How to cross Turkmenistan in five days with a bike ?

This article aims at helping our fellow cyclists who want to cross Turkmenistan in 5 days. We did from Serakhs border with Iran to Farap broder with Uzbekistan between the 8th and 12th of June 2017. The challenge is to cycle the roughly 500km in 5 days. We share with you where we found water and how we dealt with heat.  Feel free to add any comments if informations are not correct anymore.

Customs : It takes time in both iranian and Turkmen customs. We arrived at opening time at iranian border around 8am. Have in mind that iranian are not very in a hurry. Border was opened but nobody to check your luggage and your passport… We had to wait 45min before someone came after Martin made its best to attract attention 🙂 Then we had the usual interview with iranian policemen (What did you do in Iran? Do you have a camera? Show me yours pics…). Then it took around 30 minutes to get our passeports checked. After a few more checks, we arrived at Turkmen customs…

We knew it before but it is very annoying to fill papers up, to go to another desk to pay then come back and finally have all luggages searched for every detail. They were 6 people opening all our luggages, and one of our strong painkillers (not with codeine though)  were forbidden in Turkmenistan. I think it did not help to accelerate the process… A lady called her boss, then long discussion and finally no fine and a stamp on the passport. It was already 11am when we arrived in Serakhs to change money and to buy water and food.

Water and food supplies

You can use the map below which shows where we can find water (and food). Hardest part is day 1 and after in the desert.

From Serakhs to Hauz-Han there is only one shop which is very close to Hauz-Han. We did not know that before and we carried water in case we had to spend the evening on the way.

Money exchange

It is possible to exchange money at the border with those guys waiting for you just after the customs. We did change our dollar in a painting shop (see map and picture below). We had 6 manat for 1$. The official rate is very bad compared to the one you can get in black market.

We changed 120$ but it was way too much! It also depends on if you go to hotels on the way. In Hauz-Han you can pay in manat (It was roughly 10$ each). Most of the others hotels you can pay in dollars. We managed to change our extra manat before crossing the Uzbekistan border. I don’t think it easy to change after the border.

Day 1 – 110km Serakhs (Iran) Hauz-Han 

It was the hardest day. We cycled from Iran border to Hauz-Han to reach the hotel. We started at 12am and it was already very hot. There is almost no shadow in the desert to cool down… And it was around 40°C…

We brought 22L of water with us in case we had to camp. It is incredible how much water you can drink when it is that hot, and your bikes become very heavy then… The road is sometimes not bad, and sometimes very bad.

We had to cycle at night because the end the road is very wet because of irrigation and there are a lot of mosquitoes so we did not want to camp there. We finally arrived at 9:30pm in Hauz-Han.

Day 2 – 120 km Hauz-Han / ~ Zakhmet 

From this day we started making long break in restaurants with A/C to avoid cycling between 2:30pm and 4pm. Lunch break in Mary. Easiest day with not a lot of wind.

Day 3 – 110km  Zakhmet – Repetek

From this day we had a headwind while cycling which is very depressing! Shops are more and more distant from each others.

Take care with water in order to carry enough with you. We had a wonderful night in the desert!

Day 4 – 97 km- Repetek- Turkmenabat 

We really started getting crazy with this flat, hot, boring road. We managed to reach Turkmenabat and offered a « treat » with a « luxury » state hotel 🙂 There are two prices, the one for local people and the one for foreigners which is higher.

Not a lot of shops on this part. Use the maps to know where to find water and food. The only motivation was to get out of the country.

Day 5 – 40km to reach the border 

We did not put the alarm clock to rest a bit and enjoyed a small sightseeing in the city. Getting out of the country is way much easier than entering it.

We were really happy to achieve that challenge but we did not know the Uzbekistan would be flat and very hot for the next coming 600km…

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