Turkmenistan, officially - Turkmenistan is located in Central Asia. It received its modern borders only in 1923-1924. The independence of the country was proclaimed on October 27, 1991. The official form of government is a secular constitutional unitary presidential republic, but in fact it is a secular-traditionalist super-presidential totalitarian-isolationist hereditary dictatorship, with an almost ultra-right unspoken nationalist ideology of the superiority of the Turkmen-Tekins.

Turkmenistan is the 4th country in the world in terms of natural gas reserves. The territory of the country has a rich and ancient history.

The area of the country is 491,200 km². The country is located in the southwestern part of Central (Middle) Asia, mainly within the Turan lowland and the Karakum desert. Turkmenistan borders with Iran in the south and with Afghanistan in the south and southeast, with Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in the north, in the west the coast is washed by the waters of the Caspian Sea.

The Karakum desert occupies the central part of the country, stretching from west to east for 880 km (375,000 sq. km). Most of the country (about 80%) is a sandy plain. The southern parts of the country are occupied by the Kopetdag mountains, which are a buffer between Turkmenistan and Iran. In the east of the country is the Kugitangtau cave, where the remains of ancient dinosaurs were found. The Amu Darya River flows through the country.

As of 2022, more than 6.2 million people officially live in Turkmenistan, and according to unofficial data, no more than 3-3.5 million people remain in the country (due to irrevocable emigration). The vast majority of the population are Sunni Muslims (Hanafis) - over 96%. Christians (mainly Orthodox and the Armenian Church) make up about 3% of the population, other religions (Shia, Protestant movements, Baha'is and others) - about 2%.

More than 80% of the population is officially classified as Turkmen, but this number includes ethnic Uzbeks and representatives of other Turkic peoples, who are recorded as Turkmen as part of the ongoing “Turkmenization” in the country. The largest national minorities are Uzbeks and Russians.



Akhal velayat is the central region of the country, the administrative center of which is the small town of Annau. On the territory of this velayat is located the capital of the country - Ashgabat, which is considered a city with the rights of a velayat. The northern part of the region is occupied by the Karakum desert, but the southern territories are occupied by the picturesque mountains of Kopetdag, which separate Turkmenistan from Iran. On the territory of the velayat there are ruins and monuments of the ancient Parthian city of Nisa, which are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The population of Akhal velayat (excluding Ashgabat) is officially about one million people, the bulk of which are Turkmens from the Tekin tribe.

The Balkan velayat is the western region of the country, which is washed by the Caspian Sea, and from the north and south it borders on Kazakhstan and Iran, respectively. The administrative center is the port city of Turkmenbashi. It is one of the most developed regions of the country. Avaza, the country's largest seaside resort, is located on the territory of the Balkan velayat. The official population is approximately 800,000, the majority of which are Turkmens, but there are also Russians, Tatars and Ukrainians in significant numbers.

Dashoguz velayat is the northern region of the country, which borders on Uzbekistan. The administrative center is the city of Dashoguz (it was renamed as part of the “Turkmenization” policy, it used to be called Tashauz). It is one of the most interesting regions of Turkmenistan in terms of archeology and ancient architecture. Ancient buildings of the era of the pre-Mongol invasion, built in the ancient Khorezm style, have been preserved here. The population of the velayat is approximately 1.8 million people. Unlike other regions, in the Dashoguz velayat the majority are Khorezmian Uzbeks (accordingly, the most common language is Uzbek), most of whom are recorded as “Turkmen” in their passports due to the “Turkmenizia” of the Turkic peoples living in the country. Ancient architectural monuments and objects in this region are almost identical in style and age with the monuments of Khiva and its environs in neighboring Uzbekistan, since the Khorezm region of Uzbekistan and the Dashoguz region of Turkmenistan are part of the ancient historical and geographical region of Khorezm. The most famous ancient city on the territory of the Dashoguz velayat is Kunya-Urgench (renamed in the Turkmen manner to "Kunya-Urgench"), which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Lebap velayat is the northeastern region of the country, which borders on Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. The administrative center is the city of Turkmenabad (it was renamed as part of the “Turkmenization” policy, it used to be called Chardzhuy). Almost the entire territory of the region is occupied by the Karakum Desert, the full-flowing Amudarya River flows. The region is primarily interesting for its ancient archaeological sites, which are more than two and a half thousand years old. There are ruins of ancient Khorezm and Parthian cities. The region is home to approximately one million people. Mostly Turkmens live, but also the relative majority of ethnic Uzbeks (accordingly, one of the two common languages is Uzbek), most of whom are recorded in the passport as "Turkmen" due to the above reason.

