Ashgabat to Tbilisi Trip Notes

Ashgabat to Tbilisi

Last Modified: 01 Oct 2013
Ashgabat to Tbilisi
Trip code: KDVB
Validity: 01 Jan 2013 to 31 Dec 2013
Get up close and personal with some of Europe and Asia's most off the beaten track adventures on this overland odyssey through Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia. From underground lakes, futuristic cities and ancient desert landscapes to rolling green hills and cobblestone streets, no journey through this unique part of the world is the same.With barely any tourists in site, cross the Capsian Sea in a ferry and head toward the cosmopolitan city of Baku, the quaint villages of Georgia and the regal architecture of Tbilisi. When it comes to one-of-a-kind adventures, they don't come much weirder, or more wonderful than this mind-challengeing, eye opening adventure.
Warning - this is a new trip for us!
While we have thoroughly researched this area to put together this trip, it still must be remembered that this is a relatively new trip for us. To be frank, we expect some things to go wrong. When we head to new destinations, we usually find there are more pleasant surprises in store than unpleasant ones, but the warning is sincere. If it concerns you then we recommend that you wait for a year until we get any bugs ironed out.
This trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Dragoman shares Intrepid's ethos for adventure travel and has many years' expertise in overlanding.
Table of Contents
StyleDeparture taxEmergency contact
ThemesImportant notesEmergency funds
ItineraryGroup sizeVisas
Itinerary disclaimerYour fellow travellersIssues on your trip
Culture shock rating Single travellersWhat to take
Physical ratingAccommodationHealth
Physical preparationMealsSafety
Included activitiesTransportTravel insurance
KittyGroup leaderResponsible Travel
Optional activitiesJoining point A couple of rules
Money ExchangeJoining point instructionsThe Intrepid Foundation
Spending moneyArrival complicationsFeedback
TippingFinish point
  • The best value journeys on the planet! On a Basix trip you can expect amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions that you may not want. Which means budget (1-2 star) accommodation, plenty of free time, activities that are optional and the freedom to choose meals to suit your budget. On some trips you may be camping and required to set up your own tent. You'll also have access to a group leader to offer advice and help you uncover the region's hidden gems. On a Basix journey, the way you travel is all a part of the adventure. Depending on the destination and the itinerary, you could find yourself travelling on anything from a donkey to a bus or a private safari vehicle. These trips are ideal for first-time travellers seeking fun and independence with the support of a group leader. They're also ideal for independent travellers looking to make the most of their travel time with minimum hassle and maximum experiences.
Overland, Explorer
Days 1-2 Ashgabat
The trip begins with a group meeting at 10am.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If your flight arrives too late, we recommend that you consider arriving a day early and book a night's accommodation prior to the trip so you are able to attend. If you are going to be late please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your kitty, insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all details on hand to provide to your leader.
Ashgabat is a unique modern city that has been extensively rebuilt over the last ten years since the country gained independence. Little is left of the original Russian Imperial city as most of it was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1948, today the centre is a unique mix of futuristic and outrageous public buildings that are an extraordinary sight. The earthquake affected every family in Ashgabat and is ingrained in the psyche of the local people. The Earthquake Monument and Museum are well worth a visit, as are the Carpet and the National Museums. If you are into carpets, Turkmenistan is the country to visit, and if you are in Turkmenistan, Ashgabat's Sunday Market is the place to buy them. This wonderful market stretches for hundreds of acres into the desert. Carpets, camels, clothes, pigs, jewellery, goats, cars, chickens, hats and ex soviet military paraphernalia are readily available.
Following the meeting we will head to Ashgabat's famous Sunday Market.
Ashgabat's wonderful Sunday Market stretches for hundreds of acres into the desert. Carpets, camels, clothes, pigs, jewellery, goats, cars, chickens, hats and ex soviet military paraphernalia are all readily available.
The rest of the afternoon and the following day are free to explore this unique modern city.
Included Activities
  • Ashgabat - Sunday Market
Optional Activities
  • Carpet Museum - USD5
  • National Museum - USD10
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 3 Geok Tepe
This morning there is time to explore Ashgabat before driving (approx 100 km) to the spectacular Kow Ata underground lake. We will have some time either this afternoon or the following morning to explore this lake of clear water naturally heated to about 36°C.
We will bush camp in the area overnight.
