Visiting Turkmenistan can be quite complicated as the country has just opened up to tourism and rules can change overnight. We went through a lengthy process of online research and had to share it to make things easier for all those eyeing Turkmenistan as a potential holiday destination.
WHAT IS AN LOI
To enter Turkmenistan, you need a LOI- Letter of Invitation from an authorized/government approved tour operator. The LOI authorization usually takes 3 weeks.
We sent out enquires to a few operators and got proactive responses from Ayan Tourism & Travel, so we went ahead with them. From airport pickup, hotel reservations, sightseeing to the airport drop off was entirely taken care by our tour guide. Everything was planned out for us and we had absolutely nothing to worry about.
HOW TO GET YOUR VISA
Once you receive your LOI, you can get a visa on arrival at the airport for $100 per person (2020). If you have a Turkmenistan consulate in your country, you can also apply for your visa at the consulate. The visa is stamped within 30 minutes and is usually cheaper than visa-on-arrival. You can check if your country has a Turkmenistan consulate here
In addition, you will need to pay a migration duty of $12 per person at Ashgabat International Airport. Only cash payments are accepted at the counter.
For those traveling from UAE, the nearest consulate is in Abu Dhabi. You will need to book an appointment and the visa will be stamped at Dh 200 per person.
CAN YOU SIGHTSEE ON YOUR OWN?
The answer is NO. To an extent you can wander around a bit in Ashgabat, but to see Darvaza or any other attractions outside the city, you will need to have a travel guide with you. As per the law, a tourist cannot venture out without a guide.
ARE THE TOUR PACKAGES EXPENSIVE?
For a country in Central Asia, the packages are pretty steep. The tour company will take care of everything- paper work, stay, meals, sightseeing and airport transfers. A 24-hour trip, all inclusive costed us $630 (2019). Keep in mind that Turkmenistan is the most expensive city to visit in Central Asia.
IS TURKMENISTAN SAFE?
Turkmenistan is a safe country to travel in, with very low incidents of violent crime and occurrences of pickpocketing, mugging and property theft are rare.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT TURKMENISTAN
The best time to visit Turkmenistan is from March until June and September until November, although there are occasional spells of rain during October and November. Winter months are extremely cold.
HOW TO PLAN YOUR TRIP TO TURKMENISTAN
The main attraction in this country continues to be Darvaza- the burning crater. You can complete a city tour of Ashgabat and a trip to Darvaza in 2 days. But if you plan to see the other attractions while visiting Turkmenistan, note that they are far apart from each other and you will need at least 4-5 days to cover them all.
Also Read: The top sights to see in Turkmenistan