Border Crossings - Eastern Europe and Central Asia - 1998

Border Crossings - Eastern Europe and Central Asia

by Kyril Dambuleff


Yugoslavia

Date of crossing:

April, 1998

Border:

Yugoslavia (from Hungary)

Entry Procedure:

There was a mile-long line of cars and truck waiting to cross and waiting in line would have probably taken a couple of hours.

Some black market guys who wanted to exchange money told me it was OK to ride to the front which I did. Nobody seemed to mind. BTW, do not fall for "good" exchange rates offered by those guys as their money is fake.

Exit Procedure:

No problems whatsoever.

Fees:

There were no fees of any kind.

Insurance required:

No

Documents required:

Passport, Registration, Drivers License, International Drivers License. It's always a good idea to carry proof that you own the bike, i.e. Title of Ownership.

Visa Duration:

I was issued a 7-day transit visa on the spot at no charge.

Bulgaria

Date of crossing:

April, 1998

Border:

Bulgaria (from Yugoslavia)

Entry Procedure:

Crossing was quick and easy.

Exit Procedure:

No problem. They just wanted to make sure that I exit with the bike (make and license plate number were entered into my passport upon entry).

Fees:

I was charged $22 "entry fee" despite assurances by the Bulgarian Embassy in Washington DC that entry is free and no visa is required.

Insurance required:

No

Documents required:

Passport, Registration, Drivers License, International Drivers License. No other documents were required but it's always a good idea to carry proof that you own the bike. A lot of stolen vehicles cross these borders.

Visa Duration:

I believe the visa was good for a month.

Turkey

Date of crossing:

April, 1998

Border:

Turkey (from Bulgaria)

Entry Procedure:

Very easy.

Exit Procedure:

A little slow, as Immigration wants you to go get cleared by Customs who want to make sure that you still have the bike.

Fees:

The visa, issued on the spot, cost $45 and an additional $5 was charged for the bike.

Insurance required:

No

Documents required:

Passport, Registration, Drivers License, International Drivers License.

Visa Duration:

 

Georgia

Date of crossing:

April, 1998

Border:

Georgia (from Turkey)

Entry Procedure:

The borders of the former USSR are still controlled by Russian troops. I had no Georgian visa but had a 30-day Azerbaijani tourist visa which is good for entry into Georgia and a stay of up to 5 days. There was a lot of paperwork to fill out and the usual questions about guns, drugs, etc. You'll be required to fill out a form stating the amount of money you are bringing into the country.

Now, this is a tricky one because of these two possibilities: 1) if you truly told them how much you carry (in my case about $4,000 in cash) they may think try to put their hands on some of it either there or by notifying a police officer further up the road who could fine you $50 for something you are not going to understand; 2) if you tell them you have little, say $500, they may not think this is enough for you to pay for your hotels, meals, gas, etc. and deny you entry.

Also, if they search you and find more than what you have declared they may assume that you are smuggling money and confiscate it. I said I had $600 and while they were trying to figure out if this was enough I showed them a credit card and said that I could always use it in time of need. My impression was that the Russians were mightily impressed by credit cards and that anyone who carries one must be OK.

Exit Procedure:

Easy.

Fees:

I do not believe there were any fees charged for entry.

Insurance required:

No

Documents required:

Passport, Registration, Drivers License, International Drivers License.

Visa Duration:

5 days on an Azerbaijani tourist visa allowing entry into Georgia.

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Azerbaijan

Date of crossing:

April, 1998

Border:

Azerbaijan (from Georgia)

Entry Procedure:

Easy but somewhat slow as all the information is entered into thick ledgers by hand and everybody is curious about your bike and things like electric start, saddle bags, etc. Very friendly people altogether.

Exit Procedure:

Easy.

Fees:

None.

Insurance required:

No

Documents required:

Passport, Registration, Drivers License, International Drivers License. It's a good idea to carry with you the Title of Ownership to proof that you own the bike.

Visa Duration:

I had a 30-day Azerbaijani visa issued by their US Embassy.

