Ferry Service across Caspian sea

Since 1963, the ferry line Baku (Azerbaijan) - Turkmenbashi, former Krasnovodsk (Turkmenistan) connected both cities across the Caspian Sea.
Up to 8 vessel of the Class "Dagestan" are operated on the line in the presence of freight: "Ak. Topchubashov", "Azerbaijan","Dagestan","Ak. G. Aliev", "Prof. Gul", "Nakhichevan", "Mercury-1" and "Mercury-2". Two latter ships are rather new, they were built in Kaliningrad. All vessels are in operation under the flag of Azerbaijan. Each ferry capacitates 27 railcars and 200 passengers. The cities lay practically on the same parallel at the distance 306 km. Time on the route is 12 around hours. For comparison, planned term of delivery freight from Baku to Ashgabat around the Caspian Sea, via RZD, Kasakhstan and Uzbekistan Railways exceeds a week.

There are no scheduled ferry services between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan so people have to rock up and take their luck. When the ferry leaves depends on many factors: weather conditions, how many tickets been sold, etc. Another reason they for the ferry not departing could be waiting for a train cargo that migth take days to arrive. Keep in mind, the ferry is mainly for freight and won’t take passengers if it isn’t loaded with freight.

If you can handle the uncertainty of ferry travel and have some time flexibility (if you plan leave Azerbaijan by ferry ALWAYS make sure that you have extra days in your visa just in case), we highly recommend taking the slow boat across the Caspian (to Turkmenistan , or to Aktau, Kazakhstan). The sunset alone is worth the trip and offers a dazzling display that you are unlikely to encounter anywhere else. Moreover, the ferry offers an ideal slow-paced transition into unusual Turkmenistan.

Practical Details
Getting into Turkmenistan by boat: To get to the Baku ferry building, ask for Parom, the Russian word for ferry. The overnight ferry leaves Baku on most days (i.e., there is no schedule) in the early afternoon. On the day of your desired departure, arrive around 8:30-9:00 AM to purchase a seat ticket for an arbitrary amount of money between $45-$60. Once you are on board, you can negotiate a cabin (preferably with a window) for another $5-$10. If there is no boat that day, keep trying until a boat eventually leaves. It is best to bring some food with you on board since you never know if the chef will have extra food for passengers. Arrival in Turkmenbashi should be around 9 AM the next day.

Getting into Turkmenistan, the bureaucracy: Turkmenistan is one of the most difficult countries in the world for which to get a visa. The process is long and convoluted. If you want to stay in the country for more than five days (which is the typical maximum for a transit visa), then you willl need to book an authorized tour. Your guide is technically supposed to be with you at all times, except in Ashgabat.

You can use our Uzbek office (www.traveler.uz) for visa support (Letter of Invitation - LOI) and tour. The LOI takes about three weeks while the actual visa will take only a few days to issue from the Turkmen Embassy.

Heed this: there is NO international banking in Turkmenistan. What that means in practical terms is that there is NO WAY to access money in ANY foreign bank account when inside Turkmenistan. If you don't bring it with you or don't have a Turkmen bank account you cannot get Turkmen cash, the only currency they deal in. Not from ATM's, no travelers cheques, no nothing. Any money you might need in Turkmenistan you would need to bring into the country with you IN CASH. You can change foreign currencies, but not access money held outside of the country.


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