Q&A: Door to Hell

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Re: Q&A: Door to Hell

Post by Alex&Craki »

We experimented the Door to Hell only by train with a bicycle.

We wanted to take the train from Ashgabat to Daşoguz with our tandem bicycle and stopping over in Darvaza.
We bought ticket from Ashgabat to Içoguz (Darvaza station) and had to buy Ashgabat to Daşoguz since no ticket exists for Içoguz to Daşoguz (no one does it).
The train departs everyday at 7.30pm from Ashgabat and arrives around 1am in Içoguz.There is actually another train at 5.30pm (11pm in Ìçoguz) but not everyday and it doesn't have the luggage wagon. The trains stop about 20min in Içoguz, plenty of time to get in or out.
Prices for a seat in a Kupe of 4 are: 30 Manats for Içoguz and 45 manats for the full way.
Once arrived in Içoguz we waited a bit at the train station and had some tea with a nice person of the staff (however his boss was clearly unhappy to see us).
We then cycled to the beginning of the south path (2km from train station) and hid our bike somehow. Then we walked the 7km by night. Very easy to follow the main route especially with GPS smartphone ( Google map satellites view in your phone cache can help).
We arrived at 4h45 to the crater just before sunset. And walked back before it was to hot (before 9am was nice, mid june).

We then waited the full day at the train station for the next train. Quite a funny time in the middle of nowhere.. at least the building provides shadow.
We have been able to take the 2nd train without any problem besides that we needed to wake up both the luggage wagon staff and our kupe wagon staff.
At 8.45am the next day we were in Daşoguz.

For the convenience we booked the full kupe both times, this way we didn't bother anyone at 1am.. but not mandatory at all.

Clearly this was harder with a bicycle but quite easy otherwise. The staff of Içoguz was globally nice and if you speak Russian you can clearly have a good time with them (they are not happening much things there!).

Think of bringing enough water. They have some at the train station to make tea but better being autonomous.

Hope this can help :)
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Re: Q&A: Door to Hell

Post by aussietraveller7 »

Dashoguz - Crater (Ichoguz) - Ashgabat - Turkmenbashi
20th June 2018

Crossing into Dashoguz my plan was similar to some earlier posts. I made my way to the crater by taxi, then caught the early morning train to Ashgabat. Train to Turkmenbashi.

Once I crossed the border in Turkmenistan (note the border is closed for lunch between 1pm - 2pm), I headed straight to the train station. At the train station there were lots of people queuing on the right side of the hall. I was told to go the left side where there was no queue and managed to buy tickets straight away. The first train was sold out but I was able to buy a ticket for the second train that left at 7.15pm. Beware, if you are thinking of getting on the first train, then going to the crater and hopping back on the second - I don't think this is viable at the moment as the gap between trains has been reduced to only 2 hours.

There are 2 trains from Dashoguz to Ichoguz and I cab confirm they both do stop near the crater. The times listed in earlier posts are all incorrect. The timetable is now available online at http://www.railway.gov.tm/rasp1.html . If you open this link in goole chrome you will be able to translate straight into English. I would recommend printing a few copies in both English & Russian. The staff in Ichoguz had never since the timetable and I gave them a copy as they where so excited to see it. Also the staff in Dashoguz train station gave me incorrect times which I was able to clarify with the timetable.

I drove in a taxi (cost $40 just myself) which left at the same time as the second train from Dashoguz approximately 7.15pm. It should have taken under 3 hours but with problems on the road, check points, blocked roads & stopping to help someone with a flat tyre. In total it took over 4 hours. My Taxi driver dropped me off at a building that seemed like a stopping point/cafe for trucks. I paid the owner of the place $10 and he drive me in a Ford Explorer at midnight to the crater. Amazing site. Spent an hour or so there and then he drove me back to the station. Got there about 2am and the train arrived about 3am. I reached Ashgabat at 9am. There was a great place to get a shower near the train station for 20 manat called Lahuti Bath House. Aisha Cafe next door has a lovely garden and excellent food.

