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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Joined: Mon Jul 22, 2019 7:11 am
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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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Mignon_travels
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Caspian Sea ferry from Baku to Turkmenbashi (September 2019)

Postby Mignon_travels » Mon Oct 28, 2019 3:39 am

The way the Caspian Sea Ferry works is just far from our mentality. Once you’ve accepted it, though, everything is going to be alright… maybe!

So, how does it work?

1. There is no timetable and you need to call the Baku Sea Port (in Alat) to know if any boat is leaving that day
2. Don’t expect that someone is picking up every time
3. Don’t expect them to speak English
4. Buy the ticket at the port once you go there to take the boat, you must pay dollars in cash – there is an ATM next to the “ticket office”, but we didn’t use it
5. You can buy a ticket online but then you’ll have just a ticket with no schedule, so you always need to call the port
6. The Azerbaijani cargo boat costs $60 and you’ll have your private ensuite cabin and three meals
7. The Turkmen ferry costs $120 and you’ll have just a seat, we assume food is not provided
8. There is no VIP ticket, if they ask you more money they are probably cheating you
9. Be patient

This is the email we received from ASCO (Azerbaijani Caspian Shipping Company):

Please note that we have ferry services from/to Port Alat (Baku) - Aktau (KZ) and port Alat - Turkmenbashi (TK) every 2-3 days but due to changing weather conditions we don’t have a schedule.
For the route Alat - Aktau , Alat - Turkmenbashi you can purchase tickets from our ticket sales office based in Alat port

Contact details are as below:

For information about Alat (Baku) -Turkmenbashi route, please contact the number +994 55 999 90 61.

For information about Alat (Baku) -Kuryk (Aktau) route, please contact the number +994 55 999 91 24.

Alternatively, you can pay for the ticket online https://public.acsc.az/online/payment/index/en/ but as we don’t have any ferry schedule you still should contact our ticket sales office in Alat at numbers provided above prior to your planned travel date to find out information about the departure date of ferry & ensure you arrive to port early to book a seat on ferry. You should submit payment confirmation or code issued after online payment to ticket sales office at port to get a boarding pass.

Cost of ticket for route Alat-Turkmenbashi is $60/person/one way

Cost of ticket for route Alat-Aktau is $80/person/one way”


——-

After calling the port three days in a row, we managed to take the boat on the 9th of September 2019: we arrived at 7pm to buy the tickets, we embarked around 10pm and the boat departed at 2am of the 10th. We arrived in Turkmenbashi around 11pm of the 10th and we disembarked around 2:30 am of the 11th.

—-

Another thing that seems to be concerning a lot of people is the Turkmen transit visa. It DOESN’T have a fixed date of entry. You have to declare it but it’s just indicative, its validity starts from the day of issue (Turkmen embassy in Rome: when you receive the code via email) and lasts three months. The Turkmen embassy in Baku confirmed us this information.

—-

For further details about our experience, you can have a look at our article about the Caspian Sea Ferry: https://mignontravels.com/caspian-sea-f ... kmenbashi/
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dper99
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Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

Postby dper99 » Tue Nov 12, 2019 3:21 pm

It definitely wasn't the best option in leaving Turkmenistan. From my experience I definitely don't recommend it.

