Turkey – Contents

To see all the Turkey posts use the Countries menu on the left

Uzbekistan - Contents

Visas  IMG_3293
Getting a visa and onward travel
Getting a visa in Delhi
Heading West from India towards Europe

Cycling Guides
Tashkent to Samarkand
Samarkand to Bukkhara
Crossing the border from Bukkhara to Turkmenabat

People IMG_3458
Cycling from Tashkent to Samarkand
Uzbek Fashion Show

Samarkand - a wonder of Central Asia
Bukhara - a living museum

Tajikistan - Contents

Getting a visa and onward travel options

Cycling the Pamir Highway
The Pamir Highway
Short Videos from the Pamir Highway
We've Cycled the Pamir Highway
Cycling Guide - full details 


Kyrgyzstan - Contents

Visas 1170061050_c3ff1fedc1
Getting a visa and onward travel

Cycling the Pamir Highway
The Pamir Highway
Short Videos from the Pamir Highway
We've Cycled the Pamir Highway
Cycling Guide - full details 




Getting a Kazakhstan Visa and onward travel from Kazakhstan

Visa - Kazakhstan

Kazakh visas all need an Letter of Invitation and it is probably best to apply in your own country. You can in theory get a visa on arrival at the airport as long as you have a visa on arrival LOI which is available from Stan Tours although it costs more than the standard LOI. David at Stan Tours will offer you good and quick advice.

Visas are all valid for 30 days and cannot be extended in any way

Kazakh Embassies in surrounding countries:

There are embassies in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan where you can get a visa but for all of them you will need an LOI.

Onward TravelKazakhstan Map

You can generally enter Kazakhstan without onward visas as it is possible to get so many visas in Almaty or in Astana (the capital)






Routes out of Kazakhstan:

Russia: Many routes out to the North, we used the Semeypolatinsk border post and it was very easy.

China: You can enter China to the East of Almaty with no trouble.

Kyrgyzstan: Several routes in, but be careful if you go over the mountains to Lake Issy Kul as if you don’t get your passport stamped you could have lots of hassle.

Uzbekistan: several routes in all with no trouble.

Other Relevant Links on this Site:

  1. Kazakhstan Visa Information 
  2. Registering your visa in Kazakhstan


Getting a Tajikistan Visa and onward travel from Tajikistan

Visa - Tajikistan The visa that you get specifies the exact dates but you can enter any time between them. You normally get 30 days, but you might be able to get more in embassies outside the region.

Flying in:

Visa on arrival is available for most nationalities and lasts 30 days. Sometimes there is no-one at the airport who can issue the visa so you have to leave your passport and come back the next day to get your visa.

Entry by Land:

There aren’t many Tajikistan embassies around the world and in the local area the best embassies are the following:

Kazakhstan (Almaty)
This embassy issues visas in 1 day but needs an LOI, available from local tour companies, or try the online services of Stan Tours who as said before are very efficient

Kyrgyzstan (Bishkek)
The embassy in Bishkek is hard to find but the process is fairly efficient. We wrote a letter to the Tajik government asking for a visa and explaining why we wanted to go there while sitting in front of the Consular official. They were very friendly and helpful and suggested what to write. We got our visa 24 hours later, handed to us through the gate by a disembodied hand. No LOI was needed.

Uzbekistan (Tashkent)
This embassy isn’t recommended but check on the Thorn Tree for current info

GBAO Permit for the Pamir

If you are entering from Kyrgyzstan to ride the Pamir Highway, you will also need a GBAO permit, available through ITMC in Bishkek or again online through Stan Tours. David from Stan Tours offers good advice even if you aren’t going to use his services.

If you are in Bishkek or Dushanbe you might be able to get the original permit but most companies email or fax you a copy of it and you then show this at the border (if you enter from Kyrgyzstan) and pick up the original of your permit in Khorog, the main town in the GBAO region.

We met many people who had no problem with this method.

Onward TravelTajikistan Map

Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have embassies in Dushanbe where you can get visas. Check the other country pages for more information about the process.

China: There is no border crossing to China open to foreigners although the government keep saying that they will open the pass between Murgab in Tajikistan and Tashkurgan in Xinjiang province. Some commentators think this will never happen, despite it being a busy trading route for Chinese goods to the Western Pamirs.

Afghanistan: It is possible to cross into Afghanistan but you should check on the Thorn Tree for the latest information.

Getting a Turkmenistan Visa and onward travel from Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan Map-1 Important points:

As far as cycling is concerned the only visa that you can really use is a Transit visa and you are likely to be just cycling 550km across the country to get from one border to the other.

