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Turkmenistan Guide & Travel Advice

Getting there

Only Turkmenistan Airlines fly direct to Turkmenistan from London Heathrow and Birmingham. Alternatively, connecting flights are operated by Turkish Airlines via Istanbul and Lufthansa with a stop en-route in Frankfurt.

Flying times

Direct flights from the UK take around 6 hours. Flights with stops en-route take between 10 and 11 hours.

Time zone

Turkmenistan is +5 hours ahead of GMT.

Visa requirements

A visa for Turkmenistan must be obtained prior to travel and your passport must be valid for at least six months from your proposed date of departure from Turkmenistan. We will arrange a letter of invitation which you will need to submit with your application and full details will be provided upon booking.

Do’s and don’ts

When men greet other men they do so with a handshake and saying ‘asalaam aleikum’. Women greet each other in similar fashion but nod their heads before saying the greeting.

Saving face is a feature in Turkmenistan culture, so you will probably not hear a direct ‘no’ response. You should try to do the same and use tact and negotiation.

It is wise to take a photocopy of your passport and visa entitlement everywhere you go and keep the originals at your hotel.

It is a criminal offence for anyone to smoke outside in any public areas so unless you see others smoking then it is best to err on the side of caution.

Always ask permission before taking photographs of people. Photography is prohibited at airports, police and military installations.

Money

The currency in Turkmenistan is known as the Manat (TMM) and each Manat is made up of 100 Tenne. You will find exchange offices all over and they take no commission. Although US dollars are preferred, Euros are also easy to exchange in Ashgabat but less so in other areas. As a rule credit cards are generally accepted and ATM machines are not common. Turkmenistan is predominately a cash society.

Tipping

Tipping is not expected or required in Turkmenistan, but a small tip in a restaurant will be appreciated. A guideline for tipping your drivers and guides will be advised prior to travel.

Food and drink

In Turkmenistan food is similar in style to that found in other Central Asian countries although, in some places, there is a Russian influence. Turkmen cuisine is not overly spiced or seasoned and it is often cooked in cottonseed oil to impart flavour. Borscht cabbage soup, entrecote steak, cutlet, which are are grilled meatballs, and strogan, the local equivalent of beef Stroganoff, are all popular. Turkmen specialities include plov, mutton, shredded yellow turnip and rice fried in a large wok, shashlyk, skewered mutton, charcoal grilled with raw sliced onion, lipioshka unleavened bread, shorpa meat and vegetable soup and ka’ura, deep fried mutton Turkmenistan is famous for melons and there are over 400 varieties available. There is even a day dedicated to melons known as Melon Day which celebrates the Turkmenbashi melon.

Green tea is probably the most widely consumed drink in Turkmenistan, however, coffee, fruit juice and soft drinks are widely available. For something different try gatyk, which is a yogurt drink, or the unofficial national drink ‘chal’ which is fermented fizzy camel milk. This can sometimes be alcoholic. Beer and vodka are also popular.

Holidays, festivals and celebrations

There are over twenty holidays, festivals and celebrations in Turkmenistan, many of which are celebrated on a Sunday. The most well-known include Memorial Day where public services are held to honour all those who have died fighting for Turkmenistan, Nowruz Bayram which marks the spring equinox, Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr and Independence Day – one of the most important days where traditional folklore tales are told and horsemanship shows take place.

Shopping

Shopping in Turkmenistan is a unique experience. The Sunday market in Ashgabat is the best place to buy rugs and the central bazaar has a range of food and curiosities. Outside of the capital city there are several other local bazaars where you can buy everything from rugs and Turkmen handicrafts to silver and traditional Turkmen sheepskin hats.

Suggested reading

Lonely Planet’s ‘Central Asia’ and the excellent Bradt Guide contain a wealth of information on Turkmenistan. Also of interest is ‘Turkmenistan – A Far Flung Places Guide: Adventures on the Silk Road’ – a very interesting book from Australian author Simon Proudman who delivers an entertaining and informative guide which covers the history or Turkmenistan, local cuisine and how to manage your journey. Recently, a new title 'Turkmenistan: Far Flung Places Travel Guide' has also been published by Simon Proudman. Other interesting books include ‘Daily Life in Turkmenbashy’s Golden Age’, by San Tranum, ‘Turkmenistan: Strategies of Power, Dilemmas of Development’, by Sebastien Peyrose, ‘The Lost Heart of Asia’, by Colin Thubron, ‘The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia’, by Peter Hopkirk, ‘Tradition and Society in Turkmenistan: Gender, Oral Culture and Song’, by Carole Blackwell and ‘Tribal Nation: The Making of Soviet Turkmenistan’, by Adrienne Lynn Edgar.

Health

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad but current recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Yellow Fever is compulsory, but only if you have visited an affected Yellow Fever area within 5 days prior to your arrival. In some instances anti-malarial tablets may also be needed. For current information on health advice you may wish to visit the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA) Web Site on www.masta.org. The NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website (www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk) is also a useful resource.

Travel advice

For current information on Turkmenistan the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly. We would also recommend visiting the Safer Tourism Foundation website (https://safertourism.org.uk/) before you travel and will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Turkmenistan Holiday Ideas

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