The wife and I have done this route this summer. We had originally intended to go from Turkey - Iran - Turkmenistan and then on the stans but sadly our visas were both rejected 3 times. We've got no idea why and tried through 2 different agencies (Persian voyages & Iranianvisa.com) - neither of them could fathom why we got rejected. We're both UK passport holders, were travelling on brand new passports and neither of us had 'sensitive' jobs. Loads of Brits we've met since have got their Iran visas quickly and without any problems so I guess we should be taking it personally! We were gutted not to be able to go as have heard such fantastic things about the country and the people.
We ended up having to do the Georgia - Azerbaijan - Caspian - Turmenbashi route instead. Georgia, we really liked, but Azerbaijan was a pain in the arse if I'm honest. People were lovely but constant hassle (not in Baku) from the police took away alot of the pleasure. The ferry is an 'experience' but as long as you're ready for it not a problem.
A few things to make life easier:
- Make sure you get your vehicle into the customs yard in the port within 72hrs of entering the country.
- Arrange to pick your Turkmen (transit I assume?) visa paper up at the embassy in Baku, that way they issue it when you land in Turkmenbashi and you get to use your full 5 day allowance.
- Make sure you take plenty of water and food on board with you as the crossing, whilst only technically 12hrs always involves a extended wait outside of Turkmenbashi - we spent 36 very hot hours waiting to land.
The ferry, if you can call it that, isn't really 'unreliable'. Better to think of it as not having a schedule. Either way I certainly wouldn't let it affect your decision to go if that's where you want to visit. It's an experience as the level of bureaucracy at Turkmenbashi - something that all the reading and research never really prepares you for!
As for Iran, us aside everyone we met who wanted to go there has managed to get their Visa and everyone we've met has had nothing but amazing things to say about the country. I certainly wouldn't worry about the security question in anywhere other than the far south east, if at all.
Distance wise, can't speak for distances in Iran but in Turkmenistan it's a very hot 600km approx from the port at Turkmenbashi to Ashgabat (which is very close to the Iran border and the point of entry) as far as i recall. Personally I'd do Iran given the choice just because I think there's more to see but there certainly nothing to fear with either option.
Hope that answers/calms some of your concerns but if you want any more detailed information on the non-Iran bits feel free to visit our blog or you can pm me.
Last edited by Bobduro; 24 Oct 2010 at 19:25.
Reason: forgot a bit