Turkmenistan is safe and friendly country as long as a visitor does not discuss politics. Politics remain a very sensitive issue, and it is your responsibility that you do not involve yourself in or speak out against the government, since it is considered a crime. For safety and respect, Do not under any circumstances criticize the President, the country or its people. Things have eased a bit since Turkmenbashi's death, but the country remains a tightly-controlled police state. The Ruhnama, a book written for the Turkmen people by Suparmurat Niyazov is still sold, and still learned in Turkmen schools. As such, it is best regarded to not criticize the former President as well.

Turkmenistan, like any other Central Asian country, is a fairly corrupt country. Corrupt officials and authorities may ask for bribes, and so if you are pulled over for any reason, simply pay the bribe. It is also possible that you will be asked by police for documents. This is rather rare, but this can happen at any time and they have a legal right to do so. You should carry your passport and visa with you, though in practice, it is better to make a color scan of the first two pages of your passport and your visa before you arrive. Carry the colour copies with you when you're walking around, and keep the original documents in the hotel safe. Also, upon arrival make a copy of your visa page. The scanned documents will almost always suffice. If not, make it clear to the Police that he will have to come to your hotel to see the originals. Nevertheless, Policemen will demand a bribe for this. Always be polite with the Police, but also be firm. Although rare, police can take visitors/locals to secluded places to beat up people for even more money, so stay alert. Police are the most frequent problem you will always come up across and be warned that they are generally very aggressive, especially during the night, expect some harassment from them. Many hotels, including very good ones, are frequently bugged by the police. Do not sign any documents provided by the police if it is in a language you do not know, as it may be that they may try to rip you off for some more money. Just be polite with them, and just say that you do not understand it.

A curfew prevents people from leaving from 11pm, and this law applies to non-residents as well. Going out will get you arrested. Taking taxis or hiring private drivers may avoid problems, but don't be too dependent on this option, as it is possible it may not save your life.

It is possible to take photographs relatively freely in Turkmenistan. However, you are best advised to exercise caution when photographing anyone in uniform or government buildings. In Ashgabat, there are uniformed police/military on every street corner. Play it safe early on in your visit to give yourself an idea of what is acceptable. There are almost no 'no photo signs'. If you are in doubt ask the next policeman if you are allowed to take a picture.

It should not be necessary for your guide to accompany you if you wish to leave your hotel, and go for a wander. Try to not walk with a female companion - Police may think of this of walking with a prostitute and can simply arrest you.

Most taxis are not regulated by any government licensing agency and drivers are usually private citizens looking to make money. The majority of cars will not have seat belts or other safety devices, and drivers may not have had any formal driver training. For safety reasons, visitors should strongly consider hiring a private car and driver through their travel agency or hotel.

Penalties for breaking the law can be severe. And do remember, homosexuality is punishable by 2 years. Homosexual activities, prostitution and intercourse with prostitutes are prohibited.

Vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, hepatitis A and B are recommended. A vaccination against typhus is also recommended in case you stay in poor hygienic conditions, and a vaccination against rabies is recommended for long term stays and frequent contact with animals.

Medical supply does not correspond to American or European standards. Bring the medicines you need for your personal use with you, as they will be unavailable outside of Ashgabat. A travel insurance covering hospital care and an emergency flight to your home country is strictly recommended.

Avoid drinking tap water. Tap Water in Turkmenistan is known to contain traces of toxic metals, and this can cause long-term health problems.

Fruits and vegetables should be peeled before consumption. Avoid dairy products as they are not pasteurized.

It is strongly recommended that you apply for a Turkmenistan visa before travelling to Turkmenistan. It is reported that travellers applying for visa at Ashgabat airport have been detained in the transit area of the airport for several days due to missing documents.

suggested itineraries
22 Days Tour through Turkmenistan

Orexca (http://www.orexca.com/) offers a 22 days tour through Turkmenistan from April to June and August to October with the following itinerary: day 1 arrival in Ashgabat, day 2 sightseeing in Ashgabat, excursion to Nissa, day 3 transfer to Sekizyab Valley Tourist Center, day 4 excursion in the Sekizyab Valley, day 5 visit of Kow Alta underground lake, transfer to Shamengli Horse Farm, day 6 Darvaza Gas Crater, day 7 sightseeing tour of Konye Urgench, flight to Ashgabat, day 8 drive to Mary, day 9 visit of Merv, day 10 visit of Astana Baba Mausoleum, drive to Koyentag Tourist Base, day 11 visit of Kyrk Gyz Gorge and Dinosaur Plateau in the Kugitang Nature Reserve, day 12 visit of Garlyk Caves and Gaynar Babar sulphur spring, day 13 and 14 trekking to the highest peak of Turkmenistan Ayr Baba, day 15 transfer for Turkmenabat, flight to Ashgabat, day 16 visit of Kow Ata underground lake, drive to Nohur village in the Kopedag Mountains, day 17 trekking to Kyz Bibi pilgrimage site and Ai Dere Canyon, day 18 drive to Syunt-Hasardag Nature Reserve, Sumbar Valley and Garrygela, day 19 visit of Paraw Bibi Shrine, drive to Dekhistan, day 20 drive to Turkmenbashi, day 21 visit of Guwlymayak dry lake, flight to Ashgabat, day 22 return flight //www.turkmenistan.orexca.com/discovery_tour1.shtml].


Around 70% of the people in Turkmenistan speak Turkmen, and 50% speak decent Russian. If you are unable to speak Turkmen, then Russian would be your best bet to communicate. Not everyone has the time, resources, or money to learn Turkmen. However, out of respect, and due to the fact only 50% of the people speak Russian, learning basic Turkmen would be advisable. Turkmen was written in a Cyrillic alphabet during Soviet times and is now written in a Latin alphabet. Uzbek is widely understood in Turkmenistan, due to both languages sharing common Turkic traits. Kazakh is also understood in the country because of Turkic traits, yet very, very few Turkmen will understand Kazakh.

Not many Turkmens will have a basic understanding of English, even in the capital city.