Some Boring Info on Dushanbe Embassies

Some Info on the Embassies in Dushanbe, as of June 2016.

(for AU tourists). Visitors to Iran, Turkmen, Azeri and Russia… read on.

Iran – tourist visa.

We applied for the LOI through Stantours and were told that this would take 10-12 days from receipt of payment. We paid on a Tuesday night, but the application wasnt  lodged until the following Saturday. This had something to do with the fact that Iran doesn’t work on Thursdays or Fridays.

We received notification that our LOI’s had arrived 10 days after lodgement. On the email it said we should wait for three days before applying at the embassy, but Stantours told us to ignore this delay, so we went the next day (Wednesday). At the embassy we were invited into an office and had a short interview, then we were told to come back in 3 days as the embassy hadn’t received our LOI’s yet…

We went back the next day anyway and they had arrived. We then had another hour interview with another man who asked lots of bizarre questions. Then we were told that we had to go and pay the fee at a nearby bank (150 Euros per person!) and to return with the slip before 12.30pm. The bank is about 1.5km north of the embassy, on Rudakai Ave, on your rhs going north, just past the Southern Fried Chicken shop, 10mins walking. We returned at 12pm but they were closed. Very frustrating.

So we had to wait out the long weekend (the embassy is closed Fri-Sun), before finally lodging the documents (3 weeks after paying for the LOI). (Application form, Receipt for payment, 2 photos – headscarfe optional, Passport Copies). They told us to come back the next day at 10, but we asked if it was possible that afternoon. They told us they closed at 4pm, so we went back at 3:30 but… they were already closed. So the next morning we were back at 9:30am, told to wait until 11, and finally got the visa then.

The people at the embassy are relatively polite, if not overwhelmingly helpful. Being told to return before ??pm and finding them closed 30mins earlier was really annoying. Also the second interview was quite strange with some odd questions “Does your husband show you respect” “are you athletes” “can you define athlete for me?” etc. The guy at the front desk speaks no English, Russian and Persian only. The embassy is exactly where google maps puts it.

Turkmenistan – 5 day transit.

You can either apply and then collect from Dushanbe in 7 days, or apply in Dushanbe and get the approval via email, then collect from any other embassy, or at the border. We decided to receive the email and go to the border.

So you fill in the form they give you, hand write an accompanying letter (which they have a sample of in the embassy), provide a passport copy and a copy of the Iran visa. That’s it! Then hopefully the email will arrive in 10 days so you can get the visa at the border for USD$55.

The consul told us we were 100% guaranteed to receive the confirmation email in 10 days, but we nominated 13 days from applying to our entry date just to be sure. Note that the dates are fixed.

Contrary to information given to us by Stantours, the embassy did not need to see our Uzbek visa, and the turnaround time is 10 days for the approval email, or 7 days for collection from Dushanbe.

Not many tour companies will tell you about the option to collect the visa at the border or a different embassy to avoid waiting around for it – i think this is because they want to sell you the tour guide that you need for a tourist visa.

The embassy is not on Google Maps. So… going north on Rudakai Ave, turn left onto Karamov St, then it’s the 2nd on the right, and first on the left.

We only applied today, will amend once the email arrives and we hopefully get into TM!

Azerbaijan Transit Visa

Very helpful consulate, provide application forms, require 2 photos, passport copies and pay the fee at the Orien Bank (USD$20), return with the receipt and 3-5 days later collect the visa. It’s valid for entries across one month, and gives you 5 days transit. Keep in mind that if you’re in your own vehicle, you only get 72 hours from customs for the vehicle before it needs to exit, or be in a customs impound.

Russian Transit Visas

Consulate is where Google says it is, and very helpful once you get inside! So ignore the crowd and push forward to the intercom, shout “visa” into the microphone, repeatedly if needed and they will let you in. There was just one counter that spoke English so we had to wait a bit, but then they need:

Fill the online form and print it, 2 pics, passport copy, 2 blank pages in your passport (that are facing each other!), and the visa fee.

