Obtaining visas for Central Asian countries requires a lot of patience and waiting time. They are often the most annoying to get but they are worth the pain as once you get in the country you’ll experience incredible hospitality and go to places where few tourists are going. Stantours and Caravanistan have heaps of information about visa situations and news in Central Asia. Caravanistan is particularly interesting for embassy reports.
Holders of most European passport, Canada, USA, Australia and most of the developed countries don’t need visa before entering Kyrgyzstan. A stay of 60 days visa free is given when arriving at any border crossing. If you expect to stay longer, a 3 months visa is available. This Kyrgyz embassy webpage has more details and Caravanistan has good info.
It’s necessary to obtain a visa before visiting Uzbekistan. You can obtain a tourist visa valid for 7, 15 or 30 days visa, usually single entry. Multi-entry seems to be possible but is harder to get. The visa is date specific. To apply for a visa, most travelers will need a letter of invitation from a travel agency in Uzbekistan. At the time of writing, nationals from the following countries don’t need a LOI:
UK, USA, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Spain, Czech Republic, Switzerland
Caravanistan is a good place to apply for a LOI. Cost is about US $90 without a hotel booking and US $50 with hotel booking. Allow 7-10 working days. I got mine in 8 working days. While waiting for the LOI, go to the Uzbek embassy from where you’re going to apply for your visa and see if you need an appointment. Uzbek embassies in different countries have different way of doing things. Some require you to call between specific times on a specific day to make an appointment, others don’t. While you wait, it’s worth spending some time to know the local rules.
Once the LOI in hand, you can apply for the visa. Make the necessary phone calls, appointment or whatever the embassy is telling you to do to enter the embassy. Those with an LOI will get their visa on the spot, if you don’t have an LOI you may have to wait a week before receiving your visa. There will be hours (days, weeks…) of waiting time thanks to the bureaucracy involved throughout the whole process so remain calm and don’t panic; it’s only going to get things worst. Bring a book to read while you wait, have a chat with fellow travelers while keeping an attentive eye on what’s going on to not lose your turn.
Everyone needs a visa to enter Turkmenistan. Look up Caravanistan for details on tourist visa. A transit visa is probably what most of us will use to go through this country. Letter of invitation isn’t necessary for a transit visa. A transit visa is valid for 3 or 5 days. The visa is date specific with an entry and exit point written on the visa. The cost is about US $55. It’s possible to pick up the visa once at the border. Since it is a transit visa, you’ll need to have a visa for the country you are travelling to after Turkmenistan otherwise you will be refused a transit visa. Depending on the embassy you are applying from, you may need color photocopy of your passport bio page and the visa of the country you are travelling to.
I’ve had a mix of reports on Turkmen embassies in Central Asia. Caravanistan is a great place to look for latest reports. Keep in mind there’s a lot of bureaucracy involved so patience is the key, stay friendly with officers (in the embassy and the police at the gate) and put on smile on your face. My experience in Tashkent was really good; I never waited more than 5 minutes to enter the embassy (had to go 3 times), the Turkmen officer inside helped me fill the forms and even strongly recommended to change my plans to visit Ashgabat! I applied for the visa in Tashkent and picked it up at the border. I was nervous about cycling all the way to the border without any transit visa but the visa was indeed waiting for me there.