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Turkmenistan travel guide - Travel S helper


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Turkmenistan, previously known as Turkmenia, is a Central Asian nation bordered to the northwest by Kazakhstan, to the north and east by Uzbekistan, to the southeast by Afghanistan, to the south and southwest by Iran, and to the west by the Caspian Sea.

Turkmenistan has always been a crossroads of cultures. Merv was one of the major towns of the Islamic world in medieval times, as well as an important station on the Silk Road, a caravan route utilized for commerce with China until the mid-15th century. Turkmenistan was annexed by the Russian Empire in 1881 and subsequently played a major role in Central Asia’s anti-Bolshevik struggle. Turkmenistan became a component republic of the Soviet Union in 1924, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (Turkmen SSR), and gained independence when the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991.

Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth biggest reserves of natural gas. The Karakum (Black Sand) Desert covers the majority of the nation. Citizens have been receiving free power, water, and natural gas from the government since 1993.

Until his death in 2006, Turkmenistan was governed by President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov. In 2007, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow was elected President. Human Rights Watch claims that “Turkmenistan continues to be one of the world’s most oppressive nations. The nation is practically closed to independent inspection, media and religious freedoms are severely restricted, and human rights advocates and other campaigners suffer continuous retaliation from the government.” President Berdimuhamedow supports a personality cult in which he, his family, and allies have absolute authority and influence over all areas of public life.

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Turkmenistan - Info Card




Turkmenistan manat (TMT)

Time zone

UTC+05 (TMT)


491,210 km2 (189,660 sq mi)

Calling code


Official language


Turkmenistan | Introduction

North Korea may receive all the attention, but even Kim Il-sung’s cult personality in comparison to Turkmenistan’s bizarre totalitarian state established by Turkmenistan’s previous all-powerful President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov. He took the title Turkmenbashi (“Father of All Turkmen”), named the city of Turkmenbashi (previously Krasnovodsk) after himself, and erected a 15-meter-tall golden monument in the capital Ashgabat that turns to face the sun. The month of January was renamed Turkmenbashi after himself, while the term “bread” was renamed Gurbansoltan Eje after Niyazov’s mother. Lip synching, long hair, video games, and gilded teeth caps have all been prohibited by decrees issued by Niyazov’s palace. Throughout it all, Serdar Saparmurat Turkmenbashi the Great (his official title) appeared to be humble, saying once, “I’m personally opposed to seeing my portraits and monuments in the streets – but that’s what the people desire.” Niyazov’s administration also spent billions of dollars rebuilding the nation, closing libraries and clinics, and even writing the Ruhnama, a spiritual book aimed at improving Turkmen people’s lives.

Since Niyazov’s untimely death in December 2006, his successor Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has gradually pulled back the Turkmenbashi’s greatest excesses. The Ruhnama has fallen out of favor, and Berdimuhamedov has maintained the process of restoring pensions and old names while establishing his own somewhat more restrained cult of personality.

One thing to remember for those guests who smoke cigarettes or cigars: it is illegal to smoke ‘in a public area.’ In general, this implies ‘outside.’ Smoking is not permitted in any of the bazaars, since there were two big bazaar fires in 2006-2007. While it annoys nonsmokers, individuals who like tobacco products may do so at most restaurants, cafés, and nightclubs. A decent rule of thumb is that if no one else is smoking, you shouldn’t either. However, the government has prohibited the sale of all tobacco products in the nation.

People in Turkmenistan

Turkmens, sometimes spelt Turkomans, make up the majority of Turkmens in both ethnicity and language. Turkmenistan used to have sizable Russian and German communities, but they mostly fled to their home countries when the Soviet Union disintegrated. According to the 1995 census, 77% of the population is Turkmen, 9% Uzbek, and 7% Russian.

The Turkmens, according to the Ruhmana, descended from Oguz Han, and all Oguz people descended from Oguz Han’s 24 grandsons. The Ural-Altay area of Central Asia was the Oguz tribes’ ancestral homeland. The “six Oghuz tribal unity” is mentioned in the Orhun inscriptions (6th century), alluding to the merger of the six Turkic tribes. This was the earliest written mention of Oghuz, dating from the time of the Göktürk Empire. The Book of Dede Korkut, the Oghuz Turks’ historical epic, was composed in the ninth and tenth centuries. In the 10th century, they moved westward via the Aral Sea and the Syr Darya Basin. The Seljuks, an Oghuz tribe, conquered Islam and established the Great Seljuk Empire in Persia in the 11th century. The name Oghuz is derived from the word ‘ok,’ which means ‘arrow’ or ‘tribe,’ and an archer firing an arrow was shown on the Seljuk Empire’s banner. The name Oghuz was eventually replaced by Türkmen or Turcoman by the Turks themselves. This procedure was finished in the 13th century.

