Dushanbe, Tajikistan Report of what it's like to live there - 12/14/15
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?
This was my first overseas tour with the State Department although I have done a lot of TDYs overseas and was stationed in Augsburg, Germany in the Army.
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?
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Any trip from Dushanbe to the U.S. takes 2 days. You have one flight a week through Frankfurt (easiest connection), two flights a week through Istanbul, or 3 flights a week through Dubai.
3. How long have you lived here?
I lived there from 2013 to 2015
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
I worked at the U.S. Embassy
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
The housing is decent. The last GSO brought some very nice newer housing into the pool but the rental market is tight there and it is hard to find quality houses. Most of the houses are a decent size. The older houses have some interesting layouts.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
It was hard to find stuff. They mostly have Russian products. There are no American products. Prices are rising and even the best grocery stores are about the size of a 7-11.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Amazon.com is only a mouse click away. Any specialty food products you want will need to be shipped.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are very few decent restaurants. The only places I never got sick at were the Hyatt and the Sheraton. The Sheraton had really good food. There were some good shashlik places (Rokhot. Lola's, and another one all together by Tank Circle). Absract, Namaste Salaam (okay Indian food), Tracktir, Delhi Darbar (best Indian food in Dushanbe) were okay by Dushanbe standards.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
There are some flies and ants but I didn't have any real insect issues.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Available and cheap. US$150 - $200 a month will get you a good housekeeper
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, US$100 a month.
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?
Use the ATM at the Embassy, the Hyatt, or the Sheridan.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A lot if you want to interact with anyone.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, this place has old, crumbling Soviet infrastructure.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Marshrutkas (local shared minivan taxis) are widely available. The guys who drive them are some of the worst drivers in the world.
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?
Something with plenty of clearance for large potholes.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
The first year I was there I got less than 100kbs limited to 10gb a month for about US$100. After 1 year T-Cell started selling a package that was 300k-400k and 40 gb a month for US$100. Internet sucks but at least you can stream when the connection is decent now.
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?
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?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual at work.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
It is on the northern Afghan border and, although it is a very moderate Muslim country, there has been a growth in Salafists. The old opposition forces from the civil war are unhappy with the current government and have assassinated some government figures.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There is no healthcare I would trust in the city other than the Embassy Med Office. You will be medevaced for anything. We were the most medevaced post in the world in 2014. A lot of the medivacs were gastro-intestinal or pregnancy related.
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?
The air is dusty and the new coal plant is causing more pollution. It isn't horrible, though.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Minimal allergies there.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It is dry and warm. In the winter, Dushanbe may have some snow flurries but it usually melts immediately.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I do not have kids but the QSI school there is not good for high school and probably not good for middle school as well. It is okay for grade school.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
None that I am aware of.
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?
Yes but unsure of costs. Contra Field Academy did pre-school through 3rd or 4th grade and was an option for some.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
They love Tai Kwon Do there.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small and morale varied. It was a great community at the Embassy but we were definitely isolated.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Hang out with other Embassy staff. There were a couple of nightclubs and a couple of bars in the city but I wouldn't recommend them.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for single men who speak Russian or Tajik or for families with small children.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No although you probably won't be bothered if you are a diplomat.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Nothing out of the ordinary.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Most Tajik or Silk Road history is actually in Uzbekistan. Taking a trip there to see Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva (this is much further away) is a must. That was my best experience during my tour. For the last 3-4 years the CLO has organized a yearly road trip to go there. The drive along the Afghan border into GBAO stopping at Khorugh is incredible as long as GBAO is open. Khujand, up north, is a more modern city than Dushanbe and a nice drive as well.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Go to Uzbekistan and see the silk road cities.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Suzanis (get them in Uzbekistan), Carpets (get them in Uzbekistan), some great art and artists at the artist colonies in Dushanbe
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The mountains in Tajikistan are beautiful. There is a hiking club in Dushanbe that meets on Sundays. It can be hard to get to a lot of the really beautiful areas of Tajikistan due to roads and travel issues.
10. Can you save money?
Yes, I saved a ton of money and still did a lot of travel.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, it was a great work experience and a great community. It was a tough assignment, though.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
Sense of adventure.
4. Do you have any other comments?
This is a tough assignment. There isn't a lot to do in Dushanbe especially if you don't speak Russian or Tajik. You might get sick a lot if you are unlucky like me. There is a lot of work to be done at the Embassy. I loved the work and consider it to be one of the best work experiences in my life. Don't go unless you are willing to put in the effort at work and are willing to go without things at home. This was a great community while I was there but I know morale has had its ups and downs at the post.