The trip from Mary to Dashoguz was hopefully the one and only time I took the airplane during this trip. The flight leads across the Karakum desert to the North-East of Turkmenistan, where a large source of income is agriculture. The region was also an important trading center during the time of the silk road, connecting to current day Russia, Iran and Uzbekistan.
After the surreal world of Ashgabat I was very curious about the looks of the rest of Turkmenistan. I was glad having chosen the car as means of transport to Mary, a very important point on the silk road.
On Tuesday it was time for my next border crossing. The first one which required applying for a visa on the way. Past gthe border a whole different world was waiting for me: Ashgabat, the Turkmen capital.
On Sunday, I took the train from Istanbul to the Turkish capital, to Ankara. Not a dream destination for tourists, the city is a good stop to cut bus and train journeys short to experience Turkish city life. Besides, I had other reasons to visit the second largest city in Turkey.
After the mixed news I got last week, it is time to rejoice once again! Ten days earlier than expected I today received my passport back from the Iranian consulate in Munich with a travel visa valid for 30 days. So the only uncertainty which remains is the LOI for Turkmenistan.
In order to obtain a visa for Turkmenistan I need a letter of invitation (LOI) from the Turkmen government. I contacted the travel agency in Ashgabat to get a status of the LOI on September 8, in order to check whether they had started the procedure as discussed previously. The procedure for obtaining the LOI was started on September 2. So this is great news.
Obtaining a visa for Turkmenistan is not really a big deal, just costs a lot of money… here is why:
The Turkmen government requires tourist to have a guide and travel arrangement when travelling through Turkmenistan. Once you have that, you either pick up your visa at the nearest embassy or consulate or even easier, you get the visa at the border.
I inquired with two very helpful Turkmen travel agencies. You can find a list of travel agencies on the website of the State Committee of Turkmenistan for Tourism and Sport.
The travel agencies I contacted were Ayan Tours, a private office, and Ashgabatsiyakhat, a state run office. Both of them provided a great service and made very good recommendations. The one big difference was the price of their offer.
I ended up travelling with Ashgabatsiyakhat and I am looking forward to meeting their guide at the Howdan border on November 22