AU passport transit visa costs USD$70, ready in 7 days, or USD$105 express 2-3 days. EU transit visa costs EUR 35 in 5 days, or EUR 70 in 2 days.

They will give you a transit visa that requires you to travel 500km per day. So trip length divided by 500 = transit days.

If you plan to transit from KAZ to Georgia the approval time is 10 days because of instability in that area, and “it takes more time to make sure you aren’t terrorists”.

The Russian embassy in Dushanbe does not issue tourist visas for non Tajik residents (you’d need to show an OVIR registration longer than 30 days).

Hope this helps others!!

Time to leave Dushanbe finally!!!

The most expensive visas we’ve ever had to pay for!

Feeling pretty happy at the moment!! Picked up our Iran visas this morning (not without an hour of having to wait and a few rounds of cards in the meantime) then went straight to the Turkmenistan embassy with an hour to spare to apply for our transit visas. They will be ready in 10 days and we have been promised that we’ll be able to pick them up at the border in that time… We gave ourselves an extra two days just in case. The visas are date specific so if we don’t enter on said date we will be turned around. So, providing all that works out and they don’t reject our change of passport (which may be an issue!) we will be free!! No more dates to wait for!! 

We really hope Iran is worth it. Not only has it been a total headache it’s been a really expensive excersie.

Our days have been spent trying to organise air freight home for the bike and crating options. We thought it was a good opportunity to try to get organised. Not much else really… Lots of card playing, a bit of cooking and some vodka drinking! We’ve been bored!

After spending the last month or more sifting through reviews and information about visas on the internet we thought we should give a bit back and write about our embassy experience…. Dean getting at it…

So tomorrow we head north towards Tashkent in Uzbekistan where we will spend some time riding around and slowly make our way down to the border to hit our date… A little bit more time wasting ahead of us but at least we are moving!xx

Iranians making life difficult

We pull up on the motorbike and park across the road, gather all our paperwork from the panniers and walk through the tall steel embassy gates, around the corner and into the tiny waiting room.

The room is about 3m long by 2m wide, with a cup-less water dispenser and three plastic chairs.  On one of the chairs sit an elderly man with a long white beard and strange hat, he immediately begins talking to us in Persian, we reply in English that we dont understand him, and he reverts to sign language.

In sign language he tells us that he has a lengthy matter to deal with (arms outstretched and frown on his face) so we should go first.

The counter at the end has a semi circular hole at desk level, a bit like a bank, and also a dozen holes drilled at eye level, poorly, such that it looks like someone has fired a gun through the window.

Interesting effect.

In preparation for the lack of english, I have already typed “We are here to see if you have our approval number today” into google translate on my phone, and i pass the phone through the glass, the man reads it, opens a folder on the desk, looks at the front page and then motions us to sit down.

This is promising.

Yesterday they looked at the same folder, and through many pages before telling us to sit, maybe we’re on top?!

The man who was working the counter yesterday enters the room behind the bullet riddled glass, looks at us and starts moving things around loudly looking a bit pissed off.  He told us to come back on Monday… why are we here today?

As it happens we’re in luck and the paperwork has arrived, and it’s on top of his pile.  He mumbles something about a bank and writes something down on a piece of paper.  We’re about to take the paper when another guy, the actual Consul pokes his head around the corner and tells the guy behind the bullet riddled glass that he needs to see us in his office.

Now we’re directed into the Consuls office, where he sits on one end of the room behind his desk, (which has a TV on it!), and he directs us to sit on the far end of the room, on some old luxurious queen anne style lounges.  Another guy comes in wearing a blue suit, and sits next to us.  He has our application forms and passports, but wants to chat a bit.  Another guy brings us all a cup of tea and serves it like a waiter in a nice restaurrant.  How bizarre.

