How to Cross the Shirkhan Bandar Border Crossing Between Tajikistan & Afghanistan and get an Afghan Visa on the Border
How to Cross the Shirkhan Bandar Border Crossing Between Tajikistan & Afghanistan and Get an Afghan Visa on the Border was originally published in 2023
This is not how I thought my Tajikistan trip was going to go this year. Before I knew it, I was on a shared taxi bound first for Qurgonteppa and then onwards to the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border crossing at Panji Poyan-Shirkhan Bandar.
I hadn’t returned to Afghanistan since my summer 2021 trip which included running a tour, summiting Shah Foladi, and going on an epic road trip to Daykundi Province. But an opportunity presented itself and I set off towards the Tajik-Afghan border.
We arrived in Qurgonteppa in about 90 minutes from Dushanbe. The shared taxi driver said there might not be shared cars going to the border until after lunch and offered up the option to drive me the rest of the way for the cost of the remaining seats.
Seeing how hot it was that day (Khatlon Province is absolutely boiling in June) I took him up on the offer, only to have spend the next hour and a half declining his pleads on why I should let him kiss me (wasn’t the first time this has happened, surely won’t be the last, but come on guys I’m now closer to 40 than I am 30- not a spring chicken anymore.
I never budged, the answer had been a firm no, but hey I made it to the border. I gave him my WhatsApp number so that he would leave, waited for his first kissy-face emoji and blocked his number.
I was going back to Afghanistan.
Need Travel Insurance and Evacuation Services for Tajikistan & Afghanistan?
Start shopping for travel insurance plans over at IATI Insurance. Readers of the Adventures of Nicole get a 5% discount off your plan.
The Adventures of Nicole partners with Global Rescue to offer the world’s leading medical evacuation and security advisory services. To travel with peace of mind, shop evacuation coverage at Global Rescue.
Crossing the Afghan-Tajik Border at Panji Poyan/Shirkhan Bandar
Getting to Panji Poyan from Dushanbe
Getting to Panji Poyan is pretty straightforward and can be done two ways, either by going directly by hiring a driver (easier) or two taking shared taxis with a change in Bokhtar, formerly known as Qurgonteppa (still easy, less convenient).
Hiring a Driver from Dushanbe
You can easily hire a driver to take you to the border with Afghanistan. Most hostels, guesthouses, and hotels can help find a driver to take you. Expect a price of $100 USD.
If going directly to the border the drive should take roughly three hours.
You can also go to the taxi stand (vogzal) at Sakhovat Bazaar in Dushanbe and negotiate with a driver there (still expect a price of 800 – 1000 TJS).
Taking a Shared Taxi to Qurgonteppa and Panji Poyan
If trying to keep your budget low, you can opt to head to the taxi stand at Sakhovat Bazaar. Likely drivers will find you before you find them.
State that you wish to go to Qurgonteppa and you will quickly be taken to a car waiting to fill up (usually 4 passengers total).
This should cost 40 TJS per seat with the option to hire the entire car for 160 TJS.
Once in Qurgonteppa ask for Panji Poyan. These taxis will take longer to fill and seem to either go in the morning or after lunch.
Expect to pay 50 TJS for a seat.
I would factor in 4-5 hours travel time to reach the border accounting for time spent waiting for the taxi to fill with passengers both in Qurgonteppa and Dushanbe.
Exiting Tajikistan at Panji Poyan
You’ll first get to a gate on the Tajik side of the border where you’ll be dropped off by your shared taxi or driver.
The guard at the gate will look at your passport and then he’ll tell you to get in a car or van when it rolls up.
You’ll pay 10 TJS or 100 AFS to the driver and he will drive you to Tajik immigration.
At the Panji Poyan immigration and customs building you’ll hand over your passport and be asked to put your luggage through an X-ray machine. The officers may ask to search your bags by hand.
After you’ve gotten your stamp and exited Tajikistan you’ll get in another car or van and pay another 10 TJS or 100 AFS and they will take you across the bridge over the Panj River and to the Shirkhan Bandar immigration and customs post on the Afghan side.
