How to get to the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan? AM00000010000003530 7, 2008Posted by Mыsofer in wakhan, Wakhan Afganistan.
The safest way to get to the Afghan Wakhan Corridor is to go via Tajikistan and the crossing at Ishkashim. You will need a GBAO as well as your Tajik visa. There is no need to pay thousands of £s/$s to (probably a Western based) agency to do a Wakhan of Afghanistan tour when you can do the entire thing easily yourself.
1) First of all you need to pick up an Afghanistan visa. This is easy enough to do in Dushanbe and usually takes about 3 days. For a UK national it cost myself $60 for the visa and other than which type I wanted there were no questions asked. Be aware that the embassy has moved – it is not where The Central Asia LP guide says it is. You need a Letter of Invitation (LOI) for Afghanistan but we found that the Afghan embassy in Dushanbe already had a set letter that they provided and that required a short trip to a local shop to photocopy and submit with the form. This avoided the hassle/cost of obtaining an LOI. I also saw them filling out vehicle permits at the Embassy so if you have your own vehicle it might be worth a try.
*Mountain Unity can provide an LOI if you need one (for a fee).
2) For arranging travel to the Wakhan Corridor you do need to get in contact with Mountain Unity. The person running this is David James – a UK national who is living in Ishkashim on the Afghan side with his family. Email him through the website and they will be able to arrange a Wakhan Permit for you. It is not an easy process for them to go through and there is not much point in them doing it if you only have a day or so for the Corridor. The Permit is currently $50.
By emailing Mountain Unity and telling them how many days you have they can provide you with an itinerary and the costs. Their partner Wakhan Tourism helps organize the trip for you by getting the permits, etc, but it is done through David at Mountain Unity.
Unfortunately, the driver and vehicle hire – which is a necessity for getting into the corridor is expensive. Aga Khan Foundation are promoting tourism there (in partnership with Mountain Unity and Wakhan Tourism) and they can provide the driver/cars to get into the Corridor. The rates at the moment appear to be considerably more than they would be Tajikistan. Which is unfortunate. Obviously the more people in the car the cheaper it is and you don’t need a car for many days – only 2 or 3. The price quoted August 2009 was $180 per day but this may change. Mountain Unity will provide a break down of all costs, but this is the big one. Further to that there is the cost for guides and homestays ($25pp/night), etc – which if going for 3 weeks will obviously add up. All of which can be arranged via the emails with David.
Sustainable / Eco Tourism – Mountain Unity is doing a very good job of trying to increase tourism with the aim of supporting local people. They have set up a basic network of guesthouses around Iskhashim that are reasonably priced and comfortable. However it appears there is some outside competition starting to come in that is likely to lead to the tourism money leaving the area. For that reason alone I would strongly recommend only staying at a Mountain Unity organized guesthouse.
Mountain Unity can send a car to pick you up from the border (around $20-25).
The Tajik border opens at 0800-12.00 and then opens again at 14.00.
The Afghan border is closed on Sunday.
Opening times 09:00 – 11:30, 14:00 – 16:00.
It would be wise to get a taxi/cycle from Ishkashim (Tajikistan) although it isn’t far – about 3km out of town, simply because the border point is situated in desert – it is excruciatingly hot if waiting there for the border to open, and will not be a pleasant walk from Ishkashim!
There is the open border market on every other Saturday where the two sides mix at an island in the river.
To get to Iskhashim just follow the advice on the Taxi page on this website.
The best two websites to reference for sorting yourself out for the Wakhan and probably all you need (other than this one of course):
Random: If you like reading and you are interested in the Wakhan Corridor, I recommend buying the 3 Cups of Tea book. If you go to the Wakhan you can easily see some of Greg Mortenson’s schools and it is nice knowing the background. (link below)
Also, Mountain Unity will we setting up a nursery in the Wakhan this year and are currently fundraising for good quality toys – that are going to be brought over from the UK. Please throw your support behind this chance for the Wakhan to have a nursery, and one with with decent toys. The Amazon wishlist is here and with free P&P selected it is very easy. Thanks.