Mary velayat is the eastern region of the country bordering Afghanistan. The administrative center is the city of Mary (it was renamed as part of the “Turkmenization” policy, it used to be called Merv). Almost the entire territory of the region is occupied by the Karakum desert, but the southern and eastern parts of the region are occupied by hills. The region is primarily interesting for its ancient archaeological and architectural monuments, which are more than two and a half thousand years old. There are ruins of ancient Parthian and Persian cities. The ruins and monuments of the ancient city of Merv are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. More than half a million people live in the region. Mostly Turkmens live, but Uzbeks also live in significant numbers.



Ashgabat - the capital of the state
Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk)
Turkmenabad (formerly Chardzhou)
Balkanabat (formerly Nebit-Dag)

Other destinations
Desert Karakum
Fire crater Darvaza
Gulf of Kara-Bogaz-Bol
Baharden underground lake
Merv oasis

UNESCO World Heritage Sites
State Historical and Cultural Park Ancient Merv
Parthian fortress Old Nisa


Getting there

Turkmenistan is one of the most closed countries in the world, so citizens of absolutely all states, including Russia and other post-Soviet countries, need a visa. Information about obtaining a visa in Moscow is on the official website of the embassy. Turkmenistan does not issue an e-visa. The Turkmen visa is one of the most difficult, it is very difficult to get it for entry for the purpose of tourism.

There is a theoretical possibility to obtain a visa on arrival at Ashgabat International Airport, for which you will need a passport, as well as an original or a photocopy of an invitation from a legal entity or individual, issued in the prescribed manner and agreed with the state migration service of Turkmenistan.

Some travelers managed to get a transit visa (for example, for a trip from Uzbekistan to Iran), which, apparently, is somewhat easier.

By plane
The main international airport is in Ashgabat. As of December 2022, only the local airline Turkmenistan Airlines flies here (Moscow, Kazan, Istanbul, Frankfurt am Main, Dubai, Beijing). From the Ashgabat airport, you can also fly to the regional centers of Turkmenistan: to Turkmenbashi, Dashoguz, Turkmenabad and Mary, as well as to the town of Kerki. All these airports (except Kerkinsky) also have international status, but in fact flights abroad are operated only from Turkmenbashi, and even then only to Istanbul and Minsk (Turkish Airlines and Belavia, respectively).

Tickets for these flights are very difficult to find and buy for a foreigner for adequate money, everything is quickly sold out by the residents of Turkmenistan themselves.

By train
Turkmen railways have access to Uzbekistan, Iran and Afghanistan (so far a dead-end exit), but passenger transportation outside the country has not been carried out since the mid-1990s, and everything is limited to freight traffic, so even in the near future it is a traveler to enter Turkmenistan by train fail.

By car
Turkmenistan has land borders with Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Iran. Turkmenistan is connected with these states by highways, built mainly in the Soviet era. The border with Afghanistan is actually closed, and there is no information about border crossings working for ordinary people. There is only one crossing on the border with Kazakhstan. The main crossings to Uzbekistan are located near the cities of Dashoguz and Turkmenabad, and the main international crossing on the border with Iran is located in the city of Serakhs in the southeast of the country.

Highways between cities have been extensively repaired in recent years, but their quality is still far from ideal. They pass through lifeless deserts, which is why they are sometimes covered with sand.

By bus
International bus service is completely absent due to the isolationist policy of Turkmenistan.

By ship
Before the pandemic, there was a regular railway-passenger-cargo crossing from Baku on the Caspian Sea to the port city of Turkmenbashi and back. The duration of the crossing is 12-15 hours, depending on the weather. Each of the operating ferries takes on board 28 railway cars and 200 passengers. Eight of the nine ships operating at the crossing fly the Azerbaijani flag, and only one under the Turkmen (but at the same time, the Turkmen ferry is the most modern). There is an unconfirmed option of crossing this ferry in your own private car. Ferry tickets can only be purchased in Baku and Turkmenbashi respectively.



The state and official language of the country is Turkmen. About 80% of older residents speak Russian, while not all young people speak Russian, preferring English or Turkish. In the northern and northeastern parts of the country, the Uzbek language is spoken, and partly Kazakh and Karakalpak languages. In addition to their native Turkmen and Russian languages, a sufficient number of the population in the country speaks or at least understands Turkish and Azerbaijani, so the citizens of Turkmenistan go to work mainly in Turkey, and there is a large diaspora of Turkish businessmen and specialists in the country. English is mainly spoken by young people and workers in the tourism sector. Also, the Persian language has some popularity as the state language of Iran, the southern neighbor of Turkmenistan.

The currency of Turkmenistan is the Turkmen manat.

Currency code: TMM
Exchange rate: There are actually two US dollar rates in the country. Officially, for 1 $ they give about 3.50 manats, and on the black market one dollar costs from 15 to 20 manats. The population and most tourists use the black market exclusively. Keep in mind that currency exchange on the black market is illegal, and you change at your own peril and risk (you may get caught with a fake bill, you will fall into a raid on illegal money changers), although with a favorable rate.
For more information, visit the website of the Central Bank of Turkmenistan.

