Turkmenistan is a country located in Asia with name that begins with letter T. The Central Asian state of Turkmenistan stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to Uzbekistan, from Kazakhstan in the north to Afghanistan and Iran in the south. At around 488,000 km 2, the country is somewhat larger than Germany, Austria and Switzerland combined, but only has 5.5 million residents.
The capital Ashgabat was rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 1948 and impresses with some futuristic monumental buildings, a myriad of fountains and gilded or marble witnesses of the personality cult around the authoritarian heads of state of the country.
Turkmenistan’s entry requirements are among the most complicated in the world. The country tries to seal itself off from individual travelers. Only the Turkmen embassy can provide binding information on the current status of entry regulations.
The continental climate of Turkmenistan brings dry, hot summers with temperatures of over 45 degrees and cold winters with values below minus 30 degrees. Precipitation is rare and not very productive.
The pronounced continental climate in Turkmenistan shows large temperature differences between day and night and also from season to season. As the southernmost region of the former Soviet Union, Turkmenistan has by far the highest temperatures in Central Asia, but since it has low humidity even in summer, it is still bearable. In the south, the climate is a little less continental than in the north, and temperatures rarely drop below -5 °C. The northern areas on the Uzbek border can get extremely cold in winter, with temperatures as low as minus 20 °C. The best months to travel with moderate temperatures are April and May, when the desert and mountains are in bloom. September and October are also ideal, as there is an overabundance of fresh fruit and vegetables here due to the harvest time.
Food and drink
Lamb, pork and chicken, and fish on the Caspian Sea, are mostly grilled over charcoal and eaten with raw onions and flatbread. There is also pilaf with lamb, carrots, raisins and garlic and countless variations of filled dumplings, some cooked, some steamed and some baked. The usual breakfast drink is the kefir-like Gatyk, the rest of the day you usually drink green tea, and vodka as well.
Turkmenistan is one of the least visited countries in the world. Turkmens like to invite tourists out of traditional hospitality and curiosity about foreigners. The specialty called chal from fermented camel milk, which is often served, should be tried carefully. It is considered a challenge for both the palate and digestion.
No vaccinations are required for entry, the standard vaccination protection is sufficient. However, tap water should definitely not be consumed. A personal first aid kit and additional insurance including repatriation in the event of illness are advisable.
The strong police presence in the dictatorial country also has its good points: Turkmenistan is a safe travel destination with a very low crime rate. The usual precautionary measures against theft should nevertheless be observed.
Central European Time (CET) +5 hours, no daylight saving time. When it is 12 noon in Germany, it is 5 pm in Turkmenistan. You must therefore put your watch forward by 5 hours on the flight to Turkmenistan.
Turkmenistan borders clockwise and starting in the north with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran and the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan has no access to the open sea, but the Caspian Sea coast is 1,768 kilometers long. Almost 95% of the land area is taken up by the Karakum Desert, which consists of both sand and rubble desert. In the west, the Turkmenbasy plateau and the Great Balkans extend with heights of up to 1,880 m above sea level. NN. The Great Balkans falls south to the Karakum Canal, the main Turkmen canal, and on the other side of the canal merges into the Kopet Dag Mountains, which are mostly located in Iran. The highest mountain in the country, the Ayrybaba with 3,139 meters is located on the eastern border with Uzbekistan.
Turkmenistan is largely dominated by arid regions and is still home to numerous larger animal species that are characteristic of steppe areas. These include half donkeys and goitered gazelles, mainly the mountainous regions in the south are also inhabited by urials (steppe sheep) and wild goats, as well as larger predators such as the leopard. An important protected area in Turkmenistan is the Badkhyz Nature Reserve in the south of the country, which was once the last refuge of the Turkmen half-ass and is also one of the most important refuges for the goitered gazelle in Turkmenistan.
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
The main part of the population are the Turkmens with around 77%. The largest minorities are Uzbeks (9%), Russians (7%), Kazakhs (2%), Tatars (1.1%), Azerbaijanis (0.8%), Baluch (0.8%), Armenians (0, 8%) and Ukrainians (0.5%). Koreans and Tajiks also settle in Turkmenistan.
The highest population densities are found in the oases in the foothills of the Kopet-Dag Mountains, the regions on the lower reaches of the Tedschen and Murgab rivers, the Amudarja valley and the areas on the Karakum Canal. 46% of the residents live in cities. The largest cities are (as of 2011): A? Gabat (950,000 residents), Türkmenabat (234,828 residents), Da? Oguz (285,360 residents), Mary (126,150 residents), Serdar (93,692 residents) and Baýramaly (91,713 residents).
About 90% of the population are Muslim (mostly Sunnis and only about 120,000 Shiites). 9% of the population belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. The following communities are represented as other significant religious minorities: Jews, followers of the Roman Catholic Church, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, New Apostolic Church and Baha’i.
The Jewish religion is not recognized as such in Turkmenistan. The practice of religion is tolerated, however. However, there are no synagogues. About 1000 Jews live in Turkmenistan. Most of them had settled here during World War II. They were refugees from Ukraine. Another group are the long-established Bucharian Jews. Many Turkmen Jews have emigrated to Germany and Israel in recent years.
