Dushanbe, Tajikistan Report of what it's like to live there - 01/09/12
Personal Experiences from Dushanbe, Tajikistan
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Our past postings include: Bonn Germany, Hamburg Germany, Hong Kong, Islamabad Pakistan, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Washington DC. It takes about 22 hours to get to DC from post. Four hours to Istanbul and 11-12 hours from Istanbul to DC. Fly America act prevents most of us from flying Turkish air all the way to DC, so you must fly from Istanbul to Frankfurt, then to DC. 4 hours from Dushanbe to Istanbul, 4 hours from Istanbul to Frankfurt, 11 hours from Frankfurt to DC. Turkish air and United air are the most commonly used airlines. Somoni air is also used.
3. How long have you lived here?
I've lived there a couple of months and will go back in March 2012 for another 1.5 yrs.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Spouse of a Foreign Service Officer.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Very large houses for families and singles. They are difficult to heat and cool. The commute time is about 25-30 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
If you shop at the local markets the cost is low. There are a few grocery stores which import some Western foods. The cost is quite high, but worth it, as there is so little to buy in the country.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Dishwashing powder; it cost $17.00 for a small box in Dushanbe. Bring any seasoning you might like from home. I am so glad we brought a lot of consumables. When the vegetables disappear in the winter, I go to our food storage and cook from that.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
A couple of chicken and burger fast food restaurants. They do not quite meet Western standards. Cost is reasonable.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
I have never seen anything that says organic, gluten free or meat substitute. I am certain they have none of these items. It's not difficult to be a vegetarian, but the vegetables you eat won't be organic.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
The occasional ant infestation. We have seen few insects in Tajikistan.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
The Embassy receives the post by pouch. You can order online and can return these items by pouch. Be aware if you want to send something by pouch it can only weigh up to 2 lb. and be very small in size.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic full-time help costs about US$275-$300 per month. They are always available. I wanted someone who speaks English, they aren't as easy to find. Most helpers speak Russian and Tajik.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are a few gyms and workout facilities.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
There is an ATM most American use at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Nothing official, people meet in their homes. There are quite a few denominations, not sure which ones.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Not aware of any.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You need to know basic Russian or Tajik to get around and shop. I am still learning and it helps a lot.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
There are no accommodations for physical disabilities in this city.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There are buses and taxis which are safe and affordable. Private cars drive around and pick people up for about 60 cents per ride. They have a number in the windshield. It's an easy and safe way to get around Dushanbe.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Bring a four-wheel-drive car. We brought a Jeep Cheroke from the US. The roads have huge potholes; if you drive out of town they are mostly dirt roads. Carjackings are uncommon, however I would not advise bringing a new car that might tempt someone to steal. You would have to email the GSO to ask about service and parts.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
They have medium-band internet, it seems quite slow compared to the US. The cost is a little less than the US.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
The Embassy will give you a cellphone card, you make the monthly payment for the usage. They are very inexpensive.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
There are vets at post. I am not aware of their quality or if they have kennels.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Very few at the embassy. There are a few at the school and at the NGO's on the local economy.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual to casual.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Occasional drug rings; if you stay away they do not look to involve westerners.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Limited health care is available. There is a nurse practitioner at post. London is the nearest medevac center.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
It is normally good quality in the spring, summer, and fall. In the winter the villages that do not have electricity will burn anything they can find to stay warm, and the air becomes very smokey and smells terrible.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Fall is sunny and dry. They have occasional rain storms in the fall and spring. The winters are harsh, temperatures fall to the teens, with a fair amount of snow and damp. In the spring it's very nice, in the 60-70's. In the summer, very hot, up to 120 degrees and dry.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
QSI schools. Adequate schooling for younger grades, but in the upper grades they do most schooling online. If you have a choice I would not bring school age children to this post.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
About 250 expats.
2. Morale among expats:
It depends on who you talk to. Some expats feel the morale is good; others will say poor. It all depends on whether or not you find good friends and things to do. You have to be a self-starter to like Dushanbe.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Entertaining is done mostly in private homes or at restaurants.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
You need to have plenty of ideas of things to do on your own, since it is a lonely city for anyone. Many spouses leave post when/if they cannot find a job. There is very little to do at post. Hiking is great in the spring and fall. You can find your niche if you try.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I haven't heard.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
It's a male-dominated society. Women aren't highly regarded and will be stared at openly. The country is Muslum, but not strict at all. Other religions are not recognized openly. You must meet quietly in homes.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Meeting the local people. They are friendly and like to talk. However if you do not speak Russian or Tajik, it's very difficult to communicate.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Hiking in the mountains. There is supposed to be a ski slope, I hear it is old and somewhat dangerous. People tend to gather in homes for parties and social functions.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
I have heard they have good local artists, so far I haven't seen any art I would want to buy.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Saving money, there is very little to buy in Dushanbe. The weather in spring and fall is nice, dry and sunny. In the winter it's very cold and in the summer it is very hot and dry.
11. Can you save money?
Yes, there is little shopping to do. And imported food is not cheap.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Not sure that I would go.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Motorcycles and bicycles. It is too dangerous to do either, the drivers are terrible, they pay no attention to traffic rules.
3. But don't forget your:
TV, books, consumables (bring whatever you think you will miss).
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you have any other comments?
Dushanbe is not an easy posting. You need to be relatively healthy and enjoy outdoor sports. There is little to do in the winter months, you must enjoy TV and reading. Bring lots of wool clothing, the houses are very cold and hard to heat in the winter. It is expensive to travel out of country so plan your R&R's well. If you have Russian it will be an easier posting. The local staff speak mainly Russian.