Turkmenistan is one of the safest travel countries in the world. The crime rate is extremely low. Crimes of any kind are almost unknown due to the widespread police presence. The streets and parks of Ashgabat are also safe at night. Nevertheless, the usual precautionary measures in the home country should be observed at all times and valuables, large sums of cash, jewelry or expensive technical equipment should not be presented too obviously.
Rules and regulations
Alcohol, homosexuality, prostitution
The alcohol limit for car, motorcycle and bicycle drivers is 0.0%. Violations are severely punished. Extramarital and same-sex intercourse are punishable. Homosexuality is a criminal offense. Prostitution is a criminal offense. In some hotels prostitutes gather in the evening. Contact should be avoided under all circumstances, as documented contacts from various locations can be used against the visitor.
Surveillance and control
According to sourcemakeup, the travel guides available for Turkmenistan warn that eavesdropping devices and sometimes cameras can be installed in all rooms of the hotel rooms intended for foreigners. The experiences of numerous visitors suggest that this warning is justified. The presence of these devices should therefore be taken into account during calls within the hotel room. The same applies to the restaurants and other facilities visited by foreigners.
After 11 p.m., more police controls are carried out on the streets of the capital. In any case, stay calm and matter-of-fact, avoid behavior that could be perceived as a threat by the inspectors, and insist on calling someone who speaks Turkmenistan or Russian if you have problems understanding. An informal curfew between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. was introduced around the year 2000, which was apparently relaxed informally in the early 2010’s. The informal curfew appears to have been in effect again since 2017. Although there are still contradicting information on this, there are increasing indications that passers-by found on the street after 11 p.m. must at least expect more intensive questioning by civilian or uniformed police officers. Travelers describe the implementation of the curfew as ” draconian “. Bars and restaurants close at this time. A comparable regulation also applies in other cities.
Under no circumstances may the validity of the visa be exceeded. As far as possible, an extension of the visa must be applied for in good time.
(very broadly interpreted!) All forms of President offense is considered criminal offense and will be punished accordingly. The term insulting the president is interpreted very broadly. Any derogatory behavior and any behavior that could be interpreted as criticism or irony must also be avoided at all costs towards images of the president and other representations. The same applies to the Turkmenistan coat of arms, the flag, the oath or the national anthem. Criticism of the government must also be avoided at all costs towards government officials or business partners. You can endanger yourself and the person you are speaking to. The sentence is imprisonment for several years. This regulation should also be observed when using the Internet. If critical articles are written during the stay in the country, there is an immediate personal risk due to the extensive control of the Internet by the Turkmenistan state. If critical contributions are sent from outside the country to people in Turkmenistan (for example in e-mails or when using Skype and similar programs), the recipients of the contributions are at risk, as even the consumption of presidential criticism can be considered a criminal offense.
Meetings and demonstrations
Meetings critical of the government are very rare and invariably arise spontaneously due to the prohibition of critical demonstrations. Since the authorities act with the utmost severity against any form of criticism, such gatherings should be avoided at all costs. If a critical mood is perceived or the gathering is observed by more than three people to articulate critical opinions, the area should be left without fail and if necessary on the run! -> Under no circumstances may such situations be photographed <- For example, in March 2015, during a small spontaneous demonstration against the expropriation of homeowners without compensation, five of the demonstrators were shotand twelve others were injured, some seriously. In the course of protests apparently directed against price increases, around 80 people were arrested in March 2015 and taken to various camps on charges of collaboration with Islamists. In order not to expose themselves to the accusation of support, doctors usually refuse to treat injuries that have occurred in the course of such developments.
Photographing any type of military facility (including military personnel and police) is prohibited and can be counted as espionage. Photographing checkpoints and border crossings is also strictly prohibited. Infrastructure facilities (airports, train stations, etc.) are also not allowed to be photographed. In case of doubt, it is advisable to ask the escort or a policeman in charge of supervision for permission and, if necessary, to have this given to you in writing for the later control of the pictures upon departure. Public facilities are also not allowed to be photographed. This also includes numerous of the representative buildings in the capital (ministries, presidential palaces, presidential stands, all other government buildings, etc.). In individual cases it is also useful here, to ask the escort or a supervising police officer or to make the intention to take a photo clear by moving the camera accordingly. Written permission is helpful. Because any offense against these prohibitions can be punished with heavy fines or imprisonment and the entire film material can be confiscated. If convicted of espionage, the maximum sentence provided for by the Criminal Code is 25 years in a camp. When leaving the country, the storage media are checked again and again. This control can be lengthy depending on the scope of the image material and should be planned in the time budget. Even at this point in time, the discovery of prohibited recordings can have the consequences mentioned. In any case, there is a risk of lengthy negotiations
The prison conditions are worse than in Germany
Please also note the information provided by the Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
Turkmenistan lies in a highly seismically active zone. Very severe earthquakes can occur here at any time. In the event of an earthquake, your reaction can be life or death for the first few seconds after the tremors begin. Even for shorter stays on site and in any case for longer stays, it is therefore advisable to consider the precautionary measures and the correct reactions in the event of an earthquake and how to deal with the situation afterwards.
Information on preparing for earthquakes and localizing the most recent earthquake events is provided in the right-hand column in the Bibliography section.
Temperatures and climate
A risk that should not be underestimated is the very high temperatures in summer. The daily water requirement is easily underestimated due to the very low humidity and is at least 5 to 6 liters when staying outdoors. With physical exertion (for example, hiking in the desert or cycling), the need increases many times over. The supply of water is not always easy outside of the big cities and should be clarified in advance under all circumstances before visiting the desert. In addition, a sufficient emergency reserve should always be planned – for example in the event of flat tires, accidents or prolonged dust storms.
Crossing the desert
When crossing the desert with your own means of transport and especially by bike, good maps and a functioning GPS device with sufficient battery life or at least a functioning compass are absolutely essential for survival. From the beginning of April to the end of October, dust and sand storms keep coming, during which there is a risk of a complete loss of orientation within a few minutes. During the storm, visibility often falls to a few meters in the increasing darkness, even during the day. Orientation-giving tracks in the sand blow within a few minutes and even paved road sections can be hidden under a layer of sand after the storm. As a result, orientation and finding the runway again can be difficult even after the storm has withdrawn. During the storm it is advisable to to breathe through a moistened piece of cloth (e.g. a T-shirt). Images of a dust storm approaching the horizon and an intensifying dust storm can be found in Section 5.4.3 – Roads and road traffic.