Since the summer of 2015, Turkmenistan has been randomly refusing transit visas to travelers. We estimate the rate of refusal at higher than 50%. Some tourist visas are also getting refused. We have seen all types of nationalities, genders and ages being refused, in embassies across the region. The reasons for the new difficulties are equally obscure, but we guess it has to do with a worsening economic situation and increased Taliban presence at the Turkmen border.
In case of refusal, this page lays out your options for a plan B.
Many people apply in Tehran and pick up in Mashad. To give yourself more options to bypass Turkmenistan in case of refusal, apply earlier. Of course, since the visa is date-specific, you will have to figure out way in advance when you will arrive at the border – many things could go wrong here, and you might want to spend more/less time in the countries before Turkmenistan than originally planned.
Applying for a Turkmen visa is not possible in Baku or Tblisi. It is possible in Ankara, Teheran or Mashhad, or Abu Dhabi. From the north, in Almaty, Aqtau, Astrakhan, Bishkek, Dushanbe or Tashkent.
Is it worth to apply for a tourist visa?
Will you get refused again? There is a chance you will get it, but it will cost you more time and money to obtain this visa with no guarantee. Your choice.
Plan B – stuck in Iran
There are direct flights from Tehran to Almaty, Urumqi and Dushanbe. With a stopover in Baku, you can fly cheaply to Aqtau. Tashkent and Bishkek can only be reached indirectly, either from one of the cities mentioned above, or from Istanbul or Dubai.
From Mashad, there is a direct weekly flight to Dushanbe. Otherwise, you can fly from Mashad to Dubai, Istanbul and Tehran and connect to the rest of the region from there.
If you do not want to take airplanes, you have 2 options:
- Apply for an Azeri visa in Tehran, go to Baku and take the ferry to Kazakhstan.
- Get a Russian visa in Tbilisi, make a detour via Russia and Kazakhstan (you might need a Kazakh visa for both these options).
You might be able to obtain a Pakistani visa for transit in Tehran. Due to security concerns, I cannot recommend the route via Afghanistan to Uzbekistan or Tajikistan. The chance you will be killed is considerable.
Plan B – stuck in Uzbekistan / Tajikistan
From Tashkent, you can fly to Tblisi or Baku for 250-400$/€ and to Tehran for 350-400$/€. From Dushanbe, it’s 500-600$/€ for a flight to Iran. From Almaty, you can fly to Baku for 200$/€ and to Tblisi for 120-200$/€ (direct or via Aqtau). Bishkek only has flights to Moscow and Istanbul.
If you do not want to take an airplane, you need to get an Azeri visa and subsequently take the ferry or get a Russian visa, and take the long way round to Georgia or Azerbaijan. In both cases, a Kazakh visa is also necessary if you are not visa-free for Kazakhstan.
Plan C – give up
At a certain point in time, with little money in your pocket and worn down from running around to different embassies and googling up alternatives, you will have to admit it: you have been defeated by powers greater than yourself. In that case, you can decide to skip Central Asia entirely and fly to Delhi or Bangkok, take the bus back home or cycle around in Eastern Europe.