Turkmenistan (enter at Bajgiran to Ashgabat - exit from Turkmenabat / Farab)
- Compared to the Iranian side of the border, the border process seemed well organized and straightforward. Passport needs to be shown right after the first gate. Driver and passenger need to enter border building to get visa & stamp (we had a tourist visa on arrival). We had to pay 120 USD for the Visa, and a bit more than 100 USD for all sorts of official car import taxes, insurance, gasoline tax (even for an electric car), and so on. Payment was done in separate rooms. ¾ of our dollar bills were rejected due to little bends in the bills. For the border, have only the shiniest new USD bills with you. In the rest of the country, normal USD was ok as well.
- Our problems started with the last step of the inspection of the car. Due to the Asian games happening in Ashgabat this fall the government implemented stricter rules on which kind of cars are allowed to Turkmenistan and especially Ashagabat. What might cause problems are: Any color of the car besides white, tinted (rear) windows and colorful stickers on the car. Unfortunately our car had all of this. Only due to the persistence of our guide and the travel agency behind him (stantours.com - we can recommend them) we were able to import the car to Turkmenistan - after a 4 hour wait. We were not allowed to bring the car into Ashgabat though. It had to be parked at a parking lot outside the city border.
- The car is thoroughly searched (= open some boxes, allow border guards to have a look into every storage space in the car, no unwrapping of car seats or permanent covers). I had to show pictures on our Ipad, hard drives were not accessed or searched.
- Our last guide accompanied us until the Uzbek border. Therefore leaving Turkmenistan was fairly easy for us.
- Show our passports at one first barrier.
- Continue to the border, exit stamps inside the building (quick again thanks to guide).
- The driver had to let the border officials superficially search the car.
- After that we were ready to go the Uzbek side of the border. 30 minutes in total on Turkmen site.
We met more people on our journey who got rejected for a transit visa through Turkmenistan than who got it. We also wanted more than the minimum 3 days of a transit visa to cross the country. Stantours offered us the best deal: 620 USD per person for 4 nights/5 days, including two nights at the Yyldyz hotel in Ashgabat (awesome hotel!), visit of ancient Merv and a lot of extra help with our electric vehicle. The service stantours offered was excellent.
Other offers we had included:
- Ayan travel: 750 USD p.P. for 4 nights/5 days - they didn't want to deal with the charging problem of an electric vehicle (they told us the journey would be impossible).
- Turkmen travel: 450 USD p.P for 4 nights/5 days - we found no reliable feedback about this travel organization. Reliable?
- Tourist visa means that you can't move anywhere outside Ashgabat without a guide. The guide usually pays attention that you're with him. We walked around the block of the hotel in Mary on our own… rest was always supervised.
- Border - Ashgabat (and all of Ashgabat): good quality
- Ashgabat - Mary: two lane highway with fairly good quality tarmac, the farther away from Ashgabat, the poorer it becomes
- Mary - Turkmenabat: potholes in some stretches, bad quality but manageable, occasionally heavy traffic.
- Turkmenabat - border: new roads are being built and mostly open.
This post is part of a series of postings in this forum. Main overview here: http://caravanistan.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=3647