Moving to Dushanbe as a foreign family

Considering a move to Dushanbe with your family? While this is not a popular expat destination, you’re not alone. 

What type of foreigners typically move to Dushanbe?

There are only a few hundred expats in the entire country, with most living in the capital Dushanbe. Most expats work in diplomatic or NGO roles, or in positions that service other expats, like hotel chains. 

Will I find locals who speak English?

Very few people speak English outside of these sectors (around 5% of the population, to be exact) so if you want to make Tajikistan your long-term home, then it’s advisable that you and your family learn to speak Tajik so you can interact with locals and not only with other expats.

Russian is not an official language but you’ll found it’s commonly spoken alongside Tajik. 

Tajikistan is home to some of the world’s highest mountains and has some of the most stunning scenery in Central Asia. Tourism is only just starting to take off here as visa laws have been relaxed in the last few years to encourage holiday makers. 

Is the economy really struggling?

Despite significant economic progress in the past decade, Tajikistan remains one of Central Asia’s poorest countries. With a poverty rate hovering around 26%, most of its citizens are employed in agriculture such as cotton farming for their livelihoods. 

After gaining independence from the Soviet Union following a devastating civil war in 1991, this country of almost 10 million has been striving to steadily build itself into an independent entity amidst adversity.

What type of house can I rent in Dushanbe?

Most expats prefer to stay in hotels in Dushanbe if they are staying for a short time. However, if you are planning a move to this city, then you will want to find longer term accommodation. 

Renting is very affordable, even in the city centre. You’ll be able to get a modern apartment or house for a reasonable price, you’ll just need to find a real-estate agent who speak English to help you fill out the paperwork and sign the lease. 

What do locals do for housing?

In Tajik society, the traditional pattern of life has been for extended families to live together in one compound, but this pattern is changing with the construction of apartment blocks and the movement of people to find work. Large families are still common in rural areas, but in an urban area like Dushanbe, often the family size will be smaller and consist of 2 or 3 children, the parents and the husband’s parents all squeezed into one apartment. 

What does a local house look like?

Tajikistan’s traditions are still alive and well in the daily lives of many people in villages, who hold on to their traditional clothing, dances, and home decorations. In traditional Tajik homes, rugs, embroideries, and quilts are used to make the home warm and inviting.

Life in Tajikistan has always revolved around the extended family, rather than by tribal affiliation. People often live close by to their kin group and often share household items and support each other in general. In fact, Tajikistan has one of the highest numbers of people living in family groups rather than on their own in the Soviet Union. 

Getting around in Dushanbe

Although much of the country does not have a easily accessible transport system, the capital has a good railway and several taxi services.

If you want to explore the rest of the country, you can get minibuses called marshrutka around cities and towns, or book a fare on a larger bus if you’re wanting to go from one city to another. If you plan to drive, we recommended that you hire a 4-wheel drive as the roads are often in bad condition outside the cities. 

Cost of living 

According to Numbeo, a family of four estimated monthly costs are $1,313.5, without rent, which is 74% less expensive than a city in the US, like New York. You can get a meal at a basic restaurant for $3.50 per person, a cappuccino for $1.20, and a one-way train ticket for 20 cents. A three-bedroom apartment in the heart of the city will cost you roughly $600 per month. 

Cultural practices you should know 

For foreign families relocating to Dushanbe, there’s a wealth of cultural knowledge to take in. Adapting and getting comfortable with the country’s customs can help make the experience more enjoyable.  

It’s important to research cultural practices, as some practices like eating with hands are respected whereas using foreign utensils may be frowned on. 

Tajikistan’s culture is deeply rooted in its population majority of Muslim followers. This has influenced the food, music, dress code, and other traditions in the country. Tajikistan remains conservative and new arrivals, especially women, should cover up.

What is it like to be a female living in Tajikistan? 

The Tajik constitution allows women equal rights to men which means they can work in any career, such as education and government. However, as women take primary responsibility for caring for children (an average Tajik woman spends an average of 45 hours a week per week on household duties) they often don’t have time to pursue employment.