Included Activities
  • Geok-Depe - Kow Ata Underground Lake
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 4 Turkmenbashi
This morning we drive to Turkmenbashi (approx 470 km). Our itinerary in Turkmenbashi and the Caspian Sea must be flexible as it is very much determined by the sailing times of the local ferries. These are notoriously unpredictable and we must adjust our times both in Turkmenbashi and Baku if the ferry is delayed.
We spend the night in a comfortable hotel.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 5 Overnight Ferry
From Turkmenbashi we will take the ferry across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan. The boat docks at the city of Baku. Ferry is perhaps a rather misleading word - rusty, old and tub are words that may spring to your mind - but there is only one way across the Caspian Sea and beggars can't be choosers!
We spend the night in cabins aboard the ferry.
Overnight ferry (1 nt)
Days 6-8 Baku
We arrive in the Azeri capital, Baku, where, depending on the ferry schedule, we may have three days to explore the city.
In Baku we stay in a comfortable hotel.
Included Activities
  • Baku - Guided city tour
Optional Activities
  • Baku - Shirvan Shakh Palace - Free
  • Baku - Maiden's Tower - Free
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 9 Gobustan
Today we have a short drive to the town of Gobustan where we visit the rock art and mud volcanoes that this area is known for. In the afternoon we will continue driving, visiting local villages along the way, before bush camping overnight.
Included Activities
  • Qobustan - Mud volcanoes
  • Qobustan - Petroglyphs
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 10 Sheki
Today we continue our drive to Sheki. Whilst here we visit the exquisite Khan's Palace and the Museum of History. We spend the night in a hotel.
Included Activities
  • Sheki - Khan's Palace
  • Sheki - Museum of History
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 11 Bush Camp
Today we cross the border into Georgia. Once the border formalities are over we continue our drive into the lush Alazani valley. We bush camp tonight en route.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Days 12-13 Telavi
This morning we drive to the Alazani valley and on to Telavi where we base ourselves for two days. The afternoon is free to explore the area.
Telavi is the capital of the wine growing region of Kakheti, and is situated in the valley of Alazani, near the Gombori Mountains. There are hundreds of different grapes grown here, and each village has its own particular variety. We will hopefully get to see some of the local traditions, including grape harvest, wine making, and, most importantly, the keipi (banquet). We will also visit some of the local vineyards.
Whilst in Telavi we stay at a comfortable homestay.
The following day we visit the sixth century Shaumta Monastery, which is beautifully located on an isolated forest hilltop.
Included Activities
  • Telavi - Shuamta Monastery
Homestay (2 nts)
Days 14-16 Tbilisi
A short drive brings us to Georgia's capital, Tbilisi. This afternoon is free to explore
By far the biggest city in Georgia, Tbilisi has been the capital since the fifth century AD. Set among hills along the Mtkvari River, it is one of the most attractive cities in the Caucasus. The architecture is a testament to Tbilisi's history - a mix of European, Byzantine, and Middle Eastern styles - with its winding alleys, art deco buildings, and caravanserais. There is plenty to see and do here with a good smattering of churches, museums, political buildings and parks. For great views over Tbilisi climb up to Narikala Fortress and the statue of Kartklis Deda.
The following day we have a guided tour of Tbilisi's old town, including sites such as the National Museum, Metekhi Temple and the Sioni Cathedral.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Included Activities
  • Tbilisi - Guided Old Town tour
Optional Activities
  • Tbilisi - Sioni Cathedral - Free
  • Orbeliani Bath House - Free
  • Narikala Fortress - Free
  • Tbilisi - Metekhi Church - Free
  • Anchiskhati Church - Free
Hotel (2 nts)
      Itinerary disclaimer
      We've allowed plenty of room for freedom and flexibility in our trips. In fact, flexibility is one of the ingredients that makes each of our trips so exciting. This style of travel offers us some unexpected circumstances at times, for example, bad weather and road conditions, technical defects of transportation, inconveniences caused by local operators and authorities, and other circumstances beyond our control. Changes in the program may be required to make the best of the unique situations that we encounter.
      Overnight stops and driving distances each day may vary to best suit the needs of the group. Our described itineraries are to be used as a general guide only.
      Culture shock rating

      Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
      Physical rating

      Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
      Physical preparation
      In these parts of the world you'll need to be healthy enough to cope with extremes of climate; from hot deserts through to the cold of high mountain areas.
