Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

Turkmenistan - Kunya-Urgench - women - Elter photo

“Apart from the capital, Ashabad, the country currently has no real tourist attractions. According to long-term plans, the city of Türkmenbasi on the coast of the Caspian Sea is to be developed into a tourist destination, but at the moment it is considered a resort town only for local residents. The center of the capital is spectacular, and the order and cleanliness leave a good impression on the visitor. New buildings, modern roads, and lush vegetation characterize this modern city, which seems exotic to Europeans and was recently constructed thanks to the country’s hydrocarbon-based wealth. Its hotel facilities are excellent, although many hotels are currently closed due to a lack of visitors.” (2014)
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“The country is very ‘empty’. Sometimes I had the feeling that we were walking in the middle of nowhere. The city of Mary was perhaps the only exception. It's not pretty, but it's a very pleasant city, with many nice people.
The country is very sparsely populated, the roads are in bad condition, and many buildings have been abandoned. One has the feeling that some tragedy has befallen this place and the people have left or disappeared. After the border, we drove through a wet, marshy area, which was very beautiful. We also visited the lowlands and the desert. Each had its own charm. We found it more difficult to admire the gilded statues that we encountered in several places.
I don't think many tourists choose Turkmenistan as their destination, they just pass through it. All this is due, in our opinion, to the following:
- It seems that the country's leadership does not particularly want tourists to come to the country.
- Tourist visas are only issued as part of organized trips. We are very curious, what can they show during such a trip and how much do they charge for it?
- No infrastructure.
- the country is a presidential republic, and although it has relaxed somewhat since Nyyazow, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
- The country is not very rich in natural attractions and has no historical cities or landmarks (with the exception of Merv).

If you visit Turkmenistan, don't miss:
Waving down a truck and asking to ride on the back for about 100-150 km. Why? Because it is illegal, and was the most interesting thing we did during those five days – plus it made the heat more bearable. As a second variation, look for a sandstorm and see what it's like ‘from the inside.” (2015)


Practicals

Shopping

Turkmen carpets have been famous for centuries. If you arrive with a one-way ticket, you may find a solution for flying back, ornately. 

Public safety

“Police in Turkmenistan have been instructed to check toilets and take action if they find that citizens have used newspapers to wipe their bottoms – assuming that the newspaper has the face of the local dictator, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. It is very difficult to find a newspaper in the country that does not include it, so it is generally not recommended to replace toilet paper with it.” (2018)

Background

Turkmenistan - national flag

Destination in brief

Turkmenistan is a Central Asian country. Neighbors are: Kazakhstan (north), Uzbekistan (north and east), Afghanistan (south), and Iran (south)

Turkmenistan was part of the Soviet Union (1925-1991)

Size: 491,210 km² (189,657 mi²)

Population: 5,7 million (2020)

Climate

Turkmenistan is extremely hot, more than 40C (104F) during summer with almost no rain.

History

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Turkmenistan - Ashgabat - Independence Monument which celebrates the Turkmenistan independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. - Elter photo

Turkmenistan - Ashgabat - Monument of Neutrality (or Arch of Neutrality) - Elter photo

Nowadays

Turkmenistan is slightly similar to North Korea in the way that there is an indoctrination based on a specific ideology. In Turkmenistan that is a book known as “Ruhmana”. That book is the guide for the people to obey a brutal Stalinist doctrine that late President Saparmyrat Niyazow (1940-2006) introduced. The dictator offers a promise to the readers: anyone who read his book three times is granted a (non-immediate) entry to Heaven. By the way, the knowledge of Ruhnama is required even for passing a  driving test.

The primary income of the Turkmenistan economy is cotton and gas. Turkmenistan possesses the fourth-largest reserves of natural gas in the world. Turkmen gas makes not only money but tourists as well. The famous Door to Hell - a 5,350 square meters artificial crater with burning methane gas inside of it - attracts up to 10,000 visitors yearly.

People

“The Turkmen do not appear to be an overly religious people. The muezzins calling from desert mosques, but during Ramadan, here and there, even during the day, they regularly buy food from market vendors. However, I was surprised to see hardly anyone smoking on the street. I would like to add here that you can bring only two packs of cigarettes into the country, and at the border, they will mercilessly confiscate any surplus you bring.” (2017)

Turkmenistan - stableboys - Elter photo

Tourist etiquette

1. It is strictly forbidden to take a picture of policemen, police stations, soldiers, all military objects, some governmental buildings. If you do, most probably your camera, cell phone will be seized by the police.  

Gastronomy

The main dish of Turkmen cuisine is pilaf. It is cooked from rice, lamb, with the addition of a variety of aromatic herbs, seasonings, and spices, dried fruits, and nuts. One should try the Caspian sturgeon or stellate sturgeon bake in the "tandyr", smoked or grilled.

Attractions

Turkmenistan - Ashgabat - Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque - Elter photo

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