Safety and security

Crime

Incidents of mugging, theft and pick pocketing are rare, but take sensible precautions and keep valuables out of sight. You should avoid going out alone late at night as after midnight the police and security forces are suspicious of people on the streets. Unaccompanied women in particular may draw their attention.

Local travel

Turkmen border crossings can be subject to occasional and unannounced closures.

Certain areas of the country, particularly border areas, are designated restricted zones and require special permission to enter. The borders with Afghanistan and Iran are particularly sensitive. Ashgabat, the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi, and the ancient Silk Road city of Merv/Mary are not in restricted areas. Check with your local tour guide before travelling outside the capital.

Road travel

You can drive in Turkmenistan using an International Driving Permit.

Driving standards are poor. Road travel at night outside cities is particularly dangerous because of the condition of the roads. There is a 60kmh speed limit in much of Ashgabat, enforced by both static speed cameras and police with mobile speed cameras. There are no signs warning that speed cameras are in use.

Seat belts, if fitted, should be worn at all times.

Licensed taxis are clearly identified and yellow in colour. Although taxis have meters, drivers will usually ask foreign nationals for a set fee of around 20 Manat. Taxis from the airport cost more. Some taxis might also ask for payment in dollars. You should be cautious about this as it’s against the law. Most taxi drivers do not speak much English. Don’t use unlicensed taxis.

Rail travel

Rail travel is slow and can be uncomfortable. If you have to travel overnight, keep valuables in a safe place. Don’t leave the compartment unattended. Lock the door from the inside.

Air travel 

We can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

In 2010, the International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Turkmenistan.

A list of incidents and accidents in Turkmenistan can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

It is not clear whether maintenance procedures are always properly observed on internal flights.

Political situation

The political situation is calm. Nonetheless, there is traditionally a relatively high level of security in Turkmenistan.

Telephones

At the end of September 2017, the Russian mobile network provider MTS suspended its mobile phone and internet service in Turkmenistan without warning. This leaves a single state-owned mobile telephone provider, Altyn Asyr, which uses the TM CELL brand. Altyn Asyr doesn’t provide a roaming service and the quality of the network is low.

Internet

Internet connections outside the larger hotels can be unreliable and many social media and sites, such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are blocked. Some messaging Apps, such as Whatsapp, are also blocked. Access to Yahoo, gmail and hotmail are currently proving difficult.