Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

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2019silkroad
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Joined: Sat Sep 07, 2019 7:27 am
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Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

Postby 2019silkroad » Sat Sep 07, 2019 7:38 am

Hi, we’re looking to cross the Caspian shortly from Baku to Turkmenbashi. Does anyone have more detailed info on the process for taking the Berkarar or Bagtiyar? The Port of Baku website doesn’t seem to allow us to select a date to reserve tickets. Is it best if we go to the ticket office in Baku and buy there? Any updates on whether they are likely to be sold out in September and what the frequency of departures is? Assume they both go from Alat only? Sorry for all the questions and thanks in advance for any light anyone can shed.
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nickblake2
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Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

Postby nickblake2 » Sun Sep 15, 2019 6:07 pm

Hi everyone, new to the forum but hoping this may help.

I'm currently in Aktau, my wife and I made the trip from Baku/Alat in the last couple of days and like others have said, there is nothing to be afraid of.

I messaged Ilgar (+77072929955) who was brilliant, he told me the Merkury 1 was due to leave Alat that day and to make our way to Alat. He answered all of our questions and I cant thank him enough.

Our hotel arranged a taxi for 30 Manat from Baku centre to Alat port. At the port you have to go through security to get on to the site. To then buy a ticket head right and over he railway line to the overhead Port 2 signs, to the right of these signs are a series of containers. The one around the back with ASCO on the door is where you buy a ticket. Definitely worth the $80 ticket, we took $70 and regretted it when we saw the $80.

To pay for the ticket you are sent to the bank container which is behind the ticket container, then you go back to the ticket office with a receipt and are issued with a ticket. We arrived at 11am and had a ticket in our hand by midday. There is a canteen with food as well as a place to buy supplies back towards the entrance. You are free to roam the port as much as you like.

We had some food and then hung out near the ticket office till 11pm, meeting another 8 travellers. At 11pm we were called forwards and went through border control and walked on to the ship.

On the ship we were given keys to the cabin. The $80 cabin has a window and 2 beds, our 4 berth cabin had no windows and was stiflingly hot. Everyone was very friendly including the staff and all the drivers, after boarding ar 11pm we set off about 5am.

24 hours later we were in Kuryk, the food is served at particular timea and is absolutely fine, I would recommend taking extra water (we purchased a 5 litre bottle at the port for about 2 manat.)

During the day you can walk around the ship, there are few places to sit, but toilets and showers whilst not glistening were usable.

At Aktau we got off the boat through customs and there were plenty of taxis waiting even though it was 5am. We paid $25 to get to Aktau.

All in all, dont be afraid, it's a fantastic experience and utilise Ilgar he was brilliant. Any questions just ask.

Cheers
Nick
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Irisz
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Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

Postby Irisz » Tue Sep 17, 2019 7:27 am

We crossed from Aktau (Kuryk) to Baku (Alat) on the 15th of September on the Mercuri-1.

First of all, thanks a lot for your tips, chouse! We did pretty much everything from your posting ;)

By the way, the marine tracking website is useless. We relied just on Ilgar.

And guys, there's the best news we got from Ilgar: you can buy the tickets online!!!
Use this link: asco.az


We bought the tickets on the 13th, they were without a date so I'm not sure how long they are valid. The ticket shows only the date of the purchase, not of the crossing.
When we came to the counter of the Port Building where other people struggled to buy tickets for hours, we just told them (the one english speaking guy) that we have online tickets. We could send them to the english speaking worker there, he printed them out for us and kept them. We were told, it was enough. Later we saw, that they just had a list of names they checked off, so we never even showed our tickets on the phone again. Easy as that.

Were told to be at the port building by 2 am. What we only heard from one other traveller but what turned out to be true (at least in our case) was that the person working at the hotel will wake you up when you stay there, as soon as the ship arrives. In our case, that was 4 am. It was Mercuri-1 we were told right away.

We waited until 5 to start boarding.
We entered the ship at around 6:30 and had passport controls onboard.
It wasn't possible to choose a cabin, they just handed out keys. They all seemed similar though, two beds each, toilet with a little shower and sink shared by two cabins. Also common showers on the hallway which were way nicer (waterpressure and space).

The ship set sail at around 8 am.
We had the smoothest weather so we arrived in front of Alat at around 4 am, where we anchored and had to wait for no apparent reason - we guess there was no space to dock in the harbour. We continued at 10, were able to leave the ship at 12 and finished with immigration and free to go at 1pm
So the actual drive just took around 20 hours, but all in all the we travelled for around 36 Tours (without counting the waiting in the hotel).

Definitly stack up on water, since they only hand out tea and hot water during the meals. We also had some sweets and vegetables and fruits, which will make your stay on the boat much more pleasant foodwise.

All in all, the expierence was great, we were a small group of passengers all torn between frustration and fascination and good humor about the whole process. and thanks to caravanistan and a little planning and of course some luck the annoyances of this adventure kept really low :)
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2019silkroad
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Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

Postby 2019silkroad » Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:51 am

2019silkroad wrote:Hi, we’re looking to cross the Caspian shortly from Baku to Turkmenbashi. Does anyone have more detailed info on the process for taking the Berkarar or Bagtiyar? The Port of Baku website doesn’t seem to allow us to select a date to reserve tickets. Is it best if we go to the ticket office in Baku and buy there? Any updates on whether they are likely to be sold out in September and what the frequency of departures is? Assume they both go from Alat only? Sorry for all the questions and thanks in advance for any light anyone can shed.


In case of interest to others, we failed miserably with our plan to cross by boat, but our back-up plan (and very acccommodating Turkmenistan guide) came to our rescue. Hopefully the below might help decide whether the ferry is worth taking:

We arrived in Baku early on 9 September. We had not budgeted long in Baku and planned to use that day to see the city and then catch a boat any time from the next day onwards to Turkmenbashi. Our Turkmen tourist visa commenced on 11 September, so we did not want to arrive before then. Our Turkmen tourist visa was only for 8 days, so we did not have the luxury of time if the boat was delayed by more than a day or two. As we understood boats go every 1-2 days, our plan seemed doable, although with some risk that it would go wrong.

Before we got to Baku we tried to book tickets on the Port of Baku website for the Bagtiyar/Berkarar. Unfortunately this did not seem to be working, as it proved impossible to select a date.

As a result, on arrival in Baku we headed straight to the ticket office in the port. The map which can be accessed via the Caravanistan website was invaluable as the ticket office is otherwise impossible to identify. As you go down the small road with the building displayed in orange on the map on your left (which is a largish building in a gated compound), you will see a checkpoint ahead. The ticket office is in a white container on your right. There is nothing on the container to indicate it is a ticket office. The door will probably be shut and locked. In the right hand corner there is a small window, partially obscured by a tree. If you knock on the window it will hopefully be answered by a man who can sell you tickets. We were there on 3 occasions between about 11am and 3pm and he was there (although one time he was out getting a drink) - it’s not clear when the office otherwise opens/closes.

We were given three ticket options: the lowest we can’t recall but may have been US$125. The second was US$160. The third, “VIP”, was US$185. Not wanting to be without a cabin we went for VIP. We handed over our passports and US$400 for two tickets but were told to come back in an hour and a half - not ideal to be without our passports and the change we were owed, but we went with it. On return we were given two tickets and without explanation only US$15 change - not clear why, but with the language barrier an issue and relieved to have just got the tickets we gave up the argument. The tickets said quite clearly that our tickets were for the Bagtiyar leaving at midnight from Alat on 11 September, with boarding at 11pm. Great, we thought, that wasn’t so bad.

Wrong.

