Getting a Turkmenistan tourist visa is perceived as very costly, due to the fact that you need to book with a tour company in Turkmenistan. You should be aware though that lower-cost options do exist to travel for a longer time in Turkmenistan. Most travelers end up applying for a transit visa. However, this route comes with its own set of pitfalls.
Be aware that the Turkmen visa is date-specific, meaning it has fixed start and expiry dates. You cannot enter Turkmenistan before the start date or leave after the expiry date.
Turkmenistan transit visa
The Turkmenistan transit visa is issued for 3-5 days (not in 3-5 days!). How many days you get is essentially up to the whims of the official granting the visa. Not so long ago, cycle tourists traveling to Turkmenistan reported getting the 7-day transit visa, but this option has evaporated.
The transit visa has a set start and expiry date, so it is essential to be ready to enter the country when the visa starts. The cost is around 55$. Note also that you need to enter your entry and exit points on the visa application form. When you get back your passport, check which entry/exit point you got, it might be different from what you asked for.
And don’t exit from a different border crossing than the one stated on your visa!
Turkmenistan tourist visa
Getting a Turkmenistan tourist visa ìs expensive. You need to make a booking for a tour through a tourist agency. Prices range from 120 to 250 USD per day, including, guide, driver, accommodation and food. However, you can cut your costs considerably in Ashgabat, where it is not necessary to have a guide with you, and only use the tour company for visits outside of the capital.
If you decide to get a tourist visa, you do not need to go to a Turkmen embassy. The visa will be issued on arrival in the airport or at a land or sea border.
Turkmenistan visa on arrival
It is possible to get a Turkmenistan tourist visa on arrival in the airport of Ashgabat, as well as on the land borders. You will need a letter of invitation from a tourist agency, which means a booking with them. The Turkmenistan visa on arrival is valid for 10 days, with extensions possible based on the duration of the booking.
Transit visas are not available at Ashgabat airport, however, there is a transit area in the airport for passengers in transit for which no special visa is required.
Letter of invitation and travel agents
Turkmenistan letter of invitation (LOI)
Looking for the letter of invitation to lengthen your stay in Turkmenistan? Look no further. We’ve compiled a list with all tour companies organising trips to Turkmenistan. Any of these can arrange an LOI for you.
Turkmenistan visa application on the road
You are most likely to apply for a Turkmenistan transit visa in either Turkey, Iran or Azerbaijan coming from the south, or in Tajikistan or Uzbekistan coming from the north. From the south, you can apply for your visa in Istanbul, Ankara, Baku, Teheran or Mashhad. From the north, in Dushanbe, Almaty or Tashkent. The best way to apply for your transit visa is to hand in all documents in one embassy/consulate (for instance Istanbul), and pick up your Turkmen visa later in another embassy (eg. Tehran).
This is a route many people on the silk route are following these days with great success. You can keep your passport with you, only a copy of your passport is needed by the embassy. Urgent processing takes 5 working days (meaning 1 week), normal procedure takes up 10 working days (express processing doesn’t cost extra, so no need to use the normal procedure if asked for). Cost is 55$.
If you are getting the ferry from Turkmenbashi to Baku, make sure to have your Turkmen visa issued in Baku (you can apply for it elsewhere). In Baku you will not be issued a visa, but a visa reference number, which the border police in Turkmenbashi will then convert into a transit visa. This way you will be able to use the full time frame of your transit visa, which is essential due to the unreliable nature of the ferry. For this type of arrangement, Baku seems to be the easiest place. However, other embassies have also issued it in the past (be persistent!).
Update: as of April 18th 2012, the Azeri customs do not allow passengers on the ferry without having the actual visa in their passport, be it a transit or a tourist visa.
If you are coming on a regular transit visa on the ferry, and you happen to arrive early, you can avoid trouble two ways: either a bribe to put the date stamp a day forward or, you will be let to linger in the terminal before customs. Similarly, if your visa is running out in Turkmenbashi and the ferry has not arrived yet, customs might stamp you out earlier and leave you to hang out in the terminal past customs until the boat shows up.
