Turkmenistan is a central Asian country bordered byIran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and the Caspian Sea, andis considered to be a somewhat off-beat destination. It has asubtropical desert climate with long, hot summers and cold and drywinters.
Turkmenistan is home to a good few captivatingattractions, despite the fact that much of the country is desertand that the capital city Ashgabat was almost totally destroyed bya 1948 earthquake.
For those among visitors who are interested in thecountry's history, Turkmenistan certainly has one worth exploring.The country achieved independence from the former Soviet Union in1991 under the eccentric leadership of President Niyazov who ruledas dictator until his death in 2006.
Niyazov took autocratic narcissism to heightsunscaled by some of the world's most notorious dictators. Herenamed Monday after himself and decreed that bread be referred toby his mother's name, while he also famously insisted on beingreferred to as Turkmenbashi, which means 'Father of allTurkmen'.
Although Turkmenistan is a young state, this regionis one of the oldest inhabited areas on earth. Dekhistan is aconsidered a lost city of the Silk Road, with its remote10th-century ruins making for a fascinating excursion into thedesert. Near the city of Mary are the remains of the ancientPersian town of Merv. With over 4,000 years of history, this is theoldest and best preserved oasis city on the Silk Road.
Despite these intriguing attractions, Turkmenistanstill receives more business travellers than tourists. WithNiyazov's demise, there are signs the country is opening up a bitbut nevertheless Turkmenistan will in all likelihood remain anunconventional destination for some time to come.
Turkmen is the official language of Turkmenistan. Russianis widely spoken in cities though as a "language of inter-ethniccommunication". Turkmen is spoken by 72 percent of the population,Russian, Uzbek, other languages by a lesser degree.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pinattachment plugs are in use.
US citizens require a valid passport. Visa required.
UK citizens require valid passport. Visa required.
Canadian citizens require valid passport. Visa required.
Australian citizens require valid passport. Visa required.
SA citizens require valid passport. Visa required.
Irish citizens require valid passport. Visa required.
US citizens require a valid passport. Visa required.
NZ citizens require valid passport. Visa required.
Visitors to Turkmenistan and transit passengers are required tohold sufficient funds and onward/ return tickets and documentationfor the duration of their stay in the country. Tourists visas canbe obtained through embassies or consulates of Turkmenistan, or onarrival at the Ashgabat airport. These visas can be obtained for amaximum stay of 10 days provided the visitor has a letter ofinvitation from a travel company licensed in Turkmenistan. Visasobtained on arrival are generally more expensive than othervisas.
Visas issued are for the whole of the territory of Turkmenistan,however special permits are required for the following places:Atamurat, Cheleken, Dashoguz, Serahs, and Serhetabat. Valid visasin expired passports are accepted provided that the passport holderalso has a valid passport for the same nationality. Immigrationauthorities in Turkmenistan simply transfer the visa into your newpassport on arrival for a fee.
All visitors to Turkmenistan are required to fill out a landingcard which incurs a USD 12 fee. Furthermore, visitors must registerthemselves with the police department within three days of arrival.It is highly recommended that passports have at least six monthsvalidity remaining after your intended date of departure from yourtravel destination. Immigration officials often apply differentrules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
No vaccinations are required by visitors toTurkmenistan. However, outbreaks of Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B,meningitis, and diphtheria occur, and there is a risk of malaria,so the relevant vaccines are recommended.
It is also recommended that all travellers to thecountry get vaccines for Rabies, especially for those spending alot of time outdoors, as well as for measles, mumps, rubella (MMR),and typhoid. For any adult traveller who completed the childhoodseries of vaccines for polio but never had the polio vaccine as anadult, a booster is recommended.
Visitors should only drink bottled water. Hospitalsoffer adequate basic medical care but serious cases will usually betreated outside of the country. Visitors should ensure that theyhave comprehensive medical insurance.
Tipping is common in restaurants and bars, and is usually 5-10percent. Some tourist hotels, restaurants, and upmarketinstitutions will usually include service charge in the bill.
Travel to Turkmenistan is generally problem-free. But foreignersshould take normal safety precautions, such as avoiding travelafter dark or in deserted and unfamiliar areas. Occasional muggingsdo occur.
A general threat of terrorism exists, particularly in placesfrequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. Planneddemonstrations should be avoided and it must be noted that visitorsshould carry passports/identity documents with them at all times.Otherwise, there is a chance of detention.
Etiquette in Turkmenistan is governed by Islamic principles,though the state is officially secular. Conservative dress isrequired at all times and neither women nor men wear shorts.Respect for elders is considered very important. Do not refer toTurkmens as Russians or Soviets and avoid criticising the countryin front of locals.
Office hours are generally Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm. Mengreet each other with handshakes.
The international dialling code for Turkmenistan is +993. Theoutgoing code is 8-10 followed by the relevant country code (e.g.8-10 44 for the UK). City codes are in use, e.g. (12) for Ashgabat.International taxophones, using phone cards, are the cheapest wayto make calls. A GSM mobile network covers the cities, and Internetusage is growing in the major cities.
Travellers to Turkmenistan over the age of 21 years can import 2litres of any alcoholic beverage without paying duty; those over 16years of age may import 200 cigarettes or 200g of tobacco andpersonal belongings up to a reasonable value. All narcotics,firearms, ammunition and accessories, and antiquities areprohibited from either import or export. The customs declaration,filled out upon entry to Turkmenistan, should be retained. Whenleaving, this form may be used to audit items for export.