Border crossing days are horrible, always (not in the EU, those won’t count here). Turkey to Iran is not an exception in any way. The road from Doğubeyazıt to the border is pretty empty, cruising across the deserted plains around snow-capped Mount Ararat we’re equally excited and worried about the next few hours – we expect the by far toughest control and the only time when we need our Carnet de Passages.
Getting out of Turkey in itself is a simple and straightforward process – given you know what to do. Imagine a border station without a distinguishable queue or signs or any information on what you have to do. Everyone just seems to know the process – clearly the place is not designed to cater to the average European motorbike tourist. Plus, border guards are all in civil clothes as the danger for terrorist attacks is considered high in the area, so we’re super suspicious as we get asked by a young guy in jeans and t-shirt for our documents. As we express our concerns, he stays friendly and, with a boyish grin, proudly presents the gun under his shirt explaining this to be ‘his uniform’.
Over on the Iranian side we are approached by the next ‘customs officer’ in civil clothes with good English who takes all of our documents and starts some process getting them checked with the police. There are many other travelers, almost all of them Iranians, around, some arguing, some hanging out, policemen, customs officers plus the clerks who are there to document our bikes and papers (note: not a single computer is found around the whole station, it’s all good ol’ documents and folders here). We have no idea what’s going on and it quickly dawns at us that our helper is one of the ‘fixers’ we’ve been warned about, a private person who will charge money before giving back our papers.
After the paperwork is done our new friend reluctantly hands back the documents – only after we call in one of the policemen for help. Even if we really wouldn’t have to, we agree to pay a small fee and use his money exchange service (common practice, literally nobody goes to the bank). Actually, the deal itself would be really fair, what upsets us is him not telling us upfront about the charges he expected. In a pretty know-it-all manner we teach him about his shortcomings in negotiation techniques – certainly not the way we want to treat people, just at this point we start to loose our temper.
After the experience at both borders we’re suspicious just about everyone around us – until now, a lot of the people we interacted with were just nice as they wanted to sell something (our fixer is just used as a good example, there were many of his kind around). However, we also make contact with some ‘normal’ Iranian travelers who already give us an exceptionally warm welcome to their country and a friendly talk while we wait. Already on the first few kilometers after the border, people randomly greet us on the street, ask about our plans and wish us luck. Not far into it yet and though we truly had some stress at the border, we see that this has a chance of becoming a great time from now on.