Bordercrossing Iran - Turkmenistan a.k.a. Sarakhs - Saraghs

Is the road, border or area open and accessible to foreigners? Is there danger?
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Re: Border crossing Iran to Turkmenistan: Sarakhs

Post by steven »

Please read and post reports on the Sarakhs – Saraghs border crossing between Turkmenistan and Iran below.

We summarize all info on the Turkmenistan border crossings and Iran border crossings pages.
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Border crossing Iran to Turkmenistan: Sarakhs

Post by BXL »

Dear travellers,

would anyone have a recent experience of a border crossing at Sarakhs / Saraghs from Iran to Turkmenistan?

I would like to know the opening hours of the border as well as - if possible - the timetable of the train from Mashad to Sarakhs (I have seen an indication from more than 10 years ago that the train leaves Mashad at 15.30 and arrives at 18.30), but I have also read that the border closes at 6 pm or even at 5 pm..

Thanks for any indications!

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Turkmenistan Transit (Farap/Sarahks) update

Post by judefoon »

This is probably a route mostly taken by cyclists as it is the shortest. Here is a quick up date on the border situation as we experienced it.

Faraps opened at 8am. Uzbek side the x ray machines worked! Quick customs form and x ray and we were out of there. On the Turkmen side the X ray machines have pretty green blankets on and do not work. They half heartedly searched our bags (opened, ruffled through, shut). We were handed a customs form in Turkmen which they filled out for us. We gave them our printed sheet with our details that the embassy in Dushanbe had emailed us and paid $50 for our visa plus random $12 fee for random things unknown.

Sarakhs: The last 80km of this road is a bit rough. Not so bad if you have come through Tajikistan and small roads in Kyrgyzstan but probably bad if you are coming from Iran. The Sarakhs border closes at 4pm for out going traffic according to border guards. We found this out the hard way, having been slack in out research. We were also told (after we had overstayed) that we should have gone to the Immigration Office in the town of Sarakhs to get an exit stamp when we found the border closed. I have never heard of this and unfortunately we did not do this and were subsequently deported. This means loads of sitting around, filling out forms, a written explanation of why you overstayed (which is then translated), photos, photos of you get the picture. In the end they give you the choice of a $55 fine or deportation. We chose deportation as we said we had no money (we had hidden it in the bikes but they did not check). Not aloud back into Turkmenistan for 3 years when you get deported.
Hopefully this is useful for someone.
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Bordercrossing Iran - Turkmenistan a.k.a. Sarakhs - Saraghs

Post by Roosmarijn »

Hi guys,

I'm having trouble planning my visa dates..
I've read its best to overlap different visa's with a day or two.

But i have no idea if trains/busses or other transport is available everyday.
I'm afraid if I fix a date, i won't be able to make it.

My Iran visa expires on 19th february 2016.
So I plan to arrive and get a transit visa for turkmenistan at 17th february (valid 5 days, 7 if i'm lucky)
That's on a wednesday, does somebody have experience with local transport in Iran to border crossing border crossing Sarakhs - Saraghs?
Is my plan realistic/reachable?

Most likely, i will arrive at Uzbekistan border in weekends, that would be a problem right?

Somebody have tips? Maybe change dates completely?

Thanks a lot for thinking with me!
Cheers, Rosemary
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Re: Bordercrossing Iran - Turkmenistan a.k.a. Sarakhs - Saraghs

Post by bwv812 »

On any given day there's always someone traveling the same way you are, so shared transportation is pretty much always possible. For Central Asia, this will rarely be in the form of of bus or train, but mainly in the form of shared taxis. In the worst case situation, you arrange to arrive at the border city the day before and/or take a private taxi to the border.

