Do I need a visa?
Yes, you definitely need a visa to visit Turkmenistan. The easiest and most likely to work way to get a visa is to book a tour (independent or group) and have a tour company apply for a Letter of Invitation (LOI) for you. This does mean you will be accompanied during your stay, but the alternative, which is to get a transit visa, comes with a lot of restrictions and is likely to be rejected. To find out more about getting a visa, visit our visa page .
Do I need to be on a tour?
To get a tourist visa you do need to be booked on a tour. We specialise in group tours, all of which have one of our expert guides, along with the local escort, and the great advantage of this is that you get to reap the rewards of all our networking and extensive knowledge.
I heard getting a visa is hard, what should I do?
Getting a visa to Turkmenistan isn't hard as such, it's just unpredictable. In order to get a tourist visa you'll need to be booked on a tour through a tour company, who will then apply for a Letter of Invitation (LOI) for you. There are several factors that can affect your chances of approval, such as visiting during particular periods of time that are considered more sensitive than others, or your nationality or workplace, but your tour agency should be able to advise you on this.
What is an LOI?
An LOI is a Letter of Invitation. It's the document that you receive when you are approved for your tourist visa and is the key to getting the visa. It means the State Migration Service has approved your visit, and there are no further checks or chances of rejection. Once you have your LOI you can get the visa either at an embassy (usually in 1-2 days, but depends on the embassy), at the airport on arrival, or most land borders on arrival.
What about getting a Transit Visa?
For those who really really don’t want to go on a tour of any kind there is one option – a transit visa. It’s not all smooth sailing however, and comes with several issues and downfalls. You can apply at most Turkmen embassies, however there is a very high rejection rate and processing time can take up to one month. You're then restricted on where you can travel whilst in Turkmenistan and are usually only given 3 to 5 days. For more information – link to visa page.
Do I have to go on a group tour?
No, not at all. Independent travel does tend to be more expensive than joining a group tour of course, but being on a tour doesn't mean you need to be with a group. If you want to travel independently, just ask your tour operator to organise a private tour for you based on where you want to go, what you want to see, your budget and your time frame.
When is the best time to go?
The best time of year to go is in spring or autumn. Turkmenistan is very hot and dry during summer, getting well into the 40's (Deg. Celsius) most days, and going for weeks without even a single cloud in the sky, and certainly not a drop of rain. Although winter isn't as extreme as it is in the rest of Central Asia, it can still get cold, especially in the desert. Snow does fall every winter, though not constantly, and temperatures fluctuate around 0 most of the time.
What should I see?
This depends so much on how long you’ve got, but the top of everyone’s list should always be the Gates of Hell (Davarza) . This is one of the most unique and bizarre sites in the world, and after you've done all the hard work to get into Turkmenistan, it would be such a shame to then miss the Gates of Hell.
If you’ve got 3-4 days in Turkmenistan, then other than your trip to the Gates of Hell (Darvarza), you should focus on exploring Ashgabat and its surrounds. Just seeing all the monuments in Ashgabat takes a full day, then there are several museums and plenty of other things inside the city to keep you occupied. Short drives from Ashgabat you can find the cable car, the Walk of Health, Kow Ata , Turkmenbashy Mosque and Mausoleum , the UNESCO listed ancient city of Nisa , the ruins of Anau Fortress and Geok Tepe Mosque .
If you’re planning on spending a week in Turkmenistan then you should take a trip to Nohkur , a tribal village in the mountains, for a family homestay. You could also venture to the west coast to see Turkmenbashy (the city, not the person), Yangykala Canyon , and the deserted beach resort of Avaza .
Is it safe to travel to Turkmenistan?
You might surprised to learn that the ‘Stans are in general very safe to travel to. People often think that Central Asia is in some way involved with the problems in the Middle East, or Pakistan and Afghanistan, and of course being called something ‘stan’ doesn't help. In fact though, Turkmenistan is one of the safest countries you could go to as a tourist. Everything is very strictly controlled, and petty crimes, especially against tourists, just don't exist. As a tourist all you need to do is ensure that you don’t say or do anything that could offend the local people, or most importantly the government. The only concern, though still minor, is if you are travelling by yourself you might encounter a corrupt policeman.
Do I need to take cash?
Yes, most definitely. Cash is very much still king in this part of the world, especially Turkmenistan. It is important to take in all your spending money in foreign currency, preferably USD, as foreign credit cards won't be accepted. You will see an ATM or two, but they rarely have cash in them or are working, and certainly can't be relied on. Whilst Euros and other major currencies will be accepted at banks and some exchange bureaus, it is best to take in USD cash which will be accepted everywhere.
Are they Muslims?
The short answer is yes, most people all over Central Asia are Muslims. But in saying that, more often than not, it is in the same sense that most people in Australia, Britain or France are Christians. It’s more of a cultural identification than a religious one. One thing the Soviet Union did, for better or worse, was beat religion out of people. At one point in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan for example, there was only one mosque in each country. Even before the Soviets came, Islam’s influence in the region was minimal. A famous quote is that the people of Central Asia “took as much Islam with them as they could fit in their saddlebags”. Another question of this genre is whether women need to cover up. No. Wearing a bikini on the street probably isn't appropriate, but unless you live at a beach resort, it probably isn't where you live either.
Is it a ‘dry’ country?
This question almost always follows on from the last question, and the answer is most definitely “no”. Whether it's the fault of their Russian overlords, or they were this way inclined anyway, Central Asians drink like fish. Fish with drinking problems. They love their vodka and cognac, and of course beer can be good as a refreshing beverage to enjoy as one might have a juice.
What’s the food like?
If you're looking for delicious food, then Central Asia, especially Turkmenistan, isn't the place for you. In general, the variety is minimal and it's not a great place for vegetarians. There is a lot of fried or barbecued meat, and other than potatoes, onions and carrots, not much in the way of vegetables. Of course in the cities there are more options than in the country, and there are some local dishes that you might really like, but all in all, this isn’t a region to be visited for its fine cuisine. If you'd like more detail about what foods and drinks are available in Turkmenistan, check out our Food and Drink page .
It was a long wait, and they ended up being closed for 3 years for COVID, but the borders have finally re-opened. Read more about it here .