After having gone 20 rounds and much time spend on the phone having absurd conversations with Travsia back in the US, I opted to fly into Istanbul where there is a Turkmenistan Consulate to give this illusive and notoriously difficult visa another try.
I get to the consulate by taxi as it is near the airport and far away from the city center, jockey for a spot to talk to one of the two guys who works at the consulate, fill out more paper work (even though I already have my application ready) and was told that I could pick up my visa in Baku in 10 days time. All considered, easy peasy! Hallelujah!
5 weeks later, I am back in Istanbul and decide to pick up my visa here instead of Baku, which it is ready and available for pick up, like a good spy I had someone call for me to confirm. Ceyda (a new friend and one of our sponsors), Pam and I head down to the Turkmenistan consulate once more. Pamela still needs to submit her application and I need to pick my up.
MAD HOUSE! There are about 20 fellow ralliers here at the consulate and the only guy behind the window barely speaks Turkish, mostly Russian and no English at all. He is angry and difficult and not the least bit willing to work with you on anything. Difficult man (as we shall call him) is impatient and reaches that frenzy pitch of anger rather quickly.
Thank God Ceyda came down to the consulate with us!
We hand over both of our passports and now there is a problem. Pamela does not have her Uzbekistan visa just yet as she is supposed to pick that up in Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) and without a visa for the next country you are heading to, the Turkmenistan Consulate will not issue you a transit visa.
“But I have my Kazakhstan visa, I can exit out of there.”
The man looks at us.
“No! You are with her and she is exiting out of Uzbekistan. You can’t exist out of Kazakhstan. No!”
We look at each other.
“No, we are not traveling together!” Now the farce begins and we pretend like we don’t know one another for the remaining time we are in the consulate!
Reluctantly the difficult man hands over the application forms for Pam to fill out while I am itchy to get him to hand over my already processed visa. He hands me another application form and directs me to go down to a specific bank branch and pay for the visa.
“Why do I need to fill this application out again? I’ve already done all the paper work a month ago!” I not so secretly fear the difficult man doesn’t understand what I want and thinks that I am here to apply for the visa like the rest of the ralliers.
By the time we return to the consulate, the difficult man’s buddy has return, a much nicer and gentler man who speaks some English. We hand over the application (yet again) and the bank slip proving that we have paid for the visa ($55 USD) and he asks us for another passport photo.
“I’ve already submitted all of this to you a month ago.”
The nice man says something to the difficult man and he pulls out a giant folder and starts to go through it. He finds my application from a month ago, pulls off the passport photo, hand it over and the nice man attaches my passport photo onto the new, identical application I had just filled out yet again.
What? Why can’t you just pull the application I gave you a month ago?! Clearly the Turkmen Consulate operates on a logic of its own, far beyond my understanding.
“Come back at 5pm and you can pick up your visa then!”
At this point, I can no longer pretend that I understand any reason or rhyme to the way the Turkmenistan visa process works. From now on, I will vow to extend the most amount of sympathy for all traveling friends who are not on a US, EU, and or Canadian passport where visa for most places are relatively easy to obtain. For those of us who are on one of these passports, we are truly blessed. Can you imagine going through a similar process as the Turkmenistan circus every time you need to go somewhere?
Now the exciting part starts!
My hard won transit visa is only for 5 days and it is date specific. Which means that I can only enter the country within those 5 days time and must exit before the visa expires. We have one very uncertain ferry ride ahead of us that will bring us across the Caspian Sea to the door steps of Central Asia.The clock is ticking and I need this very uncertain ferry to show up, ready for passengers and cars on Tuesday July 31.
Say a prayer for me wont’ you!
Subscribe to SpyTravelogue and get tales of adventure in your inbox!