Our report from the Uzbekistan – Afghanistan border crossing at Hairatan in 2016. Includes travel times, costs, tips for the crossing, and where to stay.
Crossing the border between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan takes a healthy dose of patience at the Uzbek side, and goes smoothly at the Afghan side. There are no entry or exit fees, and the whole process of crossing the border takes around three hours.
The border opens at eight in the morning, and the nearest city is Termiz. Due to the time-consuming procedures at the Uzbek border, we advise you to go early, so it’s best to stay at least one night in Termiz.
Planning out your Afghanistan trip? Don’t miss our travel guide to Afghanistan.
Getting to Termiz
There is a night train from Tashkent to Termiz every other day. At the time of writing, the train went on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, though check to make sure that’s still the case. The ride is about 14 hours, and the train leaves Tashkent around 19:20, arriving in Termiz at 9:50-ish the next day.
Otherwise, it’s best to head to Samarkand and take a shared taxi from there. Shared taxis to Termiz leave from “Grebnoy Kanal”. A taxi from Samarkand train station to Grebnoy Kanal should cost around 10,000 som. The shared taxi to Termiz will cost around 60,000 – 75,000 som per person, depending on the driver and your negotiation skills.
Staying in Termiz
The Surhan Atlantic hotel has great value rooms, at 35,000 som for single occupancy (around $5) with a private bathroom. Just say “Surhan hotel” and the taxi driver should know where it is. It’s a towering concrete block with blue letters on top, you can’t miss it.
Eager to get to Afghanistan, we passed quickly through Termiz, but there are plenty of ancient archaeological sights in the area that are worth a visit.
From Termiz to the Uzbekistan – Afghanistan border crossing at Hairatan
To get to the border from Termiz you have to take a taxi. It should cost around 20,000 – 30,0000 som. The driver might say he meant the price you agreed on is per person halfway to the border, but just ignore that and pay the agreed-upon amount.
The taxi will drop you off about a kilometer before the border. There some military personnel will check your passport and a free minibus will drive you to the immigration buildings. Here the fun begins.
The Uzbekistan side of the Uzbekistan – Afghanistan border crossing at Hairatan
First off, you’ll have to fill in an exit form. This is the same form as the one you had to fill in when you arrived, although this time they have an English version. Make sure to declare all your foreign money.
After this, the immigration officers will ask you a bunch of questions, and will probably repeat these questions about five times over the course of the next hour. They will also go through everything in your bag and on your body. And we mean everything: your computer, phone, camera, books, etc. If you have a lot of photos, do hide them, otherwise, you might be there for hours.
Make especially sure to hide any possibly sensitive photos, such as any photos showing police or military, religious ceremonies, porn, or guys with long beards. They made Alex delete her videos of Sufi “raves” in Pakistan and all of the Uzbekistan photos (that they could find), as one of her photos contained a guard.
This process is quite annoying, as the immigration officers seem really suspicious. Normally we ascribe the repetition of questions to pure curiosity, but here we think they wanted to make sure we gave the same answer each time. Sebastiaan was questioned for 10 minutes about a little good luck charm, a finger puppet, he carries around in his wallet. Just make sure to be polite and patient, and remember the officers are just doing their job.
After all this, you can get your exit stamp at the little roadside booth outside. This is also where you hand over your registration slips. You’re finally free to leave Uzbekistan! Now begins the one-kilometer walk over the friendship bridge towards Afghanistan.
The Afghan side of the Uzbekistan – Afghanistan border crossing at Hairatan
At the Afghan side, your information will be noted down and your bag will be checked again in a much more relaxed fashion. The whole process takes about 20 minutes. Don’t worry when they ask you how much money you have on you, it’s just one of the questions on their registration form.
To get a taxi, walk outside and leave the immigration post. There might be an English speaking guard who will help you, but if not, a taxi should cost no more than $15. Just mention Mazar and the name of your hotel. Make sure you have an address ready in Farsi in case the driver doesn’t know the hotel.
Where to stay in Mazar-i Sharif
We stayed at Barg-e-Sabz guest house, near to the German consulate. It offers decent value at $20 for a double room with private toilet and is a five-minute walk to the Blue Mosque. Other, more expensive options include Barat Hotel ($30 for a single) and Marco Polo guest house ($50). Both have views of the Blue Mosque.
Make sure to also check out our Afghanistan travel budget report!