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Turkmenistan

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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions in Turkmenistan. Use common sense. Look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions.
  • Do not travel to the region bordering Afghanistan because of ongoing political and civil unrest in Afghanistan.
  • The regions bordering Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan, areas of the Caspian Sea coast and Dashoguz are designated restricted zones and closed to foreigners without government permission.
  • All foreign citizens, except accredited diplomats, are required to pay the tourist charge for each day of their stay in Turkmenistan. See Entry a​nd exit.
  • Police and military presence is high on the streets. Security officials may carry out identity checks at any time. Carry identification at all times and ensure travel documents are in order.
  • You need a visa for travel to Turkmenistan. See Entry a​nd exit.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Turkmenistan. The Australian Embassy in Russia provides consular assistance to Australians in Turkmenistan.

Entry and exit

Visas

You need a visa to enter Turkmenistan, including for transit. You must get a visa prior to arriving in Turkmenistan.

Ensure you have the appropriate visa for the purpose of your visit, especially for business and work visas. Ensure that your passport number, date of birth and validity of your visa are correct on the visa before travelling.

Visas for Turkmenistan specify the validity of the visa, the number of entries permitted and the duration of stay permitted. You are only allowed to stay in Turkmenistan for the number of days specified on the visa. Penalties for visa infringements, including over-staying your visa, include fines, arrest and deportation.

Transit visa holders must register at entry and exit points and must notify authorities of any changes to their route through the country. You can't change a transit visa to another class of visa in-country.

Visa conditions can change at short notice. Contact your nearest Embassy or Consulate of Turkmenistan to confirm visa arrangements before departure.

Other formalities

On arrival, you must present a migration card and pay a registration fee. You must register with the State Migration Service within the first three working days of your arrival, not counting the arrival date. Failure to register your presence, or remaining in Turkmenistan with an expired visa, can result in fines, arrest and deportation.

From 1 August 2017, all foreign citizens, except accredited diplomats, need to pay the tourist charge for each day of their stay in Turkmenistan. If you are staying at a hotel, the charge might be included in your room bill as a separate item.

Adults travelling with children may be required to show evidence of parental, custodial or access rights, as well as a letter of consent from any non-travelling parent.

Customs regulations apply to the import or export of some items, including carpets, jewellery, musical instruments, antiques, and protected animals. If you plan to export carpets from Turkmenistan you will need a certificate from the Carpet Museum in central Ashgabat indicating that the carpet has no historical value. You may be able to obtain this certificate in some private shops.

Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice.

More information:

Money

Declare any foreign currency on both arrival and departure.

Turkmenistan is largely a cash based economy. Travellers cheques are only accepted in some major hotels. There are very few ATMs in Ashgabat and none outside the capital city.

The official currency is the Turkmen Manat (TMM). US dollars are readily exchanged. To avoid difficulties, ensure banknotes are in good condition and not counterfeit. Only use authorised foreign exchange providers.

Exchange any unspent local currency prior to departure as you may not be able to exchange it outside Turkmenistan.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.

More information: Terrorism threat worldwide

Turkmenistan/Afghanistan border

Do not to travel to the region bordering Afghanistan. The security situation is extremely dangerous, with militant activity and skirmishes between militants and Afghan forces near the border. The transit of drugs and other smuggled goods in this region creates further dangers.

If, despite our advice, you travel to these border regions, monitor local and international news sources for developments. The security situation could get worse without notice. The Australian Government is extremely limited in what consular assistance it can provide to you in these border regions.

Civil unrest and political tension

Avoid any large public gatherings or political demonstrations as they may turn violent.

Crime

Incidents of pickpocketing, mugging and theft occur throughout Turkmenistan particularly on trains (commonly on overnight services) and in markets.

Travellers have been robbed when using unofficial taxis. Seek the assistance from staff at hotels, restaurants or places of entertainment to book a licensed taxi. Avoid getting into taxis which have other passengers in them.

Travelling alone can be unsafe, especially for women. Avoid isolated areas and pay close attention to your immediate surroundings.

Crime levels are higher at night. Avoid walking alone and using public transport after dark.

Harassment, mistreatment and extortion of foreigners by police or other local officials has been reported.

Gangs of bandits are known to operate in the south-east area of the country.

Passport

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Local travel

Road travel

The regions bordering Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan, areas of the Caspian Sea coast and Dashoguz are designated restricted zones and closed to foreigners without government permission.

