The Central Asia Visa Guide for Overlanders

The Central Asia Visa Guide for Overlanders

You’re in luck. Getting a visa for the ‘Stans’ has never been easier. Everyone’s mellowing out in Central Asia and getting in and out is nowhere as difficult as it used to be. Check out this guide for the ins and outs of how to get your paperwork in order.

Afghanistan visas

Tajikistan

Tajikistan operates an E-Visa system. All you have to do is go onto their website click here and fill out their form. Most countries are eligible, including the USA, UK and all European countries. Click here to see if your country is eligible.

You can pay online and you’ll receive your visa the next day as an email attachment. Print it off and you’re done. You don’t need to send your passport off, visit an embassy or any of that stuff. Your visa will be valid for 45 days within a 90-day period – starting from the start date you enter on the online form. The visa costs 50 USD and an additional 20 USD if you want a GBAO permit. See below. You do not need to go through any third parties, just visit the website and do it yourself.

UPDATE: We received word from a motorcycle traveller in August 2019 that the Tajikistan e-visa system is experiencing difficulties and is very slow. It took 8 days to receive the visa. We’ve heard it took someone 20 days and someone else 20 minutes. Apparently the average waiting time is now six days. Plan your visa in advance. Click here for the Tajik Mission update.

*We’ll update as and when we receive more info. Please feel free to add any relevent and current info to this page via the comments. It’d be much appreciated. Thank you.*

 Double Entry Visa

If you’re planning on leaving the country and then coming back in, simply apply for two E-Visas! Change the dates on the second one to match your trip and just print it off and carry both with you. It’s not technically allowed, but everyone does it, even major tour companies. So just don’t flaunt it and you’ll be fine.

The only catch is that you need to apply for the second one while you are in Tajikistan – don’t apply for two e-visas before you enter the country as each has a unique visa ID and they may be able to see on their computer system that you have two.

While we were in Tajikistan, we decided to leave the country and go to Afghanistan. A week before we decided to cross the border we just applied for a new Tajik visa online and printed it off. We crossed the border to Afghanistan using our original visa. When crossing back into Tajikistan we showed our new, recently printed e-visa.

Guide to Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor

GBAO Permit

If you’re entering the Pamirs then you’ll also need to click ‘Yes’ to needing a GBAO permit on the online visa form – your visa will then state you’re allowed entry. This will cost an extra 20USD but will mean you’re allowed to ride/drive/cycle there. To ride through the Pamirs you’ll need the paper print out with GBAO permit on it, your passport and vehicle document.

Insurance

We were not asked about and did not purchase any insurance, nor have we heard of anyone else with it for Tajikistan.

Registration and customs

When you enter Tajikistan, you will need to pay 10 USD for customs. The paper you get in return is very important – don’t lose it. However, it will only entitle your vehicle to 15 days in the country. You can extend this by registering in Dushanbe or Khorog for roughly the same price. It’s down to you if you want to register or not, we have heard plenty of reports from overlanders who did not and got through the border fine. However, we have also met others who were fined.

The Overlanders' Guide to Tajikistan

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is an absolute beauty when it comes to visas. It allows passport holders from 61 countries to stay without a visa. There is a time limit though and the time limit depends on which country you’re from. Click here to see how long you have in the country visa free.

European Union, UK, USA, Australian, New Zealand, Canada passport holders get 60 days. Just rock up at the border and you’ll get stamped through.

Customs

When entering Kyrgyzstan, you will need to pay around 10 USD for customs paperwork at the border – make sure you keep this paperwork safe until you leave the country. Also, be careful, because the border guards can be a little sneaky. When we crossed, they would only accept Kyrgyz currency or USD. We didn’t have any Kyrgyz som yet so had to pay in USD. But they refused to take anything smaller than a 10 USD bill and also refused to give change for anything bigger than 10 USD. Luckily, there were other travellers there who exchanged their unwanted Kyrgyz money for our Tajik money. Have the right amount in USD or Kyrgyz money before arriving at the border.

Insurance

There was no talk of insurance when entering Kyrgyzstan and we were not asked about it during our stay.

The Overlanders' Guide to Kyrgyzstan

Kazakhstan

Like Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan is also visa free for a big handful of countries. Although, you don’t get as long and getting in is more of a pain – especially if you’re coming in over the Caspian Sea by ferry from Azerbaijan. Click here to see how long you get visa free in Kazakhstan

At the border, you only need to show your vehicle registration document and passport. There should be no payments. You’ll fill out a temporary import card and that’s it.

Extending your visa

The good news is that you can extend by leaving Kazakhstan and re-entering (you can even do it the same day) and you will receive a fresh new visa.

Registering your stay

There are reports floating around that you need to register your stay in Kazakhstan. But if you are travelling on a visa free passport you do not need to register.