      Overland travelling can be demanding - long, rough travel days and dusty conditions can be challenging to some. You'll need to be fit enough to help every day with the camp chores (cooking, washing up, general camp set up) as well as putting up, and taking down your own tent. There are some long driving days and some early morning starts. The step-up into the overland vehicle, while not overly high, can become tiring. You need to judge if you are physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down the step at least 8-10 times a day.
      Included activities
      Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
      On this trip it's compulsory to contribute to a kitty. The kitty is an on-ground payment put into a central fund and overseen by travellers and the crew. It helps fund accommodation, camp meals and some included activities. Kitty amounts are subject to change to reflect local price increases. Please check our website for the up-to-date amount 48 hours prior to your trip commencement.
      Your kitty will be collected when you arrive for your trip, either on day 1 or, if on a combination trip, in stages throughout your trip.
      You may pay your kitty in a mixture of US Dollars cash and the rest in local currency (amount and type of currency to be agreed by the leader at the start of the trip). Most of our travellers chose to bring a cash passport with them for withdrawing local currency (you can visit for further information on these). This is a very secure way of carrying your money whilst travelling. You treat them exactly like an ATM card and draw out local currency from an ATM to give to your leader within each country.
      If you do choose to pay part in local currency your trip leader will confirm the current exchange rates with you so you will know exactly how much to hand over.
      Travellers cheques have become increasingly difficult to change around the world with passengers and our leaders experiencing huge frustration and numerous hours spent trying to find a bank which will change travellers cheques. For this reason we no longer accept them on our trips.
      We constantly monitor local price changes and exchange rate fluctuations that could affect kitty expenses. Final kitty contributions are likely to be different from those quoted in the brochure or at the time of booking so you must check the final amount just before departure.
      As our kitty is flexible the indicated amount is indicative only. Follow the link below to view the kitty amount for your departure date.
      Optional activities
      A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
      Money Exchange
      It is not really worth trying to buy local currencies before you travel. Do also bear in mind that many countries have strict regulations about the amount of their own local currency you are allowed to import - if you are found with amounts in excess of the allowed amounts, it may well be confiscated!
      For obvious security reasons we hesitate to recommend you bring lots of cash with you, a sensible mix of cash, travellers cheques and ATM cards is best. However, most of our past passengers have said they wished they had been told to bring more cash. Apart from the convenience of being able to change money in many more places, you will sometimes get a much better exchange rate for cash. Note that for trips in Central Asia it's virtually impossible to use traveller's cheques or find ATMs. We therefore recommend that you bring cash in US$.
      You should take a mixture of denomination notes. Banks and money-changers in most countries will now only accept bills with a metallic strip running top to bottom of the bill and which are dated from 2003 or later. You should not take worn or damaged notes, or any that have been written on. Cash machines are available in some areas but are not always reliable therefore we recommend that you do not rely on them as your only source of cash. Credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express are the most commonly accepted, but be prepared for very high commission charges.
      Please do not rely on cards for daily use, as they are not always accepted outside of larger towns and cities. Please bring a mixture of small and large denominations as in more remote areas it can be hard to change amounts over $50.
      The official currency of Turkmenistan is the manat (M). It’s set at a fixed government exchange rate, but traded for far less on the black market. As ATM's are virtually non-existent, you're best to exchange foreign currency once inside the country. Don't bother with travellers cheques - they're not accepted anywhere. The black market is easy and accessible to foreigners, and the only place you’ll get a realistic exchange rate.
      Spending money
      Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
      If you are happy with the services providing a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
      The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
      Restaurants: Please check the bill and if there’s an addition of 10% service charge, there’s no requirement for tipping. Otherwise, 10% of the total bill amount is appropriate.
      At local markets and basic restaurants: Leave the loose change.
      Local guides/Porters: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$1 per person, per day for local guides/porters.
      Your crew (including the leader and driver, and perhaps cook depending on your trip): You may also consider tipping your crew for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline US$2-3 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
      Departure tax
      All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
      Important notes
      Please note this Intrepid trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Your departure will be run in a Dragoman vehicle with a Dragoman crew.
      The minimum age for this trip is 18 years old and bookings for minors, even if accompanied by a parent, cannot be accepted.
      An export certificate is required to take carpets and anything else considered antique out of Turkmenistan. Export certificates are available from the Carpet Museum or this can be arranged through the seller. It is also important to catalogue and declare to Customs any carpets or anything antique looking - even if clearly from a different part of the world - that you bring into Turkmenistan with you.
