Get in Turkmenistan
Most all nationalities need a visa to enter Turkmenistan. For independent travel, a short transit visa can be obtained, but a full visa may be difficult. Most border guards are young conscripts and a small bribe can ease your entry at the border and roadblocks.
Arranging a tour will make things much easier, as the company can help in getting the LOI and visa. Bear in mind that you might well have to be met by a guide, regardless of how you enter Turkmenistan. This can be particularly important, especially if your inward journey is delayed as is possible when entering across the Caspian Sea by boat.
When you enter Turkmenistan your bags usually will be searched with an X-ray machine. You will have to fill a green Entry Travel Pass, an immigration card and a customs declaration. List all your valuables that you bring with you in the customs declaration, make sure that it is stamped and keep a copy with you. You will have to show it again when you leave the country.
The World Health Organization recommends vaccinations against diphteria, hepatitis A and B, measles, mumps, polio, rubella, tetanus, typhoid and varicella. In addition, vaccinations against meningitis, rabies and tuberculosis are recommended for long term travellers.
It is strongly recommended that you apply for a Turkmenistan visa before travelling to Turkmenistan. It is reported that travellers applying for visa at Ashgabat airport have been detained in the transit area of the airport for several days due to missing documents. A government approved letter of invitation is required of some tourists such as residents of the United States of America before a visa can be issued. It is advised to check with your country’s Turkmenistan embassy website for more information.
All foreigners entering Turkmenistan have to pay a registration fee of US$ 12,- (2012) and will receive a green entry and departure card. Take particular care of the departure card, as it must be presented when leaving the country.
Travelers staying for more than 3 days in Turkmenistan must register with IVOR in Ashgabat, Asady köcesi, phone 391337 or with IVOR branch offices in other towns. You are responsible for registration, even when staying in a hotel. The hotel will give you a confirmation of the accommodation only. This confirmation and the receipt for the registration fee paid when entering the country have to be presented to IVOR. Two photos are required. Registration will be stamped into your passport. You have to give notice to the IVOR in order to be permitted to leave the country. This notice will be stamped into the passport as well. Border controls will check if you have registration and notice to leave stamped into your passport.
Travel permits are required for many border regions. You do not need a travel permit for Ashgabat, Merv, Turkmenabat and Balkanabat. Transit visas allow you to travel along the main roads on your way to the next country on your itinerary. It is, however, absolutely necessary to have a travel permit for the following regions:
* in Western Turkmenistan: for Bekdash, Turkmenbashi, Haza, Dekistan, Yangykala, Gyzletrek, Nokhur and surroundings,
* in Northern Turkmenistan: for the entire region of Dashogus including Konye Urgench, Dargan-Ata and Gazachak,
* in Eastern Turkmenistan: for Farab, Atamurat (Kerki) and surroundings, Kugitang Nature Reserve, Tagtabazar and Serkhetabat.
As of February 2013, Turkmenistan Airlines has direct flights to Ashgabat from Abu Dhabi, Almaty, Amritsar, Bangkok, Beijing, Birmingham, Delhi, Dubai, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Kiev, London, Minsk, Moscow, and Saint Petersburg. Look out for the portrait of Sapamurat ‘Turkmenbashi’ Niyazov at the front of the cabin. Current flight schedules are listed on the airline website., although on-line ticketing is not available.
Turkish Airlines flies to Ashgabat from Istanbul. Lufthansa flies from Frankfurt to Ashgabat. See Ashgabat page for more detailed information. FlyDubai offers service from Dubai’, UAE’s DXB airport to Ashgabat.
There is a railway connection to Russia and Iran, but no train crosses the border at any point of the country.
If you want to enter Turkmenistan with your own car, you need a liability insurance. The green International Insurance Card is not valid in Turkmenistan. In addition you have to pay an additional tax for the government subsidized fuel prices, depending on the distance of your travel in Turkmenistan. This tax has to be paid on the border in US Dollars. Be prepared to have long waiting times at border controls. By vehicle, you can get in through Kazakhstan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.
Visitors holding visas can enter Turkmenistan from all neighbouring countries. Checks at the border usually take one or two hours and maybe even more. Border points are open daily from 9AM to 6PM.
Since no public transportation goes across the Turkmen border, to get to Ashgabat in Turkmenistan from Mashhad (Iran), the following option is the most convenient:
* Take a bus to Quchan: every 2 hours from 6.30AM. Cost: 8000 rial. Duration: 2h30.
* From Quchan, take a private taxi to Bajgiran (village at the border). Cost: 60,000 rial for 2, or less if you can. Duration: about 1h.
* At Bajgiran, go to the border (opening time: 7.30 – 15.30 Iran time). Crossing the border can take up to 2 hours. Turkmen police will ask for an entry tax of $10 (per person) + $2 of bank fees (per group), to be paid in US dollars only.
* In the Turkmenistan side, take a taxi to Ashgabat, which can cost up to $15 per person. Duration: about 1h.
Each crossing may require 15 minutes’ walk across no-mans land, sometimes shared taxis are available. There are three crossings from Uzbekistan to Turkmenistan:
* Farab from Bukhara: Take a taxi from Bukhara to the border (US$ 8) or a shared taxi to Uzbek Olot (Qarakul) and then a taxi to the border. From the border it is about 45 km to Turkmenabat. A taxi should cost about US$ 5 and a seat in a shared taxi less than US$ 1.
* Dashgous from Khiva or Ugench: Take a taxi from Khiva or Urgench to the border for about US$ 10 and another one on the Turkmenistan side from the border to Dashgous for about US$ 1.
* Khojeli from Nukus in Karalpakstan: Take a taxi for the 30 minutes drive from Nukus to the border for about US$ 10 or public transport from Khojeli for about US$1 and a taxi for the 10 minutes drive to Konye Urgench for about US$1.
It is a two hours’ drive from Zhanaozen to the Turkmenistan border and another 40 minutes drive from the border on a dirt road to the city of Karabogas (formerly Bekdash) The last 50km on each side of the border is a very bad dirt road. (approx. US$ 100 private car or 10,000 KZT per person shared). From Karabogas there is a good road to Turkmenbashi with fine views on the Caspian Sea. About 60 km south of Karabogas the road crosses a bridge over the channel connecting the Caspian Sea with the inland gulf.
Several popular travel guides discuss traveling by “ferry” across the Caspian Sea from Baku, Azerbaijan, to the port of Turkmenbashy in western Turkmenistan. Some travelers have faced problems attempting to travel to Turkmenistan by boat. Travelers should be aware that these “ferries” are in fact cargo ships that take on some passengers incidental to their primary function. Passengers are generally not provided food or water on these ships, and sleeping and sanitary facilities are likely to be rudimentary. Travelers should be aware that ships arriving at the port of Turkmenbashy often wait days offshore for outgoing ships to vacate the dock to allow incoming ships to disembark. Some travelers have spent more than a week offshore while their ship awaited permission to enter the port, and they have run out of stores of food and water, or had their Turkmen visas expire before they could be used. For this and other reasons travelers, especially those who plan to enter Turkmenistan by boat, are discouraged from using transit visas to enter Turkmenistan.