In regards to planning, Turkmenistan is prooving to be a real challenge. This is especially so when it comes to visas. At present I have two options:
1. Tourist Visa – This is very easy to get, and if all papers etc are prepared well in advance, can be aquired in only one day at a Turkmenistan Embassy. However, there is one large catch. The Turkmenistan government likes to make sure that all foriegn tourists are well looked after. Therefore, all tourists must be accompanied by a guide for the entire time they are in Turkmenistan. In order to enforce this, all foreigners wishing to enter Turkmenistan on a tourist visa must organise a guide in advance, and have proof of this in order to attain the tourist visa. This is not helpful for someone on a bike.
2. Transit visa – Considering the conditions of a tourist visa, a transit visa is the more suitable visa for an independent cycle tourist. However, there are some minor headaches regarding this visa also. Firstly, the visa is only valid for anywhere between three and ten days. Secondly, applications for a transit visa take up to ten days to be processed. Lastly, there is no guarantee that the visa will be issued.
Basically, it comes down to my overall progress in relation to getting to Instanbul by the 13th of November. If time is tight, I think I’ll just pay for a driver/guide to drive me across Turkmenistan in as little time as possible, therefore saving time (time for visa application). If I have plenty of time, I’ll take my chances with the transit visa, and bike as far as I can before catching a bus or hiring a driver to drive me the rest of the way before my visa runs out.
Approximate Dates: Early October till mid-October
Total distance to bike: In an ideal world, 1200km
Estimated kms per day when biking: 100km per day
Climate: Average 16oC and dry.