Turkmenistan, formerly known as Turkmenia, is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the northeast and east, Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south and southwest, and the Caspian Sea to the west. 80 percent of this landlocked country is considered part of the Karakum Desert, the largest desert in the region. It has a population of about five million. Turkmenistan is popular for its carpets and horses. It also has extensive oil and gas reserves, and recently has opened pipelines to China and Iran, and soon, in Azerbaijan. It is the second wealthiest country in Central Asia.
The country is divided into five provinces and one capital city district, with each province subdivided into districts – which could be either cities or counties. Its capital and largest city is Ashgabat.
What to see/What to do/What to see & do
Before going to the country, make sure you have vaccinations against diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, measles, mumps, polio, rubella, tetanus, typhoid, and varicella. For long-term travellers to Turkmenistan, the World Health Organization also recommends vaccinations against meningitis, rabies, and tuberculosis. Medical tourism in Turkmenistan has grown rapidly over the years, primarily due to the tourist zone Avaza on the Caspian Sea. Go to Kugitang Nature Reserve, the most impressive and most spectacular of the country’s natural reserves. Turkmenistan is brimming with archaeological sites that will surely interest and excite you, whether you’re an enthusiast or not. There’s Altin Depe, Anau (Anew), Gonur Depe, Jeitun, Merv, Namazha Depe, and Nissa. See some of the country’s medieval monuments like Abiverd, Abu Said Mithkene Mausoleum, Astana-baba, Dayakhaty, Darganata, Dekhistan, Devkesengala, Ekedeshik, and Mane Baba Mausoleum. Nature reserves like the Köpet Dag Nature Reserve, Repetek Nature Reserve, Esenguly Nature Reserve, and Syunt Hasarday Nature Reserve are also worth the trip.
How to get around within Turkmenistan
There are cheap (specifically, subsidised) domestic flights offered by Turkmenistan Airlines, which fly daily between Ashgabat, Mary, Turkmenbashi, Dashoguz, and a number of other destinations. You can also get around on a boat via the Amu Darya, an important inland waterway in the country. Taxis in Turkmenistan are mostly unofficial, so make sure that you clearly discuss the fare and your destination to the driver before you getting in. The train network in the country allows journeys to some of the major cities, but be advised that these are slow, and not ideal for those who are planning to stay for a short length of time.
How to get there
At present, there are seven airports that serve Turkmenistan, three of which are international airports. Ashgabat International Airport is located about 10km (6 mi) northwest of the capital. It flies to and from several destinations like Dubai, Frankfurt, Moscow, Istanbul, Heathrow, Delhi, London, and more. Other airports that operate in the country are Balkanabat Airport, Dashoguz Airport, Kerkiçi Airport, Mary Airport, Turkmenbashi Airport, and Turkmenabat Airport. Turkmenistan Airlines has direct flights to Ashgabat from Abu Dhabi, Almaty, Amritsar, Bangkok, Beijing, Birmingham, Delhi, Dubai, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Kiev, London, Minsk, Moscow, and Saint Petersburg.
Other ways of getting in are by train via railway links to Russia and Iran. From there, you’ll have to take a connecting flight to the country itself since there are no trains that cross the border at any point of the country. If you’re planning of getting in with your own car, you’ll need liability insurance. Once you’re cleared and set to go, you can get in through Kazakhstan, Iran, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan. If you’re coming from any of the neighbouring countries, you can enter the country via bus, as long as you have a visa.
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