So we answer about 2o0 stupid questions…

“what do you think of Iran”  We dont know much about it but everyone says it’s lovely

“Are you athletes” no

“are you married?” yes (Iran is Muslim and they look disapprovingly on unmarried couples)

“do you like tea?” it’s ok

“how will you travel to Iran” by bus and taxi (they wont give us the visa if they think we’re travelling by bike)

“did you see the football game where Iran and Australia drew 2-2?” yes

“does your husband show you respect?” yes always  “really?” yes always.

“do you play sport?” no

“did you know it’s ramadan starting in June?” no

“do you know about the clothing expectations in Iran?” yes

“where are you going in iran?” it says on our applications

“did you include your email addresses?” no the form does not ask for them

“can you define the word athlete for me”  someone who plays sport professionally… why?

Do you want to work for the government?”…. No?!

“are you familiar with Iranian food” no

it goes on and on and on. We’re a bit edgy becasue we have to lie about a few things, I try to make some jokes and divert the conversation away from us and towards Iran instead…

Sally is looking at the time and starting to get impatient, but finally the guy says

“Bon Voyage” which we think means we can go.

“But what about our visas then?”

“ah… ” he mumbles something to the guy on the other end of the room watching tv.

“you pay first at bank”

“which bank?”

“The sdibufgisdbfvipuf bank on Rudakai opposite the old palace, near here”

“and how much should we pay?”

more mumbling in Persian, and then “150 euro each”

WTF?!!!!????  “but yesterday we were told 35 euro each”

“no, 35 euro is for Tajik people, you are Australian so it costs more”

“ok… so when will the visa be ready”

“first you pay”

“ok, if we pay today, when can we collect the visa?”

“if you pay today, and return before close at 12:30, can collect on Wednesday”

“Wednesday??? Is it possible on Monday?”

“Ok first pay and we will try to make fast”

We collect our forms and passports and run out to the bike, it’s 11:40am so we should have enough time to get this done.  Except that we werent given an address, just some vague directions, and in total shock at the visa fee we forgot to clarify them.

So now were riding up and down the main street through Dushanbe, stopping and asking people if they know where svgdsfghbpifuubv bank is.  Which of course no one does because we cant even pronounce sijuhdsfgkinfb bank.  We ride up and down getting more and more frustrated as everyone we ask points in a different direction, the minutes pass by.  Eventually we find a bank that sounds like siishfgfngofuh bank, but they are closed for lunch.

The anger levels are really setting in now, but we need to stay calm.   Eventually a guy tells us this is not the right bank anyway.  Fuck it, so we decide to return to the embassy to get clearer directions.  We pull up at 12:00pm but the gate is locked already.

The security guard does the closed mime (forearms held up in an X), I point to my non existent watch and make an angry what-the-fuck?? mime (arms held out with palms facing up and out).  He responds with the lunch time mime (cupped left hand in front of mouth, right hand pushing imaginary food into mouth), I continue my angry what-the-fuck mime, but he just shrugs his shoulders and returns to his little hut.

I swear and return to the bike.  We’re really upset.  They told us to get back by 12:30, then closed for lunch at 12.  Assholes.  Impotent rage is the worst, so we return to our sink-less apartment to calm down and see if we can find this fucking bank online.

“I dont even want to go to Iran anymore, 150euro is crazy!” says Sal

“well babe, we dont have much choice, we cant get the Russian visa for another ten days, and the boat across the caspian is almost $500 extra anyway”

I rinse cups in the bathtub and fill the kettle from the shower.  We make coffee by pouring hot water over a big spoonful of ground coffee beans, and then waiting for the grinds to sink to the bottom of the cup before sipping it slowly to avoid mud-mouth.  Sally reheats some leftover pasta piselli on the barely functioning cooktop, located on the enclosed balcony.

Eventually we read some blog reports that say the bank is only 100m from our apartment.  Anyway, the consulate is closed until monday morning now so no need to rush anymore.

