Turkmenistan

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 05 December 2014.   This advice contains updated information under Entry and exit (visa requirements, medication, customs regulations) and Where to get help. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Turkmenistan. We strongly advise you not to travel to the region bordering Afghanistan.

Turkmenistan overall

Turkmenistan/Afghanistan Border

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Turkmenistan.
  • You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia, and monitor the media and other sources for information on local travelling conditions.
  • Police and military presence is high on the streets. Security officials may carry out identity checks at any time. You should carry identification at all times and ensure travel documents are in order.
  • We strongly advise you not to 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 coast and Dashoguz are designated restricted zones and are closed to foreigners without government permission.
  • Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Turkmenistan. The Australian Embassy in Russia provides consular assistance to Australians in Turkmenistan.
  • See our general advice for business travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

A visa is required for all travellers to Turkmenistan, including transit passengers, prior to arrival in Turkmenistan. It is not possible to obtain a visa on arrival.

There is no Embassy or Consulate of Turkmenistan in Australia. For a list of the nearest Embassies see the website of the Turkmenistan Embassy in Washington DC.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest embassy or consulate of Turkmenistan for the most up-to-date information.

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 period, include fines, imprisonment and/or deportation.

You should ensure you hold the appropriate visa in relation to 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.

All foreign citizens are required to complete a migration card on arrival. You will also be required to pay a registration fee at the border entry point. If you plan to stay for more than three working days in Turkmenistan, you must register your arrival with the State Migration Service. State Migration Service offices are located in the cities of Ashgabat, Dashoguz, Mary, Turkmenabat and Turkmenbashy. You must return to the same State Migration Service office to register your departure. Failure to register your presence, or remaining in Turkmenistan with an expired visa may result in fines, deportation and/or arrest.

If you are carrying any foreign currencies, you will need to complete customs declarations forms both on arrival and on departure.

Adults travelling with children may be required to show evidence of parental, custodial and/or access rights, as well as a letter of consent from any non-travelling parent. You should contact the nearest embassy of Turkmenistan for up-to-date information.

Customs regulations apply to the import or export of items such as carpets, jewelry, 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 also be able to obtain this certificate in some private shops.

Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Turkmenistan/Afghanistan border: We strongly advise you not to travel to the region bordering Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation and very high threat of terrorist attack in Afghanistan. This region is a transit point for drugs and other smuggled goods.

If, despite our advice, you decide to travel to these border regions, you should monitor developments as the security situation may further deteriorate without notice.

Civil unrest/political tension

You should avoid any large public gatherings or political demonstrations as they may turn violent.

Crime

We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Turkmenistan. You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia, and monitor the media and other sources for information on local travelling conditions.

Petty crime targeting foreigners, including pickpocketing, mugging and theft, occurs throughout Turkmenistan particularly on trains (commonly on overnight rail services) and in markets.

Travellers have been robbed when using unofficial taxis. You should seek assistance from staff at hotels, restaurants or places of entertainment to book a licensed taxi.

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

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

There have been reports of harassment, mistreatment and extortion by police or other local officials.

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

Money and valuables

There are very few ATMs in Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan is predominantly a cash economy and travellers’ cheques are only accepted in some major hotels.

The official currency is the Turkmen Manat (TMM). US dollars are readily exchanged. To avoid difficulties, ensure banknotes are in good condition. You should exchange any unspent local currency prior to departure as you may not be able to exchange it outside Turkmenistan.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

The regions bordering Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan, areas of the Caspian coast and Dashoguz are designated restricted zones and are 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. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Random police checks and security checkpoints on roads are common. You should carry a copy of your passport and visa at all times.

Rail travel can be unreliable and dangerous due to criminal activity. If you are travelling overnight, store your valuables in a safe place. Do not leave the compartment unattended and secure the door from the inside.

You should only use licensed, official taxis which are clearly identified and yellow in colour. The use of pre-negotiated fees may help to avoid disagreements with taxi drivers.

Airline safety

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

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Turkmenistan be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Identity checks, conducted by security officials, are common. You should carry identification with you at all times and ensure all travel documents are in order. Foreigners may be subject to increased security checks and scrutiny from internal security, including questioning and car and home searches.

Penalties for drug offences, including possession, are severe and include lengthy imprisonment in local jails. See our Drugs: Don’t carry or consume drugs overseas - Ever page.

Sexual relations between males are illegal in Turkmenistan and could attract prison sentences of up to two years. Additional information for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex travellers can be found on our LGBTI travellers page.

Driving with a blood alcohol level greater than zero is an offence.

Smoking in restaurants and in most communal spaces, including open air spaces, is illegal.

Photography of sensitive sites such as military zones, assets and personnel, as well as transportation facilities and government buildings is illegal and may result in confiscation of equipment or detention. You should check with local authorities before taking photographs of government or security infrastructure.

A certificate from the Ministry of Culture is required if you plan to export artefacts or cultural items from Turkmenistan.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin on or around 18 June 2015 and finish on or around 17 July 2015. During Ramadan, Australians travelling to countries with significant Muslim communities should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, people who are not fasting are advised to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting. For more information see our Ramadan travel bulletin.

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Turkmenistan and you should take care not to offend. If in doubt, dress conservatively and seek local advice.

Information for dual nationals

Turkmenistan does not recognise dual nationality.

The Australian Government may have a limited ability to provide consular assistance to Australian/Turkmenistan dual nationals who are arrested or detained and have travelled on their Turkmenistan passport.

Australian/Turkmenistan dual nationals may be required to perform military service in Turkmenistan. Australian/Turkmenistan dual nationals should seek advice from an Embassy or Consulate of Turkmenistan well in advance of travel.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. 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 a traveller’s medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Some medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia, such as sleeping tablets or medication containing codeine, may be restricted in Turkmenistan. You should carry a copy of the prescription and a letter from your physician, and declare all prescription medication and other restricted items on arrival. If not declared, or if the quantity held exceeds legal limits, possession of such items, even with a doctor’s prescription, could lead to administrative or even criminal charges. You should contact an embassy of Turkmenistan for advice.

Medical facilities are limited in Turkmenistan, with medicines and equipment often in short supply. Doctors and hospitals often require payment in cash prior to providing services, including for emergency care. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Costs for a medical evacuation could be considerable.

Malaria is a risk in some areas in the south-east of Turkmenistan. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including tuberculosis, typhoid and hepatitis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police or report it to the nearest police station. You should always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

In an emergency, dial the following 24 hour emergency numbers:
01 for Fire Fighting and Rescue
02 for Police
03 for Medical Emergencies.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. Australia does not have an Embassy in Turkmenistan. You can contact the Australian Government at the Australian Embassy in Russia for consular assistance. See contact details below:

Australian Embassy, Moscow

10a/2 Podkolokolny Pereulok,
Moscow, Russia
Telephone: +7 (495) 956-6070
Facsimile: +7 (495) 956-6170
Website: www.russia.embassy.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to Turkmenistan, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Turkmenistan is subject to earthquakes. See our Earthquakes page for advice on travelling to and living in an earthquake-prone region.

Information on natural disasters, including earthquakes and volcanic activity, can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

If you are in an area affected by a natural disaster, you should monitor the media and follow the advice of local authorities.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.