prices in Afganistan, it doesn’t make sense.

    1. Hey Diana, so as my friends in Eshkashim had put it- there’s in sort, a taxi mafia that sets prices which is why the prices for destinations beyond Eshkashim are quite high. I think especially with the border crossing they know they have tourists on it as there aren’t l cars just hanging out there waiting, plus it’s pretty desolate, and there’s not much local traffic back and forth. The best way to try and pay less to is to coordinate crossing with other travelers. I had a couple of my Tajik friends that work in tourism/travel call around and I happened to find another tourist planning to cross the same day so we were able to split the fee once we were both on the other side.

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