      You should carry an identity document at all times while in Tashkent and in Ashgabat. Requests to produce proof of identity, for example by the police, are frequent.
      Some destinations visited on this trip do not have consulates in Australia and New Zealand. We recommend that travellers from these countries book the WESTBOUND itinerary of this trip where some visas can be obtained en route.
      Group size
      Maximum of 21 travellers per group.
      Your fellow travellers
      As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
      Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit:
      Single travellers
      Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
      Hotel (9 nts), Bush camp (no facilities) (3 nts), Homestay (2 nts), Overnight ferry (1 nt)
      The type and variety of accommodation is determined by conditions on each of our routes. Each route is different - on some we use a mixture of campsites and wild camps; on others we also use hotels.
      Where it's not practical to camp (ie: in towns and cities), we use hotel accommodation and eat out in local restaurants. The frequency and regularity of hotel stops depends on the route and area.
      Campsites will range from rather basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and bars. In some cases it may also be possible to upgrade locally to bungalows, lodges or even tree-houses. One of the highlights of overlanding is that in more remote areas we will wild-camp. This allows us to get far away from the tourist crowds to some beautiful, secluded spots. We will also arrange as many village or local homestays as possible, allowing us to get close to indigenous populations and ensures our money stays within local communities.
      All meals when camping
      Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
      USD 300.00
      On an Overland journey you are more than just a passenger, you’re part of the crew - pitching in to set up camp, shopping for food, cooking and generally helping out. We operate a rota system, dividing the group into smaller units of 5 or 6 people, so that these duties are shared equally amongst the group. These jobs will include things like collecting water and firewood, loading the back locker, supervising the kitty and food stores etc. While camping on overland journeys, all meals will be included in the kitty and this means that you will be working as a group to prepare meals and cook for your group. If you have any dietary requirements please tell us at the time of booking and also remind your crew at your welcome meeting.
      A typical camp breakfast might be toast with spreads, cereal and something hot such as eggs or pancakes as well as tea and coffee. Lunch is almost always a sandwich heaped high with healthy salad and assorted fillings, with fruit to follow. Dinner might be a BBQ, risotto, pasta dish and there is always the chance to try some local cooking. Generally our passengers find the more they put into a trip, the more they benefit for it.
      Overland vehicle, Overnight ferry
      Roads in Asia can be very rough which makes for long, slow travel days. It is however all worth it for the spectacular scenery and novelty of truck travel!
      The step up into the overland truck, while not overly high can become tiring and you need to judge yourself to be physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down at least 8-10 times a day, as can the constant setting and packing up of camp.
      Group leader
      On all of our Dragoman-operated Overlanding trips you will be accompanied by two Western crew members who are responsible for the group and the overall organisation of the trip.
      While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad knowledge of the places visited and to offer suggestions of things to do and see. In East and Southern Africa we will also have an African camp master/cook who is in charge of running the camp and organising all of the meals. Their knowledge of the local produce makes shopping at the markets great fun and you will learn how to prepare and cook some unusual dishes. In the rest of Africa, South America and the majority of Central Asia and China we use local guides who may stay with us for just a few hours or will actually travel with us for some or all of the journey. In these cases they become a third crew member and are able to offer their local knowledge as well as a real insight into the lives of the local people. Our crew are chosen for their leadership skills, and most importantly have a passion for the region and its people.
      We endeavour to provide the services of an experienced leader and crew; however, situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders
      On any Overland trip, there are a number of tasks that need to be done. Our overland trip leaders will organise the group into smaller groups of two or three who will take turns in the daily shopping and cooking, vehicle cleaning, disposing of rubbish, etc. There are also a number of other jobs that need doing e.g. collecting water and firewood, luggage loading, supervising the kitty and food stores, which may be assigned to particular people or on a rota system according to group size, make-up, and so on. You must come prepared to 'pull your weight' and share in these duties; you will become very unpopular with other group members if they have to do your share. The more you put into a trip, the more you'll benefit.
      Joining point
      Ak Altyn Hotel
      Magtymguly şayoli 141/1
      Phone: +993 12363700
      Joining point instructions
      There are licensed taxis in Turkmenistan, which are clearly identified and yellow in colour. Although the taxis have meters to calculate the fare, drivers will usually ask foreign nationals for a set fee of around 5 to 10 Manat (taxis from the airport cost more and they usually ask for US$). Most taxi drivers do not speak much English. It is also possible to flag down ordinary cars from the roadside and negotiate a fee with the driver for the journey to your destination. We advise against this as there is usually no insurance cover, the servicing of the cars is very likely to be infrequent and of poor quality and they are unlikely to have working seatbelts.
