Transit visas are primarily designed for travellers aiming simply to cross Turkmen territory en route to somewhere else. They offer two great advantages over other Turkmen visas: you do not need an LOI from an organisation in Turkmenistan, and you will not be chaperoned by the representative of a local travel company during your time in the country. You are free to book whatever accommodation you choose, and are not restricted to state-run hotels.
The downside is that they are valid for only a relatively short period, typically five days, but sometimes granted for a maximum of 5..7. This might not be sufficient to cover a large country and your visa is far from guaranteed. Transit Visas are a hit & miss situation, in fact only about 30-40 % of transit visa applications are granted. Taking into account that Turkmen visas are date specific and with irregularity of Caspian ferry travel you can end up with impossibly short periods of time to cross the country.
Transit visa do nonetheless offer a good means of getting a brief exposure to the country as part of a wider regional tour. Note that the period of validity of the visa is not calculated by the hour. Thus, the day on which you enter Turkmenistan counts as day one of your transit visa, even if you arrive in the late afternoon. The day of your departure also counts as a full day, irrespective of the time at which you actually cross the border. Be aware that the Turkmen visa is date-specific, meaning it has fixed start and expiry dates. You cannot enter Turkmenistan before the start date or leave after the expiry date, so it is essential to be ready to enter the country when the visa starts.
The length of time you will be granted for your transit visa may be different depending on where you apply. There is no consistent pattern, but as a very general rule Turkmen embassies and consulates closer to Turkmenistan, including those in Iran and Uzbekistan, seem less willing to grant longer transit visas: you may find that you are given only three days.
Note also that you need to enter your entry and exit points on the visa application form. When you get back your passport, check which entry/exit point you got, it might be different from what you asked for. And don’t exit from a different border crossing than the one stated on your visa!
Before transit visas were issued only in Turkmenistan's neighbouring countries i.e. Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, or Uzbekistan and that you need the visa of your neighbouring destination country to Turkmenistan beforehand… Now they are generally issued in every TM embassy but the processing time is quite long
Transit visas are not available at Ashgabat airport, however, there is a transit area in the airport for passengers in transit for which no special visa is required.
Although an LOI is not required for transit visas, applications still have to be approved by the State Service for the Registration of Foreign Citizens in Ashgabat, which again involves a processing time of at least ten working days. Additionally, if you require a visa for your country of destination on leaving Turkmenistan, you will be required to produce this before the transit visa will be issued.
The transit visa will stipulate your point of arrival into and departure from Turkmenistan, and you are expected to stick to the obvious route between these two points. With a transit visa you cannot apply to visit restricted areas, except where the transit route crosses them. Transit visas are not normally extendable, and they cannot be obtained direct at Turkmenistan's border crossings.
The best way to apply for your transit visa is to hand in all documents in one embassy/consulate (for instance Istanbul), and pick up your Turkmen visa later in another embassy (eg. Tehran). This is a route many people on the silk route are following these days with great success. You can keep your passport with you, only a copy of your passport is needed by the embassy. Urgent processing takes 5 working days (meaning 1 week), normal procedure takes up 10 working days (express processing doesn’t cost extra, so no need to use the normal procedure if asked for). Cost is 55$.
Below is a report from traveller on how to apply for Turkmenistan transit visa:
2. Bring 1x colour photocopy (not black and white) of your passport, and 2x colour passport photos with you. I didn’t need anything else. They’ll give you a couple of forms to fill out which you can do on the spot.
3. Tell them you want to apply for a transit visa. At this point, consider stating the most popular routes - Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran (and reverse) and Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan (and reverse) seem to be the most common, and most commonly approved. A couple I met had their Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Afghanistan application rejected, and we think it’s due to the route.
4. Note that you cannot change your entry and exit points once they are fixed. And make sure you come up with a convincing story including where you’ll be staying (city/hotel) throughout your time in Turkmenistan. This will help you to max out the 5 day transit visa. Otherwise you may only get 3 days. I got mine approved for 5 days by stating that I’d spend one night each in Konye-Urgench, Dashogus, Darvaza and two nights in Ashgabat. You’re free to mix this up once you’re in the country, but the entry and exit points must remain the same.
5. Tell them you want to pick-up your visa at your entry point into Turkmenistan. NOT the embassy where you applied. In my case, I picked up my visa at the Shabat/Dashogus crossing even though I applied in Tashkent. A code will be given to you (once your visa is approved) for this purpose.
6. You must have an onward visa for the country you go to after Turkmenistan. In my case, Malaysians do not need a visa for Iran (visa on arrival), and this took a lot of explaining. Not just at the Turkmen Embassy, but at the Uzbek-Turkmen border crossing too.
7. You will be asked to wait 10 days. Make sure you get a phone number from the officer to call to check. It’s a good idea to call after 7 days just to remind them. Mine was approved on the 7th day (actually only 5 working days). You’ll be given a code over the phone. Repeat this back to the officer 3 times to be sure. Mine was UZ2433. The prefix indicates where you applied for the visa – UZ for Uzbekistan.
8. That’s it. Remember, there is no guarantee that the Transit Visa will be approved. Although I was told that it’s possible to re-apply after a rejected application with a different route. So do keep your plans for this leg of the journey as flexible as possible.