Turkmenistan Travel Advice
Security travel advice for Turkmenistan
Threat level: Medium-High
Travellers to Turkmenistan are advised to remain vigilant throughout their trip as there is an ongoing threat towards tourists across many Middle Eastern countries.
The country has a high security presence making it a relatively safe country to visit, however it also situated next to countries of a higher threat such as Afghanistan and Iran, both of which have unpredictable political and security situations at present. If you plan to travel close to the borders of these countries, you should seek professional security advice.
Recent Security Risk Events
Although the threat of terrorism is low, be aware that there are threats against certain nationalities which may be targeted when visiting the Middle East and Asia. Groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and al-Qaida remain active in Central Asia, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Although unlikely, please remain vigilant especially at locations which may be targets such as popular tourist destinations and be cautious during political or religious times of the year.
There are current restrictions in place for sensitive areas in the country. You will be required to apply for a permit to travel to restricted zones, which can take around ten days to process. The restricted areas are as follows:
- Border areas with Iran, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan
- All of Dashoguz, including Dashoguz City
- Some areas along the Caspian coast
Please note that due to the high domestic security presence, your communications or movements may be monitored by the state. You may also be subject to searches at checkpoints on some roads. Please carry your identification documents on your persons at all times.
The political situation is calm however you should avoid all political demonstrations if they begin to breakout as there is a high and enforced state of security in the region. As with all demonstrations and public gatherings please make your way to a safe area.
The crime rate for serious and petty crime is low and rarely targeted at tourists in the region, it is recommended that you carry out sensible security measures during your stay. Keeping a low profile of affluence in the area, securing your belongings and being aware of pick pocketing are all good measures to take.
Avoid going out alone at night, especially after midnight as this behaviour can make local law enforcement suspicious of your actions. Females in particular should not be unaccompanied as this will draw attention.
Turkmenistan remains largely a cash based society, there are international ATMs at some locations. These are the current available machines:
- The State Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs, 32 Garashsyzlyk st.
- 22 Asudalyk st. (near Magtymguly monument)
- Berkarar Mall, near the entrance to Kamil supermarket on the ground floor
- Ashgabat airport, arrival hall
You should be respectful of the country's local laws and customs, and take this into consideration at all times. Homosexual activity is illegal in Turkmenistan and can bode severe punishments including imprisonment. You should act discretely during your stay.
Relationships between foreign nationals and local women is generally frowned upon and can lead to action from authorities. Any woman leaving a club late at night with a foreign man is considered to be a prostitute.
Do not take photographs of official buildings as this is forbidden. This may apply to other buildings such as the presidential palace, airports, embassies and police stations, please ask permission before taking photos of such establishments. There is also strong feelings towards refraining from taking photos at Teke and Russian bazaars in Ashgabat.
It is against the law to smoke outside in Turkmenistan; this law extends to restaurants and other communal spaces (unless they contain a designated smoking area). There are new regulations on the import of cigarettes and these are limited to two packets of twenty cigarettes per person. It is against the law to gift tobacco. The sale of cigarettes is controlled by state run establishments and you should respect this.
Turkmenistan has a rich history; formally part of the Soviet Union it claimed its independence in 1991. Since 1995 its declaration of “permanent neutrality” was recognised by the United Nations, which restricts its military involvements.
The country has been criticised internationally for human rights abuses and its restrictions of travel on its citizens. There is some level of discrimination of minorities within the country and it is considered to be one of the most censored countries in the world. Like neighbouring Russia, it has a wealth of natural gas supplies, although this is overshadowed by its largest neighbour.
As with some other Middle Eastern countries the standards of driving are not on par with most western countries and as such care should be taken when driving and seat belts should be used at all times. You can drive with an international driving permit. The conditions of roads vary and are quite dangerous outside of the main areas especially at night. It is advised that you do not travel after dark.
Avoid travel by train as the services are slow and you can be at a higher risk of becoming a victim of crime. You may need permission to travel outside of Ashgabat.
Use only licensed taxis of which are yellow, some drivers may ask for payment in Menat, however other from popular destinations may incur higher costs and charge in U.S. dollars.
You should check with your mobile provider before leaving that your network will work, there is a state provided telephone provider Altyn Asyr however this does not provide roaming, the network is unstable. A sim card can be purchased which does provide roaming services by MTS a Russian provider. Take this into consideration if you require roaming on your phone for your trip.
Turkmenistan is within an active seismic earthquake zone, therefore take precautions and understand what you will need to do in the event of an emergency.
Currency: Turkmen new manat
Time now in Ashgabat:
Visas are required to enter Turkmenistan. Further information on requirements for Turkmenistan can be found at: Visa Check Turkmenistan
Entry to Turkmenistan is subject to a tourism tax of $2.
It is advised that visitors to Turkmenistan are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. You should ensure that you have been further vaccinated against diseases such as Tetanus, which is usually administered when you are a young baby. You may also want to consider Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccinations. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
The general standard of medical care and services in the country are poor and are almost non-existent beyond the capital city. It is highly advised that you avoid all but emergency treatment in the country as staff are often poorly trained and the facilities lack even the most basic equipment.
Typhoid is thought to be present in Turkmenistan and it is essential that personal hygiene is paramount. It is recommended that travellers avoid drinking tap water or filter and boil it before you do. Ice in drinks can also be unsanitary and can lead to unpleasant illnesses.
U.S. Embassy Ashgabat
9 1984 Street (formerly Pushkin Street,
Telephone: +99312 940045
British Embassy Ashgabat
3rd Floor Office Building,
Four Points Ak Altyn Hotel,
Telephone : +99365 712033
Other useful info
Police emergency: 02
Medical emergency: 03
Fire emergency: 01
Natural gas safety: 04
Telephone Directory: 09