The Turkmen are divided into four tribes: the Tekke (near the oasis of Ahal, Tejen, and Merv), the Ersari (along the Amu Darya), the Yomud (in the Balkan Region and Khorzem Oasis), and the Goklen (in the Soudan).

Tourism in Turkmenistan

In recent years, the tourist sector, particularly medical tourism, has grown significantly. This is attributed mainly to the establishment of the Avaza tourism zone on the Caspian Sea. Before entering Turkmenistan, all visitors must acquire a visa. Most residents of most nations need the assistance of a visa support local travel agency in order to acquire a tourist visa. Excursions to ancient sites Daşoguz, Konye-Urgench, Nisa, Merv, Mary, beach tours to Avaza, and medical tours and vacations in Mollakara, Yylly suw, Archman are available for visitors visiting Turkmenistan.

Geography Of Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan is the world’s 52nd-largest nation, with 488,100 km2 (188,500 sq mi). It is somewhat smaller than Spain and slightly bigger than the state of California in the United States. It is located between the latitudes of 35° and 43° N, and the longitudes of 52° and 67° E. The Karakum Desert covers more than 80% of the nation. The Turan Depression and the Karakum Desert dominate the country’s center. The Kopet Dag Range, which runs along the country’s southwest border, reaches a height of 2,912 meters (9,554 feet) in Kuh-e Rizeh (Mount Rizeh).

The only other major heights are the Great Balkhan Range in the country’s west (Balkan Province) and the Kötendag Range on the country’s southern border with Uzbekistan (Lebap Province). Mount Arlan in the Great Balkhan Range rises to 1,880 meters (6,170 feet), whereas Ayrybaba in the Kugitangtau Range is the highest point in Turkmenistan at 3,137 meters (10,292 ft). The Kopet Dag mountain range comprises the majority of Turkmenistan’s border with Iran. The Amu Darya, Murghab, and Tejen rivers are among them.

The climate is mostly dry subtropical desert, with minimal precipitation. Winters are warm and dry, with the majority of rain occurring between January and May. The Kopet Dag Range receives the most precipitation in the nation.

The Turkmen coast along the Caspian Sea stretches for 1,748 kilometers (1,086 miles). The Caspian Sea is completely landlocked, with no natural connection to the ocean, but maritime access to and from the Black Sea is provided via the Volga–Don Canal.

Aşgabat, Türkmenbaşy (previously Krasnovodsk), and Daşoguz are among the main cities.

Climate In Turkmenistan

The Karakum Desert is one of the world’s driest deserts, with some areas receiving just 12 millimetres of yearly precipitation (0.47 in). The maximum recorded temperature in Ashgabat is 48.0 °C (118.4 °F), while Kerki, an extreme inland city situated on the banks of the Amu Darya river, reached 51.7 °C (125.1 °F) in July 1983, but this figure is unofficial. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Repetek Reserve is 50.1 °C (122 °F), which is also regarded as the highest temperature ever recorded in the whole former Soviet Union.

Language In Turkmenistan

Turkmen is spoken by about 70% of the population of Turkmenistan, while Russian is spoken by 50%. If you are unable to converse in Turkmen, Russian is your best option. Everyone does not have the time, resources, or money to study Turkmen. However, acquiring basic Turkmen is recommended out of respect and since barely half of the population know Russian. During the Soviet era, Turkmen was written in a Cyrillic script, although it is currently written in a Latin alphabet. Because both languages have Turkic characteristics, Uzbek is commonly known in Turkmenistan. Although Kazakh is understood throughout the nation (due to Turkic characteristics), relatively few Turkmen would comprehend it.

Even in the capital city, few Turkmens will have a basic knowledge of English.

Economy Of Turkmenistan

The nation has the world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves and significant oil potential. Turkmenistan has adopted a cautious approach to economic change, aiming to maintain its economy via gas and cotton sales. The unemployment rate was projected to reach 60% in 2004.

Turkmenistan suffered from a continuing lack of suitable natural gas export routes, as well as obligations on significant short-term foreign debt, between 1998 and 2002. At the same time, the value of overall exports has increased dramatically due to rises in international oil and gas prices. Economic prospects for the foreseeable future are bleak due to widespread domestic poverty and the weight of international debt. 

President Niyazov spent a large portion of the country’s income substantially rebuilding cities, particularly Ashgabat. According to a report released in April 2006 by the London-based non-governmental organization Global Witness, corruption watchdogs expressed particular concern about the management of Turkmenistan’s currency reserves, the majority of which are held in off-budget funds such as the Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund in the Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt.

