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  #1  
Old 10 Nov 2013
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Ferry from Baku to Turkmenistan on tight schedule

Hi all,
I am riding a motorbike from the UK to UB starting in May next year and trying to work out the best route.I have some fellow travelers who are looking at meeting up in Samarkand around 8 June.
My options are:
1. Enter Iran on about 31 May, pay 1600 pounds for Carnet plus visa and make my way across Iran and Turkmenistan in 7-8 days...not appealing.
2. Get a ferry from Baku to either Turkmenistan or Kazakhstan on around 1 June.
3. Go via Ukraine and Russia (least preferred).

The big question is, if I get to Baku around 30/31 May what chance do I have to get to Turkmenistan by 2-3 June at the latest?

If I get a 5 day transit visa for Az. what chance do I have to get a ferry in that time?

Will I get a Turkmenistan transit visa going via the ferry with a motorbike? Can I get the transit visa in advance or should I given the ferry is unreliable?Is there any sort of timetable for the ferry in summer?

Sorry for so many questions.

Tom
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Old 10 Nov 2013
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Hi Tom,

Have a look at parts 15 16 and 17 of Mike's blog here:

Too Young For A Mid Life Crisis: Part Fifteen - The Pending Ferry to Turkmenistan

I think his experience is fairly typical, I 'll probably do my best to avoid the ferry on my own trip next year.


Hope it helps. Regards.
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Old 11 Nov 2013
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Hi Tom,

I'm Mike, the writer of the blog that you've already been linked to. The majority of my thoughts on the ferry crossing are on the blog linked above but I'll try to answer your questions too:



If I get to Baku around 30/31 May what chance do I have to get to Turkmenistan by 2-3 June at the latest?
No chance at all. Particularly if you're planning to get your Turkmen visa in Baku. The embassy is only open on Mondays and Fridays from 9.30am and it'll take a couple of hours since you need to go to a bank a few km away to pay for it. When arriving in Azerbaijan you'll be given 72 hours temporary import for the bike, meaning that when that 72 hours is up you need to hand your bike over to port customs. This means that your time in Baku will just be time in Baku, you won't be able to ride to the surrounding areas and see Azerbaijan to its full.

If I get a 5 day transit visa for Az. what chance do I have to get a ferry in that time?
Read my blog for details of what happened to me. While the crossing is 17 hours in theory (in fact it's far less, more like 12), the problems come at the ports. In the best case scenario you'll have the whole process over in 2 days; but that really is the best case and it could be far longer if there's bad weather, public holidays, a particularly busy day in the Turkmenbashi port, etc. I arrived after my visa had expired and was issued a replacement. This was actually pretty good because it gave me the full 5 days in Turkmenistan. This process couldn't be started until the morning but was pretty quick to be fair to them. It was reissued within 6 hours despite it being a national holiday. I had to write a letter which was a direct copy of a Swiss man who had the same thing happen to him, and I had to pay $64. I only used 3/4 because you aren't allowed to diverge of your agreed route, a route that I agreed while very tired and just desperate to get it over with. I wish I'd put in a stop at the Darvaza gas craters instead of going via Mary and Turkmenabat.

Will I get a Turkmenistan transit visa going via the ferry with a motorbike?
Yes

Can I get the transit visa in advance or should I given the ferry is unreliable?
You need to get an LOI in advance regardless of whether you get the visa in your home country or Baku. One thing that I only found out when I got there is that you visa dates must match the dates on the LOI according to the Baku embassy, meaning that you may as well try to get it in your home country. It saves you something to do on the road and means you aren't restricted by the Monday and Friday working hours of the Baku embassy.

Is there any sort of timetable for the ferry in summer?
No. It goes when it's full. It really isn't a 'ferry', it's a cargo ship. You'll be on there with Turkish and Azeri lorry drivers. It's a friendly environment on there but make sure that when you board the ship you have 7 days food and water with you. There are limited provisions on the ship. I was taken under the wing of a group of Turkish lorry drivers who fed me and kept me company. Without them I'd have gone insane and potentially very very hungry.


If you've any more questions or if you'd like clarification on anything I've said, just shout.

Cheers,
Mike
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Old 12 Nov 2013
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H Mike thanks for the info!

Regarding getting the Turkmen visa in advance, I was wondering if it is possible to apply for the visa in say Ankara and then collect it in Baku so I don't have do sit around for days?

If I have a visa waiting in Baku or Tbilisi and the boat goes to Tukmenistan every other day then a 5 day transit visa should be sufficient to get through the southern route through to Uzbekistan?
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Old 13 Nov 2013
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Hi

we came the other way this year.
For a transit visa no LOI is required, you need to provide the visa of the country of destination and perhaps the outgoing country (we were not asked for the latter).
There are people going W-E but they have higher risk. But if it goes normal, you should be able to get through, if you have the transit visa already organized. But be prepared, that ferries are also leaving in the mid of the night (we arrived after 2 am and the ship was gone before 7 am, passangers embarked at 3 am).
If I were you, I would try to board the ferry 1 or 2 days before your transit visa starts, in the best case you can wait the remaining half day in Turkmenbashi, before you are let in.

But you should have a plan B, if the ferries are delayed (unfortunately this means either Russia or Iran, both with visa hazzles). On a motor bike you can easily go through Azerbaijan in one day.

As for the visa, we met two Italians, that got a letter from the Turkmen embassy in Brussels, with the dates of the transit visa and they were able to fetch the visa in Baku (but therefore missed the boat by one hour and had to wait 2 days).

Cheers
Christian
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Old 13 Nov 2013
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Mike - I read your blog, doesn't sound like you had a great time.

Christian - thanks for the info, going through the nothern caucuses to get to Russia is a little concerning and the whole point of the boat was to avoid the carnet for Iran.

Logistical nightmare
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Old 14 Nov 2013
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My god!!I have hear some stories for the delays of that Baku-Turkmenbashy ferry but thisone goes for an oscar.

5 days on that ship????

Mike you are a hero.Im going to change my route plan also.

Thank you.
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Old 15 Nov 2013
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Hi. We have been trying to do the ferry this summer for the last time. It was a time waster in 2012, but got a pain in 2013. We will go through Iran in May 2014.

CHeers. Patrik
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Old 25 Nov 2013
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Getting the visa only takes an hour or two so there's need to bother thinking about anything in Ankara. As I say you just need to bear in mind that the Baku embassy only open on Monday and Friday.

Despite what Christian says I'm pretty sure an LOI is required and definitely is for a Brit. I wouldn't want to try to get a visa without one. As I said before, the embassy in Baku wouldn't let me use any other dates than those on my LOI, which indicates that it's pretty important. And I had to show my LOI again when it was my visa reissued in Turkmenbashi, so it seems pretty necessary to me.

With regard to boarding the ferry a day or two before your visa begins, it's worth trying but I've heard stories of Azeri border guards not letting people aboard until their visa is valid, which is utterly ridiculous. They were happy to let me on the boat a day before mine started but I've heard stories where that hasn't happened.

Bear in mind that with Azerbaijan you will have a 72 hour temporary import for your motorbike. Therefore any plans B & C must take into account the fact that you must be in and out within 72 hours. Or your bike must be with customs at the border at which you wish to leave. Therefore if you spend 3 days in Baku trying to sort out the ferry, you won't then simply be able to go North if there's a problem with the ferry since your bike will already be with customs and won't be released.

Haha, zandesiro there's nothing heroic about it; just unlucky I guess!


Mike
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