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Exploring Turkmenistan

Travel Essentials

Here’s the ultimate travel essentials list for Turkmenistan; everything from currency, tipping and clothing dress codes can be found below.

Currency

The local currency is called the Turkmen manat (TMT) and can only be exchanged in Turkmenistan.  For the latest exchange rates you can review this website www.xe.com

We recommend you take your spending money in US dollars, as many restaurants, shops and bars only accept hard currency. Trying to change traveller’s cheque or British Pounds into the local currency is difficult and is not a convenient option. Please ensure the bank notes you travel with are in good condition and we recommend you take new (post 1998), good dollar bills in small denominations.

You can exchange money in most towns and your local guide can recommend where to change money. There are some ATM machines and credit cards can be used in five star hotels, some well-established restaurants and larger stores.

It is extremely difficult to change Turkmen manat back into dollars at reasonable exchange rates, so it is advised that you spend what Turkmen manat you have before leaving the country. For this reason we also advise that you exchange money in small amounts at any one time.

Food and Drink

Costs of meals can vary depending on a number of factors including type and style of restaurant, location, number of dishes or courses eaten and therefore we have provided an average price guide. Fancy city restaurants are more expensive than local restaurants in small town or off the main tourist route. Always try an eat in restaurants frequented by locals as these will generally provide the best eating experience.

  • Lunch price: £5.00
  • Dinner price: £8.00
  • Beer price: £1.50
  • Water price: £0.80

Vaccinations

Ensure you visit your travel clinic before travel for general advice on travel risks, vaccinations and malaria. There are no compulsory vaccinations for Turkmenistan, but your travel clinic will probably recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A. For more information regarding vaccinations and travel health visit www.fitfortravel.nhs and www.masta-travel-health.com. Vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.

Language

Turkmen, Russian, Uzbek

Time Difference

Turkmenistan is 5 hours ahead of GMT.

Insurance

A valid travel insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical issues is a must. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities.

It is a good idea to photocopy all relevant documents – passport, travel, insurance policy etc., and leave one copy at home. Carry another copy with you separate from the originals.

Wi-Fi and Mobile Phone Coverage

Internet access is available in Turkmenistan but is limited to the main cities and towns. The easiest internet access is by logging on to Wi-Fi hotspots available at four and five star hotels. The quality of Wi-Fi varies greatly depending on your location and often does not reach all of the hotel bedrooms. Also, in the more remote locations such as the mountainous areas, the internet will not be available.

Turkmenistan mobile phone network has thorough coverage, at least in the Urban areas.

Electricity

A round two-pin plug is required to charge your phone, camera, video camera or electronic devices. The voltage in Turkmenistan is 220 volts. In some of the remote area of Turkmenistan, electricity may not be available 24 hours a day.

Clothing

Cottons and natural fibre clothing is the best for travel in most places and this is also true of Turkmenistan in Central Asia. Summers in Central Asia are hot but warmer clothing including a fleece / windproof jacket is worth packing for desert evenings and outdoor camping.  During the cooler spring and autumn months were recommend that you pack warmer clothing that can be layered if necessary.

Turkmenistan is traditionally Muslim and therefore tight or revealing clothing, short skirts or shorts, sleeveless tops and blouses should be avoided. Women should pack a headscarf and carry it with them for visits to mosques and sites of religious significance.

Footwear

Good quality, comfortable walking shoes or light boots and trainers.

Equipment

Day sack, water bottle, sunhat, sunglasses, high factor sunscreen, head scarf, torch, insect repellent, ear plugs and travel first aid kit.

Culture and Customs

The culture in Turkmenistan, formerly Turkmenia, is based on a nomadic way of life. Turkmen were originally nomadic horsemen and some still follow this lifestyle.  For centuries fragmented tribes fought each other according to their needs. In doing so they developed into brave warriors and skilled horsemen becoming known as the ultimate frontier fighters. Before the early 1930s the people were grouped into different clans / tribes and spoke a number of different dialects. Joseph Stalin tried to bring unity and nation building.

