Asia and Oceania

Turkmenistan Flag of Turkmenistan

Still current at: 11 June 2008
Updated: 15 April 2008

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Summary (most common cause of consular assistance in 2007).  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)


Travel advice for this country


Travel Summary

  • There is a low threat from terrorism.  But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public places, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

  • You should carry an identity document at all times.  Requests to produce proof of identity, for example by the police, are frequent.

  • Do not overstay your visa.  You should also register with the State Service of Turkmenistan for the Registration of Foreign Nationals if you are staying for more than three days.  See the Entry Requirements (Registration) section of this advice for more details.

  • You should ensure your inoculations are up to date.  Typhoid and Hepatitis A are endemic.  See the Health section of this advice for more details.

  • Most visits to Turkmenistan are trouble-free. We are not aware of any British nationals who required consular assistance in Turkmenistan in 2007.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.

Safety and security

Terrorism

There is a low threat from terrorism.  But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public places, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. 

Crime

As in most cities there are occasional incidents of mugging, theft and pick-pocketing, especially at local markets.  You should take sensible precautions when travelling or walking in the street and keep valuables out of sight.  Women should avoid going out alone late at night.
 
Political Situation
 
The situation remains peaceful and there are signs of the relaxation of some regulations.  Nonetheless, there is traditionally a relatively high state of security in Turkmenistan.  You should be cautious and make sure your travel documents are in order and are carried at all times.
 
Local Travel
 
Certain areas of the country (particularly border areas) are designated restricted zones, and require special permission to enter.  Ashgabat, the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi, and the ancient silk road city of Merv/Mary are not in restricted areas.
 
Road Travel
 
International driving licences are valid in Turkmenistan.
 
Road travel at night outside of the cities is dangerous because of the poor condition of the roads.  Driving standards are poor.  Seat belts should be worn at all times but be aware that many taxis do not have them.
 
Rail Travel
 
Rail travel is slow and uncomfortable.  If you have to travel overnight, store valuables in a safe place.  Do not leave the compartment unattended and secure the door from the inside.
 
Air Travel
 
It is not clear whether maintenance procedures are always properly observed on internal flights.  These concerns do not apply to flights originating outside the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Local laws and customs

Possession and use of drugs is illegal and, if found guilty, you could face a lengthy prison sentence in very basic conditions.
 
Male homosexual activity is illegal, punishable by a custodial sentence.  The position regarding the legality of homosexuality in Turkmenistan is unclear.  Homosexuality is still very much frowned upon socially.  You should take care over public displays of affection.
 
Photography of many official buildings is forbidden.  You should check before taking photographs near possibly sensitive sites e.g. airports, military barracks, police stations, etc. 

Entry requirements

Visas
 
British nationals require a visa to enter Turkmenistan.  A Letter of Invitation, certified by the State Service of Turkmenistan for the Registration of Foreign Nationals, is needed from a private individual or company to support the visa application.  For tourists, these can be obtained from authorised travel agents (a list is available from the British Embassy in Ashgabat).  For businessmen visiting for the first time, letters can be issued via the Chamber of Commerce (+99 312 35 45 94/35-47-17).
 
Without prior approval from the Turkmen authorities, it is not possible to buy a visa to enter Turkmenistan on arrival at either Ashgabat airport or the ferry port at Turkmenbashy. If you break your journey or attempt to enter Turkmenistan without the appropriate visa you can be assured of a long and uncomfortable wait in the offices of the Immigration Service at the airport or ferry port.
 
Since 14 October 2005, all foreign nationals, including British nationals, require visas to transit Turkmenistan by train.

Passport validity

There should be at least six months validity remaining on your passport when you apply for a Turkmen visa.

Caspian Sea ferry services
 
Similarly, if you intend to travel from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan across the Caspian Sea you should be aware that it is not possible to buy a visa on arrival at Baku seaport.  You should therefore ensure that you have a valid visa to enter Azerbaijan if you take the ferry, although this rule does not apply if you are entering Azerbaijan by air (see Travel advice: Azerbaijan for more detail).
 
On arrival
 
On arrival, you have to complete a migration card and pay a US$10 migration fee.  The authorities will retain one copy of the card.  The other must be handed over on departure and so must be kept safely for the duration of your stay.  There is also a US$25 departure tax.
 
