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Northern Asia Topics specific to Russia, Central Asia (also known as "the 'stans"), Mongolia, Japan and Korea
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Old 7 Mar 2008
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Lightbulb Turkmenbashi to Baku Ferry question

I am new here and found this wonderful blog through my research.
I and my daughter are planning to drive around the world in small car in May.
we will be shipping the car from Los ANgeles to Shnghai and drive thorugh China, stans then ferry to Baku.
By the way being students in college we have only 90 days to finish this trip.
My questions are:
is it easy to get AZ visa in Turkmenistan?
is there any phone or email for ferry timing from TM to AZ side?
I 've been hearing lots of not so good stories about this ferry.
any information will be appriciated highly.
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Old 8 Mar 2008
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ignore the doom-mongers!!

The ferry is fine, easy to find, regular (every 12-24 hours or so) and cheap (at least it is for a bike)

You might have severe problems however with China, it is practically impossible to cross China in your own vehicle (for EU residents at least), there is one road that is permitted through the torugart pass via Kashgar (CaravanCafé:HOME will help you with this but their service has been disrupted recently, not sure why). Normal entry and exit for this route is Pakistan/Kyrgyztstan

The 'stans are generally easy, if a bit beureaucratic, act poor, smile and shake hands and everyone is amazingly helpful, even the police when they're going through your papers are up for a laugh-this helps as it might happen 30 times in one day.

90 days is probably not enough time to skirt China to the south but you could go to Vladivostok instead. From Russia your options include -Ulan Batur (Mongolia is not to be missed, but exiting to the west is hard going in a small on-road car, so could return North)-Kazakstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan via China (Kashgar). If time is too short or the car is not up to the terrain (TKJ and KYRG are very mountainous areas) you can go straight through Uzbekistan then Turkmenistan to the ferry, fantastic places - I would recommend leaving at least few days for Samarkand and Buchara, just jaw-dropping, don't rush through Turkemenistan either - some of the greatest people on earth live in that desert!

Will you be going across the Cuacasus into Europe?
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Old 8 Mar 2008
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Well, the ferry from T-bashi to Baku departure time can be a bit interesting. You see, its a rail car ferry. Leaving Baku to T-bashi, is regular...BUT you may be stuck in the T-bashi harbor waiting for days, for an opportunity to dock.
See my post below for details.


You will be denied a tourist/transit visas WITHOUT a visa from a bordering country for exit. So will have to get your Azeri visa before entering T-stan.

93 BMW K75s
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Old 9 Mar 2008
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Hi HenryUK,

Can you please advise!
If I was to travel from Pakistan-(via China)-to Kyrgystan, which route would be the quickest, and how long do you think it would take, to travel on to Vladivostok.
Also is this route only suited for the BMW type off road bikes or is there a route that I could travel on with a HD Roadking type bike. If there is, how long do you think that route would take?

Your help and advice would be greatly appreciated?

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Old 10 Mar 2008
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Right - this advice may not be that great, but here goes

From PK across China to the Torugart pass will take about 4-5 days. TJK and KYRG should take about 4 days each (mountainous and bad roads - may be tricky on an HD but you can go ANYWHERE on ANY bike! Just go for it, fully commited and balls to the wall, you will be fine)
Crossing KZ to get into Russia will take about 4 days, then another week should be enough to get to Vlad, but only in summer!

If you want to stick to tarmac you can do Russia-KZ-UZ-TM on some GREAT roads. I was wishing I had a Fireblade on the road From Shymkent to Almaty, fantastic new road. The road to Vlad should be pretty good too as it wasn't finished that long ago

p.s. IMHO the 'BMW type off-road bike' would be pretty far down my list. Spares are available for japanese singles and Urals but nothing else....
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Old 4 Apr 2008
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Canceled the China as we are not getting our permit in time. instead going through Vladivostok, mongolia (croos the fingers for my small car) and stans.
and europe and USA.
Hope I don't waste lots of time for ferry.
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Old 4 Apr 2008
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What Car ?


good to see you have found THE most useful site for this style of trip planning.

