TurkmenistanOfficial Name: Turkmenistan
At least six months
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One page required for entry stamp
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
Embassies and Consulates
9 1984 Street (formerly Pushkin Street)
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan 744000
Telephone: : +(993) (12) 94 00 45 Consular Information Line: 993 12 94 00 49 (Monday Wednesday Friday, 11am – 1pm)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: : Local calls: 692-688; When calling from the U.S.: +(993) 65 692 688
Fax: +(993) (12) 94-26-14
Turkmenistan is a Central Asian country with a population of around six million people. Roughly the size of California, it has a desert climate and shares borders with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. The country gained its independence in 1991 during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Tourist facilities, especially outside of the capital city of Ashgabat, are not highly developed. Many of the goods and services taken for granted in North American and Western European countries are not yet available. Travel within the country can be difficult due to limited infrastructure and government-imposed internal travel restrictions. Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Turkmenistan for additional information.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
Visas and Letters of Invitation: In order to enter Turkmenistan you will need a valid passport and a letter of invitation certified by the Government of Turkmenistan. The certified letter of invitation allows you to apply for a visa, either at the Embassy of Turkmenistan or when you arrive at the airport in Ashgabat. The U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat cannot assist private citizens with letters of invitation to Turkmenistan.
To obtain an official letter of invitation, the person or organization you intend to visit must submit a request to the State Migration Service (SMS) along with a copy of your passport ID page. The SMS requires at least 15 working days for approval.
Before Visiting Turkmenistan: Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months at the time of applying for a letter of invitation.
After you receive your official letter of invitation, you may apply for a visa at the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Washington, D.C. or when you arrive at the Ashgabat International Airport. The price of the visa will depend on the length of your stay in Turkmenistan. You will find more information about obtaining a visa to Turkmenistan on the website of the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Washington, D.C.
Some airlines may be hesitant to board you as a passenger to Turkmenistan without a valid visa already in your passport. To avoid such difficulties, as well as visa lines at the Ashgabat International Airport, it is advisable to obtain your visa at the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Washington, D.C. before traveling. Keep in mind that without a valid visa or an official letter of invitation, you won’t be allowed into the country, and you may be held at the airport until you have arranged transportation out of Turkmenistan. It is not wise to use a transit visa instead of a tourist visa since transit visas are issued for a very short duration and are difficult to extend. If you plan to travel to areas of the country that have been restricted by the Government of Turkmenistan, which includes almost all border areas, you must first obtain special permission from the SMS.
Once you arrive at the airport or border entry point, you will be charged a $12 registration fee. If you wish to extend your stay in Turkmenistan, you must submit an application for a visa extension with the SMS in Ashgabat. If you attempt to depart Turkmenistan with an expired visa, you will be fined and may be denied exit until you extend your visa through your departure date.
Registering with State Migration Service (SMS): If your trip to Turkmenistan is longer than three working days, you must:
- Register with one of the SMS offices, depending on the location of your sponsoring organization. There are SMS offices in the cities of Ashgabat, Dashoguz, Mary, Turkmenabat, and Turkmenbashy.
- Inform the SMS in advance if you plan to travel outside the city in which you are registered. Failure to do so may result in a fine and deportation.
- Return to the SMS one day before you leave to register your departure. Both registration and de-registration must be done at the same SMS office.
If you do not register your departure, the immigration authorities will fine you and may not allow you to leave the country until you fulfill this requirement. If you fail to register properly or have an expired visa, you will have to pay a fine and you may be arrested and/or deported. If you are deported for these violations, you will be barred from returning to Turkmenistan for up to five years.
Dual Nationality: Turkmenistan prohibits dual citizenship for all adults. A new citizenship law enacted in 2013 does allow for children under the age of 18 to hold more than one passport; however, the State Migration Service has yet to implement the new legislation. At this time, the Government of Turkmenistan continues to enforce the country’s prohibition on dual citizenship even for children under the age of 18. The SMS requires that citizens of Turkmenistan travelling abroad have a visa for their country of destination in their Turkmen passport, regardless of any other passports that they may hold. Absent a visa in the Turkmen passport, dual citizens have been denied departure. U.S. law prohibits issuance of U.S. visas to citizens of the United States. If you hold both a U.S. and a Turkmen passport, you should consider renouncing your Turkmenistan citizenship and entering the country on a visa. Please consult the Embassy's page on dual citizenship issues for the most up-to-date information.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
Safety and Security
The Government of Turkmenistan has designated many areas throughout the country as “restricted zones,” including the border areas next to Iran, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan, the entire region of Dashoguz (including Dashoguz city), and areas of the Caspian coast. Travel to these areas by foreigners is forbidden without special permission from the Government of Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan Airlines, the national airline, will not sell a ticket to any traveler who intends to travel to a “restricted zone” without proof of permission from the government. Travelers who wish to visit a “restricted zone” must have a valid passport and visa and must apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a special permit. There is a minimum processing time of 10 working days for these permits.