Later that day I got the overnight train to Turkmenbashi. Turkmenbashi port has completely changed since the new port building opened in April 2018.
Turkmenbashi new Ferry Terminal
Turkmenbashi new Ferry Terminal
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When you go into the port terminal there is a booking and a currency exchange office. Both of these are unmanned. Do not wait here as you cannot buy a ticket there. Go back out of the port building and there is the new hotel as below
New Port Hotel
New Port Hotel
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You need to walk to the left of the hotel and there are some white doors which are unmarked as pointed to below. Open the door & head up the stairs and open the first fire door you see. Then you will arrive in a hallway where you will see two large clear windows (one for each ferry operator). The list system mentioned many times before did not seem to operate anymore, I'm told you can buy tickets days in advance now. After some time I managed to get a ticket, it's hard to confirm what time you need to be ready for boarding so be prepared.
ticket office
ticket office
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I recommend staying at the brand new port hotel as they will wake you up when the boat is ready to leave if it's early. I was meant to board at 8am, but woken at 2am as the boat was going early. Note that the hotel is excellent but does only have 26 beds or 12 rooms so the hotel will be most likely be full, therefore when you arrive if you are going to stay overnight confirm a room as early as possible. Cost is $40 for a room (one person occupancy) $50 (two people occupancy). They sell beer at the bar but keep it hidden from public view as you are not meant to drink at the port.

The Turkmen Ferry has increased in cost significantly since June 1st. It's now $130 per person in a cabin. $100 seat only, $150 Deluxe cabin. Azerbaijan Ferry is still $60 but in truth you have no real choice if your on a transit visa. If you do end up on the Turkman ferry the good news is that it docks directly in Baku.
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Re: Q&A: Door to Hell

Post by Mrloes »

We went to the Darvaza gas crater this June. Quite spontaneously I must say, because we thought we couldn't make the detour with our transit visa from Sarakhs - Farap, so after crossing the border from Iran we went straight to Mary.

The next day however, we decided to go to Ashgabat and the Darvaza gas crater anyway. We got a shared taxi for 50 manat per person from Mary to Ashgabat and secured our night train ticket to Turkmenabat for the next day. We then found a private taxi for 50 USD total for two persons from Ashgabat to the gas crater and back to Ashgabat the next day. It was relatively easy to find someone who was willing to drive us there from the taxi stand opposite of the train station and because it was already late afternoon, we didn't bargain but agreed on the 50 USD. The driver drove carefully, taking care of the bad parts of the road, so it took about 4 - 4,5 hours before we arrived.

The driver told us that it would cost 20 USD to be taken through the desert to the gas crater and back to the road the next day by jeep, but when we arrived the guys with the jeeps were already asleep. We didn't mind walking at all, but our driver insisted that either he would drive us with his own car or he would wake up one of the jeep guys. He said we would have to pay 20 USD either way...
Because he had the luggage we weren't planning to bring to the desert in his trunk and we wanted him to drive us back the next day, we didn't think it wise to just leave the car to start our nightly desert walk, but finally agreed that he would drive us there. We told him multiple times that his car wasn't suitable, but he was apparently very keen on the 20 USD on top of the agreed 50 USD. After 100 meter - surprise, surprise - we got stuck in the sand. We did feel a bit sorry for the driver, so we really tried helping him getting the car out of the sand again, but with no success. He finally told us he would call for help and we could start our walk. Hurray!

After a nice and moonlit walk, we got to the crater. It's not hard to find it, there is a trail all the way to the crater. Apart from two German photographers nobody was awake anymore, so we had no choice but to sleep in our sleeping bags under the stars for the few hours that were left of the night. As we hadn't spotted any snakes or spiders on the way to the crater, we weren't too worried (or tried not to think too much) about dangerous creatures. The next morning we got a ride back to the road from the Germans, where our driver was waiting. We drove back to Ashgabat and paid him 50 USD + a 10 dollar tip, because he was a nice guy after all.

A great experience! We then spent the day in Ashgabat and took the night train to Turkmenabat and crossed the border to Uzbekistan. We arrived in Turkmenistan in the afternoon of the 2nd day that our visa was valid and left in the early morning on the 5th day. Our passports weren't checked anywhere, even though the drivers of the (shared) taxi's were checked frequently.
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Re: Q&A: Door to Hell

Post by Silkysmooth »

In one day from Khiva to Darvaza gas crater.

At our hotel in Khiva they wanted to charge us $25 to take us to Turkmen border. I didn’t like that so I went to another hotel and said the first hotel quoted us $15 for the trip and thought it was high. We agreed on $10 for the whole car.

Taxi had to stop 200m before the border and there I exchanged $10 for 150 manat. No official exchange booths, just an old lady with cash in hand.

Exiting Uzbekistan was seamless. We wanted to walk the no mans land between the borders, but were stopped halfway there by the shuttle bus driver and had to get in. We paid 10000 Som (or $1) per person on arrival.

