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Turkmenistan Travel Guide

Official Name: Turkmenistan
Capital: Ashgabat
Population: 5,043,618
Total area: 488,1OO sq. km
Density: 8 people per sq. km
Languages: Turkmen, Russian, English
Religions: Muslim 85%, Eastern Orthodox 10%, other 5%
Ethnic mix: Turkmen 78%, Uzbek 9%, Russian 6%, Kazakh 5% and others 2%
Government: Single party republic
National currency: Manat

The guest is higher than the father
Turkmenistan is the home of some of the World's oldest civilizations, having made a significant contribution to the development of World culture. Modern Turkmenistan's borders first appeared in the world around the same time as India and the Middle East. Historical sources prove that in the 3rd-2nd millennia BC two large states, which were consolidated nations living far from each other in the desert and river valleys, were established on the territory of present-day Turkmenistan.

Known as Scythians, Massagets, Saks, and Dakhs throughout Asia and Europe, our ancestors created powerful, mighty states uniting many peoples over a long period of time. In all, the Turkmen established over seventy large and small states throughout their legendary history in all parts of Asia and Eastern Europe. How did our forefathers govern the lands they ruled? How did they manage to preserve peace and order?

There is only one answer: the steady character of a Turkmen and the tender harmony of his soul. Turkmen have at all times remained courteous people devoted to the traditions of hospitality. They have always treated a guest as a messenger of Allah. Hence, there is a proverb: "The guest is higher than the father". Being people of word and honor, Turkmen have always fulfilled their obligations under treaties and agreements concluded with other states. "Any Turkmen, if he had given his word, would break it in no way, even should it threaten his life and freedom", wrote a traveler of the distant past in amazement. 

Tour Transportation
Depending on the size of groups, we use different types of vehicles.
- For large groups, air-conditioned tour buses (40-45 seats) are provided.
- For smaller groups, air-conditioned minibuses are provided (3-9 seats).
- To individual travelers we offer passenger cars (1-2 persons).
- For some routes, flights are available (from Ashgabat to: Mary, Turkmenabad, Turkmenbashy, and Dashoguz).

TransportationAir: International carriers flying into Ashgabat include Lufthansa and Turkish airlines, which fly 3 and 4 times a week respectively, usually reaching Ashgabat late at night. Lufthansa stops over in Baku (Azerbaijan). Turkmenistan Airlines flies to London, Birmingham, Frankfurt, Beijing, Bangkok, Dubai, Abu-Dhabi and Istanbul at slightly more competitive rates. Further, there are daily connections to Moscow and one or two flights to other central Asian and CIS capitals, such as Tashkent and Kiev. Local flights are reasonable and have a good safety record on their frequently scheduled flights between Ashgabat and Turkmenistan's regional centers.

Rail: There are no international trains between Turkmenistan and other States. Daily departures are available to Turkmenabad, Mary and Turkmenbashy, while trains leave for Dashoguz every other day.

Climate
Turkmenistan has an arid desert climate with extreme summer heat and sub-freezing winter temperatures. Turkmenistan enjoys a dry, continental climate, with very hot summers (rarely below 35°C and occasionally up to 50°C in the southeastern regions of the Karakum Desert). Turkmenistan enjoys an average of 250 sunny days annually. In the south of Turkmenistan the climate is also slightly more continental than in the north and temperatures seldom drop below 5°C. Northern areas, near the Uzbek border and Khorezm (Dashoguz), can become very cold in winter with temperatures dropping below -20°C. The best months for moderate temperatures are April and May for the beautiful blossoming deserts and mountains. September and October are great for an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, in the autumn harvest season. There is snow in the north, as well as above 1,000m in the mountains in January and February.

Time
UTC + 5 hours (UTC stands for Universal Time Coordinated).

Customs
Permission from the Ministry of Culture is required to export carpets or other objects of art. Carpets produced before 1975 may not be exported. Export certificates for carpets are issued by the Museum of Carpets, which seals the carpets and issues export certificates, after the appropriate fee has been paid in manat currency (amount depends on the size of carpet).The best place to buy carpets is Tolkuchka Bazaar.

Communications
Turkmen language belongs to the Turkic group of languages (closely related to Turkish) and has been the official language since 1990. It is therefore now used in all official state and literary matters. The Cyrillic script used during Soviet times has gradually been discontinued, in favor of the Latin alphabet. Turkmen, Russian and English are the most widely known languages.

Religion
Freedom of worship was introduced in 1989. The majority of the population is Sunni Muslim. As Islam was introduced by the dervish order, Sufism is still evident in parts of Turkmenistan. This is a branch of Islam which believes in mysticism and treats all secular matters with contempt.
Islam is a part of the new national identity (evident, for instance, in the new flag) and plays an important role in the everyday life of the people. Nevertheless, most Turkmen have adopted western customs and habits.
They are also very tolerant of other religions. Religions: Muslim 85%, Eastern Orthodox 10% and other 5%.

Health & Hygiene
It is essential to observe the same health precautions in Turkmenistan as for any country. One should not drink tap water. Hence, hot tea, coffee and bottled drinks are safe to consume. It's also advisable to avoid meat, fish or poultry which have not been well cooked, unwashed fruit, raw vegetables and non-pasteurized dairy products. It is recommended to buy all food products in local supermarkets.
As there is a shortage of medicines and personal hygiene items in Turkmenistan, it is recommended to pack a well equipped first aid kit, as well as most toiletries.

Currency
The Manat is the currency of Turkmenistan. It was introduced on November 1, 1993, replacing the Russian ruble at a rate of 1 manat = 500 ruble. The ISO 4217 code is TMM and the manat is subdivided into 100 tennesi. The abbreviation m is sometimes used, e.g., 25 000 m is twenty-five thousand manat.
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