Best time to visit Turkmenistan

Best time to visit Turkmenistan


TEMPERATURE & RAINFALL

The best time to visit Turkmenistan is from mid March to end of May and then again from mid September to November, when you can expect daytime temperatures of between 23-35°C. Winter months can be extremely cold and by contrast, July and August are boiling hot, particularly in the desert regions. Ashgabat can soar to well over 40°C in July and drop to -5°C in winter. You might catch a shower in early May or November, but Turkmenistan is typically very dry. Nights in the desert are chilly, too, so take extra layers if you’re camping.
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Things to do in Turkmenistan


What to do in Turkmenistan, & what not to

Things to do in Turkmenistan…


Leave the hotels behind for a real taste of Turkmenistan. Camping in the desert brings you thrillingly close to this wild, dry landscape and a night near the burning gas crater at Darvaza is an unmissable chance to appreciate its weird, otherworldly glow. Just make sure you leave no trace of your stay behind – particularly important in a desert environment, as waste takes longer to degrade in the arid climate. Some tours also include a homestay or a night in a small village guesthouse. This gives an authentic insight into the lives of local people and also brings tangible benefits to small communities that may otherwise be overlooked by tourism.
Most tours through Turkmenistan involve a fair bit of road travel, but do take time to explore its natural wonders on foot. There are nature reserves dotted around the country, with many tours taking in the Kugitang Mountains near Uzbekistan, where there’s great hiking through canyons and valleys. In western Turkmenistan, Yangikala canyon, its sides striped with layers of pink, red and yellow rock, is one of the most beautiful places to hike around in the country.
Parts of Central Asia are very traditional, and as Turkmenistan doesn’t get lots of visitors, its people are not always accustomed to outsiders. Do respect local sensibilities. Open displays of affection will be frowned on and homosexuality is illegal.

Things not to do in Turkmenistan…


Ashgabat’s out-there monuments, the flaming gas crater at Darvaza, the windswept ruins of ancient cities – there is so much that’s extraordinary about Turkmenistan that you’ll want to photograph. So, don’t forget your camera, but do use it wisely. It’s forbidden to photograph public buildings, and photography in the Teke, Russian and Tolkuchka bazaars in Ashgabat is also sometimes frowned on.
Arid conditions, long journey times on often rough roads and lack of child-friendly activities mean Turkmenistan is not the most obvious destination for a family break, so don’t bring young kids. Teens with a sense of adventure and a penchant for archeology, on the other hand, might be in heaven!
You would be hard-pressed to visit Turkmenistan and ignore its rich history and archeological heritage, but it’s worth remembering that any trip here will focus on visiting ancient sites, learning about the Parthian Empire which ruled from Nisa, and the cross-pollination of ideas promoted by the Silk Road. Don’t come if you’re after a relaxing beach break or activity holiday – that’s not the Turkmenistan offer.
The food in this part of the world gets a bad press, but in Turkmenistan it’s actually not bad, just don’t expect haute cuisine. Soup and meat – the Turkmens are big meat eaters – are often served, but veggies do fine, tucking into all kinds of fresh, tasty salads.
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Turkmenistan travel advice


TIPS FROM OUR FRIENDS IN TURKMENISTAN


Daniel Steeger from our supplier Wild Frontiers has this advice on travelling in Turkmenistan, on everything from communications to political control:

The lowdown on the political climate


"If you think about Ashgabat, you would think it’s almost a Dubai or Las Vegas type place. It’s exceptional, especially the buildings – one in the shape of a lighter, one a book, another in the shape of a star. It’s almost Dr Zeus like. What really gives it a sense of difference from the West, though, is that there are so many restrictions in Turkmenistan. This is the second most controlled nation in the world after North Korea. When passing into the country you will sometimes have four officers looking at you, from front and back. I wouldn’t call it intimidating, unless you have something you shouldn’t have in your suitcase! Then you’re in trouble, as they will absolutely comb through everything. But there is a friendly side to the security guards, it’s just extremely controlled.”

Communications advice


“Visitors should understand that yes, there is internet, but there is no communication outside of Turkmenistan. There is a web, but Hotmail, Facebook, Skype, everything is blocked. All the most commonly known apps can’t be used. If you’re coming here, be prepared that you will not be able to communicate with the outside world. Unless you have to make a phone call out, and that’s going to be extremely expensive. Forget about online services.”

Chatting to local people


“The Turkmen people in my experience are very friendly, but they will be reserved, because they are being observed. So, they don’t ever want to talk badly, but you do have a sense that sometimes they are holding back what they would really like to say. It’s a bit like China, when you have a government guide, so you don’t really get their free opinion. They would be in a lot of trouble if they spoke openly about politics, so don’t press your guide or local people on this. There is a strong sense of nationalism. Hotels have stars everywhere and there is a great deal of propaganda around the president. You’ll be told, “’Turkmenbashi did this, he did that…’”

What to expect


“There is a contrast between the vast majority of the country, which is still very undiscovered, and the bigger cities, which are actually very developed. They have areas with a more cosmopolitan feel, nice bars with incredible views, that kind of thing. The people have their fashion sense, too. Women like to wear a lot of green, which is the national colour. Turkmenistan certainly has a real identity!”

Tips from our travellers in Turkmenistan


ADVICE FROM THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN THERE

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Turkmenistan travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.


“Come with an open mind. The trip is not as tough as it sounds. It is a good idea to bring medicine for a dodgy stomach.” – Jacqui Light

“Take as many $1 bills as possible as photo fees etc all require small denominations. Do not miss the museums in Mary and Ashgabat.” – Ann Rix

“Have as much time as you can to spare. We managed 31 days, which allowed lots of time for visiting cities as well as hiking, which was the primary point of our trip. Don’t overlook places like Bishtek or Turkmenistan; when planning the itinerary they were not high on my list of must dos, but they turned out to be highlights as well.” – David Harper on our Central Asia highlights tour

“Check what medicines you can take into the country with a doctor’s prescription info, otherwise you may have problems at border control.” – Anne Higgins
Photo credits: [Temp chart: Mike Norton] [Political climate: David Stanley] [Local people: tjabeljan] [Tip1: Kalpak Travel] [Tip2: Refracted Moments] [Helpdesk: Dave Proffer]

Written by: Joanna Simmons
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