In terms of alcohol, the former soviet state still loves its vodka. It is cheap and easily available. There are also local brews of beer, some wine and even Russian sparkling wine available in the cities.
Çeşme in Ashgabat is a great place to sample some authentic cuisine. Seafood Ayna, again in Ashgabat, is one of the best places to get fresh and delicious seafood.
You need a sponsor to get a tourist visa to Turkmenistan. A sponsor can even be a tour guide and it's best to book at least one tour in advance to get a sponsorship letter. The visa fee is $55 (₹3,560) per person for a visa valid for 10 days. Here are the documents you need to present along with the letter:
• Original passport, valid for at least 6 months from the date of application
• Two visa forms (photocopy allowed)
• Two passport-size photographs
• A covering letter from the applicant
• Confirmed onward/ return air ticket
• If travelling onwards, visa for the onwards country
• Proof of funds (ITR and bank statements/salary slips)
When to go
April to June are the best months to visit Turkmenistan, as bright sunshine and cool winds come together to make for great weather. July to September is harsh summer, whereas October onwards the cold starts to set in. For those who wish to visit the ancient ruins of Konye-Urgench, it's best to avoid the winter months as there are no tourists and very few facilities available, and the temperature can go down to -20 degrees celsius.
Round-trip flight tickets from New Delhi to Ashgabat start from ₹35,000.
Since tourists are required to travel with a guide throughout, it's best to book tours with them. Guides usually have their own cars and thus getting around is relatively comfortable and straightforward. Internal flights are operated by Turkmenistan Airlines, and fly daily to Ashgabat, Mary, Turkmenbashi, Dashoguz and a couple other popular destinations. Flights are subsidised, and due to low fuel costs, are extremely cheap.
1 Turkmenistani Manat equals 18.48 Indian Rupee.
3-star hotel stay: 165 TMT (₹3,000)
One-way ticket on local transport: 0.30 TMT (₹6)
Taxi starting tariff: 2.81 TMT (₹52)
Decent meal with a drink: 60 TMT - 175.50 TMT (₹1,100 - ₹3,300)
Meal at a fast-food chain: 35.10 TMT (₹650)
A pint of beer: 5.10 TMT (for local brew) (₹95), 10.65 TMT (for imported beer) (₹197)
Ashgabat – Gypjak hotel, 3-bedroom homestay. For more options, click here.
Konye-Urgench – Hotel Jipek Joli, Отель Асем. For more options, click here.
Things to keep in mind while travelling to Turkmenistan
• Don't click pictures of public monuments without checking with your guide first
• The military and police are everywhere, especially in big towns such as Ashgabat and Mary (the province where Merv is), so don't talk negatively about the government, people or anything. Be polite and courteous at all times
• Public transport in Turkmenistan is not as developed as Europe or other Asian countries. So, it's best to actually hire a tour guide or book a tour. They cost around $100 to $250, but are the best way to travel around the country
• If you are invited into a local's home, be sure to take a gift for the host. And don't sit next to a member of the opposite gender, unless it's your spouse or child
So, are you up for an adventurous ride to Turkmenistan? Or have you already been there? Write about your adventure here and help millions of other travellers plan their journey to this extraordinary country.