A Travellerspoint blog

Border Troubles pt. I

What do you do when one of the world’s worst police states issues you a visa with the wrong entry- and exit points and the wrong dates? I go forward full throttle hoping for the best!

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Flag to Turkmenistan

Flag to Turkmenistan

What do you do when one of the world’s worst police states issues you a visa with the wrong entry- and exit points and the wrong dates?
Ask for a new visa? Not when the last train for the next 48 hours leave in 50 minutes, the process takes two weeks and the visa to the country you’re currently in expires in four days.
Others might just accept and adapt, but not yours (stubborn) truly. So I took a quick decision, jumped on the train and continued full throttle forward while hoping for the best!

Turkmenistan is rated second to last on the Free Press Index – only better than North Korea. Of 60+ countries I’ve visited it’s also the one with the toughest visa rules, the biggest police presence and the most rigid photo rules (basically no photos anywhere not a World Heritage Site). So what could possibly go wrong, when I completely ignore all their visa restrictions…

Turkmennistan's Ministry of Fairness

Turkmennistan's Ministry of Fairness

But to start from the beginning: A Turkmen transit visa states the entry- and exit point I must use, and as any good bureaucrat the consul in Uzbekistan had given me the shortest path between Uzbekistan and Iran. I, as a good traveller, on the other hand wanted to go the long way to see the most.
A whole other problem was that my transit visa expires two days before my Iranian visa begins. But I’ll worry about that in part two of this blog…

The plan of attack for getting in to the country at the wrong border post was this:

Turkmen Border Post

Turkmen Border Post

Step one: Team up with, and stay right behind, a girl from Singapore who got the correct entry point and hope the Uzbek border police only scrutinize her visa before giving us our exit-stamps.
Step two: With the exit-stamp and no double- or multi entry visa to Uzbekistan I’m trapped in no man’s land, which will then force the Turkmen border police to either let me through or arrest and deport me.
Step three: Hope that the Turkmen border police don’t arrest and deport me!

Step one and two worked like a charm. Staying right behind Shanaz, my newest travel companion, the Uzbek border guards check her Turkmen visa and did nothing more than glance at mine. Eventually they were a lot more interested in our registration slips (which are a whole other story).

Shanaz waiting for the bus

Shanaz waiting for the bus

Step three took a couple of hours. It started with a long lesson in how the system works and why it must be followed. I played the usual stupid tourist (a role I have had a lot of practice in) and was both very surprised about having a wrong entry point, and sorry for all the troubles I was causing. Shanaz played her part just a beautifully, though her concern about the whole thing was a bit more real than mine. Towards the end my biggest problem was hiding my grin and not enjoying the entire thing too obviously.
Surprisingly it ended with an apology for all the Turkmen rules and control, and the border officer was very relieved when we told him that we understood he was just doing his job. Even more surprisingly I didn’t have to pay neither a fine nor a bribe to be let in!
All we had to do was to promise that we would go straight back towards our assigned route and not anywhere else, for example to Konye-Urgench (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Something we told him we couldn’t dream of after all this trouble. Of cause, the first thing we actually did (right after lunch) was to take a bus to Konye-Urgench…

Haven gotten into Turkmenistan I just need to figure out how to get out, since my Turkmen exit date and Iranian entry date are two days apart. Turkmen transit visa dates are absolutely final and no amount of acting or bribing could change that. So I’m currently down to three alternatives:

Towards the Unknown

Towards the Unknown

1) Stash up on food, exit Turkmenistan and be prepared to stay in no man’s land to two days. Maybe the Iranians can arrest me and provide a bed or I can hope they will have pity on me and let me in two days early.
2) Overstay my Turkmen visa for two days. Which should result in a 400$ (2x200$) fine and a ban from entering the country for the next five years (now that would be a cool stamp in my passport) and hope they let me out instead of an official arrest and deportation (back to Denmark on my own expense).
3) Try to exit at a wrong border post, leaving not for Iran but for Afghanistan’s Herat region hoping not to be kidnapped or blown up.
I’ll let you know how it goes…

Posted by askgudmundsen 30.06.2013 09:00 Archived in Turkmenistan Tagged visa border problem entry points exit troubles turmenistan

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