There is a visible police and military presence in all regions of Turkmenistan. Both uniformed and plainclothes officials may ask to see your passport and visa and they could take you in for questioning if you don’t have your passport and visa with you. If you are not certain that the person requesting the information is an official, ask for identification.
Security personnel maintain checkpoints on major roads, and may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest, such as government buildings, may result in problems with authorities. Visitors should ask whether buildings may be photographed.
Supporters of extremist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al-Qaida, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement remain active in Central Asia. These groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. Government or private interests in the region. While there has been no terrorist activity in Turkmenistan, travelers should be aware of the continuing threat that exists in Central Asia. To stay connected:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- Bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Follow the U.S. Embassy in Turkmenistan by visiting the Embassy’s website.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or via a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Take some time before traveling to consider your personal security and checking for useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: According to the Government of Turkmenistan, there is no violent crime in the country. However, as in any country, violent crimes do occur. The 2013 OSAC Annual Crime Report provides a comprehensive overview of crime in Turkmenistan.
Travelers should exercise the same common sense, good judgment, and caution as they would in any major U.S. city. Avoid carrying large sums of money in public, walking alone after dark, and being alone in isolated areas. Most taxis are not regulated by any government licensing agency and drivers are usually private citizens looking to make money. Many cars will not have seat belts or other safety devices, and drivers may not have had any formal driver training. For safety reasons, visitors should strongly consider hiring a private car and driver through their travel agency or hotel. There is one government-owned and regulated taxi company, operating in Ashgabat, which charges a flat fee of 8 Denominated Turkmen Manat (about $ 2.80 at the February 2014 exchange rate) for a one-way trip within Ashgabat city limits. Its telephone number is: (993 12) 32-97-75. If using local unregulated taxis, always negotiate fares with taxi drivers in advance and use extreme caution when using taxis after dark, especially when there are other passengers in the vehicle.
Prostitution is illegal, and prostitutes have been known to accompany men to their residences or hotel rooms in order to steal from them, sometimes with the help of an accomplice. The authorities will generally consider any woman leaving a discotheque with a foreign man late at night to be a prostitute, and on that basis, the foreigner may be detained. Travelers should be aware that U.S. law provides for criminal prosecution in U.S. federal courts of U.S. citizens who have solicited a prostitute under the age of 18 while traveling abroad.
Police can ask anyone to present identity papers at any time, but authorities are especially aggressive late at night. Even if valid papers are presented, the police may ask for a bribe. For this reason, those going from place to place late at night should consider using a trusted driver.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates ). We can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, we can contact family members or friend.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Turkmenistan is 03.
Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Turkmenistan, you are subject to its laws. It is important to be aware that there are some things that are illegal in Turkmenistan that may not be illegal in the United States. For example, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. Some travelers have been arrested and deported for staying overnight in a location other than the one where they registered with the SMS. Note that if you break local laws while abroad, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. If you are arrested or detained you should request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as possible.
Additionally, there are some things that, while legal in the country you visit, are illegal in the United States; for instance, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or possessing or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime that is prosecutable in the United States.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Several popular travel guides discuss traveling by “ferry” across the Caspian Sea from Baku, Azerbaijan, to the port of Turkmenbashy in western Turkmenistan. These “ferries” are in fact cargo ships that take on passengers in addition to their primary cargo as space permits. Passengers are generally not provided food or water on these ships, and sleeping and sanitary facilities are quite basic. When ships arrive in Turkmenbashy, they often wait up to a week for a vacant dock. Passengers might run out of food and water, or their Turkmen visa may expire while they wait.
Turkmenistan has a cash economy; while several of the newer hotels may accept credit cards, most businesses accept only cash. Additionally, most airlines at the Ashgabat airport do not accept credit cards or any currency other than U.S. dollars or Turkmen manat. If you are transiting through Turkmenistan on the way to another country and miss your connection, you will not be able to leave the arrival area until you purchase a ticket for an onward flight out of the country.
There are some ATM machines in Ashgabat, and Vnesheconombank and the National Bank of Pakistan will cash traveler’s checks and personal checks for a fee. However, cashing a personal check is a lengthy process that can require up to two months. Vnesheconombank also accepts Visa cards for cash advances, for a fee.
Travelers may experience significant delays, unexpected re-routing, and sudden cancellations of flights, including those of Turkmenistan Airlines (Turkmenhowayollary), the national airline. Travelers have reported difficulties securing reservations and purchasing tickets from Turkmenistan Airlines on both domestic and international flights, which are routinely overbooked. Some have reported significant delays, unexpected re-routing, and sudden cancellations of flights.
Although the Denominated Turkmen Manat (DTM) is the official currency, U.S. dollars are widely accepted and are required as payment for certain goods and services. You may wish to bring sufficient U.S. currency to exchange into manat to cover any expenses not payable in U.S. dollars. Old U.S. dollar bills (issued before 1990) and/or those in poor condition (with tears, writing or stamps) are not acceptable as currency in Turkmenistan. Banks frequently do not have small bills for change.