The transit visa is the only one that allows independent travel across the country.

You will only be given 5, 7 or 10 days.

You are only likely to get 10 days if you apply from your own country, although you can try begging.


You can get the transit visa just about anywhere there is an embassy.

There are Turkmenistan embassies in India, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Iran.It takes between 10 and 14 days if you don’t have a LOI. 

You have to complete two forms which are slightly different, provide two copies of your passport and two passport photos (women with hair covered is advised)

You don’t need to leave your passport at the embassy so you could go and pick up other visas while your application is going through.

When you pick up your visa you must have a valid visa for the country that you are transiting to: ie. Iran or Uzbekistan. 

You may get your visa more quickly if you already have your transit country visa when you apply.  This is what people who regularly transit the country do.

Letter of Invitation (LOI)

This isn’t necessary but you might get your Turkmen transit visa a little more quickly. You can get an LOI by hunting around online. The costs vary.

Getting an Iranian Visa and onward travel from Iran

Iran MapIranian visas aren’t that difficult to get, it just involves a little bit of time and planning so that Iran can check you out.

The Process:

Visa Agency: You need to apply first to an agency who will prepare an application for you and then after about 3 weeks they will send you an Authorization/Approval Number.


You will need to know the following to give to the visa agency:

  1. Your itinerary – a list of places you are visiting and on the days that you are going. If you want a 30 day visa then you will need to have a 30 day itinerary.
  2. Intended Entry and Exit points and dates.
  3. The embassy where you will pick up the visa.
  4. All the normal passport details.


Iran - VisaEmbassy: You then take the Authorization number to the embassy that you have specified and then complete an application form for your visa as you would for other countries and pay the relevant fee. The visa that they issue you will be for 30 days and you are given varying amounts of time to enter Iran.

Generally you will be asked to say when you are likely to want to enter the country and the consul will give you 30 days around that date allowing you to get in roughly around the time you suggested.

Fingerprinting: Some nationalities will need to provide fingerprints: UK, French, German……+ others

Photos: all women will need photos with their hair covered


Timescale for applying: Iran - Isabelle Passport Photo

We would advise you to do this about 6 weeks before you think you will enter the country to be on the safe side.

US citizens should apply a little earlier as it can take up to 45 days for them to check you out before they approve you. US citizens normally need a guide but this isn’t a cast in stone policy. Just apply earlier. Iran welcomes Americans.

Once in the country where you are picking up your visa the process takes between 4 and 7 days from when you apply. It is impossible to apply without the Authorization/Approval Number.

Where to pick up your visa in this area:

Uzbekistan - Tashkent: good reports, our experience was superb, friendly Uzbek guards, friendly consulate staff and the visa was issued the same day for an extra 20 euros. Only accepted Euros – No US Dollars!!!
Kyrgyzstan - Bishkek: some say terrible, others say it is OK. We would avoid because of the lack of confidence from several visa agencies.
Turkey – Istanbul: good reports from travellers.
India – Delhi / Mumbai: the embassies there are generally OK but we have no reports. Pakistan - Islamabad / Lahore and Quetta: We’ve heard good reports.

Visa Agencies:

Iranian Visa: http://www.iranianvisa.com 

They have a good website and offer an efficient service at a reasonable cost:

Costs: €39 for each application, €30 to change the pick up embassy. Check their website for up to date costs.

Our Authorization number took 3 weeks and we are UK and Canadian Passport holders. There are many other agencies although we couldn’t find a cheaper one. Check the Thorn Tree for information about current applications.

Payment to your Visa Agency

http://iranianvisa.com can’t use Visa or Pay Pal because of sanctions. You will almost certainly only have two ways to pay:

Direct Bank Transfer
For this you will need about 5 days and you should be able to do this through your bank on the internet. Remember that some banks will require you to authorize this in person at the bank.

Money Bookers: http://www.moneybookers.com
This is a very simple and secure service but it takes a few days to set up your account. You need to register with them and then they will take a random small payment off your credit card.

You need to check your statement (online or paper) and then note the amount that they removed and then enter it on the Money Bookers website. Form this moment your account is ready to make payments.

Payments just involve you knowing a special email address that companies like Stan Tours or Iranian Visa have registered with Money Bookers. They will tell you their payment email address.

Visa Extensions

Visas can be extended in many Iranian cities, some more easily than others. The extension is for 30 days and is from the date that you apply, so you should apply for your extension towards the end of your first visa.