For me the only real challenge in terms of planning ahead was Turkmenistan, as it requires fixed entry and exit dates, as well as fixed entry and exit points.
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Sarachs border

Post by brigante32 »

My transit visa starts 1.05.
What time approx. Turkmen border is open?
Someone knows cheap place to stay in Sarchs? I don't want to go directly from Mashad and losing time.
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Re: Bordercrossing Iran - Turkmenistan a.k.a. Sarakhs - Saraghs

Post by Antonio »

Crossed this in August:

I took a cab very early from Mashad. The son of owner of Vali's Homestay was driving. It was 50$. The ride to the border is pretty scenic, there is a small pass along the way, with good views to the plains in the South and the mountains in the North. The ride was 2h 40 mins.

The crossing took 2.5 hours.

I arrived at the Iranian border at 8:15, they checked my bags and asked me if I had any medicine with codeine. They said it could be a very big problem in Turkmenistan. After that, passport check and stamp, but they kept it. They made me sit in the waiting room with other turkmens for almost an hour. I guess when we were the right amount of people we were given the passports back and we payed the minibus guy. I think I gave him all I had left, which was only 20000 IRR.

With the minibus you cross the river and there are a couple of passport checks along the way. Then you get to the brand new white Turkmen building. First you speak with a doctor to check if you are OK. Then you wait. At some point they call you to see what kind of visa you are carrying. When I told them tourist, they called the agency and then somehow got hold of my driver's passport, the original LOI and other documents he brought along.

You have to pay 14$ to enter the country. They give 2 receipts. I payed with 3 5$ notes, and they were able to give me my change back. After that you get your thumbs scanned, you photo taken, and asked a few questions.

When they were satisfied, they gave me the declaration to fill, returned me the driver's documents, stamped my passport and told me to pass the bags in the scanner. Then they checked them. They were specially interested in the medicines. I advise to carry a list with the names and a little description in Russian, they appreciated it.

They keep the declaration, so do not worry about it.

When I was cleared, they allowed me to exit the building, and wait for another minibus. There is nothing and nobody there, so I could not change money. One kind turkmen payed for my short ride to the parking were my driver was waiting. Expect another checkpoint when exiting Sarakhs town.
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Re: Bordercrossing Iran - Turkmenistan a.k.a. Sarakhs - Saraghs

Post by Mrloes »

We (a Dutch couple) crossed the border from Iran to Turkmenistan in the end of June. We took the night train from Tehran to Mashad and then a train from Mashad to Sarakhs (only 60.000 rial per person, departs about 1,5 hours after arrival of the night train from Tehran). At the train station we got on a minibus to the town centre and got off close to the border. We walked the last 1km to the border, where we changed our last rials back to dollars. Not a very good exchange rate (we probably lost about 10-15 %, but it was a small amount anyway), but we thought we couldn't use the rials after we'd crossed the border. We did keep some small change though.

Exiting Iran was smooth and quick. They went through our luggage and were interested in my diary, mainly out of curiosity I think. We had to wait for 5 minutes and then we were enough (too many :) ) to properly fill up the minibus to the Turkmen border post. Sharing the ride with lots of friendly Turkmen women who imported Coca Cola and cigarettes to Turkmenistan made for a good first impression of the Turkmen people.

At the Turkmen border, we were briefly checked by a doctor ("Do you have any health problems?" "No." "Ok!") and had to pay the 14 USD pp fee. They were able to give us change in dollars. Our pictures and finger prints were taken and one guy asked in which hotel we would stay in Mary. We didn't have any bookings, so we just said "Hotel Mary", which the only English speaking guard (a rather young guy) approved of ("Very good choice!").
The luggage went through a scanner and they then went through it manually and semi-thoroughly. They found some of the medicines (malaria pills), which were written down and they asked how much foreign currency we carried (though we didn't have to show it). They checked again if we would really go to Mary and then Turkmenabat-Farap, which we confirmed. One of the guards was fascinated by the vacuum-luggage bag, while one of the two female guards asked my boyfriend "How dance Holland?". When he didn't understand what she meant, she did some kind of traditional dance, which definitely could have been Dutch :P All in all, a smooth crossing.

We were then put into a bus that drove us 500 meters to another passport checkpoint. I think the driver wanted us to pay something in dollar, but we pretended that we didn't understand and he didn't insist.