Gender roles in Tajikistan

In Tajikistan, men take the helm of a family’s decision-making process. They are responsible for deciding everything from who takes on which roles and responsibilities to what schooling their children should pursue – all with an eye toward protecting family interests in the future. 

The oldest active male member serves as the patriarch that guides these decisions, ultimately shaping how life unfolds for everyone in his household, such as outlining the division of labour among members; deciding who should study versus work outside the house or in the fields; managing large financial decisions and charting out career paths for children.

Men and women are often segregated in society. Often they will sit on different sides of the room at events. 

Marriages are frequently arranged when the bride is still a child, even as young as 2 years old. As she grows up, she is expected to become a good housekeeper and worker.

What is education like in Dushanbe?

It’s important to remember that the education system in Tajikistan is very different from most Western countries. It has been working to rebuild its education system since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the civil war that ended in 1997. 

A recent study with 22 secondary schools in Tajikistan has shown that most schools focus on transmitting information to students with rote memorisation, so education will likely look different from a western context where teachers focus more on critical thinking and student-directed learning.

Where can I send my children to school?

Most expats send their children to an international school, such as Dushanbe International School, QSI International School and Tajikistan International School which all encourage project and inquiry-based learning and critical thinking. 

Making friends in Dushanbe

Reaching out to other expat families and immersing yourself in local culture will help you adjust much faster. Understanding Tajik customs and befriending locals is key when adapting as a foreign family to life in this unique country. 

How do local children spend their time?

Tajik children go to school generally for half days (often 9am-1pm, or 12pm-4pm). When they are home, they will often watch TV. Being a poor nation, often children will have few toys and so television is an easy way to keep entertained. The government has recognised this and has many educational programmes that are aired specifically for children. 

It can get as cold as 20 degrees below Celsius, so playing outside can be difficult in winter. In warmer months children will play outside with neighbours and be called home by their mothers when it gets dark. 

In this country of extreme weather, dressing children appropriately is considered important. Locals will be surprised if your children take their socks off in winter or have some skin showing, and may gently scold you or try to help dress them properly for you. 

What do parents do if children misbehave?

If children misbehave, Tajik parents will often pacify their children. Some parents will give crying toddlers lollies or sweets to stop them crying. Children are given lots of sweets in general, so be ready for your children to eat more sugar than normal!

It’s common to see children helping with daily tasks, especially girls, who will entertain younger siblings, sweep courtyards and make themselves useful in general. In fact, the responsibility for raising children in Tajikistan does not solely fall on the parents; it’s common for neighbours or relatives to help with childcare and daily household tasks.  


Healthcare and medical facilities can be limited as hospitals lack up to date equipment. There are a few private clinics in cities where you can pay in cash for their services. We recommend that you get full international insurance and medical evacuation for your family. 

Is Dushanbe safe?

Dushanbe offers a mostly secure environment for locals, but it’s wise to exercise caution. Local law enforcement is often under resourced and so going out at night is not recommended and extra care should be taken when visiting rural areas.

Make the most of your time

If you are a family that enjoys the outdoors, then you are in for an adventure. From the snow-capped peaks of the Pamir Mountains to the turquoise waters of Lake Iskanderkul, there’s a diverse landscape to explore, making it an ideal place for outdoor activities like hiking, camping and birdwatching. There are also historical sites and ruins to visit to find out more about the country’s history. 

If you are considering a move to Dushanbe, you are probably aware of the challenges of raising a child in a foreign culture.

It’s worth remembering that no one culture has all the answers when it comes to parenting. It’s freeing when you can glean the best parenting practises from both your new and home cultures. And when you find it difficult to understand a certain cultural practise, it’s helpful to take the time to brush up on Tajik history to find out why locals do what they do. 

We do our best to provide the most accurate and helpful information, but rules and procedures can change. Your experience could be different depending on your country of origin and the locality you choose to live in. For the most current information check official government sources and speak to a local attorney or a professional on the ground. 

Related Categories

Recent posts