A Travellerspoint blog

Mary, Turkmenistan

Practical tips

sunny 23 °C
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Hotel: Stay at the Yrsgal Hotel - really friendly family run place and the your woman at reception speaks excellent English and is very helpful.

Food: Recommend the Yrsgal cafe (not the restaurant which is actually a private night club), where same family run a nice little menu.

Bus/Train: If you're lucky you might get a train out of here up to Turkmenabat, but they only go on alternate days so look out for the 'odd days' or 'even days' timetable!

Daily bus to Ashgabat and to Turkmenabat. Turmenabat also called Charjew, and if you are catching a taxi or shared taxi, or indeed local bus, you need to look out for and listen for Charjew signs. Buses go from the market area. Taxis and shared taxis from just to the left of the train station as you look at the station.

Merv: You can get to Merv by local bus to Bayram Ali and then a hike to the walls of Merv. Hard to get around the whole site without car, but definitely possible to see it by catching that local bus and then a stroll up to the edge of old Merv. We hired a driver for $50 because we wanted to get on to Turkmenabat later the same morning and didn't want to spend time waiting for buses or walking to the site.

Posted by UnwindRoad 03:17 Archived in Turkmenistan Tagged food hotel bus train mary ali merv bayram Comments (0)

Ashgabat

Practical tips

sunny 26 °C
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Buses: A new long-distance bus station opened just outside the city in September. It's a fantastic, airport departure lounge type of place, with everything super organised for the ten of buses that depart here every day! We got a taxi to the bus station but there is a local bus (maybe route 93?) and there is an 8am bus that heads for Mary and Turkmenabat every day.

That bus left about 7 minutes late only and arrived pretty well on time in Mary, and it's very cheap (about the only thing in Turkmenistan that was cheap). But it's your only bus every day to do that journey. Trains are even more sporadic; we were unlucky since the ideal train for us left only on odd numbered days and we were on an even day!

Other than our find of the bus station, we have no practical tips, and would have loved it if some other travellers had posted theirs in a place like this.

We paid a lot for everything: taxis, shared taxis (where we paid about ten times what locals paid), hotels (our hotel in Ashgabat was a decent western hotel you'd stay in if you were keynote speaker at a big conference but it was our most expensive night of the whole journey so far, including Paris and Vienna).

We avoided taking photos in the space age looking government area, and since we were only in town for a (late) afternoon and left next morning, we didn't get to find out if there is a more normal part of the city centre.

The roads round the government area are empty - no cars, no pedestrians, and there are complicated underpasses which we constantly took and constantly found ourselves on the wrong side of the road from where we wanted to be.

A complicated place to navigate your way around and no maps, no directions. Even our hotel staff had no advice to offer us.

Posted by UnwindRoad 20:31 Archived in Turkmenistan Tagged trains bus station ashgabat Comments (0)

Baku

Practical tips

sunny 25 °C
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You need a map in Baku.

If like us you rely on wifi, and you get there before the shops open in the morning so you can't buy a map, you're in trouble.

Baku is incredibly badly signposted.

From the train station, we had no idea how to get to the old city or the new shopping area or which direction anything was in - and nobody seemed able to help when we asked. One bakery just opening for the day kindly allowed us to use their wifi to get a vague orientation, but even then we quickly got lost again afterwards.

The place that seemed to get the most signpost was something called the 'Statistical Committee' - no idea what this is but clearly the Baku sign planners know its importance in Baku life because it gets signposts more than anywhere else we found.

So we walked for hours without knowing really where we were. We finally found a book shop that sold maps and that was our best purchase throughout our time in Azerbaijan...

The Old City is very beautiful and clearly Baku's main attraction (apart from the Statistical Committee, obviously). Don't miss the Old Baku Tea House for tea

Coffee is best at Baku Roasting Company - near the technical university. They roast the beans in Baku so always fresh.

We stayed at the same hotel as Pope John Paul II in the 1980s (and we were served at dinner by the waiter who personally served him too). Irshad Hotel staff also very helpful in organising taxi for us to Baku bus station for the coach to Lankeren next morning. Highly recommend this place

Posted by UnwindRoad 10:01 Archived in Azerbaijan Tagged hotel bus tea sign house old station coffee baku posts Comments (0)

Derbent

Catching the train into Azerbaijan

rain 20 °C
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We were so tired by the time we got to Derbent train station and saw that a night train to Baku was leaving in 3 hours time that we made a quick change of plan and abandoned our idea of staying a night in Derbent.

Buying a ticket was interesting, though.

They clearly don't get many foreigners in Derbent train station. On seeing our passports and flicking through them the ticket clerk seemed worried that we didn't have the right papers. She seemed to confuse the photo visas for Iran and for USA with actual nationality and thought first we were Iranian (!) and then American. Did we have another passport, she asked. No, we said. Where are we from, she asked (confused by the blurb you get on the UK passport front, to do with Greaat Britain, Northern Ireland and difficult words like citizen or is it still subject?

Anyway, she eventually sold us tickets for a 2 person sleeping compartment, we had time for dinner at a restaurant nearby (Dubai restaurant very good) and then sat in the magnificent waiting room for an hour.

The night train left on time but then pulled over for about 3 hours of formalities with customs, passport control etc on both sides. Most interest from the Russians about why we'd been in Ossetia and Dagestan, but our stories held up well and we were ushered through. Also very thorough search of every nook and cranny in the compartment by Russian Army guy.

Other than that all went smoothly and we arrived in Baku at dawn

Posted by UnwindRoad 22:07 Archived in Russia Tagged night train railways passport control derbent Comments (0)

Vladikavkaz

Practical tips

rain 13 °C
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Arrival from Tbilisi: Be ready for a long long wait at the border crossing. 4 hours was our time and that seems to be normal.

We decided to get a mashrutka from Tbilisi to Kazbegi, which is quite a touristy town, popular with fitness types from the west. So it was easy and relatively cheap to get there.

But from Kazbegi to get over the border and on to Vladikavkaz was not so easy. Our mashrutka driver helped and after about 10 refusals from other Russian drivers, he found a mini bus driver willing to take us for a fee (1,500 roubles I think). But this still took 4 hours to get over the border, making the 170k journey from Tbilisi last a total of 10 hours.

Hotel: We can strongly recommend the Planet Lux hotel, for helpful staff, a good restaurant (but closed Saturday evening which was awkward), and did our laundry for us (at a price of course). Also close to the 2nd bus station, from which we caught our bus to Makhachkala.

Cinema: Planet Lux is also close to a good cinema, but beware: Russian cinemas tend to dub their fims so good luck if you don't have Russian.

Coffee: Get to La France Kofeyna, not far from centre of town on the north side of the river.

Tea: Great loose leaf teas at Cafe Magyar, also on north side of the river, just off Boulevard Mira, which is the main pedestrianised street. Trams trundle along Mira but we didn't get a chance to try one so can't tell you how the system works.

Getting out: There's a direct bus to Makhachkala leaving at 8am. We saw a bus behind it signposted for Derbent but as it stood there empty, we guessed it would leave much later, but it's good to know a direct Vladikavkaz-Derbent bus does exist

Posted by UnwindRoad 07:40 Archived in Russia Tagged hotel tea transport coffee cinema mashrutka Comments (0)

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