Electricity, natural gas, water, and salt would be subsidized for residents until 2030, according to a Peoples’ Council order issued on August 14, 2003. In addition, before July 1, 2014, vehicle owners were entitled to 120 gallons of free gasoline each month. Bus, lorry, and tractor drivers may get 200 litres of free gasoline, while motorcyclists and scooter riders could receive 40 litres. After Turkmenistan threatened to shut off supply, Russia agreed to boost the price it pays for Turkmen natural gas from $65 to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters on September 5, 2006. The Russian state-owned Gazprom receives two-thirds of Turkmen gas.

Natural gas and export routes

The Galkynysh gas field contains the world’s second-largest amount of gas, behind the South Pars field in the Persian Gulf, as of May 2011. The Galkynysh gas field’s reserves are estimated to be about 21.2 trillion cubic metres. The Turkmenistan Natural Gas Company (Türkmengaz), which is overseen by the Ministry of Oil and Gas, is in charge of gas production throughout the nation. The national economy’s most active and promising industry is gas production. Ashgabat began a strategy of diversifying raw material export channels in 2010. As a pipeline connecting the two nations via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan achieves full capacity, China is expected to become Turkmenistan’s biggest consumer of gas in the coming years. In addition to supplying Russia, China, and Iran, Ashgabat made tangible steps to expedite work on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI). Turkmenistan originally estimated the project’s cost at $3.3 billion. On May 21, 2010, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow unexpectedly issued a proclamation declaring that Turkmen firms would construct an internal East-West gas pipeline enabling the transport of gas from Turkmenistan’s largest reserves (Dowlatabad and Yoloten) to the Caspian shore. The East-West pipeline is expected to be approximately 1,000 km long, with a carrying capacity of 30 billion m3 per year, and will cost between one and one and a half billion US dollars.


The Turkmen State Company (Concern) Türkmennebit extracts the majority of Turkmen oil from fields near the Caspian Sea at Koturdepe, Balkanabat, and Cheleken, which have a total estimated reserve of 700 million tons. The oil extraction business began in 1909 (by Branobel) with the exploitation of the fields in Cheleken, and in the 1930s with the exploitation of the fields in Balkanabat. The discovery of the Kumdag field in 1948 and the Koturdepe field in 1959 accelerated production. Turkmenbashy and Seidi refineries process a large portion of Turkmen oil production. In addition, ships transport oil from the Caspian Sea to Europe through canals.

Entry Requirements For Turkmenistan

To enter Turkmenistan, all nationalities must get a visa. A temporary transit visa may be acquired for independent travel, however obtaining a complete visa may be challenging. The majority of border guards are youthful conscripts, and a modest bribe may let you get through the border and obstacles.

Arranging a trip will make things much simpler since the business can assist with obtaining the Letter of Invitation and visa. Keep in mind that regardless of how you enter Turkmenistan, you may need to be greeted by a guide. This is especially essential if your inbound trip is delayed, as is probable while crossing the Caspian Sea by boat.

When you enter Turkmenistan, your luggage is typically scanned using an X-ray machine. You must complete a green Entry Travel Pass, an immigration card, and a customs statement. List all of your valuables in the customs declaration, make sure it is stamped, and save a duplicate with you. When you leave the nation, you will be required to present it again.


Vaccinations against diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, measles, mumps, polio, rubella, tetanus, typhoid, and chickenpox are recommended by the World Health Organization (varicella). Long-term travelers should also get vaccines against meningitis, rabies, and TB.


It is highly advised that you apply for a Turkmen visa before visiting Turkmenistan. According to reports, travelers seeking for visas at Ashgabat airport have been held at the airport’s transit area for many days owing to missing papers.


All international visitors to Turkmenistan must pay a registration fee of US$ 12 (2012) and obtain a green entrance and exit card. Keep a close eye on the departure card, since it must be provided while leaving the country.

Foreigners staying in Turkmenistan for more than three days must register with IVOR in Ashgabat, Asady köcesi, phone 391337, or at IVOR branch offices in other cities. Even if you are staying in a hotel, you are responsible for registration. The hotel will only provide you with a confirmation of your reservation. This confirmation, as well as the receipt for the registration money paid upon entering the country, must be shown to IVOR. There are two pictures needed. Your passport will be stamped with the date of registration. To be allowed to leave the nation, you must first notify the IVOR. This notification will also be imprinted in the passport. Border agents will examine your passport to see whether you have registration and notice to depart stamps.

Travel permits

Many border areas need travel permits. Ashgabat, Merv, Turkmenabat, and Balkanabat do not need a visa. Transit visas enable you to travel along major highways on your route to the next nation on your schedule. However, a travel permit is definitely required for the following regions: Western Turkmenistan: Bekdash, Turkmenbashi, Haza, Dekistan, Yangykala, Gyzletrek, Nokhur, and surroundings; Northern Turkmenistan: the entire Dashogus region, including Konye Urgench, Dargan-Ata, and Gazachak; Eastern Turkmenistan: Farab, Atamurat (Kerki), and surroundings; Tagtabazar, and Serkhetabat.