I'm on a transit visa so I arrived in Turkmenbashi the day before expiry. Went straight to the passenger ferry building and was told to come the following evening. As I wanted to make sure there wasn't any confusion I arrived lunchtime on my last day. No one would commit to a time of arrival of vessel or departure. The cost of the ticket was steep, at US$100 for the 12-13 hour trip. The receptionist at the port speaks English and is doing a good job, but neither she or anyone else knows anything. Went into transit area via immigration and customs around 9pm. Took quite a bit of food and had brought extra water from the hotel close to the port. Both immigration and customs were professional and relatively quick. The area you stay in is comfortable and you can sleep on either long length chairs or on multiple normal seats (most comfortable). Note that the lights are quite bright. Toilets are close by and pretty clean. After 24 hours in this place there was still no word. There are electricity points so you can recharge. You can also look out of the windows but except for some very average but traditional music videos that are repeated every 5 hours or so on a loop there is not much to do. Of course there is no Internet. Things started to happen after 31 hours with some trucks driving towards the docking area. I was joined by the other paying passengers after 35 hours but we didn't board for another 2 hours. Once on board there was a scramble for couches. This is when I realized that you got a crappy seat for the $100. A real rip off. You can pay an extra $20 to a crew member and get a cabin or there are some places to sleep on the floor but the locals don't seem to understand that 2am is a time for sleep rather than a loud chat. Then we were told that the captain had decided not to leave until 7.30am that morning. So by this time we departed 43 hours had elapsed from the time I had arrived at the terminal. Unfortunately this wasn't the end of the story. The boat arrived after the 13 hour journey into Azerbaijan. Then there was a quite long delay before disembarking. Fortunately, or so we thought, tourists were allowed to leave the boat first. Immigration and customs were fine, although relatively slow. A bus is provided for US$3 to take you from Alat (where the boat docks) to Baku which is around a 70km commute. Leaving the boat early didn't help as we had to wait for all passengers to go through immigration before the bus left. As a lot of these people buy goods in Turkmenistan to sell on in Azerbaijan for a profit customs wanted to open every box. So from the time the boat landed until the time the bus left there was another 4 hour wait. With the 1 hour it took to arrive in Baku (at around 1am Baku time) this 13 hour boat trip had taken me 62 hours from the time I arrived at the terminal at the $100 for a seat rip off price. Go to Iran instead. A much better idea.
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Kay
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Caspian ferry from Turkmenbashi (Turkmenistan) to Baku (Aserbaidschan)

Postby Kay » Wed Nov 13, 2019 5:48 pm

Hey there,

We took the ferry from Turkmenbashi to Baku. We arrived at November 11th 2019 in the morning at the port and bought our ticket for 100$ per person. They told us there won’t be a ferry this day and we should come back next morning.
The next morning it was still not sure, if there is going to be a ferry. Which made us a bit nervous, because of our transit visa, which expired that day. We told it the lady at the information desk (here English was really good and she was super friendly). She talked to the immigration officers and then told us: in case there is no ferry today we have to pass immigration today and spend the night there until the ferry leaves the next day. But we were lucky. At 7pm all the passengers went trough immigration. There we had to wait another 4 hours until we were allowed to board at around 11pm. But somehow we didn’t leave until 6am next morning. We didn’t mind at all. We had our sleeping mats and bags with us and had a very good sleep on the floor. There was breakfast at around 9am and after that we were able to enjoy the whole day at the deck (it was a sunny day and the views just awesome). After sunset there was dinner (we actually brought our own food, because we didn’t know and were glad we did. It didn’t look that good, but what do you expect).

I think we arrived in Baku at around 8 or 9pm. After we passed the border we took the bus to Baku. There were another 2 hours of waiting involved, because the bus was waiting until all the passengers went trough immigration. So we arrived in the Center of Baku, 5 km away from old town. There are some taxis around to take u were ever you need to go.
In total the trip took us 3 days including all the waiting... but worth it. And also if your visa will expire before leaving you don’t have to worry. You just need to spend the night at the port after the immigration area. So you don’t have to pay a fine, or you don’t get deported... because that’s what we were reading in some other forum.

Cheers,
Lea & Kay
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rhinomaxil
Posts: 37
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Re: Caspian sea ferry updates & questions

Postby rhinomaxil » Sun Nov 17, 2019 1:37 pm

Hi,

We actually travelled with the two previous posters above on the Turkmenbashi-Baku ferry, and it's funny to see the different experiences. Overall we wouldn't necessarily recommend this route, although it's fun to cross Turkmenistan (for those considering going to Aktau or through Daguestan instead), and there were some very scenic moments, like when the boat left Turkmenbashi at sunrise.

We took the night train from Ashgabat to Turkmenbashi on the 8th, and arrived at our hotel in Baku around 2am on the 12th. In between, there was a lot of waiting, less sleep, and no shower. The $100 ticket is certainly overpriced, and the accommodation options in Turkmenbashi are not cheap either (see our post here: viewtopic.php?f=22&t=2548&p=34741#p34741). Also, the ferry boat which operates is quite new so you don't have the old photogenic cargo boat I was looking forward to. The $100 ticket includes two meals (breakfast at 9:00 and another meal at 17:00) which are ok, but I'd still recommend bringing your own food.

At the Turkmenbashi ferry terminal, there is a nice cafeteria where you can kill the time watching Turkish detective dramas or Russian music videos while eating a 15 manat plov.
1 x


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