      Alternatively transfers from Ashgabat airport to your hotel can be booked through us in advance. Please contact our reservations department.
      All tourists must register within three days of arrival in Ashgabat with the State Migration Service of Turkmenistan. This registration procedure will be carried out by Dragoman’s local agent in Turkmenistan on arrival at your hotel in Ashgabat (if arriving before the trips start date) or with the group on the first day of your trip.
      Due to the registration procedure we ask all clients arriving in Ashgabat before your trip starts to contact us with full arrival details i.e. flight number, date and time of arrival at Ashgabat airport. We also ask that all clients wishing to book pre trip accommodation do so directly with Intrepid in order for the registration procedure to be carried out. Please contact us for full details and prices of pre trip accommodation in Ashgabat.
      Arrival complications
      We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please refer to the emergency contact section below for who to contact depending upon your starting location.
      No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
      Finish point
      Hotel Istanbul
      148, Agmashenebeli avenue
      Phone: +995 32 911182
      Emergency contact
      Dragoman 24 HOUR EMERGENCY NUMBER Tel: +44 (0) 1728 862 222 This is an answer-phone. If calling outside UK office hours for non urgent questions, please leave a message. There is a number provided to call for a 24 hour manned mobile, in case of genuine emergency. For further emergency contact details go to:
      Emergency funds
      Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
      Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
      We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
      This trip visits multiple countries for which visas can be difficult and time consuming to obtain. Please ensure that you have enough time to apply for all visas you require before booking this trip.
      You will need to plan very carefully how and where you will obtain your visas as some Central Asian destinations may not have an embassy in your country. Some countries also require a Letter of Invitation (LOI) in order to apply for your visa. Specific information about visas for each destination on this trip can be found in the Trip Notes. Please remember that while Intrepid, Dragoman and The Visa Machine are able to provide some advice about visas, it is the responsibility of the individual traveller to ensure that all correct and necessary information and documents are supplied on time for their own Letters of Invitation and visa applications. While it is possible to apply for visas independently, some travellers choose to use a visa service or agent for the process. Your booking agent can advise of a reputable service.
      We strongly advise booking this trip on its own or taking it at the beginning of your broader travel plans as the already complicated visa process will only be further complicated by trying to get visas on the road.
      This trip travels to one or more countries which may require a Letter of Invitation (LOI) in order to apply for your visa. Please check the country specific visa information below to see if this requirement affects you and your trip.
      In order for Dragoman to apply for the LOI on your behalf through our partners The Visa Machine you will need to do the following immediately after booking:
      1. Complete & submit the following form:
      2. Email the following documents with your full name in the subject of the email followed by "Dragoman LOI":
      * Clear, colour scanned copy of your passport (+ passport PHOTO scan for Turkmenistan LOI)
      * Letter of Employment or Study (Uzbekistan LOI). This must be a letter from your employer or place of study on a business letterhead that states clearly that you are travelling for tourism purposes only. If you are retired or self-employed, please indicate this on the form above.
      Submitting this information for your LOI is the responsibility of the traveller. Please complete the Visa Support form as soon as possible after booking. Any delays in returning this form, along with the associated documents, will have a knock on effect to the amount of time you have in applying for the actual visa.
      Please be aware that LOIs can take up to 30 days to be processed and can only be applied for 3 months before entry in order to remain valid. The Visa Machine will be able to advise you on the expected time frame in which you will receive your LOI. You must indicate where you will apply for your visa on the above form and any changes in this information will result in your LOI being delayed so please plan carefully.
      Once the LOI has been processed a copy will be sent to you. You can then begin the process of applying for your visa. LOIs are valid for a 3 months period so you must apply for your visa within 3 months of the LOI being issued.
      LOIs are generally included in the trip price unless otherwise indicated, however remember that these are NOT the actual visa. Visas are the responsibility of the traveller and separate from the trip price. Costs will vary depending on your nationality and place of application.
      On occasion visa applications or LOIs may be rejected. The reasons for the rejection may or may not be disclosed. While Intrepid, Dragoman and The Visa Machine have no control over such situations and cannot be held responsible, should this occur we will do what we can to help you continue your trip or arrange alternative travel plans.
