Turkmenistan

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 06 June 2014.   This advice has been reviewed and reissued with editorial amendments. 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.
  • Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
  • 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.
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Entry and exit

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

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact an embassy or consulate of Turkmenistan, for example the Turkmenistan Embassy in Washington DC (email: turkmen@mindspring.com) 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 to Turkmenistan, 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.

You will be required to pay a migration fee on arrival and departure. If you are carrying any foreign currencies, you will need to complete customs declarations forms both on arrival and on departure.

If you visit any location for three days or more, you need to register your entry and departure with local authorities. This is usually completed by your hotel, travel agent, employer or private host through their local Turkmenistan State Service for the Registration of Foreigners (SSRF).

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. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

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. Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.

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

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries.

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.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

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.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

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

Airline and air charter safety and maintenance standards vary throughout the world. It is not known whether maintenance procedures and safety standards on aircraft used on internal flights are always properly observed or whether passengers are covered by airline insurance.

Please refer to our 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.

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.

Homosexual acts between males are illegal. Penalties include a prison sentence of up to two years. See 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 outside, 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

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Turkmenistan and you should take care not to offend.

Public displays of affection may cause offence.

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, such as the Turkmenistan Embassy in Washington DC (email: turkmen@mindspring.com) 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.

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

Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Turkmenistan. You can obtain consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Russia:

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

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.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Turkmenistan is subject to earthquakes. 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.

For parents

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 or consulate of Turkmenistan for up-to-date information.

For general information and tips on travelling with children, see our Travelling with children page.



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.