Howdy all. Last year I came up with idea of trying to work out how you would spend a weekend in various cities with only $200USD in your pocket. Fly in early morning on Saturday and leave Sunday evening. This year, I am only making a small adjustment to the concept, and that is that I am taking away a hundred bucks, but at the same time I will be highlighting cities that are cheaper than ones I put forth in the $200 challenge, so it only seemed fair to reduce the cash that there was to splash about!
So in choosing the first city to visit in this challenge, well I have gone for a city I visited on my most recent international trip, sadly a trip that was now over 2 years ago. Anyways, Dushanbe was pretty much my first main stop on the trip, with an overnight at the air hotel in Kuala Lumpur and another quick stop in Almaty just breaking up the journey. And I found Dushanbe to be a pretty interesting place to visit, and on the whole, Tajikistan impressed me as a beautiful and different, eccentric destination on the whole.
So, we don’t include any flights in our $100USD. So we start with an early morning arrival at Dushanbe airport. The local carriers are not recommended, your best bet for a flight into the country is either Air Astana (and with civil unrest present in Kazakhstan, check to see if this is affecting their services) or China Southern. It’s really not a well-connected airport internationally, but luckily these two options are actually fairly decent, and Air Astana really impressed me in 2019.
The airport is not far from town. Unfortunately, the taxis there will try to rip you off something rotten. 30 Somoni is about what you should pay, maybe a fraction more. It’s a little over $2.50 but let’s call it $3 to be safe, and return $6. There may be an occasional bus but nobody seems to use it or recommend it. We have $94 left.
Well, we need to sleep somewhere, right? The place I stayed had various names, ‘Marion Hostel’ was what I booked under but what I found was it had changed its name to Hostel Tajservice. It wasn’t a ‘hostel’ in terms of dorm rooms, or if it was I didn’t stay in a dorm, I had a large private bedroom with a tiny balcony and bathroom. I wasn’t too impressed initially, but in retrospect I think it was pretty good value for $28. There are cheaper rooms, there are more expensive rooms, but this one was pretty decent value for money – $66 left.
See my review – Marion Hostel – a Curious Place to Stay in Dushanbe, Tajikstan
Okay so a couple of places I would recommend to eat in Dushanbe – well three – the first is Rohat Teahouse. You have to eat here at least once! It’s got lots of Central Asian favourites including great soup and $5 – $8 is going to see you right. The Merve Café is full of Turkish favourites and is similarly priced. The Ukrainian Restaurant near the Opera House is very atmospheric and has great food, very filling and was perhaps my favourite meal in Dushanbe. Make do with some snack food for breakfast, there are a few other places like these worth trying, for two lunches, two dinners and snack including breakfast on day two I think you can eat for $35 easily, if not $30. Let’s try and be a bit stingy, and limit ourselves to $30 for food over the two days. I actually think that it’s very possible, I am probably overpricing the restaurants. We have $36 left.
Getting around town is done by taking either shared taxis (marshrutkas – hard to work out sometimes) or the cheaper buses. In fact, the buses are 1 Somoni for a ride. Marshrutkas are 1-2 Somoni. At more than 10 Somoni to the USD you can see that’s pretty gosh darned cheap! Let’s keep $1 for transport around Dushanbe. $35 left!
So, now we have to get around and see a few things. I would say definitely start with Rudaki Park, it’s big and impressive and actually quite beautiful in it’s own way. Also, it’s free! From there it’s a walk to the National Museum, worth seeing just for the modern and impressive building it is in. That’s around $4.50 USD to get in, so we are down to $30.50. The Museum of Antiquities is also worth a visit as it houses this giant reclining Buddha (although the National Museum does have a replica, if you’re into replicas!) It’s also $4.50USD, we are down to $21.50.
The Navruz Palace is a 15 minute walk or so from the National Museum. It’s the most incredible experience and one that shouldn’t be missed whilst you are there, it was built not so long ago and is opulence and extravagance personified. It’s used for international engagements and also for international conferences and the like, and you can have a tour there. I had one, I was the only one on the tour and it cost me … well I cant remember, the Lonely Planet (which is old) says 25 Somoni, I would be cautious and say 50 – so around $4.50USD again. $17 USD left! Don’t miss this one!
Hisar Fort is an historical fort outside Dushanbe, one that has be partially excavated and partially reconstructed. It’s worth going to because it’s something a little different, and won’t take more than a morning or an afternoon. Give yourself $5USD for transport via a shared taxi, and I’m not sure on entrance fee, it’s sort of open so there might not have been one and I can’t find a price online.
It is 90% reconstructed, so be aware and tours are available which probably are worth it to learn a bit about the site, depending on where you want to put your remaining $12. Personally, you can get cheap tickets at the Anyi Ballet and Opera Theatre in town and so if you are lucky enough to have something on when you are in Dushanbe (I wasn’t) then I think for 5 bucks you can probably get a half decent seat to see Ballet or Opera. With 12 bucks perhaps you can afford both, it’s tight though!
Also in Dushanbe the Ethnographic Museum is supposes to be good, but was closed when I was there. Walking around and discovering the little parts of Dushanbe and it’s parks and modern buildings is definitely worthwhile and won’t cost you anything. You’ll also find a couple of mosques – I went to the Haji Yaqub Mosque (not so easy to find) which was actually pretty beautiful.
Dushanbe isn’t chock-full of things to do and see, but it’s certainly has more than two days worth if you like museums as there are a few. I really liked the city, and with $100 and 48 hours, well it’s kinda the perfect amount of money and time in some ways!
Thanks for popping by today and reading about a city very few people know much about (outside the ex-Soviet Union). Hope you are well, take care – and May the Journey Never End!