I look at Sal and say “hey that pub we passed back there looks pretty cool, ‘Public Bar'”  “yeah like an actual pub, apparently it’s the place all the ex-pats hang out”  We both smile and our mood lightens.

An hour later Sal heads out to get a hair cut (by a woman who looks and sounds like Red from ‘Orange is the new black… Scary) and I walk over to the bank, “skudhfgiijfbn bank” reads the sign totally obscured by trees.  We passed it 4 times on the bike.  You have to laugh.

Once inside I fill in a couple of deposit forms and pay the cashier in USD.  $330 USD for 2 visas, the most expensive we have ever had.  Now we need to wait 4 days before returning to the assholes at the embassy to ask for the visa express.  Then we’ll apply for Turkmeistan and finally get the hell out of here.

But tonight, we’re going to the Public Bar.

Visa update

The visa circus continues…

A couple of days ago we were certain that the best option available to us was to get a transit visa through Russia and make our way back down to Iran through Georgia and Armenia …

Yesterday we were told by the Russian embassy that the route we were planning on taking was dangerous and the processing time would take 10 days as opposed to 2 as they needed to make sure we weren’t terrorists…

Back to the drawing board…

Maybe a transit through Azerbaijan?  This would also involve a 2 day boat trip across the Caspian Sea from Kazakhstan… A boat that has no timetable so a bit more waiting would also be involved… Not ideal but an option.

We got excited last night because we found out our Iran LOI had come through! With thoughts of getting out of here sooner than we had thought possible, we went to the Iran embassy today only to wait for ages for a translator and then to be told that we had to wait another 3 days for the embassy to receive the LOI…

Which makes it Monday… And then it will take another 2 days… Awesome 😣

So, then we head back to the Turkmenistan embassy with a few more questions before we applied for the Azerbaijan transit visa. 

It turns out that while we still need to wait until we have our Iran visa before we can apply for this transit visa we do have the option of picking the visa up at the border! It takes 5 days extra but this makes everything a little better for us as it means we can leave Dushanbe as soon as we apply for it, travel around Uzbekistan for a week and then head down to the border and hopefully, fingers crossed we can get our visa organised then! It’s a bit of a risk because nothing works out smoothly in this part of the world and we are also going to have to swap passports at the border as our Uzbekistan visa is in our EU passports and the Turkmen will be in our Australian passports 😁 .

There is also the issue that if things don’t go smoothly at the border we would be stamped out of Uzbekistan and stuck in no mans land!

However, I think we are going to go for this option. The Azerbaijan transit visa seems pretty straight forward and cheap but it’s a long way round and the boat is expensive… Still, it’s a plan C if it all falls through with Turkmenistan… Or Iran for that matter as nothing is for sure!

So, we’ve been told to go back to the Iran embassy at 10am on Monday to see if the LOI has been received (I think we may go tomorrow just to check!). Hopefully then we can apply and beg for it to be processed urgently and then once we have that we will apply at Turkmen and beg for that to be processed urgently too!

Who said travel was all fun?!

Home in Dushanbe

Dean doing our dishes!

Dean doing our dishes!

Dean is washing the dishes in the bath tub tonight… He also made a bottle opener out of a coat hanger for an $8 bottle of wine… Times are tough… We have just arrived in the apartment we have rented in Dushanbe for the next week and have found that the ‘double bed’ has a single mattress in the middle of it and there is no sink in the kitchen or the bathroom. It’s all very strange but it is the cheapest place in town for $16 USD per night! Everything is expensive here in comparison to the last 8 months of our trip… I guess that’s what you get the closer to Europe you get!

