Rumours about the difficulty of getting a visa to enable you to travel to Turkmenistan and the low approval rate are abundant on the internet, but it’s really not as hard to acquire as some people would have you believe. Below are accounts of the visa application process from the recent experiences of 10 travellers that were granted both tourist and transit visas in July 2019.
Tourist Visa for Travel to Turkmenistan
As stated above, there are 2 visa options for travel to Turkmenistan; a tourist visa and a transit visa. The tourist visa can be issued for up to 30 days but comes with a huge caveat. You must be accompanied by a certified guide for your whole trip. As you could imagine, that will get expensive. Three of the 10 people, who coincidentally happened to be European, went for this option. They paid around US$150-200 a day for their guide, including the guide’s accommodation, food and fuel. That was without their own food and accommodation expenses.
All 3 chose a 6 day itinerary, as that was about the limit of what they could afford to spend. One of them had chosen to take flights between some cities, to maximise their time. That meant that they had to meet different guides in different cities. While a guide is being hired by a tourist, they can’t officially have anyone else in the car with them. All their paperwork shows the name of the tourist/s they can have in their car and the dates they can carry them. There are many police checkpoints along Turkmen roads and they often check, so guides will always err on the side of caution.
For this visa, you need proof that you’ve hired a local guide or joined a local tour. That would come in the form of a confirmation slip from the tour company/guide that you are using. From what I can gather, this visa can be obtained at the border with an emailed invitation letter, but there may be delays. The 3 people I met on tourist visas spent around 3 hours at the border waiting for paperwork. That could’ve possibly been because the travel company they booked through missed something.
Transit Visa for Travel to Turkmenmistan
The second option, the transit visa, is said to be one of the hardest visas to attain. Seven people managed to get this visa from both the Bishkek and Tashkent Turkmenistan Embassies in the first 3 weeks of July 2019 with no problems. This visa is issued for 5 days and is valid for transit through any Turkmenistan border with Uzbekistan to Azerbaijan via the Caspian Sea or Iran via Artyk. No other exit points, ie: Afghanistan or Kazakhstan, are accepted. Entry and exit points must be listed on your application and will be stated on the visa placed in your passport.
Getting the Transit Visa for Travel to Turkmenistan in Tashkent at the Embassy of Turkmenistan in the Republic of Uzbekistan
It has been mentioned online that you need to get to the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Tashkent, (found at Afrosiyob Street, 19, about a 400m walk from the Kosmonavtlar Metro station), at 7am to put your name on a waiting list, for when the consulate opens at 9am. This actually isn’t necessary. As long as you arrive at any time before 1pm, they will see you and let you submit your application, even if you end up leaving after 1pm. You will just need to wait outside the embassy for around 20 minutes upon arrival until the processing officer comes out to guide you in. You can wait in a nice shady area across from the embassy so that you don’t melt in the Uzbek heat.
Once the officer comes out, you will be required to trade your mobile phone, as well as any other device with photo taking capability, for a numbered tile. They have a big sign out the front saying that no photos are allowed, so I guess they want to make sure you don’t have the chance to break their rules. This Turkmenistan embassy only requires you to fill out 2 one page forms, the first being the application form, in English and Uzbek, to which you will attach a passport-sized photo. The second form is completely in Uzbek, but the staff will guide you. Both forms are available at the embassy.
The documents required for submitting your application for transit visa for travel to Turkmenistan in Tashkent are –
* Colour copy of the information page of your passport
* 2 passport size photos with a white background
* Copy of visa for country of transit, ie: Azerbaijan or Iran
Upon submission of all your documents, you need to pay a US$10 fee to the embassy and the staff will give you a receipt. They will tell you that you will need to bring that receipt with you when you pick up the visa. They didn’t ask for it when I returned though. They will say to come back in 10 working days. I managed to convince them to have it ready in 10 days/a week and a half.
I had heard that they can email the visa approval letter to you so that you don’t have to physically attend the embassy again. The first staff member I spoke to said that they could email the visa approval letter to me and I could pay the visa fee at the border. The officer who took my application said that wasn’t possible anymore, so I would have to attend the office. 3 other people were given similar information by the embassy in Tashkent.
When you pick up the visa, you’ll need to pay the US$45 visa fee directly to the embassy. They will ask you what your exact entry date is and put the visa in your passport with a validity of 5 days from the date that you give them. You need to make sure you’ve allowed enough time to get yourself to the border you want to use to enter Turkmenistan. Keep in mind that the closest Uzbek/Turkmen border to Tashkent is about 10 hours away by car, with the most popular entry point, Nukus, being a 16-20 hour drive from Tashkent. The Tashkent Turkmen Embassy website is here
Getting the Transit Visa for Travel to Turkmenistan in Bishkek at the Embassy of Turkmenistan to the Kyrgyz Republic
The Embassy of Turkmenistan to the Kyrgyz Republic in Bishkek, located on Baytik Baatyr Street, opens at 10am and is a lot quieter than it’s counterpart in Tashkent. Do take note that it appears to be closed on Wednesdays. There’s no need to rush as you will most likely be there the only one there at the time of application.
Like the embassy in Tashkent, they have a big sign saying that no photography is allowed, but they do allow you to keep your phone on you when you enter the building. There’s no waiting at this embassy, you can just go straight to the window and submit your application. This Turkmenistan embassy requires you to fill out 2 application forms, one with 2 pages and one with 1 page. Both forms are in Russian and English. They also require a hand-written letter stating the visa you’re applying for and a detailed itinerary. They have a sample letter for you to follow at the embassy. The application forms can be downloaded from the embassy website, or are available at the embassy.
The documents required for submitting your application for the visa to travel to Turkmenistan in Bishkek are
Colour copy of the information page of your passport
2 passport size photos with a white background
Copy of visa for country of transit, ie: Azerbaijan or Iran
Before you can lodge the forms with the embassy, you will have to go to the KICB bank, which is a 3km Mashrutka ride away, to pay the US$10 application fee. You’ll then need to take the receipt for the transaction back to the embassy, as proof of payment. The processing time for the visa at this embassy is one month unless you write ‘urgent’ on your hand-written letter. In that case, the processing time will be 10 working days. They will email the invitation letter for the visa to you on the 10th working day.
This invitation letter will be valid for entry for up to 3 months, but you still only have 5 days, inclusive of your entry and exit dates, once you enter. When you present the letter at the border, you will need to pay a US$55 visa fee and they will place the visa in your passport with a validity of 5 days, including your entry and exit dates.
Pros and Cons of Getting the Visa for Travel to Turkmenistan at Each Location
Acquiring the visa for travel to Turkmenistan at the Turkmenistan Embassy in Tashkent is US$10 cheaper, but that could be negated by the fact that you will either have to wait in Tashkent for 10 days or re-enter Uzbekistan later to collect the visa. Getting the visa through the Turkmenistan Embassy in Bishkek is US$10 more expensive, but not having to return to the embassy later could save some time.
Now that you know that the application process for the visa for travel to Turkmenistan is relatively painless, what are you waiting for?
Check out my next post to see what the north of Turkmenistan had in store.