TURKMENISTAN TRAVEL TIPS & USEFUL INFO

Turabek Khanum Mausoleum at Konye-Urgench, Turkmenistan

Whether you’re thinking of exploring Ashgabat or marvelling at the Darvaza Gas Craters, there’s a few things you’ll need to know before you go to Turkmenistan. Here we answer all your questions on cuisine, currency and more, to help you prepare for your trip.

What vaccinations do I need for Turkmenistan?

Ideally, you should seek medical advice from your local health practitioner about six to eight weeks before travelling to Turkmenistan. You should be up to date with routine vaccinations such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), Diphtheria, Polio and Tetanus. Other recommended vaccines include Hepatitis A and Typhoid, with some travellers also choosing to be vaccinated against Hepatitis B and Rabies. Visit the NHS Fit for Travel page or the CDC Traveler’s Health page for more information.

Can I take medication into Turkmenistan?

As of 2014, all medications containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine, opiates or any containing similar constituent components are illegal in Turkmenistan. This includes many over-the-counter medications such as Nurofen that are commonly available elsewhere.

Do not bring any medications containing these components into Turkmenistan, even if you are just in transit. Customs agents will treat this as though you are bringing illegal narcotics into the country and it makes no difference if you have a prescription or doctors note. Do not bring these medications into Turkmenistan under any circumstance. It can have huge consequences not only for yourself but, if travelling on an Overland Adventure, for your tour leaders and local guides as well.

If you have any prescription medications that don’t come under the list above, bring the prescription along and declare these on any customs declaration forms.

Can I smoke in Turkmenistan?

While it is not completely illegal to possess tobacco, Turkmenistan has strict laws against tobacco products. It is illegal to sell tobacco and to import more than two small packs of cigarettes, as well as strictly prohibited to smoke in any public space.

We strongly recommend not bringing any tobacco products into Turkmenistan and avoiding their use entirely whilst there. Breaking these laws can lead to large fines and even jail time. This also applies to e-cigarettes and vaping.

Is it safe to drink tap water in Turkmenistan?

Drinking the tap water is not recommended in Turkmenistan. Bottled water can be bought throughout the country, however, we recommend taking a reusable bottle with a built-in filter to save money and reduce plastic waste.

Traditional Shurpa soup with meat, potatoes and vegetables

What's the food like in Turkmenistan?

Turkmenistan’s cuisine is typical of Central Asia, with meat being the main focus. As it’s a Muslim country, pork is a rare find and mutton is the most common meat. Popular dishes include a soup known as Shurpa, which is made from mutton broth with the addition of tomatoes and potatoes. Shashlyk, Turkmenistan’s version of the kebab, also features skewered pieces mutton or lamb grilled over an open fire.

A typical dinner in Turkmenistan tends to consist of Pilaf. This comes in many different varieties across Central Asia, yet the two main ingredients are always meat and rice. In Turkmenistan this is then flavoured with various spices, onions and thinly cut vegetables. Pilaf would normally also be served with bread such as Chorek – a flatbread made in a clay oven known as a tamdyr. Green tea is the beverage of choice in Turkmenistan and you’ll find this drink on offer everywhere.

p> With such meat-focused menus, vegetarians, vegans and those with other dietary requirements will struggle to find options and it may be best to order specially prepared food. However, you will find plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables for sale at local markets.

Safe eating while travelling in Turkmenistan

Although food and water-borne illnesses can occur in any destination, in Turkmenistan it’s advised to play it safe and stick to cooked food. Be sure to avoid anything that looks undercooked such as meats, fish and eggs.

Is it standard to tip in Turkmenistan?

Tipping is not expected or required in Turkmenistan, however a small tip is always appreciated in a restaurant to acknowledge good service.

Women's silk kerchiefs at the biggest oriental bazaar in Turkmenistan

What souvenirs are good to shop for in Turkmenistan?

Turkmenistan is famously the birthplace of keteni, which is homespun silk fabric. The country has been producing silk for centuries and keteni has long-been used to make men’s shirts, as well as dresses and scarves for women. In fact, dresses made from keteni are traditionally still worn by brides. So whilst you’re travelling in the country, perhaps see if you can purchase an item made from this type of silk.

Turkmenistan is also known across the world for its handwoven carpets, which feature stylized images of animals and other symbols. These can be found at markets or special carpet stores, but they can be very expensive. Another option for a souvenir is a ring-like bracelet known as bilezik, which is made from metals such as gold, silver or copper.

What is the duty free allowance for Turkmenistan?

The following goods may be imported into Turkmenistan without incurring customs duty.

  • 200 cigarettes or 200g of tobacco (passengers aged 16 and over)
  • 2L of alcoholic drinks (passengers aged 21 and over)

On entering the country, you must complete a customs declaration form which you need to retain until departure. This allows the import of articles intended for personal use, including currency and valuables which you must register on the declaration form. Customs inspection can be long and detailed.

Banned imports include narcotics, firearms and ammunition.

What is the currency in Turkmenistan?

Turkmenistan’s national currency is Turkmen manat, which is made up of 100 tenne. Cards are rarely accepted in Turkmenistan and there aren’t any ATMs, so bring enough cash to cover your stay. This can be in manat or US dollars, as there are plenty of exchange offices which will freely exchange US dollars for you.

What do things cost in Turkmenistan?

If you’re travelling on a budget, you can expect to spend less than $100 per day in Turkmenistan. A basic hotel room will set you back around $60, with a kebab lunch costing $5 and a bus ride in Ashgabat costing around $0.10. Those with a little more cash to splash can look at spending around $200 on a more luxurious hotel room, with dinner at the hotel costing approximately $30.

What sort of plugs do I need for Turkmenistan and what is the voltage?

The voltage in Turkmenistan is 220V, with a standard frequency of 50 Hz. The country uses European-style two pin plugs and sockets are type C and type F.

Is WiFi widely available in Turkmenistan?

You should be able to find WiFi at 4-5 star hotels in the capital Ashgabat, with state-run internet cafes available in all other big towns. Free WiFi is becoming more common, however some places do still charge. As all internet access is via the state-run www.online.tm, bear in mind that many websites and social media sites such as Facebook are blocked.

What time zone is Turkmenistan on?

Turkmenistan is 5 hours ahead of Greenwich Meantime (GMT). This is observed throughout the year, with no Daylight Savings changes.

See Also

For more information on visiting Turkmenistan, take a look at our other travel resources:

Best places to visit – the top destinations in Turkmenistan
Best time to visit – seasons and weather in Turkmenistan
Tourist visas - what you need to know to enter Turkmenistan

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