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Turkmenistan

Date of crossing:

April, 1998

Border:

Turkmenbashi, former Krasnovodsk, on the ferry from Baku (Azerbaijan)

Entry Procedure:

Very slow and not very pleasant. It took about 4 hours.

Visa is absolutely required. I had a 3-day transit visa with about 20 hours left on it. The immigrations guy thought that my visa had expired, took my passport, locked it in a safe and told me to wait until 10 o'clock in the morning for the boss. It was about 2 in the morning. I protested, of course, and the more he ignored me , the louder I became. Magically, 'the boss', who wan't even supposed to be there, appeared 45 min. later. Very nice guy, polite and friendly.

He looked at my passport, saw that my visa was still good, told me to get it extended at the Ashabat airport and let me go. At the airport I got another 3-day visa for a whopping $55! BTW, when disembarking the ferry, park your bike on the other side of the railroad tracks, i.e. so there are no railroad tracks between you and the road. I made the mistake of parking on the wrong side and then had to wait for about 2 hours for the ferry to be loaded with railroad cars and for the tracks to clear before I could get going.

Exit Procedure:

Unpleasant as both Immigration and Customs are basically looking for a bribe. I didn't offer any although I should have. A couple of Turks crossed in front of me - they had some cash placed very conveniently in their passports. The customs guy took it, handed back the passports and let them go. The equivalent of $5 will do the job. Prepare to pay more if you carry any rugs especially older ones as "antique" rugs may not be exported from Turkmenistan. Other than that, a fantastic country, the friendliest people in the world.

Fees:

Ahh. Plenty of fees. I did not bother to understand them all but one of them was a gasoline tax. Gas is ridiculously cheap in Turkmenistan so they charge you about $40 at the border for the priviledge of paying about 5 cents a liter for 76 octane gas.

Altogether the fees amounted to something like $60.

Insurance required:

No

Documents required:

Passport, Registration, Drivers License, International Drivers License.

Visa Duration:

I had a 3-day transit visa with about 20 hours left on it.

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Uzbekistan

Date of crossing:

May, 1998

Border:

Uzbekistan (from Turkmenistan)

Entry Procedure:

Easy but slow crossing. It took about an hour or so. I have no idea what I had to wait for but while I waited everybody sat on my bike and tried my helmet on. Prepare to answer questions about how much the bike cost, how fast it goes, gas mileage, etc. Very friendly but very curious people.

Exit Procedure:

I exited from Uzbekistan and entered Kazakhstan without even noticing a border post.

Fees:

None.

Insurance required:

No

Documents required:

Passport, Registration, Drivers License, International Drivers License. Strangely enough an official (I assume he was a physician) wanted to see a vaccination certificate which luckily I had.

Visa Duration:

I had obtained a visa in advance from their US Embassy.

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Russia

Date of crossing:

May, 1998

Border:

Russia (from Kazakhstan)

Entry Procedure:

Pretty simple. Customs need to see the bike and issue a certificate saying that you could operate this vehicle while in Russia or something along those lines. Foreigners seem to be given preferential treatment.

Exit Procedure:

Very simple. I exited at the Ukrainian border.

Fees:

There may have been a very small fee but I don't remember. Nothing significant anyway.

Insurance required:

No

Documents required:

Passport, Registration, Drivers License, International Drivers License.

Visa Duration:

I entered on a multiple entry Uzbekistani visa good for 1 year. I had no Russian visa.

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Ukraine

Date of crossing:

May, 1998

Border:

Ukraine (from Russia)

Entry Procedure:

Pretty simple if you have a visa. If you don't, it takes about 4 hours, a carton of cigarettes or other small gifts to secure a friendship with the border guards. I had no visa and found out that there were no facilities at this crossing for issuing visas. After several telephone conversations between the border guards and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, I was finally given a hand-written piece of paper allowing me to stay for 3 days.

Exit Procedure:

Relatively simple.

Fees:

No other fees other than the mandatory insurance which has to be purchased at the border. No other insurance is recognized.

Insurance required:

Yes. Insurance cost is minimal, something around $5.

Documents required:

Passport, Registration, Drivers License, International Drivers License.

Visa Duration:

n/a



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