Turkmenistan is considered one of the most authoritarian and isolated states in the world. The Turkmenistan population is systematically and consistently denied access to information about the rest of the world. At the same time, hardly any information leaks out from the isolated desert state. Few tourists reach the country and it is even more rare that foreigners are allowed to move around the country or make contact with the population without the company of a guardian. The information about Turkmenistan is correspondingly limited and a differentiated presentation of this fascinating, beautiful, unknown country with its basically unconditionally hospitable people is all the more important.
Estimated GDP per resident (UN): US $ 3,397-7,986 (exact value unknown)
Per capita income (purchasing power parity): US $ 3,140-7,112 PPP (exact value unknown)
Human Development Rank (HDI): Rank 108 of 188 (2018)
Proportion of poverty (less than $ 2 per day): around 40% (2010, no recent estimate)
Distribution of income (Gini coefficient): around 40 (2011, no recent estimate)
Economic transformation index: Rank 119 (of 129) (2018)
Gender Inequality Index: Not yet determined for Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan is located in the south of Central Asia between the Amu-Darja in the north and the Kopet Dag Mountains in the south. The middle of the country, which became independent in 1991, is dominated by the sparsely populated and hardly developed Karakum Desert, which takes up over 90% of the country’s area. The main settlements are along the mountain foot oases in the south and the river oases in the north and south-east.
The Turkmenistan economic system is largely a state economy. The export of gas is the country’s main source of income. Lack of legal security, extreme corruption and regular expropriations without compensation are a burden on economic development and inhibit the private sector.
Nothing and no one in Turkmenistan is more valued than one’s own family – and in second place is the guest. Because Turkmens are not only considered hospitable, they are! In contrast to this, religion does not play a major role in contrast to its southern neighbors.
Turkmenistan is fascinating, strange, exotic, exciting, extremely interesting and not always easy to handle in everyday life. Therefore, here is a guide to navigating through the entry and handling the everyday life of short and long-term visits.
Turkmenistan has so far been largely undeveloped for tourism. Individual tourists or tour groups rarely visit the country. Since the visits of business people and participants in political delegations are mostly limited to the capital and tourists outside of Ashgabat are also obliged to be accompanied by employees of state tourism organizations, the number of photos and travel documentation on Turkmenistan is still extremely low.
These few picture galleries and travel documentations are mostly limited to Ashgabat. The exceptions include the following picture galleries, travel reports and video documentation, some of which have been excellently compiled and researched:
The Turkmenistan transport infrastructure is designed to connect the major centers of the country and is very well developed in this regard. The main roads and railway lines run almost parallel to each other across the country. According to the distribution of cities across the country, the main lines of traffic resemble an upside-down T – a west-east route connects Turkmenbashi in the west with Ashgabat in the center, Mary in the east and Turkmenabad in the northeast. A second route branches off to the north from Ashgabat and leads towards the city of Daschogus. In addition, a road running parallel to Amu-Darja in the north-east of the country connects the towns of Turkmenabad and Daschogus.
Ashgabat International Airport, which was modernized at a cost of more than 2 billion euros and reopened in 2016, is the country’s most important and largest airport. With currently (2015) around 105,000 visitors per year, the airport is currently used at around 0.75% with a capacity of around 14 million passengers. In other words, if the airport had used its full hourly capacity of around 1,600 passengers from a theoretical first January, the airport would have reached the annual passenger volume on January 3rd around 17:37 and could then close its doors until the next year.
The only other international airport is in Turkmenbaschi – Turkmenistan Airlines offers a weekly flight to Istanbul from here. There are ferry services from the port city of Turkmenbashi across the Caspian Sea. At the same time, the city’s train station is the westernmost point of the Trans-Caspian Railway, which, on its further course in an easterly direction, connects the cities of Balkanabad, Ashgabat, Mary and Turkmenabad.
The most important port in the country is the port of Turkmenbashi, which handles between 4 and 10 ships on average every day.
You can find detailed information on cross-border traffic, all means of transport within the country, individual travel with your own car or bike, and local public transport within large cities in the section on everyday life and practical information.
- 01.01. New Year
- 12.01. Memorial Day (remembering the battle of Geok Tepe in 1881.
- 19.02. Turkmenistan Flag Day
- 08.03. Turkmenistan Women’s Day
- March 20 – 21.03. Nouruz (Spring Festival)
- First Sunday in April: “A drop of water is a grain of gold” – holiday
- last Sunday in April: Day of the Turkmenistan Horse
- 08.05. Remembering the Turkmenistan heroes of the World War (1941-1945)
- 09.05. Day of victory
- May 18 – 19.05. Day of Rebirth, Unity and Poetry Maghtymgulys
- last Sunday in May: Day of the Turkmenistan Carpet
- 06/27 Berdymukhamedov’s birthday and cultural workers’ day
- Third Sunday in July: Wheat Harvest Day
- Second Sunday in August: Day of the Turkmenistan Melon
- Second Saturday in September: Oil, Gas, Electrical and Earth Sciences Workers Day
- Second Sunday in September: Day of Turkmenistan Folk Musicians
- 06.10. Memorial Day (1948 earthquake)
- 28.10. Independence day
- First Saturday in November: Health Day
- Last Sunday in November: Cotton Harvest Day (Harvest Day)
- First Sunday in December: Good Neighbor Day
- 12.12. Day of Neutrality and Day of Youth and Students
- First day of the month of Bayram (Shawwal): Oraza Bayram
- Day of breaking the fast (Eid ul-Fitr) at the end of the month of Oraza (the ninth month in the Islamic calendar)
On all holidays there are performances, parades or other state mass events, the preparation of which often takes months of planning and practicing for the participants. Since basically all Turkmens can be asked to take part in the events, there are no “non-working” holidays in the sense that Turkmenistan are guaranteed to know on which days they can freely determine their time. January 1st, March 20th-21st, May 8th, June 27th and 28.10. the shops remain closed at least partially all day. In particular on May 8th, June 27th and 28.10, the extensive celebrations require the commitment of a considerable proportion of the population, so that numerous shops and facilities here cannot open due to the lack of staff.