You can extend it up to a maximum of 90 days (in theory)

Onward Travel from Iran

Turkey: visa available on arrival for many nationalities, check online

Turkmenistan: For cyclists the only feasible visa is a Transit available with no LOI in Tehran. It takes 7 days and you will need an onward visa for Uzbekistan to be allowed in.

Getting an Uzbekistan Visa and onward travel from Uzbekistan

Visa - Uzbekistan An Uzbekistan visa lasts for 30 days and you must specify the exact date of entry on your application. You will be issued with a visa for these dates. This is a pain as you have to know exactly when you will enter.

If you are cycling this means it’s probably better to get the Uzbek visa in Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan or possibly India (if you’re good at cycling to a schedule) so that you can get there on time.

Letter of Invitation (LOI)

The following nationalities don’t need an LOI: UK, Greece, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Latvia, Japan, Malaysia, US.

This list of nations changes quite often.

If you need an LOI, you can get these from several agencies. We used Stan Tours who are very efficient and charge about 30 Euros. If you have a Money Bookers account you can get the letter in a couple of days.

You will need to have a letter from your employer saying that you have a job and your itinerary, and you must specify where you are going to apply for your visa. If this changes you will need a new LOI!!!!

Application Process

The process at the embassy is generally quite simple. You can download forms at the Uzbekistan Government website. 

You will need a photo and a photocopy of your passport and a completed form.

Most of the embassies have a time in the morning for handing in forms and a time in the afternoon for picking them up.

They will probably ask you to go and pay the fee into their bank account at a bank and come back with a receipt.

Onward Travel

Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have embassies in Uzbekistan and there are road borders for all these countries.

You won’t be able to get a Turkmen visa without having an Iranian visa.

Other Relevant Links on this Site

  1. Getting an Uzbekistan Visa in Delhi


See the other country pages for more information

Getting a Kyrgyzstan Visa and onward travel from Kyrgyzstan

Visa - Kyrgyzstan 28 different countries don’t have any hassle getting a visa for Kyrgyzstan.  See the government website for details or go to http://www.kyrgyzstan.org

Just go to any embassy, fill in the forms and pay your money. You can generally get the visa in 24 hours.

If there is no embassy you can go to a Kazakhstan embassy but you will then need a letter of invitation available from Stan Tours amongst many others.Visa - Kyrgyzstan Extension

Renewal is easy and can be done any time to add 30 days on to your visa.

Flying in 
The same 28 nationalities can get visa on arrival.

Land Borders
You must have the visa when you arrive. There is no Visa on Arrival (Yet!)

Onward Travel

Kyrgyzstan Map-1 China: There are two routes into China from Kyrgyzstan, the easiest is the Irkeshtan Pass near Osh (275km away), the other crossing point at the Torugart Pass (3752m), near Naryn involves paying to be driven across the border and you must arrange all this beforehand. The main problem is the visa, best to already have it from your home country…as for the last two years it has been very difficult to get Chinese visas in Kyrgyzstan or anywhere in Central Asia.

Tajikistan: you will need a Tajik visa and a GBAO permit to cross at the only border allowed for foreigners (near Sary Tash). This is easy to get in Bishkek at ITMC or Stan Tours can also help. You can travel with a faxed version and pick up the original in Khorog or other towns in Tajikistan.

Kazakhstan: LOI needed

Uzbekistan: LOI needed

See the individual country pages for more info


Getting a Russian visa for the Altai area and onward travel from the Altai

Visa - Russia

Russian visas aren’t the easiest to get, although if you have money it’s a bit easier.

If you are cycling get in touch with the Russian Cycling Federation and you should be able to get a business visa valid for 6 months.

If all you want to do is cycle through the Altai then you will only need the standard 30 day tourist visa.

You must specify the date of entry on your application.

Russian Visas for Cyclists

Cyclists puzzle Russian embassies because they often don’t have hotel bookings, return flights, train tickets etc. These are all the things that you are meant to have. In the Altai this is impossible as there are very few hotels.

Just persevere and explain what you are trying to do, tell them that you are cycling and be prepared to spend a lot of time waiting. If you wait long enough they will probably just give you what seems like a random price for the visa and issue it there and then. It is better if you have onward visas and visas for the other countries on your route. We had to write down our whole route to get our visa.

Your alternative is to fake all the documents, or make bookings as though you are a standard tourist and then cancel everything. There are agencies such as Way to Russia that can help you make bookings and issue you with documents.

Read the Thorn Tree for ideas and other travellers reports.


Remember to register your visa within 3 days of entry. Failure to do this will result in a large random fine -$200-$500. You can do this in Kosh Agach near Mongolia (only hotels can do this) or in Rubsovtsk if you enter from Kazakhstan. You only officially need to register once but if you stay in a hotel collect the registration document to be safe.