Despite following Islam the people are spiritual and have kept some of their ancient beliefs based on shamanism and Zoroastrianism. Following the birth of the Soviet Union in 1917 government ownership took control of the lands. Nomadism and tribal cultures was halted,  local tribes, religious leaders and political structures were attacked  and suppressed.  Turkmenistan gained independence in 1991 and is evolving as a modern country with a proud past.

Turkmenistan is famed for its array of handmade colourful rugs which historically helped the locals identify the different tribes and clans. Jewellery is also important and the plays and significant role in the culture. Most jewellery is made of silver embellished with precious stones which are believed to have magical powers. Jewellery was worn as a sign of status and was believed to increase fertility in young women.

Tipping

As with all Central Asian countries tipping is part of the culture in Turkmenistan. We recommend you carry notes in small denominations for everyday tipping duties. Regardless of the tipping formalities good tips should be given for excellent service. Below are some guidelines for general tipping which is or course discretionary.

  • Local full day city guide: 10 – 12 USD per day, from your group
  • Local Driver: 8 – 10 USD per day, from your group
  • Restaurants, cafes and bars automatically apply 10% service charge

Safety

As with most Muslim countries petty and violent crime is very rare in Turkmenistan. Throughout your tour you will be required to travel with a licensed guide as independent travel is not permitted. This means that you will be accompanied by an experienced guide who will unlock the culture and history of this wonderful country. Out of respect for your guide please adhere to local guidelines as failure to do so is likely to reflect badly on your guide and could put them in hot water.

Travel Safety Advice

We strongly recommend that you check your government’s travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Festivals and Holidays

Turkmenistan has several festivals over the year and tours can be planned around some of the festivals mentioned below.

A Drop of Water is a Grain of Gold Day (April)

Water and the people who preserve  this precious resource in this desert land are celebrated with special feasts, sports competitions and music.

Turkmen Horse Day (April)

The horse is celebrated as a vital part of historic culture. Turkmenistans native Akhal-Teke breed is known for its speed and endurance and metallic looking coat. This led to the breed being known as “Golden Horses” and are an icon of Turkmenistan culture. At the centre of the festival are equestrian games and horse beauty contests as well as plenty of singing and dancing.

Turkmen Carpet Day (May)

Only celebrated since independence in 1991 Carpet Day commemorates the intricate woven carpets with a range of  weaving demonstrations, exhibitions, fairs  and awards for the very best and talented carpet weavers.

Revival, Unity, and Magtymguly Pyragy Day (May)

Held on May 19 and 20, this spring festival celebrates Magtymguly Pyragy, a poet and spiritual leader from the 18th century. He was passionate in his desire to unify the people and is revered by the people of Turkmenistan to this day.

 

Here’s the ultimate travel essentials list for Turkmenistan; everything from currency, tipping and clothing dress codes can be found below.

Currency

The local currency is called the Turkmen manat (TMT) and can only be exchanged in Turkmenistan.  For the latest exchange rates you can review this website www.xe.com

We recommend you take your spending money in US dollars, as many restaurants, shops and bars only accept hard currency. Trying to change traveller’s cheque or British Pounds into the local currency is difficult and is not a convenient option. Please ensure the bank notes you travel with are in good condition and we recommend you take new (post 1998), good dollar bills in small denominations.

You can exchange money in most towns and your local guide can recommend where to change money. There are some ATM machines and credit cards can be used in five star hotels, some well-established restaurants and larger stores.

It is extremely difficult to change Turkmen manat back into dollars at reasonable exchange rates, so it is advised that you spend what Turkmen manat you have before leaving the country. For this reason we also advise that you exchange money in small amounts at any one time.

Food and Drink

Costs of meals can vary depending on a number of factors including type and style of restaurant, location, number of dishes or courses eaten and therefore we have provided an average price guide. Fancy city restaurants are more expensive than local restaurants in small town or off the main tourist route. Always try an eat in restaurants frequented by locals as these will generally provide the best eating experience.