So now we have the visa wait to do. We have two options… Our original plan was to go from here to Uzbekistan, a transit visa through Turkmenistan then to Iran but based on the reputation of rejections and slow processing time of Turkmenistan we have a back up plan which is from here to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, transit visa through Russia to Georgia, Azerbaijan then Iran… It’s a long way round but a way to avoid waiting on our asses for 2 weeks for a possible rejected Turkmenistan visa in Dushanbe…. So… First we have to wait for our ‘letter of invitation’ to come through for Iran, which should arrive in the next couple of days… Once we have this we can start to work out what path to take.

One of the spreads put on for us for brekfast...biscuits and evaporated milk and bread?!

One of the spreads put on for us for brekfast…biscuits and evaporated milk and bread?!

The ride here along the Afghanistan border was beautiful. Afghanistan would be a beautiful country to travel around one day! We tried to take a road that had been recommended to us but due to a lot of rain the night before and my dislike for skidding in deep soft mud for kilometres on end on the edge of a mountain we had to turn around and take the highway.  I was happy to walk  but we had no idea how long the mud would go on for and it had started to rain. We both felt defeated to turn around and I felt extra bad as I knew Dean could have done it without me. It was shaping up to be another stunning ride too.

Me washing all the mud off my boots in a stream

Me washing all the mud off my boots in a stream

Anyway, back on the bitumen we made our way to Dushanbe. It was beautiful but not the same as the previous few days… Or maybe we were over saturated with beauty!

The ride to Dushanbe

The ride to Dushanbe

It was a slow ride as the traffic police here are full on. We think the speed limit must be 60 but there are no signs to tell you. We were pulled over twice but we usually managed to get away with the ‘we don’t understand’ act. They get impatient with us and realise we’re not going to give them a bribe so they shoo us away. One smart policemen got a friend that spoke English on the phone (he didn’t go for the ‘we speak australian’ act) so we couldn’t really avoid this one. It was going to be a $8 fine for 10kph over the limit which we would have paid. While Dean was waiting at the police car for three policeman to write out a ticket I was sitting on the bike watching car after car speed past. After a while I impatiently took off my helmet and jacket and stormed over to the police car…

‘How many policemen does it take to write a ticket!?’

They smile nervously…

‘One,  two,  three,  policemen for one ticket as there are cars zoom zoom zooming past all the time?!’

They smile again,.. I think they understood… the main fat lazy policemen who was writing the ticket then handed Deans license back to him…

‘Go…. Good luck’

We were not sure if he meant good luck for our journey or good luck with your mad girlfriend, but we got away with no ticket or bribe so we were happy!

So here we are trying to make a temporary home in an apartment with only half a kitchen and half a bed, trying the local vodka and eating Russian caviar. Facebook seems blocked and or limited here and we expect the internet situation to be the same if not worse the closer to Iran we get. Hopefully this blog wont also be blocked at any stage!

Love xx

the Visa Circus continues

So… to get an Iran visa we need a lettor of invitation (LOI), which we’re currently waiting for in Dushanbe.  Hopefully it will arrive in the next two days.  We also need a new photo for Sally…

Sally in her iranian costume

Sally in her iranian costume

Then, it would make sense for us to travel through Turkmenistan to Iran, but to get the Turkmenistan visa, we need the Iran visa first, and then it takes another week… which would mean two weeks here waiting.

Instead, we’ve decided to lodge a visa application for Russia (5 days turnaround) in our EU passports while we simultaneously get the Iranian visas in the AU passports.  Then we’ll ride from here to Uzbekistan (we already have that visa), and then across the Kakakhstan desert (no visa needed), into Russia, then Georgia (no visa needed), Armenia (no visa needed), and finally Iran.

It’s quite a long way around (~4000km), but means less waiting in Dushanbe, and we get to see a few more countries and avoid Turkmenistan which is nothing special anyway.  Plus they kept us waiting inline at the embassy for an hour while important men were ushered inside ahead of us… so f*(k them.

Following this waiting at the Turkmen embassy, we went to the Russian embassy, where we found a crowd of maybe 50 people waiting outside, undeterred, Sally pushed to the front and pressed on the intercom, shouting


“come back at 3”   was the reply from the scratchy speaker at the gate, (it was 11:45am)


and we pushed through the door and into the security area, where a bemused looking Russian man took our details, confiscated my phone and let us in.

