Turkmenistan is a largely desert country with intensive agriculture in irrigated oases and large gas and oil resources. One-half of its irrigated land is planted in cotton; formerly it was the world's tenth-largest producer. Poor harvests in recent years have led to an almost 50% decline in cotton exports. With an authoritarian ex-Communist regime in power and a tribally based social structure, Turkmenistan has taken a cautious approach to economic reform, hoping to use gas and cotton sales to sustain its inefficient economy. Privatization goals remain limited. In 1998-2005, Turkmenistan suffered from the continued lack of adequate export routes for natural gas and from obligations on extensive short-term external debt. At the same time, however, total exports rose by 20% to 30% per year in 2003-2005, largely because of higher international oil and gas prices. In 2005, Ashgabat sought to raise natural gas export prices to its main customers, Russia and Ukraine, from $44 per thousand cubic meters (tcm) to $66 per tcm. Overall prospects in the near future are discouraging because of widespread internal poverty, the burden of foreign debt, the government's irrational use of oil and gas revenues, and its unwillingness to adopt market-oriented reforms. Turkmenistan's economic statistics are state secrets, and GDP and other figures are subject to wide margins of error. In particular, the rate of GDP growth is uncertain.
Turkmen natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, sulfur, salt
landlocked; the western and central low-lying, desolate portions of the country make up the great Garagum (Kara-Kum) desert, which occupies over 80% of the country; eastern part is plateau
Turkmen religion is Muslim 89%, Eastern Orthodox 9%, unknown 2%.
Natural hazards in Turkmenistan include NA.
Travel Advice for TurkmenistanTurkmenistan
This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Summary. The overall level of the advice has not changed.SUMMARY
SAFETY AND SECURITY
- The land border between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan has been closed. Security has been strengthened on the other land borders.
- Turkmenistan has toughened regulations for entering the country in connection with the mourning for the death of the president on 21 December 2006. Entry into the country is now permitted only if a visa had been obtained earlier. Previously, if a person had an invitation, they could obtain a visa on their arrival in the country, but this procedure has now been abolished.
- The President of Turkmenistan died on 21 December 2006. The funeral is scheduled for 24 December. The situation appears calm.
- You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be against civilian targets including places frequented by foreigners.
- 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 Entry Requirements section below).
- You should ensure your inoculations are up to date. Typhoid and Hepatitis A are endemic.
- Most visits to Turkmenistan are trouble-free. The main type of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in Turkmenistan is for Visa, Police Registration & Medical/Hospital Assistance.
- 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 the activities you want to undertake. Please see: Travel Insurance
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.
On 25 November 2002, there was a reported assassination attempt on the President of Turkmenistan. Some foreign nationals were detained by the authorities in connection with this event. Since then, there has been a heightened state of security in Turkmenistan. You should be cautious and make sure your travel documents are in order and are carried at all times.
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.
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, be aware that many taxis do not have them.
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.
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.
The position regarding the legality of homosexuality in Turkmenistan is unclear. The country adopted a new penal code in 1997, which has since been signed into law by the President. However, it is unclear whether the original articles, which criminalised homosexuality, have been repealed. 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
The following requirements are subject to change. You should consult the Turkmen representation in the UK as to precise regulations and required documentation well in advance of your intended travel date.
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).
Since 14 October 2005, all foreign nationals, including British nationals, require visas to transit Turkmenistan by train.
All visa applications made at Turkmen Embassies overseas are referred to Ashgabat for a decision. This can take 20 days or more. There is an accelerated 24 hours service, but a supplementary fee of approximately US$150 will be charged.
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.
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; e-mail online registration available under Consular Services on the Embassy’s website at: http://www.britishembassy.gov.uk/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.
If you are entering Turkmenistan for employment, study or private purposes for a stay of over three months, you must produce an HIV certificate.
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. For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact the Turkmen representation in the UK.HEALTH
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 the activities you want to undertake. Please see: Travel Insurance.
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. For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk.
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. You should read this advice in conjunction with the Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet.
Turkmenistan is located in an active seismic zone. Earth tremors can occur and there is a possibility of earthquakes.GENERAL
If things go wrong when overseas please see: What We Can Do To Help.
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.
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 (only in Ashgabat) for a fee. 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.
It is advisable to have comprehensive travel insurance cover for unexpected losses such as cancelled flights, stolen cash, passport or luggage.
The electricity supply is 200V. Appliances use two pin round plugs.