Destinations in Turkmenistan

Regions in Turkmenistan

While the provinces are a useful method to divide vast Turkmenistan into regional travel regions, keep in mind that one geographical region dominates them all—the harsh desert wasteland known as the Karakum.

  • Ahal Province
    The country’s center area, which includes the capital.
  • Balkan Province
    The western province of the Caspian Basin.
  • Dashoguz Province
    The ancient city of Konye-Urgench is located in northern Turkmenistan.
  • Lebap Province
    The eastern province is mostly vacant, stretching along the Amu Darya River and bordering Uzbekistan.
  • Mary Province
    The historic Silk Road city of Merv is a popular tourist attraction in Turkmenistan’s southeast.

Cities in Turkmenistan

  • Ashgabat, the capital (2004: 727,200 inhabitants)
  • Balkanabat (formerly Nebit-Dag) (2004: 140,000 inhabitants)
  • Daşoguz (formerly Tashauz) (2004: 210,000 inhabitants)
  • Mary (2004: 160.000 inhabitants)
  • Türkmenabat (2004: 256,000 inhabitants)
  • Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk) – a Caspian port (2004: 86,000 inhabitants)

Other destinations in Turkmenistan

  • Avaza is a multibillion-dollar building project near Turkmenbashi that aims to create a “national touristic zone” with more than 60 world-class hotels, shops, and a new international airport. The administration compares the initiative to that of Dubai, although there has been little outside investment so far.
  • Darvaza — An oil rig unexpectedly struck a huge pocket of natural gas in this location near the old town of Darvaza in 1971, making it Turkmenistan’s most renowned site. The rig fell into the cavern, leaving a huge crater filled with flames. The decision was made to let the fire burn rather than allowing the toxic gas to escape into the neighboring community. The fire continues to burn to this day, and it is often regarded as being readily mistaken for the gates of Hell.
  • Visit the Kow Ata subterranean sulphur lake, which is located in the highlands about an hour outside of Ashgabat. Swimming is available all year in the warm, mineral-rich, and therapeutic waters. Expect a trip down progressively slick stairs and to change in a corrugated hut unless you’re adept with a towel. Kow Ata translates as “Father of the Lakes.” The cave is more than 200 meters long, 20 meters high, and more than 50 meters broad at one point. The water is always between 33 and 37 degrees Celsius.

How To Travel To Turkmenistan

Get In - By plane

Turkmenistan Airlines flies nonstop to Ashgabat from Abu Dhabi, Almaty, Amritsar, Bangkok, Beijing, Birmingham, Delhi, Dubai, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Kiev, London, Minsk, Moscow, and Saint Petersburg. At the front of the cabin, look for a picture of Sapamurat ‘Turkmenbashi’ Niyazov. The timetables are often inconvenient, and there is no website for the airlines with flights listed. To discover the timetable, it’s generally easiest to go to the airport’s website from where you’re leaving.

Turkish Airlines travels from Istanbul to Ashgabat. Lufthansa operates flights from Frankfurt to Ashgabat. More information may be found on the Ashgabat page. FlyDubai operates flights from Dubai to Ashgabat.

Get In - By train

Although there is a railway link between Russia and Iran, no train crosses the border at any point in the nation.

Get In - By car

If you wish to drive into Turkmenistan, you must have liability insurance. Turkmenistan does not recognize the green International Insurance Card. In addition, depending on the distance you drive in Turkmenistan, you must pay an extra tax for government-subsidized gasoline costs. This tax must be paid in US dollars at the border. Be prepared for lengthy lines at border crossings. You may enter by car via Kazakhstan, Iran, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan.

The route between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan is in disrepair. The journey from Zhanaozen to the border may take up to 3 hours if you don’t have an SUV. The journey from the border to Garabogaz may take another three hours. Because the border station is very remote, be sure to carry plenty of supplies. Paperwork may take some time, but everything is really simple, and everyone is very pleasant and helpful. There are very few visitors that cross this border.

Get In - By bus

Visitors with visas are permitted to visit Turkmenistan from all neighboring nations. Border checks often take one to two hours, if not more. Border crossings are open everyday from 9:00 a.m. to 18:00 p.m.

From Iran

Because no public transit crosses the Turkmen border, the most expedient way to travel to Ashgabat in Turkmenistan from Mashhad in Iran is as follows:

  • Take a bus to Quchan: every 2 hours beginning at 06:30. The cost is 8000 rials. Duration: 2 hours and 30 minutes.
  • Take a private cab from Quchan to Bajgiran (village at the border). Cost: 60,000 rials for two, or less if possible. Duration: about 1 hour.
  • Go to the border at Bajgiran (opening time: 07.30-15.30 Iran time). It may take up to two hours to cross the border. Turkmen police will want a $10 entrance charge (per individual) plus $2 in bank fees (per group), to be paid in US dollars exclusively.
  • Take a cab to Ashgabat from Turkmenistan, which may cost up to $15 per person. Duration: about 1 hour.