Once inside we met a lovely yound woman who explained all the requirements and costs to us.

“See, Sometimes it’s good to be pushy and demanding”






Quick update from Kalaikhum

Another day riding along the Panj river that forms the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

Our view for lunch, Afganistan!

Our view for lunch, Afganistan!

More friendly people and amazing scenery all day.  I’m quite struck with the reception we’re getting, it feels like we’re in a parade and the crowd is continuously waving at us as we pass. Genuine, happy, big smiles from everybody – even the old ladies!

All the little girls smile shyly and wave, and the boys run out on the road at full speed wanting to high five us as we pass.

Smily children holding out their hands to be slapped!

Smily children holding out their hands to be slapped!

We slow a little and high five them back, which actually hurts through the glove sometimes, and I see them in the mirror jumping up and down and waving some more.

Never ending smiles and waves

Never ending smiles and waves

We were planning to camp tonight on the river but there are many more settlements on the Afghan side here and so I’m a little unsure about wild camping, plus there isn’t much space out of the view of the road, so we ended up in a guest house instead.  Funnily enough this guest house is the same one Paul and I stayed at in 2010, total coincidence!

An Afgani village

An Afgani village

Tomorrow we leave the border area and head towards the capital Dushanbe, on a road we’re told has some bridges missing, and therefore we have some deep water crossings to make, that should be great fun!

I can hear thunder outside now so maybe it’s good luck that we’re not in the tent tonight…

Hopefully we get another dry day tomorrow though.


We’ve arrived in my favourite ‘stan, Badasstan!


Yes there is a ‘stan called Bad Ass Stan! It’s an autonomous area in the east of Tajikistan, we even needed a special visa to get in here.

not a bad pic from my telephone!

not a bad pic from my telephone!

Somehow we missed almost all the rain and snow and eventually made it to Murgab yesterday after crossing the border, we even found a reasonable guest house where we got much needed hot showers!

traditional tajik house

traditional tajik house

Today we thought we might need to stay put to miss some more dreadful weather, but in the morning it wasn’t too bad so we took a chance and headed off yet again wearing everything we own.

we dont mind snow on the road when the sun is shining!

we dont mind snow on the road when the sun is shining!

We spent the day with snow and hail ahead, behind and on both sides of us, but somehow the gamble paid off, and we threaded the needle through the storms, stayed dry and even had sunshine for a lot of the day.

And what a stunning ride it was. We’re on the border of Afghanistan in the Wakhan Corridor, it’s high altitude desert, snow caps, rivers and mountains that go on forever.  We both agree that this area, kyrg and tajik is the most picturesque place we’ve seen, it’s quite amazing.

and the pics really dont capture it at all...

and the pics really dont capture it at all…

Lots of shepherds on the track we rode today, with beautiful little donkeys carrying impossibly big loads, shaggy mountain dogs, and children carrying baby sheep (too small to walk) in their arms.  Everyone is incredibly friendly too, we get big waves and smiles from everyone we pass.

emo donkey with big fringe, (all the animals are shedding their winter coats)

emo donkey with big fringe, (all the animals are shedding their winter coats)

Spending to tonight in a traditional Tajik home stay, where we sleep in a multilevel colourful room covered in rugs . Very cool!

Not enough internet to upload many pics, but more to come soon xoxo



Just woke up and making the most of our last day of 3g internet (2g here actually).

The clothes drying ritual was a great success last night so today we leave here dry and warm (at around 2degC) to ascend to the Ak Baital border crossing at 4655m where the days high temp is supposed to be 1!

I think my boots might even be dry, no small feat given the waterlogging they received yesterday.

Also on the up side, there is some sun scheduled somewhere today too.


This is where we’re headed now 🙂