      Most nationalities require a visa to visit Azerbaijan. Most also require a LOI in order to apply although this can depend on where your application is made. Visa rules for Azerbaijan are constantly changing and embassy staff often find it hard to keep up with or know how to interpret them. We recommend checking the following websites for reports and up to date information: &
      The following information was current at the time of writing. You will need to check with the embassy where you will apply for specific information and costs.
      It is no longer possible to get a visa on arrival at Baku Airport or at any land border into Azerbaijan. All travellers must apply for their Single Entry Tourist Visa to Azerbaijan in advance.
      From March 2013 Azerbaijan has introduced an e-visa system. This is an online process, with the visa emailed to you as a PDF attachment that you will need to print out. This visa enables entry to Azerbaijan at any border point, land or air and is issued strictly for the dates your documents show only. The e-visa costs US$100 and takes up to 15 days to be processed and requires submitting the following documents:
      *Clear, colour copy of passport in JPEG format
      *Clear, colour copy of applicant’s photo size 3x4 cm in JPEG format
      *Flight reservation details if arriving or departing by air
      *Confirmation of hotel booking – This can be requested from Dragoman by emailing
      *Completed e-visa application form in WORD format
      Please note that while this is a very new service, we advise all pax to apply for the e-visa rather than applying at an embassy.
      There are 2 options for obtaining the e-visa:
      1. The Visa Machine
      The application process can be started by going to the following address:
      The application cost is $80US plus £20 admin fee.
      2. Direct to an Azeri travel agent
      An alternative option is to use Azerbaijan24, an Azeri travel agent. Please follow the link to find instructions on completing the application form independently:
      The application will cost $100US.
      Organisation, juridical or physical person inviting you to Azerbaijan:
      Mirvari Travel Ltd.
      Istiqlaliyyet str. 23
      +994 12 492 09 45
      Address of the place of your stay in Azerbaijan:
      Azeri Hotel
      Icheri Sheher
      Asif Zeynally street 39
      AZ1000, Baku
      (unless otherwise indicated on your LOI)
      * Letter of Invitation (LOI), additional official documents depending on the embassy
      * Photocopy of your passport
      * Passport size photos (up to 4)
      * Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
      Many nationalities do not currently require a visa for Georgia, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UK, USA & all EU member states. However, all nationalities should check with the nearest embassy for the latest visa information as this may be subject to change at short notice.
      All visitors to Turkmenistan require a visa. You will need a Letter of Invitation (LOI) in order to apply for your visa.
      How and where apply for your Turkmenistan visa will depend on how you enter the country.
      Travellers arriving in Turkmenistan overland on a WESTBOUND itinerary can obtain their visas at the land border on arrival. Please indicate this as the place where you will apply for your visa on the The Visa Machine LOI form. Costs will depend on your nationality (currently US$55-$85) and payment must be in cash. There is also usually a tax imposed on land arrivals of approx US$14.
      Travellers arriving into Saparmurat Turkmenbashy International Airport can obtain their visa on arrival at the airport. You will require a printed copy of your LOI that includes your exact flight details in order to board your flight so please ensure you supply this information to The Visa Machine. Costs will depend on your nationality (currently approx US$85) and payment must be in cash.
      In all other circumstances you must obtain your visa from an embassy before your travel and must indicate specifically where you will apply on the The Visa Machine LOI form. On arrival in Turkmenistan you will be required to fill out an immigration card which must be kept for your entire journey. Turkmenistan embassies where you may be able to apply for your visa include: Beijing, London, Istanbul, Tashkent, Almaty, Washington, Berlin, Paris. The following website may have useful information and traveller reports about applying for visas at these and other embassies:
      You will need to apply for a Single Entry Tourist Visa (G)
      Name(s) of Host/Sponsor/Contact:
      Ayan Travel
      Magtymguly Avenue 108-13, 14
      +993 12 352914
      Address in Turkmenistan:
      Ak Altyn Hotel
      141/1 Magtymguly ave
      Ashgabat 744000
      +993 12 363700
      * Letter of Invitation (LOI)
      * Photocopy of your passport
      * Passport size photo (up to 4)
      * Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
      Independence Day in Turkmenistan is on October 27th. The government usually imposes restrictions on the issuance of the LOIs and visas during the month of September for all those travelling to Turkmenistan in October. If you are planning to travel to Turkmenistan in October please ensure your visa application is submitted well in advance.
