How to Enter Turkmenistan

Do I need a passport or visa to enter?

Before you leave for Turkmenistan, you will need to obtain a letter of invitation approved by the Government of Turkmenistan. This letter of invitation allows you to apply for a visa, either at the Embassy of Turkmenistan or upon arrival at the airport in Ashgabat. The U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat cannot assist private citizens with letters of invitation to Turkmenistan. You will also need a valid passport.

Before visiting Turkmenistan: Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months at the time of applying for a letter of invitation.

Have an individual or organization in Turkmenistan submit a letter of invitation application along with a copy of your passport ID page on your behalf to the State Migration Service (SMS). The SMS requires at least 15 working days for approval.

After you receive the approved letter of invitation, apply for a visa at the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Washington, D.C. or at the Ashgabat International Airport upon arrival in Turkmenistan. The price of the visa will depend on your length of stay in Turkmenistan. You may wish to consult the visa checklist on the Embassy of Turkmenistan website prior to submitting your application.

To avoid possible problems with airlines not boarding passengers without visas, as well as visa lines at the Ashgabat International Airport, it is advisable to obtain a visa and not just a letter of invitation before traveling. Without one or the other, you won’t be allowed into the country, and you may be held at the airport or on the border until you have secured transportation out of Turkmenistan. You should not use a transit visa instead of a tourist visa since transit visas are issued for a very short duration and are very difficult to extend. If you plan to travel to areas of the country that have been restricted by the Government of Turkmenistan, which includes almost all border areas, you will not be able to do so until you obtain special permission from the SMS.

Once you arrive at the airport or border entry point, you will be charged approximately $12 for an immigration card issued by Turkmen authorities, which you will have to carry for the duration of your stay in Turkmenistan. When you leave the country, you will turn in this card to the authorities at the airport. If you are departing from the Ashgabat airport and using a non-Turkmen flagged carrier, you will need to pay a departure fee of $25.

If you extend your stay in Turkmenistan, you will need to apply with the SMS in Ashgabat for a visa extension. If you attempt to depart Turkmenistan with an expired visa, you will be denied exit until you extend your visa through the departure date.

Registering with the State Migration Service: if your trip to Turkmenistan is longer than three working days, you will have to:

Register with one of the SMS offices, depending on the location of your sponsoring organization. SMS offices are located in Ashgabat, Dashoguz, Mary, Turkmenabat, and Turkmenbashy;

Inform the SMS in advance if you plan to travel outside the city in which you are registered. Failure to do so may result in fines and deportation. Return to the SMS to register your departure from the country one day in advance. Both registration and de-registration have to be done at the same SMS office.

If you do not register your departure, the immigration authorities might not allow you to leave the country until you fulfill this requirement. If you fail to register properly or have an expired visa, you will have to pay a fine. You may also be arrested and/or deported. If you are deported for these violations, you will not be able to return to Turkmenistan for up to five years.

Dual Nationality: The State Migration Service has started strictly enforcing the country’s prohibition on dual citizenship. Upon departure, SMS requires that citizens of Turkmenistan have a visa for their country of destination in their Turkmen passport, regardless of any other passports that they may hold. Absent a visa in the Turkmen passport, dual citizens have been denied departure. U.S. law prohibits issuance of U.S. visas to citizens of the United States. If you hold both a U.S. and a Turkmen passport, you should consider renouncing your Turkmenistan citizenship prior to travel and entering the country on a visa. Please consult the Embassy's page on dual citizenship issues for the most up-to-date information.

Special Travel Circumstances in Turkmenistan

Several popular travel guides discuss traveling by “ferry” across the Caspian Sea from Baku, Azerbaijan, to the port of Turkmenbashy in western Turkmenistan. These “ferries” are in fact cargo ships that take on passengers in addition to their primary cargo as space permits. Passengers are generally not provided food or water on these ships, and sleeping and sanitary facilities are quite basic. When ships arrive in Turkmenbashy, they often wait up to a week for a vacant dock. Passengers might run out of food and water, or their Turkmen visa may expire while they wait.

If you travel by plane, be aware that most airlines at the international airport in Ashgabat do not accept credit cards or any currency other than U.S. dollars or Turkmen manat. Most vendors in Turkmenistan operate on a cash-only basis. If you are transiting through Turkmenistan on the way to another country and miss your connection, you will not be able to leave the arrival area until you purchase a ticket for an onward flight out of the country.

Travelers may experience significant delays, unexpected re-routing, and sudden cancellations of flights, including those of Turkmenistan Airlines (Turkmenhowayollary), the national airline. Travelers have reported difficulties securing reservations and purchasing tickets from Turkmenistan Airlines on both domestic and international flights, which are routinely overbooked.

Turkmenistan has a cash-only economy. However, several new hotels accept credit cards. Vnesheconombank and the National Bank of Pakistan cash traveler’s checks and personal checks for a fee, although cashing a personal check is a lengthy process that could require up to two months. Vnesheconombank also accepts Visa for cash advances, for a fee.

Although the Denominated Turkmen Manat (DTM) is the official currency, U.S. dollars are widely accepted and are required as payment for certain goods and services. Travelers may wish to bring sufficient U.S. currency to exchange into manat to cover expenses not payable in U.S. dollars. Old U.S. dollar bills (issued before 1990) and/or those in poor condition (with tears, writing or stamps) are not acceptable forms of currency in Turkmenistan. Banks frequently do not have small bills for change.

Turkmenistan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Turkmenistan of items such as carpets, jewelry, musical instruments, pieces of art, archaeological artifacts, antiques, protected animals, etc. Contact the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements. Travelers who wish to take carpets out of Turkmenistan must obtain a certificate from the Carpet Museum in central Ashgabat indicating that the carpet is not of historical value. Some private shops may have carpets for sale for which they have already obtained certificates; buyers should be sure to ask about customs certificates before purchasing any carpet. In addition, buyers may have to pay a tax calculated according to the size of the carpet. Travelers who have purchased other items that could be perceived to be of historical value, such as jewelry, have also reported difficulties in taking these items out of Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan's indigenous dog, the Alabay, is considered a national treasure and is banned for export without prior permission. U.S. citizens should also check to ensure that any item they intend to bring into the United States is permitted by U.S. customs regulations.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports and visas with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. Travelers to Turkmenistan should be aware that there are several types of poisonous snakes and insects indigenous to the country. Even in cities, it is common to encounter cobras and scorpions, especially in areas covered with tall grass. Travelers are advised to be alert to these dangers to avoid being bitten or stung.

Disclaimer

You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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