August 4 Pamela MacNaughtan

The Turkmenistan Visa Battle in Istanbul

Our weekend in Istanbul has been good. I had a chance to meet with a couple Mongol Rally teams, hang-out with Charlie and Sherry, and find a way to have some alone time. The latter being the most important part of my journey so far – aside from trying to secure my Turkmenistan visa.

As a solo female traveler I cherish my alone time, and I’m finding it more and more valuable as I do the Mongol Rally. I enjoy driving in the car with Charlie, but when you spend 24/7 with someone, you need some quiet time here and there. So, rather than have a crazy day of sightseeing in Istanbul, I took time to relax and reconnect; with myself.

Now it was time to be in team mode and get our Turkmenistan visas squared away, before going to an interview later in the afternoon.

Ceydia from OrtaBlu (one of our sponsors) graciously agreed to go to the Turkmenistan Consulate. with us, incase we needed a translator. Charlie was going to pick-up her visa, and I was going to apply for mine – after failed attempts in Washington, and Paris. Ceydia suggested we take a taxi, and soon we were flying through the streets of Istanbul to the Consulate.

We were not the first ones there. There were ralliers outside filling out forms, and locals and ralliers inside. The room was small, and stifling hot, and the man behind the window didn’t speak English. We cued up at the window, waiting to inquire about Charlie’s visa, and get paperwork for me to fill out. When it was my turn I tried to explain that I needed to apply for a transit visa, and that I wanted to pick it up in Baku. Charlie jumped in to explain again and ask for the forms.

The man looked through my passport and asked where my Uzbekistan visa was. I told him I was suppose to pick it up in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, and he said I could not get a visa because I did not have a visa. I tried to explain again, but he said no. I turned to Ceydia and ask her to explain that I would exit into Kazakhstan instead. The man was gruff and said no, Charlie and I were traveling together, and she was going to Uzbekistan, and since I didn’t have that visa, I could not get one.

I was beyond frustrated. If Charlie hadn’t jumped in, I wouldn’t be in this predicament. We went outside to regroup, and I asked that I do it alone going forward, and asked Ceydia to explain to him that I was not traveling with Charlie, and that we had merely come to the Consulate together. The man seemed to accept this answer, and I went about filling in paperwork, while Charlie and Ceydia left to get a passport photo and go to the bank.

I hung-out outside the Consulate, chatting with some of the teams trying to get visas, and waiting for Cedyia and Charlie to return. It was a hot day, and I was dying for something cold and refreshing. When Ceydia and Charlie returned we went inside, joined the cue, and waited to hand over paperwork – which is when team douchebag decided to jump the line because they think the universe revolves around them, which pissed me right off, and I know that is not their team name, but as far as I’m concerned it is their team name from now on – and pray that the man would accept it.

Thankfully, after a couple of revisions, he took my papers and said I could pick-up my passport in Baku, Azerbaijan. Phew! That was roughly two hours of heat and frustration, but I bounced out, confident that my visa would be ready in Baku when I arrived.

Lesson: I should have paid way more attention to the email from the Adventurists a few months ago, when they said he needed to apply for Turkmenistan letters of invitation for visas on arrival. I should have ignored my stubborn side that said I could do it on my own, for less money. Lesson learned, a wee bit late.

Note: I haven’t renamed any teams, other than team Douche Bag. There is just something slimy about those guys. They make my skin crawl every time I see them. Oh, I would love to just bitch-slap those dudes into oblivion. 

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About the Author

Pamela MacNaughtan I'm a travel writer and photographer who specializes in bespoke travel experiences. I write about boutique, savvy and cultural travel. My writing has been featured in Outpost Magazine, Travel + Escape, and UP! Magazine.

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