Your expectations sound ambitious but not necessarily impossible. 90 days is not long for driving around the world.

I am interested to know what vehicle you are planning to use? 4x4 may not be essential, high clearance may not be critical but reliability and proper preparation of vehicle are absolutely essential & critical.

We travelled in our 4x4 vehicle from Istanbul through to Los Angeles in 2007 (last year), we left April 6th and arrived Los Angeles Nov 1st. We did not go via China. We did go via Azerbaijan, caspian sea, Russia, Mongolia and South Korea.
We were joined for some of the time by Motoedde on his faithful BMW, some of the time by a dutch couple with a Lada and some of the time by a French guy in his LandCruiser.
We all travelled similar routes, similar timescales.
We ALL had vehicle problems of one form or another !

You requested info on getting your car to Vladivostok, not impossible but like the China option, very beauracratic and time consuming. I am not aware of any car/4x4 owners that have done it smoothly.
Definately consider going via South Korea IT IS the easiest, quickest, cheapest way.

I agree with HenryUK with regards the ferry, but not wishing to be a 'doom-monger' i also agree with motoedde. The ferry is a freight train transportation route that will squeeze on extra vehicles for bit extra cash. It is easier to squeeze a motorbike on the a car.
In theory there are 2 or 3 ferrys running every day and the crossing takes 12 or so hours. In reality last May we waited 2 days to get on the ferry and then the crossing took 36 hours !
It is not in any way a show stopper for you and i would highly recommend coming through TKM & AZER but be prepared for maybe a day or two waiting at ferry port.
The alternative is via Western Russia avoiding the Stans (no fun atall) or via Iran to get into Turkey (tricky if you have US or UK passport).

Not sure on getting AZ visas in TKM but i would suggest for any visa enquiries to contact David at STANTOURS, they are based in Almaty and know the whole central asia region (and the politics of visas!) intimately.

like most people we've got a website with all sorts of info on there, i suggest looking at the 'coming this way' pages, particularly the txt files.


by the way, once you get the far side of central asia, lets say Istanbul, then what are your plans? do you intend to ship vehilce back to US if so from where?

we are still in US, where are you based ?

enjoy the planning, there's loads of info out there, it's all good ! just takes some sorting through ! everybody experiences these journies in a different way, there is no 'right way' just THE way ! main thing is to get out there n give it a go.
My only advice : Be Prepared, Be Flexible, Enjoy The Journey & remember time is your greatest friend.

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Old 4 Apr 2008
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Hi Arunp,

I'm going London-2-Sydney this year and had the ferry in mind as well. But I changed plans, as soon as I heard that the ferry can be unreliable and therefore cause problems with the Turkmenistan transit visa. Instead, I'm now going Turkey-Iran-Turkmenistan.
(My thinking was: if I happened to be on a rush, at least "on the road" (meaning: no ferry), I'm pretty much in control of things. And crossing from Turkey through Iran will be just as good as the ferry in the worst case. Also: I'll enter Turkmenistan at Ashgabat, so less to ride in Turkmenistan.

If you like this route: Try David from Stantours.com for info on the Iranian visa for you. Not sure how Iran reacts to Americans these days.

Visas have been a nightmare, especially Turkmenistan: Every TKM embassy seems to have a different set of rules. I don't know anything about their US embassy, but within Europe: Brussels and Vienna offer the best/friendliest service.
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan Embassies were a walk in the park - very efficient. (You can read more about it in my blog's "paperwork" section: Panomoto *** Pan-Continental Motorcycle Journey )

You say you want to do it in a small car. This made me think of the "Mongol Rallye". Have a look at their website. Looks like good fun:
The Official Mongol Rally :: Mongolian Rally adventure on a stick

Another option for you could be: Tajikistan. Apparently there's a pass from Tajikistan to China, which opens 2 weeks per month. I couldn't find any info on wether it's possible to do for tourists, but maybe you can check with a Chinese agent.
(I'm going through Xinjang/Kashgar in China - send me an email and I can share my research on guides in Kashgar area).

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