Getting a Turkmenistan tourist visa is not possible without booking a tour. Getting a transit visa might require a long wait, but you do NOT need to book a tour and do NOT need visa support (LOI). A transit visa allows for a visit of 3 to 5 days (7 days is now very exceptional).
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, but you can enter after the start date and leave before the expiry date.
Since summer 2015, random rejections for transit visas have become common. Based on anecdotal evidence, we estimate the rejection rate now at 50%. It’s really a lottery. No embassy, nationality or itinerary seems to be excluded. Tourist visas also get refused, although the rejection rate here is lower. Young men have the lowest chances, as well as travelers from the US, Middle East and the former Soviet Union.
Since refusals are less common in winter, we suspect a type of quota, meaning you are more likely to be rejected in summer when most people travel.
It is advised for men to shave before applying. Then again, we have heard of travelers with an 8-month growth being accepted. In general though, the difference between a hipster travel beard and a salafi beard goes unrecognized in Turkmenistan. Learn about your options if you have been refused while on the road.
2 especially inauspicious moments to put on your visa application are the periods (let’s say 1 week, but could be more) around Independence Day (October 27-28) and Flag Day (February 19). You have a much higher chance of being rejected. Consulates also tend to take long holidays early May and around New Year and Nowruz.
Most of this is addressed below as well, but it is repeated here for your (and our) convenience.
Can I apply for a transit visa if I fly in or out?
Can I make a detour from the route between my entry and exit point?
It seems to not be a problem.
Can I arrive later and depart earlier than the dates on my visa?
You have already past the answer to that question. Second paragraph.
What if I want to take the ferry over the Caspian Sea but it is late and my transit visa runs out?
You will be deported. When arriving in Turkmenbashi, back to Baku and then deported out of Azerbaijan too since you probably do not have a visa for that one either. When departing in Turkmenbashi, most likely back to your home country.
How long in advance can I apply? Can I apply again if I got rejected?
3 months in advance is a standard maximum, but earlier is possible too. You can try again if you got rejected the first time. They might grant it to you on the second go. Or they might not.
I solemnly swear I have read through the whole article (twice!), but I still have a question about Turkmen visas that has been left unanswered.
You are welcome to ask it in this forum topic.
Turkmenistan transit visa
The Turkmenistan transit visa is issued for 3-7 days. How many days you get is essentially up to the whims of the official granting the visa, but 5 days is standard. 7 days was impossible for a long time, but now possible again in Tehran on a regular basis. Perhaps elsewhere too? Try!
Note that it is a transit visa: this means you need to go from one country to another through Turkmenistan. You cannot go back to the same country you came from on a transit visa. Flying in and out is possible. Transiting Uzbekistan – Turkmenistan – Kazakhstan has been refused in the past, seeing you don’t have to cross Turkmenistan for that, but Afghanistan – Turkmenistan – Uzbekistan has been granted before, so it might be a consular whim.
To apply for a transit visa, go to a Turkmen embassy with the documents listed under Visa requirements and registration. If you are applying on the road, additionally see Embassy reports.
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$ (155$ for Russians). 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. Don’t exit from a different border crossing than the one stated on your visa, it will not be fun!
If you get a 7-day visa, you need to register with OVIR. See the registration chapter for more on that.
Transit visa LOI
Recently, the embassies of Tashkent, Dushanbe and Vienna have started handing out transit visas, saying they can be picked up at the border with Uzbekistan after you get a code e-mailed to you. This has worked well for most, but some people get stuck at the border with nowhere to go after their code did not arrive. Stamped out of Uzbekistan, not allowed into Turkmenistan. One man spent 3 days in no man’s land. Another woman spent 4 days bleeding in no man’s land. So this tactic, although tremendously time-saving, comes with serious risks.
Azeri customs do not allow passengers on the Caspian Sea ferry without having the actual visa in their passport, be it a transit or a tourist visa. Letters with a visa reference number will no longer do.
If you arrive late in Turkmenbashi from Baku and your visa is expired, you will be deported back to Azerbaijan and, since you probably are not allowed to enter there either, onwards to Georgia or elsewhere.
