Turkmenistan is the strictest country when it comes to visas. All tourist visas have to be issued on a basis of a letter of invitation. This letter can only be obtained by a Turkmeni travel agency directly from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan. But, these agencies will only do it for you if you book a tour (accommodation and a guide) through them, which can be very costly. Another option is to get a transit visa, but it can take up to 6 weeks and this application will require copies of your visas for Iran or Azerbaijan (whichever country you are visiting prior to Turkmenistan) and Uzbekistan (if you are exiting into Uzbekistan).
We have, however, found a way around it. The authorities of Turkmenistan have been very understanding and helpful as the Mongol rally is a charity event, so we are allowed to apply for a transit letter of invitation (LOI) for all of the Ralliers without providing copies of any other visas or original passports. All we will need from you is some personal information, application for, photo and a copy of your passport.
This transit LOI is a pre-approval of your transit visa by the State Migration Service of Turkmenistan. Once it's been issued/ approved you can get the actual transit visa without any difficulties. If you are entering Turkmenistan through one of the land borders you don't actually need to do anything in advance. All you need to do is rock up at the border with some cash in USD (between $60 and $100 depending on nationality), copy of this LOI and your passport. The visa will be stamped into your passport there and then and you'll be able to stay in Turkmenistan for up to 5 days from the date you enter the country.
You can also get the transit visa beforehand. That can be done at one of the embassies en-route in just a couple of days. You will need to tell the embassy that the transit has been pre-approved already and will need to submit your passport, application form (available at the embassy), copy of the LOI, photo and some cash. the visa will then be valid for 5 days according to the dates you request.
What should the invite look like?
This invite is issued for all ralliers who applied. Usually that's hundreds of people. The Turkmen authorities won't issue individual invites, so for data reasons, we redact all the names and passport details on the list except for those in your The Visa Machine order.
So, for example, if there's only you on your order, you'll see:
1) the first page of the document in Turkmen and English,
2) a "list" page from the invite list with only the line with your name and details in it,
3) the final page of the document in Turkmen and English.
If there are more than one of you in an order, you'll have multiple "list" pages showing only the lines of the invite with those individuals who are in that order.
You must print out all pages that have been uploaded to your The Visa Machine account. They are all vital.
It may not look much, but this is the official Turkmen permission for the person/s named to apply for entry into Turkmenistan and without it you won't be able to enter Turkmenistan. So please look after it in case you can't print it out again when you're on the road
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