Turkmenistan customs authorities have strict regulations concerning temporary import or export of items such as carpets, jewelry, musical instruments, pieces of art, archaeological artifacts, antiques, protected animals, etc. In order to take carpets out of Turkmenistan you will need a certificate from the Carpet Museum in central Ashgabat indicating that the carpet is not of historical value. Many private shops can arrange for these certificates; be sure to ask about the customs certificates before purchasing any carpet. In addition, you may also need to pay a tax calculated according to the size of the carpet. For specific information regarding customs requirements, contact the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Washington, D.C.
Some travelers have reported difficulties taking other items out of Turkmenistan, particularly things like antique jewelry, which could be perceived to be of historical value. Turkmenistan's indigenous dog, the Alabay, is considered a national treasure and is banned for export without prior permission. U.S. citizens should also check to ensure that any item they intend to bring into the United States is permitted by U.S. customs regulations.
You should carry a copy of your passport and visa with you at all times so that if questioned by local officials you have proof of your identity and citizenship readily available.
Travelers to Turkmenistan should be aware that there are several types of poisonous snakes and insects indigenous to the country.
Anti-sodomy laws remain on the books in Turkmenistan and carry criminal penalties. Social norms in Turkmenistan are extremely conservative, and although the Embassy is not aware of any recent arrests or prosecutions for such activities, harassment or detention are possible. We would strongly caution against displays of affection by homosexual or heterosexual couples. For further information on LGBT travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.
Accessibility: Accessibility and accommodation for the disabled are very different from what is found in the United States. Although the law requires that new construction projects include facilities that allow access by persons with disabilities, compliance is inconsistent and many buildings remain inaccessible. Public transportation is likewise inaccessible.
Medical care in Turkmenistan is limited and well below North American and Western European standards. If you travel to Turkmenistan, you should make sure that you have medical evacuation insurance. Absent this insurance, medical evacuation travel may be prohibitively expensive or logistically impossible. If you have a medical condition, you should consult with your physician about whether travel to Turkmenistan is advisable. U.S. citizens who reside in Turkmenistan travel to Western Europe or North America for treatment of any serious medical conditions and even for many routine procedures. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of public hospitals and English-speaking physicians in the country however, the standard of care at these hospitals is not comparable to that found in the United States. Basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics are often in short supply. There are private clinics with foreign medical practitioners (generally Turkish) who may be available for consultations and treatment; these clinics, however, have refused in some cases to admit patients with serious conditions, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay for treatment. If you need prescription medications, you should bring sufficient supplies with you and appropriate documentation to ensure no problems with customs officials upon arrival.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: Road conditions in Turkmenistan make driving difficult and sometimes dangerous. Most roads outside of major cities are narrow, unlit at night, and lacking in proper road signs. Frequent construction projects, unlighted highways, and camel crossings all present significant challenges to drivers accustomed to U.S. or European roadways. Driving at night on rural roads should be avoided. City roads are better in comparison to rural routes but may be hazardous due to potholes, uncovered manholes, poor lighting, and heavy pedestrian traffic. Traffic accidents involving serious injury to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians are common.
If you drive in Turkmenistan, drive defensively and use an abundance of caution. Drivers pay little attention to lanes and other road markings, with weaving and sudden lane changes a common occurrence (usually without use of a turn signal). It is not unusual to encounter cars going the wrong way on one-way streets or divided highways. Cars also frequently make left-turns from the right lane and vice-versa. Pedestrians regularly walk or stand in the middle of busy streets during the day and night, often without paying attention to oncoming traffic.
Roadside assistance does not exist in Turkmenistan, where vast stretches of highway are often unmarked. Police checkpoints (where cars are required to stop and register) are a common feature on major routes between cities. The U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat has received reports that police stationed at checkpoints may arbitrarily fine motorists. Local law requires that traffic fines be paid within 12 hours. If a fine is not paid within that period, the amount may double every 12 hours up to 72 hours, after which time the vehicle in question may be seized. Driving while intoxicated is illegal in Turkmenistan and will result in the driver having their license revoked, a fine, and possible jail time. Driving while operating a cell phone or without a seat belt is illegal and perpetrators will be fined.
If you plan to drive in Turkmenistan, you must have a valid international driving permit. Foreigners who plan to reside in Turkmenistan must apply for a local driver's license with the Road Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Turkmenistan. For more specific information about driving in Turkmenistan, contact the Embassy of Turkmenistan at 2207 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20008, telephone (202) 588-1500.
For specific information concerning driving permits, vehicle inspection, road taxes, and mandatory insurance, contact the Turkmenistan National Tourist Organization offices at its Permanent Mission in New York. The address is: 136 East 67th Street, NY, NY 10021. The phone number is 1-212-472-5921. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Turkmenistan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Government of Turkmenistan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
Assistance for U.S. Citizens
U.S. Embassy Ashgabat
9 1984 Street (formerly Pushkin Street)
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan 744000