Tajikistan is a mountainous, landlocked country bordered by Kazakhstan to the north and China to the east. It is one of the poorest countries in Central Asia, devastated by a civil war that engulfed the country after the fall of the Soviet Union. Tajikistan has very few natural resources and over 50 percent of Tajikistan nationals live below the poverty line, mostly working in agriculture, particularly cotton farming. The illegal production of heroin and opium is also a large de facto contributor to the economy.
The refining and export of aluminium is another contributor to GDP, and the government is encouraging foreign investment in agriculture, oil, gas and hydroelectric power. China is the largest investor in the country, with the UK, US, Russia and South Korea also among the biggest investors.
Recently, there has been a relaxing of visa laws in an effort to follow the example of neighbouring countries and encourage tourism. However, Tajikistan is still very conservative and new arrivals, especially women, should dress modestly.
There are only a few hundred expats in Tajikistan, mostly in the capital, Dushanbe, and mostly working in the diplomatic or NGO fields, or at the hotels that serve this sector. Few people speak English outside of these sectors. Most locals speak Tajik or Russian.
The cost of living in Dushanbe is very low, and decent apartments and family houses are available for rent. State education will likely be below expat standards, but Dushanbe has a small selection of international schools, including QSI International School and Dushanbe International School.
Tajikistan is relatively safe if expats follow basic common sense. However, local law enforcement is severely under-resourced. It is not advisable to travel to very rural areas alone, or to walk around anywhere alone at night. Long-term visitors may opt to hire drivers and private security guards.
In addition, healthcare and emergency resources are very limited. Having said this, there are a handful of private clinics in the cities. Medical care is affordable but no insurance plans are available; most people pay in cash. Expats are advised to have full international health and medical evacuation insurance for themselves and their families.