Local laws and customs

Possession and use of drugs is illegal. If you are found guilty, you could face a lengthy prison sentence in very basic conditions.

Male homosexual activity is illegal, punishable by a custodial sentence. Homosexuality is still very much disapproved of socially. You should take care over public displays of affection. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

There remain sensitivities around relationships between foreign men and local women, and the Turkmen authorities are known to take action against both. For foreign nationals this can result in a fine and deportation from the country.

Photographing official buildings is forbidden. Check before taking photographs near potentially sensitive sites such as airports, military barracks, police stations, government buildings, embassies and the Presidential Palace. The Turkmen can also be sensitive about pictures being taken in the Teke, Russian and Tolkuchka bazaars in Ashgabat.

It is against the law to smoke outside in Turkmenistan; this law extends to restaurants and other communal spaces (unless they contain a designated smoking area). From January 2016 a new regulation has banned the import of more than 2 packets of 20 cigarettes per person, 2 cigars and 2 packets of loose tobacco not weighing more than 2 packets of cigarettes. Cigarette sales are restricted to state run shops and outlets. It is against the law to give tobacco products as a gift; if you are caught you could be fined. You can import up to a maximum of 1.5 litres of alcohol.

On 1 August 2017 a new “tourism tax” was introduced. All foreign visitors, with the exception of accredited diplomats, are charged 2 US dollars for each day of their stay in Turkmenistan. The British Embassy is still awaiting official clarification of the full regulations of the new tax from the authorities, but hotels have already implemented this new policy and include the tax as a separate item on guests’ hotel bills.