Road conditions and driving standards are poor. Roads can be particularly hazardous in winter and spring, when avalanches and landslides occur. Driving at night is also particularly dangerous due to a lack of lighting. Access to service stations can be limited in rural areas.

Random police checks and security checkpoints on roads are common. Carry certified copies of your passport and visa.

More information: Road safety and driving

Taxis

Only use licensed, official taxis which are clearly identified and yellow in colour. Negotiate fares in advance to avoid disagreements with taxi drivers.

Rail travel

Rail travel can be unreliable and dangerous due to criminal activity. Store your valuables in a safe place. Do not leave your compartment unattended and secure the door from the inside.

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network for information on aviation safety in Turkmenistan.

More information: Air travel

Laws

Local laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Carry identification with you at all times and ensure all travel documents are in order. Identity checks, conducted by security officials, are common.

Foreigners may be subject to increased security checks and scrutiny from internal security, including questioning and car and home searches.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences, including possession, are severe and include lengthy imprisonment in local jails.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

The following activities are illegal in Turkmenistan:

  • sexual relations between males
  • driving with a blood alcohol level greater than zero
  • smoking in restaurants, hotels and most public spaces
  • gifting of tobacco products
  • photography of sensitive sites such as military zones, assets and personnel, as well as transportation facilities and government buildings – always check with local authorities before taking photographs of government or security infrastructure
  • export of artefacts or cultural items, including carpets, without a certificate from the Ministry of Culture.

Penalties for these and other offences can be severe and include imprisonment in local jails, confiscation of equipment and detention.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Turkmenistan doesn't recognise dual nationality and prohibits dual citizenship for all adults.

The Australian Government may not be able to provide consular assistance to Australian/Turkmen dual nationals who are arrested or detained and have travelled on their Turkmenistan passport.

Australian/Turkmen dual nationals may be required to perform military service in Turkmenistan. If you are a dual national, seek advice from the Australian Embassy in Russia well in advance of travel.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs 

Obvious displays of affection, even between married couples, can offend and attract harassment or detention by police.

Ramadan

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur from early May to early June 2019.

During Ramadan, respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. Do not eat, drink or smoke in public or in front of people who are fasting.

More information: Ramadan

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you leave to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up and discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

If you need counselling services while overseas, contact the Australian Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 and ask to speak to a Lifeline telephone counsellor.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor. Example: some sleeping tablets and medication containing codeine may be restricted in Turkmenistan.

Take prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only. If you arrive without a prescription for medication you're carrying, you could be refused entry or prosecuted.

Declare all prescription medication and other restricted items on arrival. If you don't, you could be prosecuted or face administrative charges, even if you hold a prescription.

Check legal limits for any medications or other restricted items you need before you travel to Turkmenistan. If you arrive with a quantity that exceeds legal limits, you could be prosecuted or face administrative charges. 

Before you leave Australia:

  • check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to
  • get medical documents authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (if required).

More information:

Health risks

Mosquito-borne illnesses

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses by:

  • ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • taking measures to avoid insect bites, including using always using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing.

Other diseases and health issues

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including cholera, hepatitis, measles, tuberculosis and typhoid) are prevalent with serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.

  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid uncooked and undercooked food.

Seek urgent medical attention if you suspect poisoning, have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

Medical facilities are limited in Turkmenistan. Medicines and equipment are often in short supply.

Doctors and hospitals often require cash payment prior to providing services, including for emergency care.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you would need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.

More information:

Natural disasters

Follow the advice of local authorities. Monitor media reports for the latest information.

Earthquakes

Turkmenistan is subject to earthquakes. Earthquake risk is high in the south-west and north-east regions.

More information:

Severe weather

Flooding can occur in the Chardzhou region.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer, or airline.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Firefighting and rescue services: 01
  • Medical emergencies: 03
  • Criminal issues, contact police: 02

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Turkmenistan. The Australian Embassy in Russia provides consular assistance to Australians in Turkmenistan:

Australian Embassy, Moscow

10a/2 Podkolokolny Pereulok,
Moscow, Russia   
Phone: +7 495 956-6070
Fax: +7 495 956-6170

More information for opening hours and temporary closures: russia.embassy.gov.au  

If you're unable to contact the responsible Embassy in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources