Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

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BakuBound
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Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

Postby BakuBound » Wed Oct 17, 2018 9:41 pm

Don't waste your time with Julia.

She first told me I could buy the ticket at her office with a credit card on the day of departure.

Then when I showed up to buy the ticket, she sent me away to track down Hamid. Utter waste of time.
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JayCee77
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Avoid this ferry at all costs.

Postby JayCee77 » Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:27 am

Over the last 2 weeks, I have completed the Caspian Sea ferry experience. I would suggest you do anything you can to avoid this ferry. I travelled from Kyrik to Alat on the Kara Karaev.

This is a long post.

TLDR: Don't take this boat.

    It is not cheaper than a flight, or, depending on your specific costs, overlanding through Russia.
      It is quite likely that it will not be quicker than overlanding either to the north or south, and to compare it to a flight would be a complete joke.
        You will not know when you can buy a ticket, when the ferry leaves, or when it arrives or basically anything about the scheduling of this boat.

        For me, this was a 10 day experience. I am counting that starting from Beyneu, in Kazakhstan. I am a motorcycle tourist and instead of turning to the north and going to Russia, I elected to try going to the south to Aktau and taking the ferry. This is because I decided not to organize a Russian transit visa. It is 550kms or so to Aktau, and another ~80kms to the port in Kyrik. Nearing Kyrik, there is a brand new road that goes all the way to the port that is not yet on Google maps/Maps.me etc. Turn right onto the new road just after the first couple of benzine stations you will pass coming into the outskirts of Kyrik from Aktau.

        The Kyrik port itself is an absolute deadzone. Until you arrive at it, you will not see it, it is dug into the shore of the sea and not visible from the approaching road. There is a hotel, cost approx. $13US/night. This is not obvious at first as it is behind the security fences. I didn't see inside but friends did and apparently it is newish and quite decent. There is wifi in the hotel, not in the passenger waiting terminal though. Also, my Kazakh SIM card from Tele2 didn't work in the port area for either data or calls, but people with Beeline Sim cards got service. I had to ride out of the port a couple of kms to get service. There is also a canteen that seems to be for the port employees mainly, but waiting passengers can at times get food from this it seems at pretty reasonable costs. They also sell bottled water, and a couple of basic snacks. No booze if you fancy something to help hasten the experience of waiting for the ferry to happen. You can sleep inside the terminal, but I could not pitch a tent next to it on the artificial grass. In fact, even sleeping in the terminal is not guranteed it seems. The man running the hotel protested to the security guards about it and they began to say that it was impossible to sleep in the terminal, although they later relented. I elected to return to Aktau and sleep, and on the 4th night of waiting for the ferry, I slept beside the Caspian, a couple of kms from the port, in my tent. Yeah, 4th night of waiting. I did about 500kms going to Kyrik and back from Aktau, trying to work out when this boat was leaving.

        In terms of trying to find info about the ferry, it's a joke. The port is a waste of your time, there are generally only security guards there who know only a little or nothing. Some of them are quite friendly though. Frankly, nobody seems to know anything at any time throughout this whole experience, both on and off the boat.

        I called Ilgar at the number listed in Caravanistan's main post about this topic, and he was ok to deal with, but frankly, didn't really know anything. He is apparently the Caspian Sea Ferry representative. He told me the tix would be sold at the port on this day, 100%, it didn't happen. He at first said the ferry goes tomorrow night for sure, then a couple of mins later in the same call admitted nobody knows when it goes. Everybody connected to this system blamed the wind for all the delays that happened. I am unsure why there were so many delays. I've experienced delayed ferries before, and one look at the water made me understand why it wasn't safe. This was not the case with the Caspian ferry, both from the shore and on the boat itself.

        I had arrived in Aktau on Thursday, the 18th of October, 2018. By Wednesday, the 24th of October, I was finally able to buy a ticket, in the afternoon, at the port itself. The ticket agent sold us all (there were a group of 9 foreign tourists and 5 other truckers from around the region on the boat - that's all) tickets for $80US, 29,400KZT. They will take dollars or tenge in the Kyrik port. There is an ATM in Kyrik township if you need it, but that's 20kms from the port. $80US gets you, supposedly, a 2 person cabin.

        When we finally got on the boat that evening, the 9 of us got placed in 2 x 6 berth cabins on the lowest passenger deck. These rooms were honestly pretty nasty. There is basic bedding provided, but I used my own. I placed a picnic blanket over the mattress also. Some of the mattresses/pillows were visibly dirty. The room is very cramped for the number of ppl it is supposed to sleep. There was 1 toilet on our deck, a squat toilet. It didn't flush, there was no tissue provided. After about 2 days it was absolutely disgusting. There was a shower, it had no shower head, just a hose, but the water was quite hot and the floor etc was reasonably clean. There was no soap provided, no towels provided. This also goes for the toilets etc.

        Further, there is absolutely nothing you can buy on this boat.

        In the main post here re this ferry, it says you can count on vodka on the boat. There was no alcohol even allowed on the boat I took, according to a truck driver. He said this was by captains orders. I took on a 0.5l bottle of cognac, to share with a friend. It wasn't nearly enough it turned out.

        There was food provided. We had 3 meals each day, and sometimes hot tea between meals. The food was generally ok, it gets repetitive though and is unlikely to feature in your list of favourite meals eaten during your travels. I would most definitely take on board plenty of what ever things you like to eat/drink/smoke. Plenty. A means to cook something would be very useful too. I had some supplies, but not enough, and a gas burner etc. I did cook a few times and am so glad I was able to.

        Our journey was supposed to be 30 hours or so we were told. It was 4 full days on the boat. The crew gave us virtually no information about this, and only when we bothered them did they say anything at all. They blamed the wind. At times this seemed reasonable, at times it didn't with calm waters for several hours at a time. Were they waiting at sea for cargo to arrive in the port versus paying expensive port fees? I don't know. We anchored at one point for about 2 full days off the Baku port. We started a sweepstake re our time of arrival, we were all too optimistic. We played cards. We watched The Lord of the Rings extended version, we slept, we smoked, we complained, we laughed, but what we didn't do was move. Finally, we upped anchor and ambled towards Alat port. We were overtaken by the Professor Gul which left sometime after us from Kyrik. The mobile barnacle farm that is the Kara Karaev is a very, very slow ship.

        Finally, around 3:30pm on Saturday, the 27th of October, we drifted into port. With my motorcycle, it took about 6 more hours before I finally rode away from the port into the Azeri night. During this time, the 9 of us tourists did manage to each get a $20US refund for the cabins. We should have only paid $60US to begin with. I compliment the ferry company on their willingness to refund us this difference. In Alat, there is an ATM, a kind of bank and a small shop.

        This was my Caspian Sea Ferry experience. Yours may differ greatly, but you will have almost no way of knowing this until it is over. An English motorcyclist who was 2 days ahead of me caught the Professor Gul the day after arriving at Kyrik, arrived in Alat ~26 hours later and cleared the port in about 2 hours.

        I truly wish I had just organized the Russian transit visa instead. If you don't have a car/motorcycle etc, just take a plane. You will not save any money on the ferry. If not for the 8 other tourists I was with on the boat, this would have been a much worse experience.

        This was a long post, but absolutely nothing in comparison to the literal days it took to go through the various aspects of this ferry journey.

        Some of you will read this and say "Bring it on!" and to you I say, bon voyage.

        However, for everybody else, in the (paraphrased) words of Gandalf, I would not take the Caspian Sea Ferry unless there was no other way.
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        roro
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        Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

        Postby roro » Fri Nov 02, 2018 9:11 am

        I agree totally with you (though I've not read the entire post):
        For my 2 trips from Central Asia by car I've chosen the North Caspian road even if it is not so good.
        RR.
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        BakuBound
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        Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

        Postby BakuBound » Fri Nov 02, 2018 10:05 pm

        But I assume the poster wasn't surprised by the extraordinary time and hassle involved. His experience is essentially the same experience reported by others for years here and on other forums.
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        Milad
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        Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

        Postby Milad » Sat Nov 03, 2018 4:47 pm

        I just found this. I'm not sure if and to what extent it's bullshit, so I'll let you decide :)

        https://eurasianet.org/watch-out-caribb ... -sail-soon
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        steven
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        Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

        Postby steven » Wed Nov 07, 2018 8:11 am

        Milad wrote:I just found this. I'm not sure if and to what extent it's bullshit, so I'll let you decide :)

        https://eurasianet.org/watch-out-caribb ... -sail-soon


        I look forward to it, and I don't see why it couldn't work: there are nice beaches, interesting culture, history.
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        piszteuo
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        Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

        Postby piszteuo » Sun Nov 11, 2018 5:34 pm

        I arrived at Turkmenbashi port in the morning and I was told by the woman at the information desk that there would be a ferry at around 12:00. I was told to go and buy the ticket quickly. I paid 100 USD for the Bagtyyar. Then when I went back to the information woman to ask what next.
        Suddenly she started claiming that there is no ferry today and most likely not even tomorrow. I should go to the hotel and wait. The hotel is 30 USD for a single room and a ridiculous 20 USD for wi fi. I was told that the ferry is on the way from Baku but a storm is due tomorrow and it won't leave any time soon.
        With my visa running out and to avoid waiting at no mans land for days, the only sensible option was to come back to Ashgabat and leave from here. People at the port are nonsense, all they want is to sell the tickets quickly and then make some money for the hotel as well.
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        mongrelfish
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        Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

        Postby mongrelfish » Sat Apr 13, 2019 11:58 am

        Latest update for Alat to Kyrik ferry:

        I took the Merkuri-1 ferry on 4th April. There is no terminal building at Alat port... after the security check at the entrance to the port, walk up to the roundabout and turn right. Cross the bridge and there are a couple of containers in front of the Border Police building. One is the “ticket office” where you will get a slip of paper to take to pay for the ticket to the other container which is the bank.

        (These are marked on OpenStreetMap but you need to zoom in completely to see the icons).

        You can pay in Manat or Dollars. Once you get the receipt from the bank, go back to the first container and you will get the ticket for the ferry. Cost is now $70 for a 4-berth cabin (no change for a 2-berth cabin ($80)).

        After passport and customs, you can board the ferry. They told me it would be after all the trucks have been loaded but I managed to get on board beforehand. It helps if you hang around at the passport control booth and keep asking every now and then if you can go through. Clean sheets are given out on boarding with the cabin key.

        On berthing at Kyrik port, passport control was done on the ship. After getting off the ship, there was a minibus to take the foot passengers to the customs building for x-ray scanning of baggage.

        As it was late at night, the friendly customs guys directed me to the cafe area where I could sleep for the night before hitchhiking out the next morning. It’s better to try and get out on the road as the trucks are driving off if you are hitchhiking as there is very little traffic from the port.

        It was a smooth hassle-free experience. The weather was also great and the sea was calm. The crossing took about 20 hours.
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        Jurassic
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        Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

        Postby Jurassic » Thu May 02, 2019 5:48 pm

        Hi! We have the LOI letter from the London embassy for entering Turkmenistan on a transit visa and are trying to get the Caspian Sea ferry. Does anybody know if we still need to get a visa stuck in our passport to be allowed to leave by the Azeri border guards or if the letter will be enough?

        Thanks!
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        steven
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        Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

        Postby steven » Fri May 03, 2019 5:27 am

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