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 and confusing process of online research, and decided to share it to make things easier for all those eyeing Turkmenistan as a potential holiday destination. We have tried our best to answer most of the frequently asked questions about Turkmenistan.
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 DO I GET MY TURKMENISTAN TOURIST 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 the same day 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 (2020).
CAN I GET A TRANSIT VISA TO TURKMENISTAN
In the past, those touring Central Asia could get a transit visa of up to 10 days to Turkmenistan. If you have a transit visa, you do not need to book any tour or require an LOI. You can also explore the country on your own.
But as of 2015, the rate of rejections without reason, for transit visa were quite high, with an estimated 50% rejection. Things have slowly improved post 2018 with more transit visa’s being approved. Find the nearest Diplomatic Mission of Turkmenistan to apply.
CAN I SIGHTSEE ON MY OWN IN TURKMENISTAN
ON A TOURIST VISA
The answer is NO while visiting Turkmenistan on a tourist visa. 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 of the land, a tourist cannot venture out without a guide.
ON A TRANSIT VISA
YES. You can explore the country on your own with a transit visa but your chance to get one is 50:50.
ARE TURKMENISTAN 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 (2020). 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 DO I PLAN MY 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
IS TURKEY AND TURKMENISTAN RELATED
We thought the name was a pure coincidence until we met our guide in Turkmenistan. The people of both Turkey and Turkmenistan are descendants of the Oghuz tribe. They share the same language with different pronunciations.
With the USSR invasion, Turkmenistan soon adapted to the Soviet way of life while Turkey took to the European life.
WHAT IS THE TRADITIONAL DRESS OF A TURKMEN
The dress of a Turkmen woman traditionally consists of under trousers called Balaq, a long flowing maxi dress called Koynek, and a headdress of some kind. The dresses are very colorful with intricate thread work around the neck area.