If you want to pick up your Turkmen visa from the same embassy where you applied, take the following into account:
From the north: Dushanbe issues transit visas in 5 business days, while Tashkent now takes two weeks minimum.
Turkmen embassy in Dushanbe: Opening hours: 9.30-12.30 and 14-? Address: just around the corner of the Swiss Foundation on google maps, the address given by google maps by default is wrong.
April 2013: It took 6 visits to the Turkmen embassy in Dushanbe to get the transit visa. The consul is very friendly and helpful, but the whole organisation of the consulate is tiresome and less than customer oriented. Sometimes they send people away after waiting for hours for the reason of “no electricity”, or “today it’s too late”, when its actual opening hours, and the bank to pay for the visa is on the other edge of town.
Having received the 5-day transit Farap-Alat to Howdan-Bajgiran we were excited to finally make it to Turkmenistan. However on the Farap-Alat Border, they delayed our immigration by min. 2 hours with lots of phone calls and bureaucratic measures, only to tell us in the end that the 5-day visa is not valid (We had to give the officer an exact itinerary and places to stay) and we have to be out of the country in by 5 pm two days later, because this gives us enough time to transit.
February 2013: Dushanbe, absolutely the best place for a Turkmen transit visa at the moment. Transit visa, express applicaton: 55$, 1 week, have a copy of your outward country visa.
Friendly staff, and now it seems that you can exit the country wherever you want (according to the consul). No restriction about outward border-crossing. They even asked me if I wanted more days on my visa to transit (5 days formerly).
September 2012: Express visa: 1 week 55$. Normal processing: 2 weeks for 35$. Helpful consul, they even pick up the phone. November 2011: 1 week processing for 2 British passport holders, picked up in Tashkent at a cost of 85$ for 5-day transit visa. October 2011: 1 week processing for Australian passport holder, 45$ for 5-day Turkmenistan transit visa. September 2011: 1 week processing 55$, 2 weeks processing 35$.
Turkmen embassy in Tashkent: Address: Afrosiab street 19 Phone: +998-71-2569406
Opening hours: 10am-1pm (play safe, come very early to put your name on the waiting list! 6am is already late in peak season!) Visa pick-up at 4pm. Only open Monday to Wednesday? Don’t know.
Crazy, busy embassy, with long waiting times and frustration build-up, but staff is correct and even quite lenient sometimes, if we piece all traveler reports together.
October 2012: applied in Almaty (see below). There was a list before 10oclock which was administrated by the policeman in front of the embassy. At 10, the assistant appeared from inside and copied this list. If you arrive after this, you’ll have to tell him your name and he\’ll put you on his new list. Old list is then obsolete. On the first day we arrived, the visa wasn’t ready yet, but the day after it was ok. They kept the passport in the morning and we could pick up the visa at 4pm. There were around 20-30 people waiting, but there was no need to be there before 10, waiting time around 1 hour. This is probably different during high season… 55$/Person, we got only 3 days (applied for 5) and not the exit point we applied for (Sarahs instead of Gaudan, they don’t want people to go to Ashgabat).
September 2012: German passports, still lots of lists floating around, 20 days wait, consul advised to try Dushanbe.
June 2012: Arrived 10.30am. There was a list but it was redundant as a new list was being used. People are let in 5(ish) at a time, man with list accompanies them inside office. Wait until he comes back outside then go up to him and explain that you want a transit visa. He will get a form for you to fill in, check you have an onward visa, photocopy of passport and onward visa plus 1x photo. If you don’t have onward visa you won’t even make it inside (they don’t accept a photocopy of your passport stamped by onward consulate saying they are issuing you a visa). Need to/ from entry points and exact days. At present they are advising everyone (Iranian, Italian, Japanese, British, Australian) to come back in 20 days (maybe you can check after 18 days but apparently forms are sent to Turkmenistan for processing). No option for express. Friendly enough but very little english spoken. Arrived at 10.30, in and out by 11.00.