From Uzbekistan

Each crossing may take a 15-minute walk over no-land, man’s but sharded cabs are occasionally available. There are three border crossings between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan:

  • From Bukhara, take a cab to the border (USD8) or a shared taxi to Uzbek Olot (Qarakul) and then a taxi to the border. Turkmenabat is approximately 45 kilometers from the border. A cab ride should cost about USD5, and a seat in a shared taxi should cost less than USD1.
  • Dashgous from Khiva or Ugench: Take a cab from Khiva or Urgench to the border for around USD10, then another one from the border to Dashgous on the Turkmen side for about USD1.
  • Khojeli from Nukus in Karalpakstan: Use a cab for approximately USD10 for the 30 minute trip from Nukus to the border, or take public transportation from Khojeli for about USD1 and a taxi for about USD1 for the 10 minute travel to Konye Urgench.

From Kazakhstan

It takes two hours to travel from Zhanaozen to the Turkmen border, then another 40 minutes on a dirt road to the city of Karabogas (previously Bekdash). The final 50 kilometers on either side of the border are extremely poor dirt roads. (about USD100 for a single vehicle or KZT10,000 for a shared automobile). There is a decent route from Karabogas to Turkmenbashi with beautiful views of the Caspian Sea. The route passes a bridge across the canal linking the Caspian Sea with the interior gulf around 60 kilometers south of Karabogas.

Get In - By boat

Several famous travel books describe crossing the Caspian Sea via “ferry” from Baku, Azerbaijan, to the port of Turkmenbashy in western Turkmenistan. Some individuals have encountered difficulties while trying to get to Turkmenistan by water. Passengers should be informed that these “ferries” are really cargo ships that take on passengers as an afterthought to their main purpose. On these ships, passengers are usually not supplied with food or drink, and sleeping and sanitary facilities are likely to be basic.

Travelers should be advised that ships arriving in Turkmenbashy’s port sometimes have to wait days offshore for outgoing ships to leave the pier so that new ships may unload. Some passengers have remained more than a week offshore while their ship waits for authorization to approach the port, and they have run out of food and water, or their Turkmen visas have expired before they could use them. Travellers, particularly those planning to enter Turkmenistan by water, are discouraged from utilizing transit visas for these and other reasons.

How To Travel Around Turkmenistan

Get Around - By plane

Internal flights are available by Turkmenistan Airlines, which operates daily flights between Ashgabat, Mary, Turkmenbashi, Dashoguz, and a few more cities. Flights are subsidized and very inexpensive owing to fuel prices. A flight from Ashgabat to Mary or Dashoguz costs about $5 USD. Turkmenistan Airlines has a new fleet of Boeing 717s, which were bought in 2001. It’s possible that you won’t be allowed to shoot freely at and around the airport, although this isn’t unheard of elsewhere.

Get Around - By car

At least in Ashgabat, like in most of the former Soviet Union, “taxis” are largely unauthorized – and may be hailed by waving down a vehicle on the side of the road. Negotiate and agree on the location and price ahead of time – knowing Russian will come in useful. The roads in Ashgabat and Turkmenbashi are excellent. The route between Turkmenbashi and Ashgabat is being renovated to a two-lane, dual carriageway.

The normal prudent measures apply. If your instincts tell you that something isn’t quite right, then trust them.

Across the nation, roadblocks are in place. You will be pulled over and requested to show your passport and vehicle documents. Although uncomfortable, this procedure will not take long.

Take the right lane. Minimum age: 17 years old. Permits from other countries are needed. Speed limit: 60km/h in cities, 90-120km/h on motorways. Police officers may also stop you for no apparent reason. Just be nice and don’t bribe them. Radar guns may be used to determine your speed. If you are caught speeding, you should bargain for a fine; a few dollars should enough in most instances.

Get Around - By train

Traveling by rail between some of Turkmenistan’s main towns is feasible, but trips are sluggish (up to 16 hours from Ashgabat to Turkmenbashi) – therefore, unless you have a particular interest, flying is the easiest method to move across the country.

Turkmendemiryollari (Turkmenistan Zeleznice), Ashgabat, phone 3632 255545, fax 3632 473858, provides rail service in Turkmenistan. They include soft and hard accommodations, as well as sleeping and eating carriages, on the main trains. Tourists utilizing Turkmen train services can expect to pay higher rates than locals and to pay in foreign currency. Turkmendemiryollari (Turkmenistan Zeleznice) runs trains from Ashgabat to Turkmenbashi, then to Turkmenabat via Mary and back.