Later in the evening we noticed that one of our names on the tickets was misspelled. When we asked our hotel reception to call Port of Baku the next morning (10 September) and check if that was an issue, we were told the Bagtiyar had already been and gone! Our complacency having got the better of us, we hadn’t left a phone number with the ticket guy (but nor had he asked us to leave one), and we had assumed we just had to turn up at Alat during the afternoon of 10 September. It hadn’t occurred to us that the boat could go before the time on the ticket. As a side note, if we had caught that boat it may have posed an issue for us as the ferry arrived in Turkmenbashi (we think) around 2pm on 10 September - query what would have happened given our Turkmen visas didn’t start until 11 September - presumably one of a) not being allowed to board in Azerbaijan, b) being held in immigration or on the boat in Turkmenbashi for at least 10 hours until midnight on 11 September, c) being deported immediately from Turkmenistan, clearly none of which are appealing. Does anyone know?

So on the morning of 10 September we went back to the ticket guy. Fortunately, he refunded us US$370 (big relief) and agreed to get us a ticket on the next boat. However, he did not know the departure of the next boat yet so we would have to come back the next day. Most of our communication at this point was via an obliging hotel receptionist over the phone, as our Russian/Azeri was very limited/non-existent, and the ticket guy’s English also extremely limited.

On the next day we went back and the ticket guy explained that the next boat wouldn’t go until midnight after the following day, so wouldn’t arrive until sometime on 13 September. Apparently bus transport to Alat would be thrown in. However, we would now be running heavily into our Turkmen visa, and if there were any further delays, might ruin our Turkmenistan trip entirely. Fearing the worst, we canned the ferry and booked flights on the direct Lufthansa flight from Baku to Ashgabat for about £205 each. Fortunately our Turkmenistan guide was ok with this, including the fact that we would arrive in Ashgabat rather than Turkmenbashi - this may be a luxury possible for tourist visas, although presumably not transit visas.

In the end, we were lucky to lose no time on our itinerary and only US$15, but it was a frustrating waste of time while in Baku. If you are able to converse fluently in Russian (or Azeri), don’t have any time constraints and no knock-on issues for your Turkmenistan plans, then I guess it’s doable but for most people I suspect it’s not worth it, which is a shame, as it should be a simple journey to make. Also note the (very empty) Lufthansa flight we took is due to end around 25 October, so unfortunately that will no longer work as a back-up.

As a post-script, it seems from the Maritime traffic website that the Bagtiyar didn’t leave from Alat again until 15 September. It’s unclear whether the next tickets we would have been issued would have been for that journey, or another (earlier) boat. It looks like the Berkarar is currently going between Olya in Russia and Turkmenbashi only.
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ET_
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Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

Postby ET_ » Mon Sep 23, 2019 3:35 pm

Trying to buy tickets on the ASCO website and its $60 for a passenger ticket Turkmenbashi - Baku, apparently including ‘provision or accommodation and provision of clean bed linen’

Does $60 seem too cheap for a cabin ?
Also there are 2 of us travelling and it only allows you to buy one ticket at a time, will this be an issue?
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lisz
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Joined: Tue Sep 24, 2019 7:35 pm
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Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

Postby lisz » Tue Sep 24, 2019 7:52 pm

@ET_
On this website, you buy one ticket at a time, so you should have 2 separate tickets, 1 for each of you.


My little story (Kuryk --> Alat, 20.9.2019, Merkuri-1):

It seems that now you're supposed to pay car tickets prior entering the ship - either online, or in Kuryk port. I bought my passenger ticket online but for car - I couldn't pick Kuryk/Aktau as loading port. Thought, it was by design, and I should pay for the car in Alat. So I boarded without car ticket. They were not very happy about that - but it wasn't a huge problem either, as I was able to pay the $300 to the captain of the ship.

Kuryk seemed less chaotic than last year. Paperwork took only 2 hours, not 6. Ferry was slow as hell, 51 hours at sea, and I was the only tourist on board ;/

In Alat, I had to pay $41 for road tax, and another $40 for the bridge. AFAIR that's a bit more than last year.
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