Tracking Down A Turkmenistan Visa

Turkmenistan, a reclusive type of country once ruled by one of the most bizarre dictator’s in history, is notoriously difficult when it comes to organising a visa.

But it is possible! Here’s my first hand experience of tracking down a Turkmenistan visa.

A Turkmen schoolgirl on the streets of Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan

A Turkmen schoolgirl on the streets of Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan

Everyone needs a tourist visa to visit Turkmenistan and in order to obtain one you must be accompanied by an accredited guide the entire length of your stay.

The only other option is to apply for a transit visa.

Not without its difficulties either the transit visa is issued for a maximum of five days for set dates. Meaning you must enter and exit on the specific dates selected by you and subsequently printed on your visa.

Similarly you must enter and exit by specific border posts again selected by you and detailed on your visa. To apply you also need proof of visas for the bordering countries you will enter and exit from. Oh, and did I mention it often takes a fair bit of time to obtain? Usually 10 to 14 days.

No wonder Turkmenistan is the seventh least visited country in the world!!

The streets of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

The streets of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

My Silk Road travels would see me travel from Uzbekistan to Iran via Turkmenistan. As a guide can be expensive in Turkmenistan I opted for the transit visa and I applied for it in the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. But first I needed to organise my visa for onwards travel to Iran!!

I arrived in Tashkent on a Sunday evening and applied for my Iranian visa the next day. I was extremely fortunate to be able to get this visa in one working day.  To read about how I got my Iranian visa in Uzbekistan visit my post here.

The next day, Tuesday, it was Turkmenistan’s turn and I took the USSR-style metro across the city to their embassy. The embassy was a large white marble building, exactly what I was expecting to see in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan’s capital.

The metro in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

The metro in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

I’d arrived at 8:15am and put my name on the embassy list. I was # 5 but I still waited a very long time before I was called inside. I had to leave my phone and bag outside. Inside was a little chaotic with a handful of people inside a small room all vying for the embassy staff’s attention. Every time the embassy staff started to explain the process to me someone would interrupt. It was pretty frustrating but that’s just how things work here!

I eventually got the attention a staff member and after some haggling and pleading the embassy staff confirmed my visa would be ready in six working days (that’s eight days in total!). That was with urgent processing, and I got to keep my passport!

So now I had just over a week to wait for my visa to be processed. Hmm…. what to do? I seriously contemplated heading off to see the sights of Uzbekistan but it meant a lot of travelling back and forth. I’d also allowed time to visit these places after my visa was ready and I was starting to feel the effects of being on the road for two months. So I decided to wait in Tashkent and I settled in for the longest stop of my trip so far.

History Museum of the People of Uzbekistan, Tashkent

History Museum of the People of Uzbekistan, Tashkent – a great example of typical architecture of Tashkent and a fascinating museum too!!

My days soon took on the shape of a routine. Breakfast in the cute little courtyard of my guesthouse, followed by some internet time organising future travel and catching on admin stuff from home. At lunchtime I would often wander down to Chorsu Market, Tashkent’s most famous market full of fresh vegetables and fruit, meat, cheese, cheap shoddy clothes and some great people watching.

The colourful and wonderful Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent Uzbekistan

The colourful and wonderful Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent Uzbekistan

From Chorsu I would take the cheap and reliable metro to visit a museum, to buy train tickets to my next destination, or for a general explore of another part of the city.

Slowly the days crept by and I was finally back at the Turkmenistan embassy to actually get my visa. In the morning I lined up and waited to drop my passport off for processing. In the afternoon I returned to pick up my passport complete with one of the most elusive visas in all of Central Asia!

I was really excited.  Not only had I successfully obtained my transit visa for Turkmenistan but I was also now able to finally leave Tashkent and continue my Central Asian adventures!!

Success!! My Turkmenistan Visa!!

Success!! My Turkmenistan Visa!!

Helpful Info / Facts

The Turkmenistan Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan is located at Afrosiab 19, Tashkent near the Ming Oriq/Oybek Metro stop

Opening Times: 10am to noon, Monday to Thursday

Everyone needs a tourist visa to visit Turkmenistan and in order to obtain one you must be accompanied by an accredited guide the entire length of your stay.

The only other option is to apply for a transit visa.

For me it took eight days (ie. six working days) for my transit visa to be processed and ready (I applied for a transit visa on a Tuesday and it was ready Wednesday the following week)

Transit Visa Details

  • Usually issued for a maximum of five days for set dates. Meaning you must enter and exit on the specific dates selected by you and subsequently printed on your visa.
  • You must enter and exit by specific border posts again selected by you and detailed on your visa.
  • To apply you also need proof of visas for the bordering countries you will enter and exit from.

For more comprehensive information and full details of visa requirements I recommend www.caravanistan.com, an excellent resource full of information on the visa process for Turkmenistan (and other Silk Road and nearby countries!!). Their forum is also full of helpful info and tips

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