According to the constitution, Turkmenistan is a democratic presidential republic. However, only one party is registered that occupies 100% of the seats in the national and regional parliament. The holder of the presidential office is both head of state and government and has extensive, almost dictatorial powers. According to the constitution, he is directly elected by the people for five years. He determines the guidelines of politics, has an unrestricted right of regulation and appoints the members of the government. The office of Deputy Prime Minister is also planned. By virtue of his office, the president of the country is also chairman of both chambers of parliament, but a vice-president is appointed for each chamber of parliament, who in fact exercises the function of chairman. These offices likewise the post of vice-prime minister until 2001, experienced frequent personnel changes in the years before Nyýazov’s death. The current president is Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who took power in December 2006 after Niyazov’s death. He was re-elected on February 12, 2012.
Turkmenistan is a member of the UN, the CIS (association only, no membership), the ECO, the OIC and the OATCT, as well as the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). It has declared itself neutral in terms of foreign policy. Due to its form of government, among other things, Turkmenistan is politically in a relative international isolation. Relations with the People’s Republic of China, Russia, Iran and Turkey are particularly good. However, there are also areas of conflict with neighboring countries. As one of only six states worldwide, the country has not applied for membership in the World Trade Organization.
Turkmenistan is one of the safest travel countries in the world. The crime rate is extremely low and crimes of any kind are almost unknown due to the widespread police presence. Ashgabat’s streets and parks are also safe at night. Despite everything, the usual precautionary measures in your home country should be observed at all times and valuables, large sums of cash, jewelry or expensive technical equipment should not be presented too obviously.
After 11 p.m., more police checks are carried out on the streets of the capital. In any case, stay calm and matter-of-fact, avoid behavior that could be perceived as a threat by the inspectors, and insist on calling someone who speaks Turkmen or Russian if you have problems understanding.
It happens again and again that travelers report that the hotel room intended for foreigners should be equipped with eavesdropping devices and sometimes cameras. We would therefore like to ask you to take this option into account when talking to you in the hotel room.
MONEY, ELECTRICITY, TELEPHONE
The local currency is the new Turkmen manat (since January 1, 2009). 1 manat = 100 tenge, the currency abbreviation is TMT. Banknotes are available in values of 500, 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1 manat. Coins are in circulation in denominations of 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 tenge.
Currency exchange is only allowed in approved banks or exchange offices. Cash is common, only US dollars are accepted. Make sure that you ask the bank for dollar bills that are as flawless as possible (printed since 1996), as older bills or even damaged or discolored bills will be rejected without exception.
All invoices must be paid in foreign currency; for package tours, payment is made in advance.
Locations of functioning ATMs are not yet known. Credit cards (Mastercard or Visacard) are only accepted in a few 5-star hotels and in two banks in Ashgabat.
Travelers checks are only accepted by a bank that has an agreement with the Turkmen National Bank.
Only Turkmen citizens are allowed to import and export the local currency. The import of foreign currencies is unlimited. However, there is a declaration requirement. The export can only take place in the amount declared on entry. The exchange of manat for dollars is only possible with an exchange receipt. It is therefore essential that you keep your exchange receipts; you may also be asked for them when you leave the country.
For US $ 1 you get an official 3.5 TMT (Manat) (as of 2019). The unofficial rate is many times higher, but we strongly advise against it, as arrests by the omnipresent and less squeamish police apparatus are to be expected.
In many places it is easy to pay with US $: photo fees in UNESCO sites, food and drink in hotels or restaurants or larger purchases in the bazaar. But there are also places where US $ are not accepted: tea rooms, smaller markets, shops outside Ashgabat or in villages. At Ashgabat Airport it is possible to get a Manat from an exchange office or ATM. For the small expenses in local currency, 20-30 EUR are sufficient. Please note that the amount cannot be exchanged back!
As in all countries of the former Soviet Union, the power supply in Turkmenistan is 220 V / 50 Hz. AC. However, the sockets differ from the German ones and are not uniform within Turkmenistan, so a world adapter should be in the luggage and enough batteries for all battery-operated devices.
Stay in touch
The area code for Germany, Austria and Switzerland to Turkmenistan is 00993, from Turkmenistan to Germany you dial 81049, to Austria 81043 and to Switzerland 81041. Dial-up telephony is possible within Turkmenistan. Long-distance calls abroad are arranged by the long-distance office or can be made by the main post office. Larger hotels offer guests a fax service. EMERGENCY NUMBERS: Emergency doctor 02, police 03, fire brigade 01.
In Turkmenistan, the entire mobile phone sector is in the hands of only two providers: TM Cell (Altyn Asyr, Turkmen) and MTS (MTC, Russian). If your provider has an agreement with MTS (applies to the major German operators), your cell phone will work in Turkmenistan.
There are some Internet cafés in Ashgabad (passport is required). However, you should always be aware of the fact that the Internet is being closely monitored as you surf and write messages. All data traffic is handled by the only – state – provider and stored linked to the name of the user. Criticism of the president can have serious consequences. The connection speed is very slow. Many pages are completely blocked. Repeated attempts to access blocked pages or the transmission of content critical of the government (and such content that could be interpreted accordingly) can lead to considerable problems and, depending on the content, is considered a criminal offense. Accordingly, restraint is appropriate here too.