There are very few ATMs in Turkmenistan that accept international bank cards (Visa, Mastercard). Please note that you will be asked to show your passport before withdrawing money from the card.

Turkmen carpets are especially valued.

Turkmen cuisine is similar to Uzbek and Iranian, although there are also traditional, primordially Turkmen dishes that are more reminiscent of the food of nomadic peoples, since until the 1920s, Turkmens, unlike Uzbeks and Iranians, did not lead a settled way of life.

In Ashgabat and regional centers you can find modern restaurants, cafes and coffee shops of the European type. In all settlements there are canteens and eateries with national cuisine. Pretentious restaurants with Turkmen cuisine are not uncommon. Fresh vegetables and meat can be bought at the bazaars. The largest bazaars of the country are located in Ashgabat, Turkmenbashi and Dashoguz. It is better to go to the market in the morning, when you can buy fresh fruits and the best meat.

Night life
Against the backdrop of neighboring Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, there is practically no real nightlife in Turkmenistan. Even in neighboring Iran, you can count on more variety and a higher level of service. In the capital and large cities there are old-fashioned nightclubs and discos, there are also expensive restaurants and cafes open until 22-23 hours. The main clients of these establishments are aggressive and arrogant children of officials, security officials and local rich people. Going to a nightclub or staying up late at a restaurant, you run the risk of being found violating the unspoken curfew that is introduced here from time to time. The police conduct regular raids and are especially interested in heterosexual couples who may be asked for a marriage certificate or other proof of relationship. Also, in Turkmen nightclubs, you can often become an eyewitness or even a participant in a drunken fight or brawl, and security will not help you if the instigator of the fight is the son of an influential person. Many hot Turkmen guys carry knives or sharpeners with them after the evening, and they can use them when drunk.

Smoking is strictly prohibited in entertainment and catering establishments.

Where to stay
Many empty hotels have been built in the major cities of the country. They often have 4-5 stars and seem fashionable from the outside, although in reality they do not stand up to criticism in terms of service and infrastructure. Prices in such hotels are simply cosmic, even for foreigners.

Hostels and guesthouses are negligible, they are only in large cities. Soviet-era hotels have been preserved, where, due to low prices, locals mostly stay.


Precautionary measures
In a conversation with ordinary citizens, and even more so with civil servants, be extremely careful in your statements about the ruling regime, politics and the current socio-economic situation in the country. Among the people there are many Turkmen security officials dressed in civilian clothes, who are primarily interested in foreigners. They also analyze the current mood among the people. Rights and freedoms in the country are not respected. Here the position of a lawyer (even a private one) is formal. Turkmen security officers are especially vigilant in relation to journalists and bloggers.

It is better not to go out after 22:00, as you may be accused of violating the curfew, which is often announced without notice. Turkmen Chekists and security forces in general are obsessed with spy mania. Even at night there are many police patrols.

Internet access is limited. It is expensive and slow, and in addition, many popular and seemingly harmless sites are blocked, including social networks and instant messengers. A VPN won't help much as all known services are blocked too, and the speed with a VPN is so slow that it turns an already slow internet into a dead tortoise. In addition, local security officials are suspicious of those who have installed programs to bypass blocking.

Turkmenistan is perhaps the hottest country in the post-Soviet space. There is a sharp, very dry, subtropical-inland climate, that is, palm trees do not grow, but it is extremely hot in summer. Winter is cold (there is almost no snow, and if it does, it melts in a few hours or days) and windy, while in spring and autumn it is rainy and overcast. During the summer period, from May to September, it is even hotter in Turkmenistan than in neighboring Uzbekistan, but slightly cooler than in Iran. In June, July and August, the temperature in cities can approach +60 degrees, which is why there are very few people on the streets during the day. Locals try to do all their business in the morning or in the evening, when it is not so hot. Hurricanes and dust storms often occur (dry and hot wind "Afghan" is active here). In March-May and September-November, rainy and cloudy days and weeks are not uncommon.

From the southeast, Turkmenistan borders on Afghanistan through the steppe hills. Try not to approach the border zone both with Afghanistan and with other neighbors, since the danger comes not from imaginary Afghan militants, but from Turkmen border guards and security officers, who, having seen a foreigner in this zone, will definitely detain you and will not leave you alone, suspecting of any deeds - from "an attempt to illegally cross the border" to "espionage".

In Turkmenistan, even voluntary homosexual relations between men are still a criminal offense and can be punished with imprisonment from 2 to 5 years. If this is relevant to you, try not to advertise your orientation at all.

The mobile operator "Altyn Asyr" operates on the territory of the country. The international dialing code of Turkmenistan is +993. Country internet domain .tm

Internet cafes are few in number but well equipped in major cities. However, you should keep an eye on opening hours. Internet cafes open early in the morning and close in the evening, also early. You need to have your passport with you. Access is provided by SCE "Turkmentelecom".