It was a few minutes past 9 a.m. when we arrived in Bajgiran at the border between Iran and Turkmenistan. We were supposed to meet an agent of Hossein (Hossein was the one bringing us into Iran at the first place – see this post). We only found him after already having passed through the first police checkpoint. A confusing process to export our car from Iran started right away. I had expected a short wait and quick-and-easy process (we just wanted to leave the country…), but I got proven wrong (again). Benedikt and I criss-crossed the border buildings, always following that agent (who only spoke Farsi). We waited and waited, went downstairs after a while and finally got exit stamps in our passports. After that was done, we couldn’t find the agent anymore.
It was probably over 1.5 hours later that I finally found him. He was at a very particular clerks desk. A guy there started to explain to me that we have a big problem. Our customs paper indicate that we would leave Iran at the Nordooz border to Armenia and not to Turkmenistan, where we are right now. The paper also stated the car is grey, even though its main color is black. The people from the Bajgeran border already contacted the customs officials in Nordooz. Everyone is waiting for a letter of the border boss in Nordooz that indicates that we can leave Iran towards Turkmenistan. I was told that this can take 1, 2 or 3 hours or a day. A day?!? I started to be really concerned. We had to get to Turkmenistan that day. Our whole trip, including guides, hotels and visa, was planned that way that we should enter Turkmenistan on the 17th of June (it is obligatory to have a planned trip with a guide in Turkmenistan if you enter the country with a tourist visa).
At around 1 p.m. we got informed that the letter of the border in Nordooz arrived! Ufff…. Because every border official had to type our customs form in their computer with a slow two finger method, it took another hour till we could leave the building. At 2:30, after about 5 hours at the Iranian side of the border, we finally left Iran.
The Tesla had to wait in no-man’s land, while Benedikt and I got our Turkmen visa in the police building (we only had letter of invitations from a tour company). I was taking the passenger way, while Benedikt got the car registered (btw: we had to pay petrol-tax even though we tried to explain that we will not use petrol – it wasn’t understandable for them). We met our first tour guide and driver, Mr. Zadar, who was already patiently waiting since 11:00 a.m.
Compared to the Iranian side of the border, the border process on the Turkmen side went extremely smooth – until the final step… We waited and waited and nothing happened. Only afterwards, the tour guide told us that the color of our car (black), tinted windows and colorful stickers of our Tesla were too much for Turkmenistan. The border officials weren’t sure if it is allowed in the country (their president has a strong preference for white cars…). After many discussions, some official decided that the car should not enter Ashagabat, but would be allowed to transit Turkmenistan. In Ashgabat, everything is marble white, and so have to be the cars. It was probably the strangest city I have ever been to.
Ashgabat and a long drive to Mary
Our guide found a parking spot for the Tesla outside the city. We charged at a Schuko in a small car wash in that parking lot. Unfortunately, the tour operator arranged a price for the electricity that was way too high (electricity is in most occasions free of charge to the people in Turkmenistan; petrol only costs USD 0,30 and gas is free as well).
We spent two nights in Ashgabat in the most luxurious hotel of our journey. On our third day in Turkmenistan, we left Ashgabat and continued a long journey to Mary (380 km). Benedikt and I were a little worried about this leg of the trip, since it really depended on the weather conditions how easily we could make it (the distance was quite far). Luckily, there was almost no wind. We drove slowly (around 70 km/h) and sometimes behind trucks. With 24% left we reached Mary. Way more than expected!