The great visa muddle

They all want to help us get a visa...Some things are more enjoyable than others and for us we would rather be cycling backwards down a 10-lane highway at night than figuring out how in the world to get visas for Central Asia. What a nightmare.

It’s impossible to get reliable information (the Uzbeks tell us something that contradicts other travellers and agencies). There are several phone numbers for each embassy, any of which can be out of service, out of date, hooked up to a fax for part of the day or connect you to someone who speaks no English. Addresses for embassies are also prone to frequent change and of course you can burn many, many dollars on phone cards trying to determine just what you need and how to get it.

This morning it was only thanks to two Iranians who saw us having a fit by a payphone and insisted on coming to our aid that we finally started to sort out part of the muddle. They very kindly translated from Farsi to English where necessary and even made calls on their mobile phones to all parts of Iran to help us out. An hour later we felt slightly closer to our goal and we provided great amusement for the crowd of ten or so people gathered around us. Perhaps the biggest source of confusion is why two Canadians didn’t have a mobile phone of their own — a necessity for every Iranian.

So, for the record, this is what we believe to be true:

Uzbek Embassy in Tehran — 021 2229 1519 (hooked up to a fax until 11am)
Turkmen Embassy in Tehran — 021 2220 6306
Turkmen Consulate in Mashad — 0511 854 7066

We are still trying to figure out what the Uzbeks need to give us a visa. The Turkmen officials say we only need our Uzbek visa (no letters of recommendation or other documents) to get a 7-day transit visa, issued within a week in Tehran or Mashad.

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