Food & Drinks in Turkmenistan

Food in Turkmenistan

Restaurants will provide distinctively mediocre Russian food. Plov and other Central Asian cuisine may be available at marketplaces, as in Uzbekistan. If you can locate it, try Caspian Sea sturgeon, which is occasionally cooked in a ‘tempura’ manner.

Meals often begin with a soup, such as chorba, a meat and vegetable soup. Plov, a rice dish with mutton, onions, carrots, spices, raisins, peas, or quinces, is another national food. Manty are steamed dumplings with lamb filling. Ku’urma is lamb that has been roasted in its own fat. Ichlekli is a meat and onion pie, while gutap is a meat, potato, spinach, and pumpkin pie.

Drinks in Turkmenistan

Look for a selection of vodka branded ‘Turkmenbashi,’ which may be washed down with a selection of Russian ‘Baltika’ brand beer. Local beers may be more difficult to obtain at foreigner-friendly establishments, although ‘Berk’ is definitely worth asking for; ‘Zip,’ on the other hand, is terrible.

Tea is delicious and widely accessible.

It’s best to err on the side of caution and drink bottled water. If you don’t like fizzy water, mention byehz gah-zah (literally, ‘without gas’ or’still; plain’) like you would in Russia. Mineral water from Georgia called ‘Borjomi’ is sold at stores in Ashgabat.

Locals like to drink gok chai, which is green tea flavored with dried fruits or herbs such as mint.

Money & Shopping in Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan is Central Asia’s most costly nation. A simple double room will cost you USD30. Around USD60 is a more comfortable choice. A street snack costs between $1 and $3. A decent dinner at an Ashgabat restaurant costs about USD20.

Currency in Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan’s national currency is the new manat (TMT) = 100 tenge. In October 2014, €1 equaled TMT3.57, GBP1 equaled TMT4.55, and USD1 equaled TMT2.85. The US dollar is commonly recognized, but rules state that it should only be accepted in foreign hotels or at the airport. At the larger cities, credit cards are only accepted in large international hotels and banks. Only Visa credit cards are presently accepted (MasterCard will be added soon, although it is currently only valid at one bank in Ashgabat).

Shopping in Turkmenistan

The bazaars are the beating heart of every Turkmen town. Bazaars are typically open everyday from 08:00 to 20:00, including Sundays. Large marketplaces, such as the Tolkuchka Bazaar on Ashgabat’s outskirts, are only open two or three mornings each week. During the cotton harvest season in fall, bazaars outside of Ashgabat will be closed during daytime hours. Sundays and lunchtime are off limits to the public.

Why not add Turkmenbashi’s self-penned Ruhnama book, which explores his ideas on what it is to be a Turkmen, to your own dictatorial library? Surprisingly, this is a logical read.

Rugs in Turkmenistan

Turkoman carpets are well-known for their deep reds and geometric designs. Some traditional designs are unique to each tribe, and an expert can usually identify the tribe based on the form of the medallion-like pattern components known as guls. However, a combination is quite frequent; when a weaver from one tribe marries into another, she may incorporate aspects from both in her works.

Turkoman carpets are often referred to as “Bokhara” rugs since Bukhara, in neighboring Uzbekistan, was a center for their commerce. Turkmenistan is not the sole source of Turkoman carpets; Uzbekistan, as well as northern Iran and Afghanistan, have Turkoman populations. Other Afghan carpets are strongly inspired by Turkoman design, and Turkoman patterns are often imitated in India and Pakistan; sellers may also refer to these rugs as “Bokhara,” although while some of them are excellent rugs, they are neither as high quality nor as expensive as genuine Turkoman rugs.

Wool is often colored using synthetic dyes rather than natural dyes nowadays; this was an issue in the 19th and early 20th centuries since early synthetic dyes were of poor quality. Although it is no longer a problem, some collectors still prefer natural dyes, mostly because they produce superior arbrash, or subtle color variation throughout a rug.

Carpets bought at a bazaar or private store need an export permit. The Expert Commission in Ashgabat (phone 398879 and 398887, working hours Mon to Fri 14:30 to 17:30, Sat 10:00 to 12:00) must declare that the carpet is not more than 50 years old and may be exported. This costs TMT115 per square metre and may take many days to complete. Furthermore, carpets larger than 1.5 square metres are subject to an export tax of TMT400 per square metre. payable in USD at the official rate of currency at the time of departure at customs

Turkmenhaly, a state-owned enterprise, operates several carpet manufacturers. If you purchase a carpet from a government store, the export costs are usually included in the price, but customs will levy a commission fee of 0.2 percent of the carpet’s price.

