Turkmenistan - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel
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Business Customs

Doing business in Turkmenistan requires patience, persistence, and personal contacts.  Relationship building is essential both culturally and for developing a thorough understanding of each side’s interests.

The government verbally encourages foreign investment and business, but the current investment climate does not conform to international business norms.  No commercial code has been adopted except for the Law on Trade Activity in March 2016.  Most local officials are unfamiliar with Western business practices and internationally accepted norms.  Few senior members of the government have been educated abroad.  Successful companies in Turkmenistan have established personal relationships with government officials through either representative offices or regular visits.

Large-scale contracts are signed at the presidential level and usually require travel to Ashgabat by the company’s president or CEO to close a deal.   Follow-up visits are also critical.   The internet is filtered and communications with headquarters can be challenging.  There are locally-based distributors representing U.S. companies, but most distributors are foreign companies themselves (often from Turkiye, UAE, or Russia) with established offices in Ashgabat.  Almost all foreign companies investing in Turkmenistan form joint ventures with local firms.   Since there is limited privatization, joint ventures generally include government partners. There is no standard form for a joint venture agreement with a government owned company; each agreement is negotiated individually and must be approved by the Cabinet of Ministers and then finalized by presidential decree.

Travel Advisory

The State Department travel alert is routinely updated to remind U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns and the potential for terrorist acts for every country in the world.  U.S. citizens travelling or planning to travel abroad are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. The most recent relevant travel warning for Turkmenistan can be found on the Department of State website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html.

U.S. citizens traveling abroad are urged to register and update their contact information at the nearest U.S. Embassy or through the Department of State’s STEP service.

Visa Requirements

American citizens must have a valid passport and visa and/or letter of invitation from the Turkmenistan government to enter and exit Turkmenistan. The passport must have one completely blank page and each traveler’s passport must be valid for at least six months following the date of the application.

To apply for a visa, all U.S. citizens must complete an application and have a letter of invitation approved by the State Migration Service (SMS) in Ashgabat.  An individual in Turkmenistan must submit the letter of invitation on behalf of a U.S. citizen to the SMS, accompanied by a copy of the traveler’s passport ID page and the COVID Proof Vaccination document. The SMS requires at least 15 working days for approval. The U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat does not issue letters of invitation to citizens interested in private travel to Turkmenistan. The U.S. Embassy facilitates business travel to Turkmenistan by applying for a letter of invitation on behalf of employees of U.S. companies.

Under Turkmenistan law, a traveler with a stamped and approved invitation letter may also obtain a visa at the Ashgabat International Airport upon arrival in Turkmenistan.  Virtually all tourist travel in Turkmenistan is arranged through a travel agency with knowledge of the country and its procedures.

The price for a visa will vary according to the intended length of stay. For an additional charge, the SMS can extend a visa in Ashgabat beyond its initial validity. Any traveler arriving without a visa or without the documents necessary to obtain a visa will be denied entry and may be held at the airport or border until the traveler has secured transportation out of Turkmenistan. The U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat is unable to intervene with Turkmen authorities regarding the admission of private travelers to Turkmenistan. Travelers departing Turkmenistan must have a current valid visa or they will be denied exit until they have extended the validity of the visa through their departure date.

In addition, U.S. citizens traveling in Turkmenistan should be aware that they need special permission from the SMS to travel to areas of the country that have been restricted by the government, including nearly all border areas.

In addition to the immigration requirements mentioned above, foreigners are subject to local registration requirements. Americans who plan to stay more than three working days in Turkmenistan must register and de-register with the SMS. SMS offices are located in all of Turkmenistan’s five major cities: Ashgabat, Dashoguz, Mary, Turkmenabat and Turkmenbashy. Your hotel, travel agent, or host should help with this process, the U.S. Embassy cannot support registration of private travellers.

One day prior to their departure from Turkmenistan, foreigners must return to an SMS office to register their departure. Foreigners should be registered and deregistered at the SMS office in the city in which their sponsoring organization is located. Foreigners who fail to register their departure may be prevented by immigration authorities from leaving the country until they have done so. The penalties for remaining in Turkmenistan with an expired visa or for failing to register with the SMS include fines, arrest, and/or deportation. Foreigners who are deported for these violations may be prohibited from returning to Turkmenistan for up to five years.

American citizens in Turkmenistan are strongly urged to ensure that their visas do not expire and that they register with the SMS upon arrival and de-register upon departure. Visitors holding tourist visas organized by a travel agency must stay in hotels; other visitors may stay in private accommodations whose owner must register the visitor’s presence. Visit the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Washington, DC website for the most current visa information (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html).

