Getting a Turkmen visa
Getting a tourist visa for Turkmenistan is out of the question unless you want to pay for a guide and even then a restricted number of applications are approved each year.
The good news is that obtaining a transit visa, at least in Iran, is relatively easy. It does make for a rushed trip between the Iranian and Uzbek borders if you only get a 5-day pass but it’s possible with few long days and a little luck with the weather.
If you want to enter from Azerbajan, the transit visa will not give you enough time to cycle all the way across Turkmenistan, especially if the ferry is delayed, which happens frequently. In this case, you’ll have to consider taking public transport for at least part of the journey.
Many tourists apply for their Turkmen transit visa in Tehran. It’s possible to get it other places too, although we’ve heard reports of people being refused a visa in Abu Dhabi.
Wherever you apply, you’ll need:
- An onward visa for the country you’ll be going to after Turkmenistan.
- Two copies of your passport, a copy of the visa for the country you’re currently in, a copy of your onward visa and two passport photos.
- At least one week for processing. Allow extra time for mistakes and delays. Remember that embassies will be closed for holidays, notably around the New Year period, usually in the third week of March.
Transit visas are normally issued for 5 days. In the past, cyclists used to be able to get 7-day visas by telling the embassy that they were travelling by bicycle but the Turkmens appear to have clamped down recently and these are harder if not impossible to get now. There were rumours of 10-day transit visas but we’ve never heard of anyone actually getting one. When you set the dates for your visa, it’s worth making it overlap with your Uzbek visa by a couple days. If you arrive at the border early, it’s nice to be able to cross instead of being forced to stay in Turkmenistan.
Visa prices vary by nationality. In 2008, visas cost $46 U.S. for British citizens and $31 U.S. for most European nationalities. There is also a $10 U.S. entry fee at the border. Notes must be in perfect condition (no marks or creases) and change is not always given.
Once in Turkmenistan, our papers were only once checked by police. With a transit visa, you should not need to register with OVIR. If you get a 7-day transit visa, be aware that some cyclists have had trouble leaving Turkmenistan as the border officials aren’t always aware that a 7-day transit visa exists. Some of them believe you have to register after five days with authorities. Our dispute was quickly dropped when we pointed out that the embassy in Tehran told us we did not need to register but other cyclists have been delayed for a few hours while the whole mess gets sorted out.