Look for publications by Dr. Murray Eiland, a California collector, for an approachable (and reasonably priced) guide to these carpets. If you plan to spend a significant amount of money on these carpets, particularly if you are interested in older carpets, it may be worthwhile to investigate further. Tappiseries de l’Asie Centrale by AA Bogolyubov, the Tsarist administrator of Turkmenistan, was published in Russian and French in St. Petersburg in 1905. It was a limited edition with hand-painted drawings that is now very rare and costly (several thousand dollars). Carpets of Central Asia, edited by J.M.A. Thompson, was published in the United Kingdom in the 1960s; book is no longer in print but may be obtained in libraries. It is considerably simpler to locate and much less costly than the original on the secondhand market.

Things to do in Turkmenistan

  • Horse trekking with Akhal Teke horses: Orexca offers a 12 day Turkem Akhalteke Horse Ride Wonders of the Karakum Desert package that includes transportation from Ashgabar to Geokdepe Stud Farm, a ride through the North East of the Karakum Desert to Tummekli, nomadic villages of Chyria, Gurrukly, Hakysh Gongurajy, Orazsahet, and the Geokdepe Reservoir.
  • Hiking at the Kugitang Nature Reserve (travel permission needed) or in the Nokhur Mountains.
  • Adventure tour and camel trek in the Kara Kum Desert. Stantours provides a 14-day off-road and camel tour of Eastern Turkmenistan that includes a drive from Ashgabat to the Yangykala Canyon, a visit to Gozel Ata, camel treks in the Eastern Karabogaz basin and Kaplankyr National Park, and visits to Karashor Salt Lake, Sarakamysh Lake, and Yabgysu Canyon.

Festivals & Holidays in Turkmenistan

Public holidays in Turkmenistan are divided into three categories: (a) holidays commemorating historical events (the defense of the Geok Teppe fortress in 1881, World War II in 1941-45) and landmarks since Turkmenistan’s independence in 1991 (Independence Day, Neutrality Day, State Flag Day, Day of Revival and Unity); (b) traditional and religious holidays revived since independence; and (c) traditional and religious holidays revived since independence (harvest, water conservation, folk singers, Turkmen carpets, and the Turkmen racing horse).

Public Holidays in Turkmenistan

  • January 1 – New Year’s Day
  • January 12 – Memorial Day (honoring those who fell on 12 January 1881 defending the Geok Tepefortress against the Russian troops)
  • February 19 – State Flag of Turkmenistan Day
  • March 8 – Turkmen Woman’s Day (coincides with International Woman’s Day)
  • March 20-21 – Nowruz Bayram, national spring holiday
  • First Sunday in April – “A Drop of Water—A Grain of Gold” Festival
  • Last Sunday in April – Turkmen Racing Horse Festival
  • May 8 – Day of Commemoration of the National Heroes of the 1941-1945 World War
  • May 9 – Victory Day (World War II)
  • May 18-19 – Day of Revival, Unity, and the Poetry of Magtymguly
  • Last Sunday in May – Carpet Day
  • June 27 – Day of Turkmen Workers of Culture and Art (introduced in 2009)
  • Third Sunday in July – Galla Bayramy (celebration of the wheat harvest)
  • Second Sunday in August – Turkmen Melon Day
  • Second Saturday in September – Day of the Workers in the Oil, Gas, Power, and Geological Industry
  • Second Sunday in September – Turkmen Bakhshi Day (celebrating the Turkmen folk singers)
  • October 6 – Day of Commemoration and National Mourning (commemorating the victims of the 1948 earthquake that destroyed Ashgabat)
  • October 27-28 – Independence Day
  • First Saturday in November – Health Day
  • Last Sunday in November – Harvest Festival (celebration of the cotton harvest)
  • First Sunday in December – Good Neighborliness Day
  • December 12 – Day of Neutrality and Student Youth Day. The day celebrates the status of permanent positive neutrality recognized by the UN General Assembly Resolution on Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan on December 12, 1995.
  • First day of the lunar month of Bayram (Shawwal) – Oraza Bayram (the Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Fitr), breaking of the fast at the end of the lunar month of Oraza (the ninth month in the Islamic calendar)
  • Moving holiday (3 days) – Kurban Bayram (the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha)

Culture Of Turkmenistan

Mass media

Turkmenistan publishes a variety of newspapers and monthly publications. Turkmenistan presently transmits seven national television stations via satellite. Altyn asyr, Yashlyk, Miras, Turkmenistan (in seven languages), Turkmen owazy, Turkmen sportive, and Ashgabat are among them. There are no commercial or private television channels in the country. State-controlled publications produce articles that are highly restricted and written to praise the state and its leader.

Central Asia has the least developed Internet services. The government’s ISP business, “Turkmentelekom,” provides internet access. Turkmenistan has 252,741 internet users as of December 31, 2011, accounting for approximately 5% of the entire population.