Entering Afghanistan at Shirkhan Bandar
On arrival, you’ll get dropped at a small covered seating area where there will likely be some Taliban soldiers present, they may flip through your passport or wave you on.
Go inside the building just beyond and they will search your bag by hand and then ask about the visa. Note that women will go behind a curtain for their pat down and search.
Once they’re done searching your bags you will either be stamped into Afghanistan provided you already have a visa or you will be directed to go purchase a visa.
Purchasing an Afghan Visa on the Border at Shirkhan Bandar
Getting your Afghan visa on the border is quite easy.
First, you’ll cross the dirt road outside of the Afghan immigration building and go through a blue and green metal door in a mudbrick wall. Inside, you will find the Afghan visa office.
Inside, they’ll ask about your trip and start the process.
You will need to fill out a visa application, write a letter of responsibility, and provide four passport photos.
You will also need to pay the Afghan visa fee which is $100 USD.
Getting Stamped into Afghanistan
Once you’ve gotten your Afghan visa, return to the immigration building and the officer in there will stamp you officially into Afghanistan- but know that you’re not quite done yet as you’ll need to get another stamp in Kunduz City.
Expect the border crossing to take anywhere from 2-4 hours in total.
It took me three hours to enter Afghanistan at Shirkhan Bandar, however, one hour of this was spent waiting as the $100 needed to be deposited into a bank account at a branch nearby and they happened to close for midday prayer for about an hour.
Getting to Kunduz City from Shirkhan Bandar
Most travelers will have transport arranged to pick them up at the border (I would recommend this to cut down on time, especially in summer as Kunduz is brutally hot).
If not, you can find cars in Shirkhan that will gladly take you to Kunduz City.
Getting Your Final Stamp at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kunduz
Once into Afghanistan, you’ll need to go to Kunduz’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs where you’ll receive another stamp on your visa (this is just a formality stating that the Kunduz MFA has approved your entry visa).
Once you’ve gotten this second stamp you’re officially in Afghanistan.
From Kunduz City, most travelers will continue onto Pul e Khomri where you can continue to Mazar e Sharif or to Kabul, or head east to Taloqan en route for Badakhshan Province and the Wakhan Corridor.
Returning to Tajikistan from Afghanistan at Shirkhan Bandar/Panji Poyan
Coming back to Tajikistan is a simple process here at the Shirkhan Crossing and essentially involves doing the same process in reverse.
At the Shirkhan Bandar border post, you’ll probably be asked about your trip, how Afghanistan was, etc, and stamped out. You’ll again go through the pat down and bag search.
Once finished, go outside to the covered seating area and wait for the car/van to come. Pay the driver 100 AFS or 10 TJS and hop out on the other side of the river at Tajik immigration.
Tajik immigration will have you place your bags through the scanner and search them by hand while they process your passport.
Once this is all completed, you’ll stop at a small office on the way out the door where a nurse will record your passport info into a notebook and take your temperature.
Outside the building, you’ll wait for the car/can again and pay another 100 AFS/10 TJS to reach the gate.
Just outside the gate, you will find taxis waiting to take passengers back to Dushanbe. They charge 250 TJS for a seat or 1000 TJS for the entire car (you can get it down to 800 TJS with some haggling).
Shirkhan Bandar/Panji Poyan Opening Hours
Officially the Shirkhan Bandar-Panji Poyan border crossing opens at 9 am. I would suggest planning to arrive about that time as transport seems to be the most frequent then.
What to Wear When Crossing the Tajik-Afghan Border
Entering Afghanistan it would be advisable to dress conservatively. Women can pick up a shalwar kameez style dress easily in Dushanbe at a bazaar along with a headscarf.
Men have it a little easier, you can wear plain clothes and then purchase a shalwar kameez in Kunduz City (it’s best to dress local), or try to find one in Dushanbe before crossing.
Have Any Questions About Crossing the Panji Poyan/Shirkhan Bandar Border Between Tajikistan & Afghanistan?
Ask in the comments below.