The government hotel in Rubsovtsk doesn’t want foreigners to stay, so unless things change you may need to go and try and register yourself – we have no experience of this.

For accommodation in Rubsovtsk you need to find a helpful person to look up a rental flat in the newspaper. These are cheap and readily available.

Russia Map

Entry and Exit

Tashanta is the border post to Mongolia and you cannot ride your bike across the border area. You must pay for transport. Even bribes won’t help. This is easy to sort out in Tashanta. The border is open irregular hours and if the Mongol Rally is coming through the hours suddenly reduce. It is always closed at weekends.

Rubsovtsk is the nearest border post to Kazakhstan and is open for regular business hours.

Other Relevant Links on this Site

  1. Visa Info at Way to Russia Website
  2. Embassy Information
  3. Russian Visa application
  4. Registration in Russia

Getting an Indian visa and onward travel from India

Visa - India Indian visas are for 3 or 6 months and can be single, double or multiple entry.

Foreign embassies say that you can only get the multiple entry in your home country but if you ask nicely they should give you multiple entry.

They start from the date of issue, which can be a bit of a pain for cyclists.

Embassies in surrounding countries

The embassy in Islamabad is in the embassy compound and you can get forms from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad website. These forms must be typed when you complete them so we suggest completing them in the internet cafe where you download them.

Alternatively you can get the guys near the embassy to type them up for you. You can also pick up the forms from the embassy but you will often have to come back the next day to hand them in.

They take 7-10 days to issue the visa, so keep a copy of your passport.

The process in Kathmandu is a little complicated and may involve a few visits but it is possible to get the visas here. It can also take 3-7 days.

There are also embassies is Bangladesh, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan,  Kyrgzystan and Iran

Onward Travel

You can head tom Pakistan at the Wagha border near Amritsar or you can enter Nepal at any of the border posts. For cyclists the best is Mahendranagar as the whole route after Moradabad is really peaceful as is the road across Nepal.

Be aware that to fly out of India you will need Visas for the country you are flying to or they will have to have a visa on arrival scheme or visa exemption for your country.
To have a one way ticket you will need visas for onward travel.
One way round this is to buy a return ticket and then cancel it, but remember that you will only be allowed a return ticket if you have a double or multiple entry visa for India (so that in theory you could return)

Other Relevant Links on this site

  1. Heading West from the subcontinent - all your options


See other country pages for more details

Getting a Chinese visa for Xinjiang and onward travel from Xinjiang province

Chinese visas are difficult to get, although in your home country it is generally easier.Visa - China

Application System: You must provide hotel bookings, return flights, an itinerary etc although there is nothing on your final visa to stop you from changing your itinerary from that on your application form.

Cycling: As a cyclist you don’t fit the correct categories so it would be better to not mention it.

You can always book hotels and tickets and then cancel them when you get the visa.

Do NOT mention Tibet (it is part of China not a place), Xinjiang or anywhere near the earthquake area. Only mention tourist destinations described in the Lonely Planet

Entry Date: You are given 3 months to enter China from the date of issue.

Length of visa: At the moment you have no chance of getting longer than 30 days although you may get a double entry (30 days each) visa.

Renewal: It is possible to renew your visa several times and it is best to do this in smaller towns.

Applying in HK

The system there is very easy, you just go to a travel agency – check the Thorn Tree for suggestions for Travel Agents, and they will ask you to fill in some forms and provide everything for your application for a fee of about $70 (including visa). It normally takes 2-3 days but it is possible to pay more for a 24 hour service.

Applying in Kazakhstan

It used to be possible to do this through a travel agent but for since April 2008 this has been impossible. Ask David at Stan Tours for advice about the present situation.

Applying in Kyrgyzstan

It has been possible to get a Chinese Visa with a special Xinjiang Letter of Invitation from ITMC or Celestial Mountains in Bishkek. Contact either of these agencies or Stan Tours for advice about the present situation. Do this before you arrive as your only alternative if there are no visas being issued is to fly home or to HK or to get to Uzbeksitan or maybe Tajikistan to pick up a visa.

Applying in Uzbekistan

It is again possible to get a 30 day Chinese visa in Tashkent, you need the normal hotel bookings but travellers are reporting that they are getting one in 4 days at the moment (April 2009)

Applying in Tajikistan

We have heard reports that the Chinese embassy there has been issuing visas but would recommend trying Tashkent until we hear something more certain.

