10 things I wish I knew before going to Turkmenistan

Priyam Lahon14 August 20202284 views8 min. read
10 things I wish I knew before going to Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan is a unique country located in the southwest of the region of Central Asia. Turkmenistan population is consisting of 6 million people. For a country filled with barren lands and untamed terrain, Turkmenistan has a rich and diverse history. For many, this country is a difficult and mysterious country to set foot in, but despite that, it is one of the most interesting countries to feast your eyes on. The country, itself, is run by a regime that controls everything and even though they encourage tourism, all of your movements will still be watched. Fret not, the Turkmenistan people are very friendly, and will readily help you if you come upon any trouble. That said, there are a few things that you need to take heed of if you plan to travel to Turkmenistan. After all, this is a country that is mostly isolated from other countries and is rife with political issues. Within this article, you are going to find a lot of information that you should take note of - something that I wish I knew before I planned to travel to Turkmenistan.

1. Is it safe to travel to Turkmenistan?

Official statements claim that Turkmenistan is a safe country for tourists and even government sources claim that the country is crime-free. Note that no country in the world is free of crime. Turkmenistan is a relatively safe country to travel to, with very rare cases of violent crime, mugging, pickpockets, and property theft, but that doesn’t mean that you are not going to take any extra precautions. Given that the tourism industry in Turkmenistan is relatively new, however, if you forgo the necessities to keep yourself safe, then, you will land yourself in trouble. Thieves are always on the lookout for opportunities to rob you of your money in crowded venues such as local markets or they might even make their move in overnight crowded trains; there are also cases of bandits looting tourists in remote locations, though rare it is. Additionally, there are several regions in Turkmenistan that are restricted. Some of those areas are located near Iran’s borders, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and near the Dashoguz and Caspian Coast. That said, if you want to visit these regions, you will need a special permit from the government, and without it, even Turkmenistan Airlines won’t let you board a flight. A slight caveat: the process of getting a permit to visit the above-restricted areas takes anything from 10 to 15 days.

2. When is the best time to visit Turkmenistan?

avaza If you plan to travel to Turkmenistan, the best time to visit Turkmenistan is during the months of September to November and March to May. At this time the temperature in the country is quite pleasant. During the summers, the temperature can be unbearable, and the winter months can be extremely cold.

3. How can you enter Turkmenistan?

turkmenistan visa application form To enter Turkmenistan, it’s not that easy. First, you will need to get a Letter of Invitation from either an authorized or government-approved tour operator agency. Note that the process of getting an LOI is long – it takes 2 to 3 weeks. Once you have the LOI, you need to get a visa at the airport (it usually costs around $100 per person); that said, if you have a Turkmenistan consulate in your country, then, you can apply for your visa there. Note that it costs less than visa-on-arrival and the visa is stamped on the same day you apply for it. However, remember that while they can grant you the visa, on the other hand, they can also reject you, so that’s why it’s best to prepare for a plan B. Many avoid visiting this country for this very reason: it’s like playing a lottery! But don’t lose heart, most of the time, they will grant you a visa, but sometimes, it takes time and just in case, if yours is taking too long, apply again. There are many cases where people get their visas, but after applying at least four to five times! Additionally, you need to pay a migration duty per person (it costs only $12) at Turkmenistan Airlines and pay heed; they only take cash at the counter. Also, take note that upon entering the country, you will have to fill a customs declarations form that you have to keep with you until the entirety of your trip. This form will contain information about the articles that you can import into the country for your personal use such as currency, and valuables. Avoid ammunition, narcotics, and firearms. Just so you keep in mind – the process of customs inspection can be detailed and lengthy, in some cases, it may take as long as 2 to 3 hours.

4. Do you need a transit visa to enter Turkmenistan?

Smiling man airline The good news is that it’s not a necessity to have a transit visa on you if you plan to travel to Turkmenistan, but say, if you have one, you won’t need any tour agency or an LOI, plus, you can also explore the country on your own terms. However, the transit visa is valid for 5 days, and in some cases, it may even be 3 or 7 days. This means that you can’t enter the country before the date and you have to leave the country before the expiry date.

5. Can you explore Turkmenistan on your own with a tourist visa?

visa application form The short answer is no. With a tourist visa, you can’t explore Turkmenistan on your own. Only with a transit visa, can you do that. Are you wondering what is the capital city of Turkmenistan? Well, the capital of Turkmenistan is Ashgabat and with a tourist visa, the far you can go is wander a bit in the capital of Turkmenistan. Ashgabat – the city may be the largest and is worth looking into, but as a country, Turkmenistan has a lot to offer, and if you plan to visit the wonders, you will need a travel guide with you. Plus, keep in mind that it is illegal for any tourist to travel to Turkmenistan on a tourist visa and without any travel guide.

6. Should you opt for taxis in Turkmenistan?

tourist holding collection of turkmenistan manat Yes, you can, and the best will be license taxis (they are yellow in colour) – there are cases of tourists robbed when travelling in unlicensed taxis plus the fare is cheap, it costs about 19 to 30 Turkmenistan manat ($ 5 to $10). That said, there are many local ATMs that can help you to convert your money to Turkmenistan currency, Turkmenistan manat. That said, if you want to tip the driver, though it’s not a necessity, it’s always up to you. They will surely appreciate it if you tip them for their good services. Also, take note that the country has an 11 pm curfew, so, it’s advised that you don’t travel anywhere during that time. Above all, use your common sense, don’t go anywhere alone, keep yourself safe and avoid flashing any of your belongings, and secure your money.

7. Can you take medications to Turkmenistan?

Morphine, codeine, tramadol, temazepam, or any other similar components found in medications are prohibited in Turkmenistan, and this includes over-the-counter medication, including components such as easy-to-get Nurofen. Even if you are in transit, avoid these medications at any cost, or else the custom officials will treat you as a drug dealer bringing illegal narcotics into the country and even if you bring a doctor’s description, it won’t make any difference to them. Any other medications, with the exception of the above components, are safe to take but do remember to bring the prescription along and show it to the customs officials.

8. Can you smoke in Turkmenistan?

It is not entirely illegal to have tobacco in your person during your travel to Turkmenistan, but they do have strict laws against any tobacco products. You can’t smoke publicly in the country, and it is prohibited to sell any tobacco products plus, you can only import two small packs of cigarettes. It’s recommended that you avoid bringing any tobacco products including vaping and e-cigarettes into Turkmenistan altogether, as breaking laws can lead you to pay hefty fines or worse, land you in jail.

9. Is tap water safe to drink in Turkmenistan?

That’s a strict no-no. You shouldn’t drink any tap water in Turkmenistan. Your best bet is to opt for bottled water, and which is available throughout the country. However, since you are a tourist, you can make do with a reusable bottle to save money that comes with a built-in filter and will help you to reduce plastic waste.

10. Is it safe to eat in Turkmenistan?

shurpa soup Food-borne diseases can happen in any destination, so, it’s advised that you play it safe. In Turkmenistan, opt for cooked food, and if anything looks undercooked, avoid it at once. Turkmenistan is mainly a non-vegetarian country, so, if you are a vegan, you may have to struggle to find vegan products. What you should do is to order specially prepared food, plus, it also helps, that Turkmenistan is full of local markets, and where you will find plenty of fresh and organic fruits and vegetables.

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