How to get a GBAO permit for the Pamirs in Dushanbe
What is a GBAO permit?
If you want to travel the Pamir region of Tajikistan (and it would be inconceivable to come to the country without visiting its most beautiful part) then your Tajikistan visa is not enough and you will need another document. A GBAO permit (Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast) is essential if you are planning on travelling the Pamir Highway as there are various military checkpoints on route who will demand to see it.
What areas does the GBAO cover?
The GBAO permit, in theory, should cover all areas of Gorno-Badakhstan with a couple of notable exceptions. To avoid any confusion, if you are required to detail where you are planning on going, write the following on the application form:
Khorog – Murghab – Darwaz – Ishkashim – Vanj – Rushan
You will need special permission, however, to visit Sarez. If you are especially keen to visit it, you can get a special permit for free from the State Committee for Emergency Situations on Lohuti Street, 26 in Dushanbe (it is opposite the Tajik Sodirot Bank). To visit Zorkul, you may obtain a permit in Khorog or Murghab.
How to get a GBAO permit in Dushanbe?
Whilst it is possible to get your GBAO in other countries (see below) we would recommend getting it in the Tajik capital for sake of convenience as it can be organised in 1 day.
The simplest method is going directly to the OVIR (Migration Police) office in Dushanbe and applying for it there:
Address: Mirzo Turzunzade Street 5
Opening hours: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tel. 227 67 22 (you will need to speak Russian or Tajik)
Cost: 4$ / 20 TJS
Length of the GBAO permit: 15 days
Procedure: The correct department is located on the right side of the building as you look at it from the street. You will enter a waiting room with a darkened window immediately to your left, 3 set back windows further to the left and 1 at the back. Firstly, you must get the application form from the blackened window. Give the guy your passport and he will tap all the details into a computer and give you the completed printed out copy of the form. Take that to the back window.
You will then be instructed to go to Ammonat Bank on the corner of Bukhoro St (see map) and pay 20 TJS. Make sure to keep the receipt as you will need to show this when you collect the permit.
Be warned, however, that it is on the government’s whim if they are choosing to accept applications at that time or not. If there are severe weather situations or problems across the border in Afghanistan at the time then the government simply stops giving out permits. This happened to us but never fear there are always around the problem.
If you find that the OVIR is not issuing permits go to a travel agency located across the road.
Name: Pamir Silk Travel
Address: M. Tursunzoda Street 12 (located in the Bactria [French] Cultural Centre)
Tel. +935 052 361 or +915 536 186
Cost: 235 TJS
Procedure: This method is simpler but more expensive, but if you have no choice, you have no choice. You go to the office of the guy, he photocopies your passport then he will give you a call later to tell you its ready. When you collect the permit you pay him the money. The guy there obviously knows people that you couldn’t possibly and he was able to organise us a GBAO permit on the same day (of course at a healthy profit for himself).
Map of GBAO permit in Dushanbe
Where else can I get a GBAO permit?
The other logical place to get a GBAO permit on the road is in Bishkek assuming you are planning on entering the Pamirs directly from Kyrgyzstan. There are many reports of it being easy to get the permit along with your Tajikistan visa for an additional $20. The permit is valid for 30 days.
Other embassies are more hit and miss. The latest information is that it is possible to get a GBAO in:
Almaty – Bishkek – Islamabad – London – Moscow – Tokyo
But impossible in:
Ankara -Baku – Dubai – Istanbul – Tashkent – Tehran
Extending your GBAO permit
It is possible to extend your GBAO permit at any OVIR office in Tajikistan. Some are better than others so it is recommended to try at Khujand, Khorog or Murghab and to avoid doing it in Dushanbe at all costs. The maximum extension period is 30 days.
If you got your GBAO permit in Dushanbe or elsewhere, please share your experience in the comments below!
written by: Jon