In Turkmen border we had to fill out a customs form, go to the counter and show our visa. Some people seem to be waiting to get their visa printed on arrival, so we were done much faster then them. Anyway, they asked for our exact route, when and where we are going to be transiting the country. I didn’t mention Darvaza.

We had to pay $26 entry tax (13 per person). After security check we were asked about our hotel bookings. We had nothing booked so I explained how I’m going to get a SIM card with internet at the bazar in Dashoguz and book a hotel. She was sceptic but after more talking we were allowed to enter the country. Oh, and she asked if we had a drone, I said no (truth), and she didn’t check.

There were some guys with cars waiting at the exit gate, so we got a ride for like 15 Manat to main bazar in dashoguz.

We got the SIM card at the point 3 on the map below. The provider was TM, we got 500 MB internet & SIM for $10.

Side note, all the conversations with the people in Turkmenistan were in my broken Russian. I can’t comment on their English skills cause I haven’t tried using it. One exception, at the border we spoke in English.

Back to the map. We went to the bus station, point 1 on the map, to try to get to Darvaza. For that we would need to take a bus in direction of Ashgabat, but they only run at 7 and 8 AM and your can only buy tickets on the bus. Train was out of the question cause the times also didn’t work for us.

We got food and water and more money at the bazaar ($20 for 355 manat - $1 to 17.5 manat).

We went to find a taxi to Ashgabat. Number 4 on the map seemed to be a supermarket, but not 100% sure. Taxis for ashgabat were at pont 2. He wanted 400 for two, but I got it down to 300 manat. We picked up some post and another two guys (now a full car, but still spacious enough) and left for Ashgabat.

It took 3-4 hours to get to the chaikana on the main road, not far from the crater. The guy there took us to the crater for $10 with his soviet jeep.

As it turned out, the president was at the crater so we were told our chances were very low to get a tent to sleep there. We had no bookings, of course. After talking to everyone I could, I was told to wait for the boss of the tent camp to come and decide if we can get a tent (they seemed to be fully booked out).

We sat down in the sand not far away, dead tired, but at least I had an opportunity now to photograph the sunset.

Out of nowhere a guy came, or an angel with a tent, and offered us to rent it with a mattress and sleeping bags for $15. I didn’t even haggle and happily accepted the offer.

We went to sleep right away (at 8PM) and woke up at 4AM to see the fire crater at night. It was magical, and totally worth it.

In the morning we spoke to two friendly Germans with a car, who were going to Ashgabat and they took us with them.

In Ashgabat we went to Kuwwat hotel (not sure if the name is correct, but you will find it mentioned in “cheap hotels in Ashgabat” thread. Price was $30 for us for a room with a toilet inside. Nothing fancy, kinda Soviet. Hard beds. Location on google maps is wrong. I mean it shows the right street, but not location on the street. Maps.me showed the right location. You can also just find the right house number when you are there (again, check that other thread for context).

Thats it for now, going to bed.
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Re: Q&A: Door to Hell

Post by bwv812 »

Silkysmooth wrote:We went to find a taxi to Ashgabat. Number 4 on the map seemed to be a supermarket, but not 100% sure. Taxis for ashgabat were at pont 2.
Looks like the taxi row is in the same spot as when I was there 6 years ago, and #4 is indeed a supermarket.
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Re: Q&A: Door to Hell

Post by MarieEmilie »

Went to the crater from Ashgabat.

I went first to the new international bus station (bus 33 goes there, from the main avenue next to Kuwwat Hotel) and from there took another bus (53 and 47 go there) to the shared taxi station.

I got a shared taxi going to Dasoguz (they asked 150 manat, didn't even bargain as it was raining and I was freezing outside).

It took only 2,5 hours to reach Darwaza.
They dropped me next to the beginning of the path in the desert, I walked the 7 km to the crater.

Arrived at the crater, get to one of the yurt akd asked if I could stay and have dinner there. In fact, I had dinner, overnight in a tent, beers and breakfast ... all for free.
Don't take it as a rule though, 1) I'm a solo woman traveler, 2) it was my birthday and I mentionned it, 3) I walked the 7km in the desert under a heavy rain and looked quite miserable when I arrived :) Also, I was the only "transit", and there were a lot of organized tours so I had the left over from the big groups (I write "left over" but I actually had a huge dinner !) They were super friendly and installed a tent for me next to the tent of a female guide.

The next morning, after breakfast, the manager told me that there was seats left in the jeeps going back to Ashganat so they brought me back there for free as well.

Again, I don't think it happens a lot to have everything for free, but at least if you go back to Ashgabat you should be able to find an available seat in one of the organized tours' jeep.