Registration
 
You must register within three days of arrival, with the State Service of Turkmenistan for the Registration of Foreign Nationals at their office at 57 Azadi Street, Ashgabat.  This registration procedure is to be carried out by your employers, inviting organisation or individual.  Tourists will be registered by their Turkmen travel agent.  Registration is for the period of the visa.  If you are not staying in Ashgabat, you should register at the local velayat office of your place of residence (there is no need to register both in Ashgabat and regionally).  You should bring two passport size photos for registration purposes.  The State Service of Turkmenistan on Registration of Foreign Nationals requires a letter from your host organisation or individual confirming your departure from Turkmenistan.  The local registration authorities have abolished the requirement for a de-registration stamp in the passport itself.  Non-compliance with this requirement could lead to prosecution and possible detention.
 
If you are staying for more than three days you should register with the British Embassy in Ashgabat for the duration of your stay (tel: +99 312 36 34 98; fax: +99 312 36 34 65; email beasb@online.tm.  Online registration is also available under "consular services" on the Embassy website at:  http://www.britishembassy.gov.uk/turkmenistan
 
Transiting Turkmenistan
 
If you are transiting the country, you can be registered at entry and exit points if your stay is not longer than 5 days and you hold a valid transit visa.  Transit visitors cannot change their visas in-country, and need to notify the authorities if they intend to vary their route through the country.
 
For stays over three months
 
If you are entering Turkmenistan for employment, study or private purposes for a stay of over three months, you must produce an HIV certificate.
 
Travelling with children
 
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.

Health

The quality of medical care varies. Some diagnostic facilities, particularly in Ashgabat, are reasonably good. However, any subsequent treatment may be unreliable or even unwise due to poorly trained staff, limited facilities and a lack of drugs and equipment. Anything other than basic or emergency treatment, particularly away from the capital, is best avoided. You should have up to date accident and medical insurance including cover for repatriation.

Tap water is unsafe if not boiled and filtered, and you should try to drink only bottled water.  Typhoid and Hepatitis A are endemic.  Due to the extreme temperatures in the summer (up to 50 Celsius in the shade) drink plenty of water, as dehydration is common.  You should beware of sunburn in the summer (May-September).
 
If you plan to visit southern areas of Turkmenistan (next to the Afghanistan border) between June to October, you should seek advice before your departure on anti-malarial medication.
 
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.  NHS Direct (0845 46 47) can provide you with advice on the vaccination requirements for Turkmenistan.

For further information on endemic diseases, like malaria, health outbreaks and vaccination requirements for Turkmenistan you should check the websites of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) at: NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland’s Fit for Travel at: NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel

Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

There have been no reported cases of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in Turkmenistan during the current series of outbreaks.  But the World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed cases elsewhere in the region.  
 
NATURAL DISASTERS
 
Turkmenistan is located in an active seismic zone.  Earth tremors can occur and there is a possibility of earthquakes.

General

Insurance
 
Comprehensive travel and medical insurance, including evacuation by air ambulance, is essential.  Medical facilities are very poor.  Health insurance is essential.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.

It is advisable to have comprehensive travel insurance cover for unexpected losses such as cancelled flights, stolen cash, passport or luggage.
 
Passports

You should carry your passport or other travel documents at all times.  Requests to produce proof of identity, for example by the police, are frequent.
 
The British Embassy in Ashgabat does not issue passports.  Applications for a new passport can be submitted to the British Embassy in Ashgabat will be forwarded either by courier at the applicant’s expense or by diplomatic bag free of charge, to the British Embassy in Moscow for processing.  When possible you are advised to apply at least two months before your passport is due to expire.  You will be allowed to retain your old passport while waiting for a replacement to be processed and returned.  In exceptional circumstances, the British Embassy in Ashgabat can issue an Emergency Passport, which is valid for a single journey back to the UK.
 
Electricity
 
The electricity supply is 200V.  Appliances use two pin round plugs.
 
Money
 
There are no ATM’s in Turkmenistan. Credit cards are only accepted in a few of the main hotels, but Visa cards can be used to obtain cash at the Vnesheconom Bank in Ashgabat and Master Cards may be used at Senagat Bank, again only in Ashgabat.  The fee is currently 5% of the amount withdrawn.  US Dollars can be used in major hotels and in some other tourist facilities.  It is advisable to carry new notes in low denominations.  Other currencies are difficult to exchange.

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