U.S. companies that require travel of Turkmenistani nationals to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process and to have those individuals apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat.  The process for visa applicants can be found on the Embassy’s website: https://tm.usembassy.gov

Turkmen Citizenship Law generally prohibits dual citizenship for its citizens. If travelers have dual U.S.–Turkmen citizenship, they may be denied exit from Turkmenistan until they renounce their Turkmen citizenship, a process that can take between six months and a year to complete. If you are a dual U.S.–Turkmen citizen wishing to travel to Turkmenistan, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat at consularashgab@state.gov prior to your arrival in Turkmenistan.


Turkmenistan’s local currency is the Turkmen manat. Most transactions are required to be in manat, but some transactions by foreigners, including fees for visas, healthcare, and other services at government facilities must be paid in USD and only crisp, unmarked bills are typically accepted.  Although credit cards are not widely accepted, some hotels in Ashgabat accept Visa credit and debit cards, but should be confirmed before arrival. Travelers’ checks are not accepted.


Foreign cell phone providers, such as Google Fi, typically do not work in Turkmenistan and it is difficult for a foreign visitor to buy a temporary sim card.  The government restricts access to many websites and messaging services and most VPNs are blocked.  Internet speeds are among the slowest in the world.  Cellular phone service exists throughout Turkmenistan, but its quality and reliability, especially outside Ashgabat, are substandard.  State-run Turkmen Telecom is the only mobile provider in the country.  Internet access in hotels is often slow or not available, and it can be difficult to arrange an Internet connection for a private home or office.  


As of October 2023, Turkish Airlines and Fly Dubai are the only western foreign carriers offering daily flights to Turkmenistan that can be purchased online.  State owned Turkmenistan Airlines conducts commercial flights to Kazan, Dubai, Delhi, Beijing, Frankfurt, London, Istanbul and Beijing, though most are only once a week.  Tickets for Turkmenistan Airlines typically must be purchased in person or through travel agents.

In general, visitors should use extra caution when driving in Turkmenistan.  Drivers pay little attention to lanes and other road markings, with weaving and sudden lane changes (usually without use of a turn signal) a common occurrence.  Cars also stop unexpectedly to pick up passengers, blocking the right lane. Pedestrians regularly walk or stand in the middle of busy streets during the day and night, often without paying attention to oncoming traffic.   Vast stretches of highway are often unmarked with few gas stations and roadside assistance essentially does not exist.  Travellers with smartphones are recommended to download maps for use offline.  The apps MAPS.ME and Organic Maps typically are the most accurate for locating gas stations and lesser known locations.

Police stationed at checkpoints or on street corners arbitrarily pull over and fine motorists.  Because of the lack of reliable local transportation, visitors and new arrivals may find it convenient to hire a local driver. Arrangements can be made at most hotels. Taxis are available, but drivers typically only speak Turkmen.  Drivers can only be paid in cash.


Turkmen is the official language of Turkmenistan; however, Russian is widely used in government and business, especially in Ashgabat. The government has decreed that English be taught in schools widely and it is possible to find English speakers in most hotels and larger restaurants and stores, especially in Ashgabat.


All healthcare facilities are government run and are not at U.S. standards.  There is no designated healthcare facility for foreigners.  It can be very difficult to find English speaking healthcare providers. Information on local healthcare providers can be found on the U.S. Embassy website: https://tm.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/doctors/

Local time, business hours, and holidays: Local time is five hours ahead of GMT (Zulu) or 9-10 hours ahead of the U.S. east coast, depending on spring or fall scheduling.

Businesses are generally open from 9 to 6, Monday through Friday, with many employees in the public and private sectors working a partial day on Saturdays.

2023 Turkmenistan Holidays:


January 1

March 8

March 21–22

May 18

September 27

October 6

December 12

 New Year’s Day

International Women’s Day

National Spring Holiday

Constitution Day and National Flag Day

Independence Day

National Commemoration Day

Neutrality Day

The dates of two additional national holidays, Oraza Bairam  and Kurban Bairam, are determined by the lunar calendar and announced by Turkmen Government as non-working days. If a holiday falls on a Sunday, then the following working day usually becomes a holiday.  Travelling during national holidays can be challenging due to road closures, VIP movements, and official events.

Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings

Turkmenistan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary import in to, or export from, Turkmenistan of items such as carpets, jewelry, musical instruments, pieces of art, archaeological artifacts, antiques, and protected animals.  It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements. Travelers who wish to take carpets out of Turkmenistan must obtain a certificate from the Carpet Museum or in any dedicated carpet shop in Central Ashgabat indicating that the carpet does not have historical value. In addition, buyers may have to pay a tax calculated according to the size of the carpet. Travelers who have purchased other items that could be perceived to be of historical value, such as jewelry, have also reported difficulties in taking these items out of Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan’s indigenous dog, the Alabay, is considered a national treasure and cannot be exported without prior permission. American citizens should also check to ensure that any item they intend to bring into the United States is permitted by U.S. customs regulations.