Onward Travel from Xinjiang

China Map Tibet - and you might get through to Nepal if you are lucky. Check the Thorn Tree for Info about the up to date situation. Between April 2008 and March 2009 nobody was getting through to Tibet from Xinjiang province but the situation may change.

Pakistan over the Khunjerab Pass (visa on arrival in Pakistan)

China….although many of the areas such as the Bayambulak Grasslands in the Tien Shan are restricted to foreigners. Yining is also restricted as is the Ile valley. With a HK ID card you should be able to get through any of the mountain roads North of Kucha, Or Korla with few problems. If you are really desperate to explore restricted areas of China a HK ID card can be got in HK if you stay for 4 weeks or longer in HK. It might be worth it. Ours allowed us to stay in cheap hotels and to get through many police and army checkposts where others were being turned around.

You are fine for cycling to Urumqi along the edge of the Taklamakan Desert.

Other relevant links on this site:

  1. Heading west from Nepal - all your options
  2. Chinese visa information
  3. Chinese visa problems in HK

Getting a Mongolian Visa and onward travel from Mongolia

These are valid for 30 days, easily extendable in Ulaan Baatar and you don’t need to wait for the end of your visa to extend it. You just pay an extension fee per day up to a maximum of 90 days. Visa - Mongolia

Americans and Israelis get 90 days automatically.

Most nationalities don’t need an Letter of Invitation, but check the internet for full details of who needs an LOI as things change rapidly.

You get 3 months from the date of issue of your visa to enter the country.



Embassies in surrounding countries:

Mongolia Map China
There is an embassy in Beijing

Hong Kong
It’s easy to get the visa here.

Flying out of Mongolia.

China: It is possible to fly to Beijing from UB but you will need a Chinese visa, available with a fair bit of trouble in UB. You will need hotel bookings, onward tickets etc. Ask other travellers or check the Thorn Tree for advice.

If they are too awkward then you can always fly to HK and get a visa on arrival and then apply for a Chinese Visa there. Travel agents in HK are very quick to organise Chinese visas of various lengths

Kazakhstan: It is also possible to fly from Bayan Olgii in the far West to Almaty in Kazakhstan, providing you have a Kazakhstan Visa. You can also get a visa on arrival but you will need a Letter of Invitation, available for a fee from Stan Tours (David is very efficient) for a fee. There are other companies but most are more expensive .

See the individual country pages for requirements.

Other Relevant Links on this Site

  1. Mongolia Visa Information
  2. Mongolia Letter of Invitation
  3. Monkey Business Travel Agent
  4. Mongolia Country Information

Getting a Nepalese Visa and onward travel from Nepal

Visa - Nepal The Nepalese want tourists and make it relatively easy to enter their country.

Entering Nepal:

It is possible to get a 15 day, 30 day and 90 day visa at all points of entry into Nepal including land borders as well as airports. The price changes rapidly and it is cheaper to get a longer visa rather than renew the visa in Kathmandu. The procedure is normally simple and quick.

Flying out of Nepal.

Airlines can’t issue you a ticket at all unless you have the visa for the country you are flying to, or the country has a visa on arrival scheme.

Many airlines cannot issue you a one way ticket unless you have onward visas.

Embassies in Nepal for Onward Travel:

Nepal Map China has an embassy in Kathmandu although the only visa you can get for China is a group visa on an organised tour.

In 2009 it doesn’t look like even these are possible because of the unrest and government clampdown in Tibet.

Group visas mean that everyone on the group visa must cross every checkpoint together. If you’re not all there you have to go back.

Every group must have a Chinese/Tibetan guide with them who they must stay with at all times. We were quoted $3500 dollars per person to get to Ali in Western Tibet.

If you enter Nepal with a valid Chinese visa you can’t use it to enter China from Nepal!!

India also has an embassy and it is possible to get 3 or 6 month visas although the procedure is complicated and takes time.


See the individual country pages for requirements.

Getting a Pakistan Visa and onward travel from Pakistan

Visa - PakistanIt is generally easy to get a Pakistani visa which lasts for three months and your date of entry can be specified when you apply (although it is usually within 3 months)

You can also get a visa on arrival from China over the Khunjerab pass in the small border town of Sost. The Chinese sometimes don’t like this but if you keep on insisting they will let you over the border to get your visa. There is more information about this on the Thorn Tree.

Embassies in surrounding countries:

There are embassies in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, India and Iran, although with the flexible entry dates available from home embassies you would be wise to get your visa in your home country.

See the individual country pages for requirements.

Pakistan Map Other Relevant Links on this Site

  1. Pakistan Visa Application in HK