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Route Planning Where to go, when, what are the interesting places to see
Photo by James Duncan, Universe Camp, Uyuni Salt Flats

I haven't been everywhere...
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  #1  
Old 22 Oct 2023
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Options UK to Almaty

Hi, It's been 20 years since I last rode up through Iran. As a UK citizen I gather I now need a guide - and still need a carnet.

I'm planning on heading across to Almaty next year, leaving the bike over winter with friends then returning to properly do neighbouring Kyrgyzstan after winter.

I've searched the HUBB and other sources but has anyone (in particular UK/US/Canadian citizens) been through Iran in the last couple of weeks? Is it tightening up due to events in Israel/Gaza? On a motorcycle is Iran viable for a Brit or does the guide issue kill it?

I could go (far) north through Russia but that involves a lot of miles across Russia and the Kazakh steppe. Is there a ferry you can currently catch to Aktau or Turkmenistan?

Even if Iran were no problem to access, I'd still have the carnet issue. 20 years ago I rode a bike worth pennies so the carnet was doable by depositing cash with the RAC (I realise they no longer issue carnets in the UK). This time it is worth pounds and the carnet cost would likely make it unviable.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
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Old 23 Oct 2023
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Last I heard (last year or earlier this year), UK citizens were not permitted to drive through Iran, even with a guide.

Azerbaijan's land borders remain closed so Russia is your only option for driving with a vehicle right now.
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  #3  
Old 23 Oct 2023
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If you route through Georgia and Astrakhan you can do a relatively short hop through Russia then head for Uralsk. Russian visas are freely available, unfortunately the new cheap e-visa isn't suitable as you need to enter and leave via an e-visa approved crossing and KZ doesn't have any of those. Yes there's a lot of Kazakh steppe to cross, or the route through Astana and southwards might be a bit more interesting. Remember to take cash in Russia as western cards don't work.

AZ has closed its land and sea borders to tourists, but it is possible to get the bike freighted in and follow by air. Do-able but a bit of a faff/expense. Once in there should be no problem getting out. No doubt the Caspian Sea boats are still running but I don't know if they still take passengers due to the AZ border situation and probable lack of demand.
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Old 23 Oct 2023
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eurasiaoverland View Post
Last I heard (last year or earlier this year), UK citizens were not permitted to drive through Iran, even with a guide.

A Canadian couple and an American girl passed through Iran with guides earlier this year. They fall under the same restrictions as UK citizens. So I don't believe that would be a problem.



The question is though: how do you plan to go from Iran to Almaty? AFAIK Turkmenistan is still closed.



The easiest option would be to go Georgia > Russia > Kazakhstan. The "ship your vehicle into AZ and fly in" option is possible, but more hassle.
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  #5  
Old 23 Oct 2023
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The other issue with going through Iran is that you need Turkmen visa, which could be hard to get.

Many riders including me got through russia this year. The biggest pain is dealing with cards not working, but it is the same with Iran. Also Booking.com doesn't work so you will have to rely on your skills to find hotels. My advice: don't put it off too late, because the cheap roadside are not well marked.
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Old 24 Oct 2023
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Originally Posted by duibhceK View Post
The question is though: how do you plan to go from Iran to Almaty? AFAIK Turkmenistan is still closed.
TM isn't actually closed but people who have been there recently note that you can only do it with an organised tour. It's always been hit and miss getting a visa for that country and it hasn't improved, I wouldn't recommend relying on it too much.

Quote:
Booking.com doesn't work [in RU] so you will have to rely on your skills to find hotels.
Or use https://ostrovok.ru/
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  #7  
Old 26 Oct 2023
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Originally Posted by duibhceK View Post
A Canadian couple and an American girl passed through Iran with guides earlier this year. They fall under the same restrictions as UK citizens. So I don't believe that would be a problem.
Self-driving?
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Old 26 Oct 2023
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Originally Posted by eurasiaoverland View Post
Self-driving?

self-driving but chaperoned by a guide.
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  #9  
Old 26 Oct 2023
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Thank you all.

Do you know if those self-drivers through Iran were on two wheels or four?

Last time I did this I was warned an Iranian visa could be tricky to get so went to the embassy in London with a degree of trepidation. They couldn't have been nicer and, after I explained the ride I was planning, presented me with a couple of books about Iran.

I'll have to time things for visa validity but I'll maybe start with an enquiry to the Iranian embassy and, if the response is reasonably positive, will try for the Turkmenistan visa first - as that sounds the most challenging. Then Iran visa next.

This is a 2024 plan so it'll be a few months before I report back but I will let you know how I get on.

Russia is the easier option as I have been to the North Caucasus several times and would be able to arrange places to stay. Good point you raised about no credit/debit cards working. However, it's Iran and the Stans I'd like to go through so that has to be 1st prize for now.

Thanks again. Very helpful advice from you all.
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  #10  
Old 27 Oct 2023
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Ultimately, you will need to go through a travel agent for visa support, and an organised tour. As stated, the latest I heard was that agencies were not offering guiding for self-driving UK citizens. That can of course change.

You can try your luck at the embassy - if you get a tourist visa from them, you can go and drive yourself freely - but unless the rules have suddenly changed you won't get one from them without visa support from a travel agent.

So it is really a travel agent you should be looking for. If you can find one willing to escort you through Iran on your bike then great. I would start searching now.
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  #11  
Old 27 Oct 2023
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Originally Posted by Matt Johnson View Post
Do you know if those self-drivers through Iran were on two wheels or four?

Bridget from the US on 2 wheels:

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.p...00074866770823
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  #12  
Old 27 Oct 2023
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Johnson View Post
it's Iran and the Stans I'd like to go through so that has to be 1st prize for now.
Yeah I'd like to visit Iran one day, and I have the option of UK or Irish passports. So I'll be following the subject with interest. However when you say "the Stans," Iran of course borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan, all of which present some challenges for travel/transit. The states to the north - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - are easier accessed via Russia.
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