      Issues on your trip
      While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
      We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
      You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
      What to take
      What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
      Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
      You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
      The size of baggage that can be brought on this tour is limited by the locker space on the truck. Different trucks have different sized lockers however to be safe we recommend that your bag be no larger than 66cm deep, 30cm wide, and 30cm high. You will need to bring your own lock for your locker. We recommend a 20-30mm sized padlock with a long shackle.The weight limit for luggage on all trucks is maximum 20kg. Backpacks shouldn't have an external frame unless it can be easily removed and stored separately to avoid damaging other people's luggage.
      A sleeping bag (we recommend a 3–4 season). It can get very cold at night in winter months in desert and mountainous regions. If you're travelling during the hot season you may wish to also pack a sleep sheet so you will be comfortable no matter the weather. Pillows are NOT provided so please bring a travel pillow along.
      We don't provide a mattress so please bring your own (a Thermarest / inflatable mattress is recommended).
      A simple plastic bag / waterproof toiletry bag (that can hang on a nail on the back of a door) will be useful to keep your clothes dry inside basic camp shower structures.
      You will need to bring a mixture of lightweight clothing, some warm items for the evenings, and long shirts and pants for protection against mosquitoes in the malaria areas. Clothes should be easy to wash and dry. Some people like to take jeans for evenings out but they can be tough to dry and should not be used for trekking. Avoid nylon and other synthetics, which can be very uncomfortable in hot weather. Ex-military or military style clothing and equipment is NOT recommended.
      As this trip includes camping and/or bush walking we highly recommend that you take a pair of comfortable, closed-in walking shoes. Closed-in shoes will help to protect your feet from cuts and scratches when walking through bush/grass-lands, and will also act as a barrier protection in rare cases against bites or stings from dangerous animals in this environment.
      Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. We recommend at least a 1.5litre capacity. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Please avoid the purchase of bottled water by using the chemically sterilized water stored in the purpose-built storage tank or in water jerry cans in your overland vehicle. You're free to refill your bottle as many times a day as you like.
      Most of our trips have access to power to recharge batteries for phones and cameras every couple of days. We always recommend that you carry an extra battery for your camera just in case. Your vehicle will be equipped with a 12 volt “cigarette lighter” socket which may be used at the crew’s discretion, however, do bear in mind that only one piece of equipment can be charged at a time and it will not be allowed if there is a risk of running the vehicle’s batteries low. Batteries may also be recharged from hotel room wall sockets. We suggest you bring a mix of normal and rechargeable batteries and the appropriate recharging unit. Hotels and many campsites have electricity and charging of batteries is advised before checking out the following day.
      Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables, and use your hotel safe and the safe on the overland truck to store the bulk of your money, passport, and airline tickets. It’s also a good idea to purchase a money belt or pouch that is easily hidden.
      We strongly recommend that you photocopy all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, etc. and keep the copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a photocopy makes it very much easier to obtain replacements if necessary.
      All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
      You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
      Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
      We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
      Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
      For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
      Where we use a local partner to fully operate one of our itineraries, we use the travel advisory of the country where that operator is based rather than the Australian DFAT advisory. This itinerary is operated by our local partners Dragoman, and as such will follow the British Government (FCO) Travel Advice. To view these travel advisories please log on to:
      While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
      The vehicle has fully lockable doors and windows, which is an obvious advantage, but it will probably be necessary to guard it at times and everyone should be prepared to share in this responsibility.
      In most areas there is very little to fear from the point of view of violence. But in all areas 'tourists' are a tempting target for pickpockets and con-men. Always be aware of this and be especially careful when leaving banks or money-changers, in any crowded areas, etc. NEVER leave things lying around - they will almost certainly get stolen. We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to always be security conscious and to take all necessary precautions. Great inconvenience and distress can be caused by having your documents or possessions stolen.
      A few of our past group members have had the unhappy experience of having their belongings stolen before the trip starts. Beware of carrying your passport and other valuables around with you in cities. We strongly suggest you deposit your valuables in your hotel safe on arrival.
      Travel insurance
      Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
      When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
      If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
      Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
      Responsible Travel
      We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
      When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative and you should dress accordingly. To respect the local culture and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. As a guideline, shoulders and knees at the minimum (and everything in between including midriff and cleavage) should be covered at all times. Wearing shorts and singlet tops is not appropriate and may well restrict your entry into sites of a religious nature, family homes, and will limit your local interaction opportunities in general. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in the predominantly warm climate.
      A couple of rules
      Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
      The Intrepid Foundation
      Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
      The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
      After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
      Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.