It was an amazing experience and an unforgettable birthday ;)
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Re: Q&A: Door to Hell

Post by AlbertoBoero »

We found a good way to go to the crater, stay there the night and continue to Kunya-Urgenz/Dashoguz/Uzbek border. Per person the cross country transport costed us just 200 manat! (Or 150 if you are with 4). No tour can compete with this, plus you have your freedom.

To go to Derweze Crater, we went to the Intercity Taxi Station north of Ashgabat. It is pretty far away, like 10 kilometers. It's further north than the bus station. It is not hard to find on Maps.me, but if you want to find it with Google, this is it:

There were 18 taxi drivers wanting to take us, so we could make a good bargain. We made a deal for 600 manat in total (30€!) from Ashgabat to the crater and the next day to Kunya-Urgench. The driver brought us to the crater, it was no problem for him to go off the main road with his normal Toyota, so a 4WD is not necessary. He went back to Ashgabat and picked us up the next morning at 9 am.

At 1 pm we arrived at Kunya-Urgench and paid the 600 manat without a problem.

At the Crater there are many yurts to choose from. You will see a whole row of them at the right / east side, like a camp. This place has by far better facilities than the other Yurts. There was a hot shower, separate toilets, dinner and breakfast. The place looked very new and clean. We bargained down the price from 20$ per person to 40$ for the three of us. I think it helped that one of us went to check out the other Yurts:p

One last recommendation. Search in Maps.me for the water and mud crater before you go. They are next to the main road (just before you turn right to take the dirt track). You could ask the driver to stop and see them first.

In Kunya-Urgench there is one cheap but not so clean hotel (price before bargaining 130 manat pppn). Instead, we decided to see all the main sights in two hours and continue to the border.
Last edited by AlbertoBoero on Sun Jun 23, 2019 5:48 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Q&A: Door to Hell

Post by togreiser »

Thanks for the rapport AlbertoBoero. Very useful!

One question: Is there any transport/taxi at the Crater? I just want to stay for a few hours and then go from the crater to the train-station to take the train north.
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Re: Q&A: Door to Hell

Post by 12holvoe »

Another experience with public transport :
You can take a shared taxi from the same taxi station indicated by AlbertoBoero above - 150 manat per person (you have to pay the whole trip to daşoguz). The taxi drops you at a chaikhane (restaurant) on the main road 7km away from the crater. We choose to walk to the crater but the chaikhane can arrange a jeep for you for 200 manats (i guess you can negociate). The walk is easy if you want to feel a bit alone in the desert, even though you walk on the track - just a few hundred meters in the sand from the chaikhane to the track. We left the taxi station at 15h30, arrived at 17h30 and walked from 18h to 19h30, hot but bearable, and nice light when you arrive at the crater. There we stayed in the yourtes.
The following day, we left at 7am to avoid the heat, arrived at the chaikhane at 8h30 after meeting some dromedaries on the way. After a second breakfast with tea and meat soup, the bus to daşoguz arrived at 10h (there should be another one at 11). It was overcrowded but they accepted us, we sat on the floor near to the driver for 20 manat per person - last two "seats" as he refused many other people on the way. The road is quite bad for 150km after darvaza but gets better afterwards. But trip took 4h with no other stop.
We decided to stay the night in Dasoguz (sabat hotel is very cheap: around 100 manat, walking distance from bus station, not very clean) as it appears that it is difficult to find an hotel in Koneurgench. If you do not wish to stay there we heard uzboy hotel is a bit better.
The following day, we took a taxi at dahan bazar (nice place) from daşoguz to koneurgench border, including the visit of the historical sites in koneurgench, for 200 manat.
In conclusion, it is a cheap option, good experience to meet some people (especially if you speak some Russian... Not our case), but of course it takes a bit more time than private taxi. The overcrowded bus could be a problem but many cars stop at the chaikhane so you can find a ride if the bus is full.
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Re: Q&A: Door to Hell

Post by AlbertoBoero »

togreiser wrote:Thanks for the rapport AlbertoBoero. Very useful!

One question: Is there any transport/taxi at the Crater? I just want to stay for a few hours and then go from the crater to the train-station to take the train north.
I guess you can ask someone, there were some people with a motorcycle or otherwise the yurt owners have cars.

But why not ask the driver to wait a few hours and bring you to the train station? I think it is way cheaper than the prices I read on this forum for transport from/to the main road. We paid 600 for Ashgabat-Crater and Crater-KunyaUrgench, so 300 (maybe 200?) for Ash-Crater and then directly to the train should be possible.
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