Education is universal and obligatory through the secondary level, with the overall length formerly lowered from 10 to 9 years; with the new President, mandatory education will be extended to 10 years beginning with the 2007–2008 school year. Since 2013, secondary general education in Turkmenistan has been divided into three stages lasting 12 years, as follows: Elementary school (grades 1-3), High School – the first cycle of secondary education lasting five years (4–8 classes), Secondary school – the second cycle of secondary education – must be completed in four years (9–12 courses).


The challenge for contemporary Turkmen architecture is to apply modern aesthetics in a variety of ways, to find one’s own creative style, and to incorporate the existing historico-cultural context. The majority of structures are faced with white marble. Turkmenistan Tower, Bagt köşgi, and the Alem Cultural and Entertainment Center have changed the country’s skyline and promoted its modern character.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Turkmenistan

Stay Safe in Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan is a safe and welcoming nation as long as visitors avoid political discussions. Politics is still a highly delicate subject, and it is your duty to avoid becoming involved in or speaking out against the government, since doing so is a felony. Do not, under any circumstances, criticize the President, the nation, or its people for the sake of safety and respect. Since Turkmenbashi’s death, things have calmed down a little, but the nation remains a closely regulated police state. Suparmurat Niyazov’s work The Ruhnama, written for Turkmens, is still published and taught in Turkmen schools. As a result, it is advisable to refrain from criticizing the previous President as well.

Turkmenistan, like any other Central Asian nation, has a high level of corruption. Corrupt officials and authorities may demand bribes; thus, if you are stopped for whatever reason, just pay the money. It is also conceivable that police may want papers from you. This is uncommon, but it may occur at any moment and they have the legal right to do so. You should bring your passport and visa, but it is preferable to produce a color scan of the first two pages of your passport and visa before you arrive. Carry the color copies with you when you go out, and keep the originals in the hotel safe. Also, make a duplicate of your visa page upon arrival. Scanned papers are nearly always sufficient. If not, inform the cops that he will need to come to your hotel to view the originals. Nonetheless, cops will want a bribe for this. Always be courteous, yet forceful, while dealing with the police. Although it is uncommon, cops may take visitors/locals to remote locations to beat up individuals for extra money, so be wary. Police are the most common issue you will encounter, and be advised that they are usually quite aggressive, particularly at night, so anticipate some harassment from them. The authorities regularly bug many hotels, including some of the best. Do not sign any papers given by the police if they are written in a language you do not understand, since they may attempt to rip you off for extra money. Just be nice to them and tell them you don’t understand.

A curfew prohibits individuals from leaving after 23:00, and this rule applies to both inhabitants and non-residents. You will be arrested if you go out. Taking cabs or hiring private drivers may help you avoid difficulties, but don’t become too reliant on this choice, since it may not save your life.

Photographs may be taken quite freely in Turkmenistan. However, while photographing anybody in uniform or government facilities, you should proceed with care. Every every corner in Ashgabat has a uniformed police/military officer. Play it safe at the start of your visit to give yourself a sense of what is acceptable. There aren’t many ‘no photo’ signs. Whether you are unsure, ask the next police officer if you are permitted to snap photographs.

If you choose to leave your hotel and go exploring, your guide should not be required to follow you. If you are a man, avoid strolling with a female companion; authorities may mistake this for walking with a prostitute and arrest you.

The majority of cabs are not controlled by any government licensing body, and drivers are often ordinary individuals seeking to earn a living. The majority of vehicles will lack seat belts and other safety features, and drivers may lack proper driving training. Visitors should definitely consider renting a private vehicle and driver via their travel agency or hotel for safety concerns.

The consequences of violating the law may be severe. Homosexual acts, prostitution, and sexual relations with prostitutes are all banned; homosexuality, for example, is punished by two years in jail.

Stay Healthy in Turkmenistan

Diphtheria, tetanus, polio, and hepatitis A and B vaccinations are suggested. A typhus vaccine is also advised if you remain in unsanitary circumstances, and a series of three rabies vaccinations is recommended for long-term stays and regular contact with animals, or if you are unable to travel to a clinic to be treated within 18 hours after being bitten.

Medical supplies do not meet American or European norms. Bring any medications you need for personal use, since they will be unavailable outside of Ashgabat. It is strongly advised to get travel insurance that includes hospitalization and an emergency trip back to your home country.

Drinking tap water should be avoided. Turkmen tap water is known to contain levels of harmful metals, which may cause long-term health issues.

Before eating fruits and vegetables, they should be peeled. Dairy products should be avoided since they are not pasteurized.



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Ashgabat is Turkmenistan’s capital and biggest city in Central Asia, located between the Karakum Desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range. The historical name for...