On the topic of yesterday’s post, there was a lot of information we had to dig around for ourselves that would have been useful to know before trying to get to Afghanistan.
First off, the Afghan Consulate in Khorog has ridiculously fast processing times. We dropped our passports off and paid one afternoon, and picked up visas first thing the next morning. Had we gone early enough the first day, we could have gotten them back that afternoon.
The visa fees were $51 USD, payable at the Tojik Sodirot Bank on Lenin just east of the main bridge. The fees are only payable in USD, but we didn’t have any $1 bills and the bank was willing to take an equivalent amount of Tajik Somoni instead.
On a side note: do NOT lose the bank receipt for your visa payment! You’ll be expected to go back to the bank to get another copy (its a pretty far run when you have friends waiting on you back at the consulate… trust me). You’ll also be asked to pay another $10 or so back at the consulate as a sort of stupidity tax.
Then, bam, you’ve got a one-month Afghanistan tourist visa!
Perhaps more importantly, though, is that fact that its possible to add an extra entry to your single-entry tourist visa while in Khorog. I dont know the name of the building or Ministry. From the pedestrian bridge East of the vehicle bridge, take a right on Lenin. A short ways down is a big government building with a park full of statuesque busts out front. Go in and turn into the hallway on the right hand side, and go all the way to the end of the hall.
It’ll take a bit of Russian, but there’s a man inside the next to last office on the right who can convert your visa into a double-entry. We explained that we wanted to go to Afghanistan for a few days and come back to Khorog, and he asked to see proof of our Afghan application. We were able to show him the visa payment receipt from the bank, and he immediately sat down and wrote onto our visas that they were double-entry. He didn’t ask for any Somoni, somehow, and we walked out with passports and updated visas in hand.
There are two borders near Khorog: one just outside of town and one across from Ishkashim in the Wakhan. Across from Khorog we were asked to take a pretty straightforward step of providing passport copies and a couple of pictures to the police on the Afghan side by way of registration. Other travelers we met who had been to Ishkashim talked about a much lengthier process of going back and forth over the 8km between the border and the nearest Afghan town trying to get everything they needed to be legal. The Afghan Wakhan also requires a special permit for tourists, though the difficulty of getting this varied depended on who we talked to.
Finally, be sure to check the safety situation on the ground before you go. Our trip was safe and fine, but things could be different when you go. A good source of information on the Tajik side is Rojroz (firstname.lastname@example.org), who works as a guide but was also willing to sit with us for half an hour and answer all sorts of questions for us.