In the burning hot sun, we bargained a shared taxi down from 60 USD for the both of us to 15 USD per person (we later heard from the Turkmen man with whom we shared the taxi that 10 USD pp would have been enough). We arrived in Mary and finally found a hotel that wasn't as crazy expensive as hotel Mary with its golden lobby, but we were able to break a 20 dollar note there to pay our taxi driver, who typically didn't have any change. The hotel where we stayed (I don't remember the name; it's not on, but somewhere on Turkmenistan street, not far from the train station) let us eat dinner which we could pay in manat the next day, when we were able to exchange dollars for manat from the "guys at the train station".
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Re: Bordercrossing Iran - Turkmenistan a.k.a. Sarakhs - Saraghs

Post by MarieEmilie »

I crossed the Sarakhs border on the 4th of october.

Arrived by train from Mashhad in Sarakhs, jumped into some kind of minibus (I don't think it was public transportation as no one paid in the bus and there were only men, but the driver kindly dropped me directly in front of the border control).

First control, nice people talking to me about the sanctions and offering me tea and cookies while cheking my passport.

Then, I walked to the actual border checkpoint. Here, something quite surprising happened, as I never read anyone mentioning that. A men asked me to come in his office (as I learned later, he was a nurse) and asking me to do a HIV rapid test ! (I probably have to mention here that I am a solo woman traveler) Don't know if I could have say no, I was a bit chocked and offended, he showed me pictures to explain me how I could get HIV (tattoos, drugs injections, brushing my teeths -??!!-, and a picture of a pregnant woman -I guess it stands for sexual intercourse, but yes, it's Iran...) So, as the result was negative I could leave his office (I am really wondering what would have happened if it has been positive, as I was already leaving the country...)

Then quick check of my bag (really quick), few questions, and exit stamp.

From there, a man wants to take you in his minibus (say no, he asks 2 $ for about 200 meters !)then first meeting with young turkmen soldiers, minibus (mandatory, didn't pay anything though)

At the turkmen border, had to pay the 14 $ entry tax, really quick check of my bag (I had 6 packs of cigarettes from Iran, not hidden, they didn t say anything) mostly interested by medicine (I directly said that I didn t have any codein and the woman was satisfied), questions about where I was gonna stay (I just lied and said I would stay in Mary then go in Turkmenabat to cross the Uzbek border), fingerprints, pictures, and stamp ;)

After the border, few taxi drivers, I managed to reach Mary for 15 $ (there was no one to share the price with)

The whole process took around 2,5 hours and they were all really kind and polite (well, except this strange nurse with his surprise HIV test !)
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Re: Bordercrossing Iran - Turkmenistan a.k.a. Sarakhs - Saraghs

Post by us3r777 »

We are a couple of French travellers. We cross the border to Turkmenistan in Sarakhs with a transit visa (five days). It was in september 2018.

We join the border from Masshad by hitchhiking. It was easy.
Only a few control at the border on Iranian side.
At the first checkpoint they wanted us to pay for a taxi. But we wanted to walk or to hitchhike so we refused. After arguing for 10 minutes the military l asked the driver to bring us to the other border for free.

At the Turkmen border, they ask a tax of 14 USD per person.

After the border we hitchhiked to Mary. A few kilometers after the border there is a military control. This control check all the cars leaving the district of sakhars.

The military at this checkpoint don't like hitchhiking. They told us "No hitchhiking"). We explained them that we didn't have money and that we wanted to walk or hitchhike.

We were in a middle of the desert so they didn't want it either. After 30 minutes, the military forces didn't know what to do with us and we were cooperatif and patient so they put us in a bus for free to the next crossroad. They probably knew that we would hitchhike again bit at least we were not in there district anymore.

After that we hitchhiked again and we did not met any control during the rest of our stay in Turkmenistan.

We wrote an article about our stay in Turkmenistan in French here : Transit au Turkménistan : la traversée en 5 jours
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