New address: Furmanova, 137, corner of Kalinina & Furmanova. New tel: (727) 272-69-44, 272-69-92 (no English spoken). Opening hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10:00 – 13:00.
December 2012: I applied for a Turkmenistan 5 days transit visa. English is speaking pretty good or at least enough for visa stuff but not very friendly. I applied 12 days ago in Almaty and picked up today in Tashkent I got it on the spot 55 dollars with a french passport.
October 2012: some English spoken, but people are not helpful. Told us it takes two weeks which was correct. You get an authorization code.
May 2012: It’s 10 working days to process a Turkmen transit visa. They will not take your passport, and you can pick up in another embassy, eg. Tashkent.
From the south: Embassies in Iran and Turkey are straightforward when you follow the rules. For a recent update about the consulate in Mashhad and the agent Vali, read this.
Turkmen consulate in Mashhad Opening hours of the embassy are 8:30 – 12:00. Open every day except Friday. Tourists can only apply Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Address: Do Shahid St. off Dah-e-Dey Sq (next to Afghan Embassy)
May 2012: The consulate is open to individuals, or you can use the agent Vali. Either way, it should take 5 to 6 days.
May 2012: Australian traveler used Vali. Cost was 10$ + 55$ visa fee. Emailing the documents 3 weeks in advance, on arrival in Mashad he got the visa same day.
Turkmen embassy in Tehran
The correct location is on Barati street, off Vatanpour, off Lavasani street (map). Opening hours: Sunday from 09:30-11:00 and Mon-Thu from 09:00-11:00. Tel: 222 06 731 Fax: 222 06 732
A good report from December 2011 can be found here. If you want to start and finish the application process in Tehran, count on 10 days.
Embassy of Turkmenistan in Baku
Apparently, the Turkmenistan embassy has moved in Baku. It is now close to the Europa hotel take number 65 bus if staying at hostel in old town. The Kazakh embassy is in the same area.
Embassy of Turkmenistan in Ankara Address: No. 28, Koza Sokak, Chankaya, Ankara (how to get there) Opening hours: 9am-12am, closed on Wednesday.
July 2012: Lodged application in Ankara for collection in Mashhad. 10 days later they sent us an email with letter and authorisation code which we gave to embassy in Mashhad. Filled in the form again, one photo, copy of uzbek visa and photopage of passport and 85US paid directly to the embassy, took only 20 mintues.
Feb 2012: A British traveler applied in London and picked up a 5-day transit visa in Ankara after 1 day waiting for 55$.
Embassy of Turkmenistan in Beijing
July 2012: Tourist visa cost for Americans: 10 day single entry is $35 for normal service (one week) or $55 for express (3 day/weekend) service in USD only. They will keep your passport the entire time (so have a copy for yourself as that is against Chinese law). There is a Bank of China down the road on Tian Ze Lu that can exchange RMB for USD. Keep in mind the consulate is closed on Wednesdays (and at 12:00 (at least on the door), not 13:00 as listed on the website). We went with the express option and dropped ours off Friday morning at 11:30am and it was ready Monday at 15:00.
Visa requirements and registration
Turkmenistan visa requirements
Visa requirements for visa application:
- 1 filled out Turkmenistan visa application form (download here)
- 1 passport-sized photo
- 1 passport with minimum 6 months validity after the expiry of the Turkmen visa and 2 empty pages
- 1 letter from yourself stating your purpose of transit and route (for transit visa application)
- photocopies of your main passport page and of visas of the two countries to be travelled to/from (for transit visa application)
- photocopies of your airline ticket, if applicable (for transit visa application)
Registration in Turkmenistan
Travelers with a transit visa do not need to be registered with Migration Police (OVIR). Travelers on a Turkmen tourist visa do need to be registered with OVIR, however, this will be handled by the tour company who is arranging your visit.