Earth > Asia > Central Asia > Turkmenistan
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Turkmenistan (also Turkmenia) is a country in Central Asia.
Due to most people do not own a vehicle, hitchhiking seems to be a common way to get around. But the Turkmen hitchhiking is like taking a taxi, so payment is expected. Therefore one must always make it clear before entering the car, that there is no payment involved. Inside Ashgabat it is hard, but the rest of the country is not to difficult. Don't be botherd mentioning that you are hitch-hiking, as they won't understand what it means, just say that you have no money/very little.
When asking for directions (to the highway etc), the easiest is to say that you want to walk. Otherwise they'll just guide you to the next taxi or busstop.
Infrastructure: The big roads are mostly tarred, with big holes here and there. Straight with no noticeable elevation.
The only way to visit Turkmenistan independently is on a transit visa limited to 4 or 5 days. Most travelers get a transit visa traveling between Iran and Uzbekistan (and vice-versa) or Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan (and vice-versa), although other combinations are theoretically possible (between Kazakhstan and Afghanistan for example).
Transit visas are pretty straightforward to obtain provided you already have the visas for both the countries before and after Turkmenistan, and take 10 to 20 days to be issued. Dates and entry point are fixed but you can leave the country at any exit point, even if a specific border post is written.
Coming from Iran, the best place to apply is Tehran (visa collection possible at the consulate in Mashad). Coming the other way, getting a visa in Tashkent is possible but not the best place in Central Asia as the embassy can be very busy (better arrive early), process takes more than 20 days and you will have to travel back to Tashkent to collect your visa. Dushanbe is a rather better option as process can take as little as a week and employees are more friendly.
Note than in theory it is possible to apply in Dushanbe and collect the visa in Tashkent a few days later.
It is also possible to apply by mail at a Turkmen embassy in an European country. It takes around 10 days for the embassy to send you by email an invitation that, according to them, allow to get the transit visa upon arrival. This option is particularly interesting for travelers arriving in Turkmenbashi by ferry from Baku, as arrival date is never certain (ferries do not make the crossing everyday). However, it may not be a guaranteed service at land crossings. To be on the safe side, collect your visa in any Turkmen embassy (Tashkent for example) in one day by presenting the invitation. Transit visa costs 55$ and invitation is free.
On arrival you will also have to pay an extra fee depending on your nationality (12$ for EU citizens)
Couchsurfing is almost nonexistent in Turkmenistan, and you really don't want to get stuck in a city at night! The cheapest hotels are $ 20. There is a night curfew for toursists after 11, and not many places to hide, due to the architecture. Also the citys have a lot of police night and day. If you are so unlucky to get stuck in a city at night, you can be lucky to find fountains with no water in, which are ideal places to sleep hidden. See Mary
Note: March 2013: I have information from a person living in Ashgabat that the curfew part is not true anymore. He doesn't advise to sleep outside in Ashgabat though but this may only be his opinion.
All border controls operate from 08:00 to 17:00.
In September 2018 we hitchhiked through the country. From Sarakhs to Farap it took us 4 cars to achieve.
A few kilometres after Sarakhs there is a police control. If you are hitchhiking they will probably take you of the car but since they don't know what to do with you, you will probably get into another car.
As always in Asia ensure that people understand that you want to travel without money before stepping in the car.
Understanding basics of russian is a plus. Most of people will understand "автостор".
We wrote a full review of our Turkmen experience in French : Transit au Turkménistan