Embassy in Tehran:
Barati alley 5, Vatanpoor street, Farmanieh (north of Tehran). Cost for a taxi: 60,000IR. Otherwise, take the bus to Tajrish square (200IR) and then a shared taxi (white taxi with a blue line, 2500IR).
Tel: 0222 06731 / 06306
Bring a photocopy of your passport and uzbek visa. Wait between 5 and 10 days. Come back with 2 pictures 4x5. The visa will be delivered on the same day. 55$ for French nationals, 75$ for Belgian and English nationals (bank notes must be perfect without a crease). We were hoping for a 7-day transit visa but they only deliver 5-day visas now. It is only possible to enter via Sarakhs so not possible to visit Ashgabat (unless you take a taxi).
Only delivered through an agency when you book a tour. We know of a dutch cyclist who got a 17-day tourist visa in Mashhad. He wasn't asked to take a guide at first but then he was chased all along in Turkmenistan and it became one of his worst experiences. So, not recommended!
The government, willing to eradicate the black market, has risen the exchange rate. 1$=14,000 manats. Possibility to change at the iranian border, in Mary (banks) and in Turkmenabat (moneychangers in front of the train station).
Road & Accommodation
Sarahs - Uzbek border
If you want to cycle through the desert, ride from Mary to Turkmenabat. The Sarahs to Mary scenery is mostly cotton fields and the roads are quite in a bad state.
At the time we crossed, officials would only deliver a 5-day transit visa. Not willing to risk it, we took a taxi from Sarahs to Mary (70$ for a mini-van, 4h ride). No buses in Sarahs, only taxis.
Jean-Marc and Olivier, the 2 French cyclists we met at the caravansérail, managed to cross in 5 days (1st October 2 pm - 5th October 2 pm) doing 120 km a day.
The state of the roads changes from one stretch to another but they are widening the road between Mary and Turkmenabat from 2 to 4 lanes so it should get better.
Stock up on food or at least snacks as there aren´t many shops between Mashhad et Boukhara. Cafés every 40-60km (nearly every village) along the road where you can eat and sleep. A lot of small uphills and downhills between Bairam Ali and Turkmenabat. We were slown down by a northern wind.
Merv: we didn´t stop at the entrance thus visited for free. We went back to Bairam Ali via the road of the "freezers".
Mary: hotel Terminal, 2$/bed (dorms of 4). One of the worse hotels we have seen during all our travels. Dirty, no shower, apalling beds ... But we had already spent a lot for the taxi.
Zahmet: café after the first police checkpoint. The second one (formerly café Telegom) is closed. We setup the tent at the back of the café. Don´t ask the policemen for help, one of them wanted 200$ when we asked if we could put up the tent next to the checkpoint!
Repetek: we had dinner at the café on the road and slept on one of the wooden platforms they use for meals.
Turkmenabat: after 6 days, we needed a shower but we didn´t like the people (all trying to rip us off). Hotel AmuDaria, just renovated, very confortable. Double room, 100$. Bed in a dorm of 3, 20$. All rooms have bathroom.