Our photos from Turkmenistan are gathered here. Click on the arrows on the right or left of a photo to move through each slideshow, or click the center of the photo to open in Flickr.
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Cost per day: $424
As a paranoid country run by a megalomaniac, Turkmenistan makes it very hard to get permission to travel independently. The only reliable way to get a tourist visa is to book a tour, which is expensive. We almost didn’t go to Turkmenistan because of the cost. It turned out that it would cost almost as much to fly from Iran to Uzbekistan, so we went ahead with it and are glad we did. Because of the cost we limited our time to 3 nights.
After Iran, the most bureaucratic country so far. STANtours handled our visa application, which took weeks to be approved. Not all travelers are so lucky: we spoke to a young American in Samarkand whose two visa applications had been denied with no reason given. We eventually received an authorization code which let us obtain our visas at the border after exiting Iran. The cost for the two visas and various entry fees at the border was US 184.
Interactions with locals: 5/10
A big change from Iran! People in Ashgabat seem nice but mostly keep to themselves. We got the impression that spontaneous interactions with foreigners might not be encouraged. A highlight of our visit to Konye Urgench was the groups of giggling schoolgirls requesting photos with us.
Fruit and veg 7/10
Better than expected. The Russian Bazaar in Ashgabat is sparkling clean and well stocked with produce. Salads are OK to eat. We bought a tasty melon from a farmer on the side of the road on the way to the Darvaza crater.
Again, better than expected. We had decent espresso at the Yimpas shopping center food court in Ashgabat. Our hotel breakfast’s coffee was Nescafe but strong. Our guide made a mean pot of cowboy coffee in the morning of our camping trip.
Tourist factor 1/10
We saw another foreign couple and an overlanders’ truck at our hotel in Ashgabat. Otherwise no other tourists. Turkmenistan is never going to be a package holiday destination to say the least.
Hassle factor 0/10
Absolutely none other than getting warned away from the Presidential Palace by a nervous guard.
City buses in Ashgabat are frequent, easy to use, and cost a few pennies per ride. We can’t judge the quality of public transportation between cities. Outside of Ashgabat, we had a driver with 4WD, which is necessary to get to Darvaza gas crater. Air-conditioning is essential in summer.
It was great to sleep in a tent for a night, although after enduring an afternoon of sand storms my feelings about the desert environment were more of respect of its harshness rather than appreciation of its beauty. Apparently there are some interesting geological formations in western Turkmenistan but for us it wasn’t worth the cost to spend extra days going there.