Insurance

You are supposed to purchase vehicle insurance in Kazakhstan. Insurance offices can be found by the border office and you’ll typically pay around 34 USD (13,000 tenge) for 30 days. We did not purchase insurance for Kazakhstan and luckily were not stopped by police. Your call if you want to risk it.

Caspian Sea Ferry Guide

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan used to be a massive pain to get a visa for, involving embassies and long waits. But now they’ve adopted the e-visa system and life’s a lot easier! Passport holders from 51 countries, including the UK, EU and USA can apply online. Click here to see if your country is on the list.

Uzbekistan also allows certain passport holders, like those from France, Japan and Turkey to enter without any visa for 30 days. Check the link above.

If you’re opting for the e-visa, then you’ll be allowed to stay for 30 days in a 90-day period. It’ll take around 3 days to get your visa and costs 20 USD.

It’s important to note:

  • The visa starts from the day you send in your application.
  • You must leave before the 90-day validity period is up. This can be confusing as with some countries you can enter up to the last date of validity and your 30 days will start from then. But with Uzbekistan, if your visa states that it’s valid until December 10, then you must leave by that day.
  • If it says December 10th was the last day, then that means your start date would have been September 10 (valid for 90 days). So, you can enter on October 15 and stay 30 days, but you cannot enter on December 1 and stay 30 days.

The visa is single-entry, if you need a double entry then you will have to visit the embassy. We’ve read reports that Gmail, Yahoo and MSN accounts work best/ paying by Visa is best/ some people receive a payment error but the payment went through anyway. To apply by e-visa click here

Border problems

Before entering Uzbekistan, we read and heard from everyone that the border control was extremely strict and thorough searches will be done on your vehicle and belongings. That’s because certain things are illegal in Uzbekistan like pain killers that are legal in your home country. Before 2018, guards would go through your belongings searching for codeine, porn and so on. And you could get into a lot of trouble for something you thought harmless.

But it’s changed. We weren’t searched at all, and nobody we have met since has. We’re not 100% sure on the new laws, so it’s best to check what is and what isn’t allowed first. But we have heard and experienced a much, much more relaxed Uzbekistan.

You do not need to pay for anything at the border. You will only need to fill out some forms.

Note: if you’re riding into Uzbekistan from Kazakhstan, you may be carrying extra fuel in bottles or containers. If guards try telling you that you’re not allowed to take them in and have to use it in your vehicle before leaving, then just play dumb until they get bored. You can take fuel across the border.

Insurance

We did not get any vehicle insurance for Uzbekistan and we did not hear of anyone getting any. We’re not sure if it’s required by law, but were not asked for it when leaving. Apparently, there are insurance offices near the borders or in towns though. It’s your call.

Registration

There is a whole thing surrounding registration in Uzbekistan. The old rule was that you need to register your stay at least once every three days at a hotel. The hotel staff know what to do, just give them your passport and they’ll give you a little white slip saying you stayed with your passport details. You were then supposed to show this when leaving Uzbekistan. Apparently, if you didn’t have enough slips you could be seriously fined and detained.

We collected our slips as we rode through Uzbekistan in 2018 and they didn’t even mention the slips at the border and we didn’t take them out of our bag. But, that’s not to say you don’t need to still do it. It’s unclear on whether or not it’s still a requirement. So, to be on the safe side it’s best to collect your registration slips.

If you are planning on camping, you can register yourself through this website www.emehmon.uz

The Overlanders' Guide to Uzbekistan

Turkmenistan

Good luck! Getting a visa for Turkmenistan can be a real pain in the arse. Visas are granted and denied with no real explanation or reason.

To get a full-on tourist visa is very expensive and you will need to book onto a tour to get one. So most people opt for a transit visa, which doesn’t require a tour or a letter of invitation. We have met people who did get their Turkmenistan transit visa, but that required getting theirs sorted in their home country before leaving. Most overlanders tend to avoid Turkmenistan, but as of 2018, rules seem to have relaxed slightly.

Transit visas are still tricky to get and typically last between 3 to 7 days (5 seems to be the amount of days most commonly awarded). We applied for our transit visa in the UK for a pick-up in Azerbaijan but despite numerous calls to the embassy we didn’t get our visa in time (if we waited any longer we would have eaten too far into our Uzbek visa).

Transit visas are very specific, you will be given an entry and exit date (and will have to already have a visa for the country you are exiting to). A transit visa can only be used to transit the country, meaning you can’t just ride in from Uzbekistan and leave back into Uzbekistan, you must pass through to get to another destination. Because of the strict time-frame, your planning must be exact.

You will need to visit a Turkmenistan embassy either in your home country or on the road. And apparently, it’s possible to apply in one country and pick up in another. Expect to pay around 90 USD.

We have no experience of getting into or riding around Turkmenistan. We’d love any feedback or reports on your experiences so please get in touch us either by email at [email protected] or by leaving a comment below. Thanks!

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