When going from Turkmenbashi to Baku, previously, you could get stamped out by the border guards before your boat had arrived and wait beyond the border if your transit visa has expired. No longer possible. You have the option of a 400$ fine or deportation, which means you are not allowed back into Turkmenistan for 3 years. The choice seems clear.
Turkmenistan tourist visa
Getting a Turkmenistan tourist visa ìs expensive. You need to make a booking for a tour through a tour company. Prices range from 120 to 250 USD per day, including guide, driver, accommodation and food. However, you can cut your costs considerably by sharing with other people or going on a group tour. The tour operator also lets you do your own thing in Ashgabat without a guide, within limits (there are plenty of cameras and secret police, they know what you are doing).
To receive your visa, follow the instructions of your tour company.
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.
Turkmenistan letter of invitation (LOI)
Looking for the letter of invitation to lengthen your stay in Turkmenistan? Seeing how many requests we get from people who still want to get an LOI without booking a tour, I feel the need to repeat myself: if you want to get an LOI to stay more than 5 days in Turkmenistan, you need to book a tour! Sorry, not my rule. If you are a budget traveler, you will have to get the transit visa.
Turkmenistan visa requirements
Visa requirements for transit visa application:
- 1 filled out Turkmenistan visa application form
- 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
- photocopies of your main passport page and of visas of the two countries to be traveled to/from (some embassies may not require the visa for the country you are traveling from, only the visa of the country you are traveling to)
- photocopies of your airline ticket, if applicable
- You do NOT need an LOI for a transit visa
If you do not need a visa for the countries you are going to next, explain that to the embassy staff and they will understand.
Visa application by mail
Can you apply by mail for the Turkmen visa? Yes, you can. At least the Frankfurt consulate is responsive and has seen success stories in the past. Bucharest is another option. Many other embassies do not pick up the phone or reply to e-mail. If you have new experiences, do let us know!
Registration in Turkmenistan
Travelers on a Turkmen tourist visa need to be registered with OVIR, but this will be handled by the tour company who is arranging your visit.
Travelers on a transit visa do not need to be registered with Migration Police (OVIR), unless they have a 7-day visa. In this case, the procedure is as follows:
First, you need to stay at a hotel to have a valid address. Having settled in, the registrations stamp is obtained easily and for free at OVIR on Gogol Street in Ashgabat. They just need a copy of your passport (main page and visa of the country you are traveling to next) and a passport picture. A copy service can be found inside the building.
Registration in other cities should be possible too, but we have no info so far.
Visa extension and overstaying
What happens if you don’t make the deadline and end up overstaying your visa? Traveler reports indicate that first a huge fine will be asked, and if you don’t pay you will be deported, which seems to mean you cannot enter the country for 1 year. If you are coming into the country by Caspian sea ferry from Baku, you will be taken back to Baku on the next boat.
Can you get your transit visa extended if you get stuck on the boat for too long? I had never heard of a Turkmen visa extension before, but these people did it. Another report tells of the following scenario:
It is early on a weekday, Ashgabat central immigration ministry is working and they are in a good mood. They offer you a visa extension (3 to 5 days) where you write a letter to the head of the relevant ministry requesting an “exit visa” of a few more days. If it is accepted you pay for visa again ($55) and are cleared to carry on. From a blog it seems this may also happen if your visa has run out before entry.
You are most likely to apply for a Turkmenistan transit visa in either Turkey, Iran or Azerbaijan coming from the south, or in Tajikistan or Uzbekistan coming from the north. From the south, you can apply for your visa in Istanbul, Ankara, Yerevan, Teheran or Mashhad, or Abu Dhabi. From the north, in Almaty, Aqtau, Astrakhan, Bishkek, Dushanbe or Tashkent.
The best way to apply for your transit visa if you are short on time and want to keep moving is to hand in all documents in one embassy/consulate (for instance Istanbul), and pick up your Turkmen visa later in another embassy (eg. Tehran).
This is a route many people on the Silk Road follow. You can keep your passport with you, only a copy of your passport is needed by the embassy. Cost is 55$. Processing times differ from embassy to embassy. Expect anything from 1 to 4 weeks.
Click the tab below for all embassy reports.