We are edging slowly into March and on the cusp of one of the Visa deadlines: the Turkmenistan LOI. Still faffing about was not an option, we want to do the southern route through Iran (with a plan B to go through the Caspian Sea) and need to get this down.
Going through the Visa Machine was our first thought as it frees up time; someone else gets to do the admin side whilst we (admittedly) had more fun looking at Google earth along the route. That is until typing our route and nationality in (Thom regrets not applying for his Irish passport immediately post-referendum) which gave us a bill of nearly £600 each. As we are self-funding the trip, we want to cut down on this monstrosity of a bill which would not rent a room in Londons’ Zone 3.
Trudging through each embassy website was a bore; but we prioritised Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan (you need those two visas before you can apply for the Turkmenistan transit visa). The websites were basic, but easy to navigate (just beware of writing in your address starting from the country backwards to your door number and street, for the Uzbek visa – took me 5 minutes to do), the moment of truth came when the Azerbaijan e-visa site froze and lost everything… three times. Thom had a flashback to getting his Indian Visa last year where the same thing happened, and said some colourful phrases, whilst WhatsApping me.
3 hours later: we submitted visas for Azerbaijan, Tajikistan (the website only takes PDF’s of your unsmiling face and hostel booking; not mobile phone friendly), printed out applications for Uzbekistan, and attempted to go for Nandos (it was shut), KFC (ran out of chicken, what the FCK) and finally settled on a kebab, whilst reminding ourselves of how much money we saved, but lost our hair over.
Next plan: go through the Visa Machine for the Turkmenistan LOI – they are applying en mass for almost 400 ralliers, without us needing to arrange a $200 guide/tour package. Note: you still need to apply for the Turkmenistan visa yourself (two ways, depending on if you’re going through Caspian sea or Iranian border), but that’s for another day.