  • Lunch price: £5.00
  • Dinner price: £8.00
  • Beer price: £1.50
  • Water price: £0.80

Vaccinations

Ensure you visit your travel clinic before travel for general advice on travel risks, vaccinations and malaria. There are no compulsory vaccinations for Turkmenistan, but your travel clinic will probably recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A. For more information regarding vaccinations and travel health visit www.fitfortravel.nhs and www.masta-travel-health.com. Vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.

Language

Turkmen, Russian, Uzbek

Time Difference

Turkmenistan is 5 hours ahead of GMT.

Insurance

A valid travel insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical issues is a must. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities.

It is a good idea to photocopy all relevant documents – passport, travel, insurance policy etc., and leave one copy at home. Carry another copy with you separate from the originals.

Wi-Fi and Mobile Phone Coverage

Internet access is available in Turkmenistan but is limited to the main cities and towns. The easiest internet access is by logging on to Wi-Fi hotspots available at four and five star hotels. The quality of Wi-Fi varies greatly depending on your location and often does not reach all of the hotel bedrooms. Also, in the more remote locations such as the mountainous areas, the internet will not be available.

Turkmenistan mobile phone network has thorough coverage, at least in the Urban areas.

Electricity

A round two-pin plug is required to charge your phone, camera, video camera or electronic devices. The voltage in Turkmenistan is 220 volts. In some of the remote area of Turkmenistan, electricity may not be available 24 hours a day.

Clothing

Cottons and natural fibre clothing is the best for travel in most places and this is also true of Turkmenistan in Central Asia. Summers in Central Asia are hot but warmer clothing including a fleece / windproof jacket is worth packing for desert evenings and outdoor camping.  During the cooler spring and autumn months were recommend that you pack warmer clothing that can be layered if necessary.

Turkmenistan is traditionally Muslim and therefore tight or revealing clothing, short skirts or shorts, sleeveless tops and blouses should be avoided. Women should pack a headscarf and carry it with them for visits to mosques and sites of religious significance.

Footwear

Good quality, comfortable walking shoes or light boots and trainers.

Equipment

Day sack, water bottle, sunhat, sunglasses, high factor sunscreen, head scarf, torch, insect repellent, ear plugs and travel first aid kit.

Culture and Customs

The culture in Turkmenistan, formerly Turkmenia, is based on a nomadic way of life. Turkmen were originally nomadic horsemen and some still follow this lifestyle.  For centuries fragmented tribes fought each other according to their needs. In doing so they developed into brave warriors and skilled horsemen becoming known as the ultimate frontier fighters. Before the early 1930s the people were grouped into different clans / tribes and spoke a number of different dialects. Joseph Stalin tried to bring unity and nation building.

Despite following Islam the people are spiritual and have kept some of their ancient beliefs based on shamanism and Zoroastrianism. Following the birth of the Soviet Union in 1917 government ownership took control of the lands. Nomadism and tribal cultures was halted,  local tribes, religious leaders and political structures were attacked  and suppressed.  Turkmenistan gained independence in 1991 and is evolving as a modern country with a proud past.

Turkmenistan is famed for its array of handmade colourful rugs which historically helped the locals identify the different tribes and clans. Jewellery is also important and the plays and significant role in the culture. Most jewellery is made of silver embellished with precious stones which are believed to have magical powers. Jewellery was worn as a sign of status and was believed to increase fertility in young women.

Tipping

As with all Central Asian countries tipping is part of the culture in Turkmenistan. We recommend you carry notes in small denominations for everyday tipping duties. Regardless of the tipping formalities good tips should be given for excellent service. Below are some guidelines for general tipping which is or course discretionary.

