18th July 2015:
Our last stop in Turkmenistan was Ashgabat where we had to pick up our Iranian visas.
Ashgabat is the capital of Turkmenistan and no expense has been spared to build a ‘Dubai’ of Central Asia. The buildings, parks and statues depicting scholars, poets and of course their first president are magnificent. The whole city is white with everything clad in white marble. The streets are wide with lots of greenery. Whilst we glimpsed the Presidential Palace in the distanced we did not have enough time to stop and visit.
The 2017 ASEAN games will be held in Ashgabat and they are busily building stadiums and sporting complexes to host the event. The games will beheld in one central area rather than being spread throughout the city and regions.
One drawback that we found is that MasterCard is not accepted in Turkmenistan, the issue dating back to Feb 2015. Only Visa is accepted. As MasterCard is the only card all three of us have getting more money was going to be a problem. Kuzban a very kind taxi driver who spoke excellent English (phone +99365026012) unintentionally gave us a good tour of the city as he tried to find us a bank or hotel that would take MasterCard and give us much needed money. Helass to without success.
As Iran does not accept any international plastic we needed to get enough $’s to finish our stay in Turkmenistan and for our stay in Iran.
We had met a couple of German guys the night before and had learnt that one was planning to visit his sister in Sydney later this year. Barry had a stach of Aussie dollars that no bank so far was willing to exchange and so we asked the German if he would be prepared to swap some usable currency for Aussie $’s. He agreed and a couple of hundred dollars changed hands.
The norm in Turkmenistan is that you pay your hotel via your facilitator. We explained our predicament to our facilitator who agreed that we could send him the hotel expenses via Western Union later, once we got somewhere where this was possible rather than pay now with our few remaining dollars. Such a nice guy.
Mike also rang his son Tom, who was joining us for a couple of days later in Iran and who was currently in Istanbul to bring more US$ to Iran before he left Turkey.
Hopefully we now have enough readies to get through Iran. Thankfully fuel is cheap @ 0.30 a litre both in Turkmenistan and Iran and have free accommodation in Babolsar thanks to the University where Mike is giving a presentation.
(Once again sorry no photos possible for now, I will add as soon as possible)