|When to go?
According to the The Afghanistan-USSR 1983 International Boundary Study, spring and summer are the seasons of greatest water flow, and late summer and winter the time of low water. September is a month of relatively low water before the snow and cold weather set in.
ideal time for travel is August and September, although the area
is accessible as early as July. Before July, floods make access
roads sometimes impracticable and streams impassable. After
September, snowfalls start blocking roads and trails. The
further into July you go, the more likely you are to be able to
drive until Sarhad-e-Boroghil, and the easier rivers and streams
will be to cross.
Most Wakhi speak Wakhi and Dari, and most Kirghiz speak Kirghiz and Dari. Very few people speak English. Dari being the most widely spoken language in the region, for the sake of good communication, it is strongly advisable either to study Dari before traveling to Afghanistan, or to go with an interpreter. Although being able to communicate in the people's own language is not absolutely essential, it is obviously much more interesting to be able to do so. In particular, being able to deal with the Afghan authorities in Dari makes life much easier. Young interpreters may be hired in Kabul (e.g. try students of the French-Afghan Lycée Esteqlal for French-English-Dari interpreters for 20 to 30 US$). Official interpreters like the ones used by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are much more expensive at 50 USD/day. You will have to provide him with full trekking equipment.
Dangers & Annoyances
During the Soviet invasion, the Wakhan and Pamir was not a fighting place and therefore is generally clear of land mines (there are mines in the valley that leads to the Noshaq). Until the end of the Taleban regime, the Wakhan and Pamir was controlled by the Northern Alliance of Ahmad Shah Massoud, therefore the Wakhi and Kirghiz have never seen the Taleban. Today, it is probably one of the safest places in Afghanistan. People are extremely friendly and non-violent. Nevertheless, it is important to bear in mind that the Wakhan and Pamir is a border region and smuggling and drug trafficking may be happening in some areas. In any case, stay away from border lines, especially with Tajikistan and China. The biggest dangers whatsoever are the ones associated with trekking in high mountains: beware of altitude sickness, and be extremely careful when walking across rivers and streams, and walking on glaciers and rockfalls.
Until Eshkashem, there are many tchaikhana to choose from in most towns and villages. Beyond Eshkashem, in the Wakhan, each village has a shah (king) whose duty is to accommodate and feed visiting travelers. He generally does not expect any contribution (except maybe in Sarhad-e-Boroghil). In the Pamir, most settlements have a house or yurt dedicated to visitors (generally traders). Likewise, it is their duty to feed and accommodate visiting travelers. It is difficult to know how to reciprocate their hospitality. Some gifts may be appreciated. In any case, show extreme respect to the people in general, and to their leader in particular. Blankets are generally provided although a sleeping bag is really good to have. Outside villages and settlements, herder's shelters and purposely-built traveler's shelters are plentiful and ready to accommodate you for the night.
Although you may choose to carry your bag yourself, you may as well go for a pack animal. Horses, donkeys, yaks and even Bactrian camels are plentiful in the Wakhan and Pamir. They can be found anywhere and are always ready to carry your stuff (and even yourself). Some things you should know about pack animals:
It may be better to buy donkeys in Qala-e-Panj. Packing donkeys is easy, ask somebody to teach you. Buying donkeys will save you the burden of intense negotiations at each village. It will also turn out cheaper than hiring them beyond a certain number of days. You can still hire guides on the way for a few dollars.