  • Local full day city guide: 10 – 12 USD per day, from your group
  • Local Driver: 8 – 10 USD per day, from your group
  • Restaurants, cafes and bars automatically apply 10% service charge

Safety

As with most Muslim countries petty and violent crime is very rare in Turkmenistan. Throughout your tour you will be required to travel with a licensed guide as independent travel is not permitted. This means that you will be accompanied by an experienced guide who will unlock the culture and history of this wonderful country. Out of respect for your guide please adhere to local guidelines as failure to do so is likely to reflect badly on your guide and could put them in hot water.

Travel Safety Advice

We strongly recommend that you check your government’s travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Festivals and Holidays

Turkmenistan has several festivals over the year and tours can be planned around some of the festivals mentioned below.

A Drop of Water is a Grain of Gold Day (April)

Water and the people who preserve  this precious resource in this desert land are celebrated with special feasts, sports competitions and music.

Turkmen Horse Day (April)

The horse is celebrated as a vital part of historic culture. Turkmenistans native Akhal-Teke breed is known for its speed and endurance and metallic looking coat. This led to the breed being known as “Golden Horses” and are an icon of Turkmenistan culture. At the centre of the festival are equestrian games and horse beauty contests as well as plenty of singing and dancing.

Turkmen Carpet Day (May)

Only celebrated since independence in 1991 Carpet Day commemorates the intricate woven carpets with a range of  weaving demonstrations, exhibitions, fairs  and awards for the very best and talented carpet weavers.

Revival, Unity, and Magtymguly Pyragy Day (May)

Held on May 19 and 20, this spring festival celebrates Magtymguly Pyragy, a poet and spiritual leader from the 18th century. He was passionate in his desire to unify the people and is revered by the people of Turkmenistan to this day.

 

Ashgabat
Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan was founded in 1881 and is the starting point for most of our Turkmenistan tours. The main sights to see in this extravagant city are the statue of Lenin, the Presidential Palace, the National Museum, the mosque of Khezert Omar and Talkucha Bazaar, the largest market in the country.
Mary
Mary is the third largest city of Turkmenistan and is located in a big oasis in the middle of the KaraKum Desert. Accessible by road or air, Mary is the gateway to the ancient city of Merv and the Bronze Age site of Gonur Depe. The local History Museum in Merv is well worth visiting during your stay.
Merv
The magnificent archaeological site of Merv was once one of Central Asia’s most civilised cities and is referred to as the Pearl of the East. This is a vast site of 125 square kilometres and due to its location along the Great Silk Road Route, several cities have existed on the site of current Merv.
Darvaza
Darvaza gas crater (known locally as the Door to Hell) should be on anyone's ‘bucket list’ and is just over half-a-days drive from Ashgabat or Dashoguz. Your journey to Darvaza gas crater takes you deep into the desolate Karakum desert, where you can camp next to the crater and enjoy views of fire and flames erupting in the middle of the desert.
Gonur Depe
Located about 3 hours drive from Mary, Gonur Depe was the largest of dozens of scattered Bronze Age sites established here in the early second millennium. In the 1990s, archaeologists discovered a huge necropolis dating back to the 3-2 millennia B.C.
Turkmenbashi
This morning fly to Turkmenbashi, a major port on the Caspian Sea. On arrival explore the city, visiting the local Fish market and the seaside at Awaza - a popular resort on the eastern coast of this huge inland sea.
Yangy Kala Canyons
The Yangy Kala Canyons are one of the most spectacular attractions in the country. The stunning flame coloured canyons are a mix of vibrant colours from of white, yellow and red with sheer cliffs rising from this ancient land. In your 4WD jeep drive through the so-called ‘Grand Canyon’ before heading north to the sparkling canyons of Yangysuw.
Konye Urgench
Close to the Uzbekistan border, the World Heritage Site of Kunya-Urgench is well worth visiting and was once a glorious capital of the medieval Khorezmshah Empire, the largest Muslim empire of the late 12th and early 13th century. Places of interest include the 15th century mausoleum of Turabeg Khanum and the 12th century mausoleum of Sultan Tekesh.

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