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Ashgabat is the capital of Turkmenistan and is the largest city in the country. It is located close to the border with Iran and has about 750,000 inhabitants, mainly of Turkmen origin. It is a relatively young city but with a turbulent history, including two earthquakes in the past century, both of which killed tens of thousands of people. Nowadays, most travellers who arrive by plane will stay a few nights in this remarkable city.
Ashgabat is home to several museums and mosques and the famous golden statue of former President Saparmurat Niyazov (Turkmenbashi, leader of all Turkmens). The statue rotates in order to always face the sun and is said to be made of pure gold.
Ashgabat is a well planned city with wide boulevards, green parks and good hotels for people to stay. Most of the buildings in the centre are made of imported Italian marble and the central area is a veritable marble mile of gleaming white buildings complete with gold trimmings for extra bling. It is an extremely clean and safe city and many of the people that you will see on the streets in the central marble square mile are either street cleaners or police. Make sure you ask the police before you take any photos of public buildings, as it's forbidden to photograph the President's Palace. From Ashgabat, the cultural features of the country as well as the deserts are worth a visit.
The central marble mile is clean, green and is where most tourists would spend the bulk of their time. Venture past the marble buildings and you will quickly see a different side to Ashgabat where the people who aren't winners under the current regime live.
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The Monument to Neutrality is the famous statue that features former President Saparmurat Niyazov (Turkmenbashi, leader of all Turkmens) in solid gold that rotates to face the sun. The statue was removed from the city centre as the government tries to distance itself from its isolationist early history.
A homage to the national product and a fascinating insight into how Turkmen rugs are made and what the different patterns signify. The largest hand-woven rug in the world is an impressive sight in pride of place in the entrance hall. Foreigners pay a significantly higher entrance fee than locals and at around $30 you do wonder where the money is actually going.
Ashgabat has a continental climate with dry conditions year round. Summers are hot, winters are cold. Summer temperatures average around 35 °C during the day, around 20 °C at night. But temperatures around 45 °C are not unheard of. Winters are on average 0 °C, but occasionally temperatures can drop below -20 °C at night. The best time for to visit is in spring or autumn, when warm, sunny and dry conditions are the norm.
Ashgabat Airport (IATA: ASB, ICAO: UTAA), also known as Saparmurat Turkmenbashy International Airport (after the former president) is the main airport in the country. It has both international and domestic flights. The airport features a 3,800 metres (12,467 ft) runway that can handle several kinds of aircraft.
The national airline of Turkmenistan is Turkmenistan Airlines, with flights from Ashgabat to and from Beijing, Bangkok, Delhi, Tehran, Abu Dhabi and European destinations like Moscow, London and Frankfurt. Both Turkmenistan Airlines as Turkish Airlines have flights to and from Istanbul. From Europe, this is one of the best and cheapest connections.
Turkmenistan Airlines has regular scheduled flights between Ashgabat, Chardzhou, Dashoguz, Mary, Turkmenbashi and Turkmenabat, and to Kerki and Balkanabat a few times a week as well. Domestic flights are dirt cheap, just a few dollars one-way.
Trains leave Turkmenbashi every second day at 7:30pm and arrive in Ashgabat at 5:20am next morning or daily at 4:05pm, arriving in Ashgabat at 5:50am next morning.
Trains leave Turkmenabad at 6:00pm and Mary at 0.25am daily and arrive in Ashgabat at 8:20am next morning, Another train leaves Turkmenabad at 9:55pm and Mary at 2:50am every second day, arriving in Ashgabat at 9:35am next morning. There is a day train leaving Turkmenabad at 4:20 am and Mary at 10:23am, arriving in Ashgabat at 6:35pm.
Distances to/from Ashgabat: Almaty in Kazakhstan 2,120 km, Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan 1,870 km, Tashkent in Uzbekistan 1,290 km, Samarkand in Uzbekistan 1,000 km, Shakrisyabz in Uzbekistan 1,100 km, Turkmenabad 590 km, Mary 350 km, Mashhad in Iran 270 km, Dashoguz 650 km.
There are modern and comfortable long distance buses to Dashgouz, Mary, Turkmenbashi and Turkmenabat from Ashgabat. All other towns are serviced by less comfortable older buses and minibuses or taxis.
"Taxi", by which everyone means hitchhiking is probably the best way to get around Ashgabat. Simply hold out your arm at a downward angle with two fingers extended, and a car (usually a Lada) will stop. Say where you are going. If they nod, get in, otherwise they will go on and you have to wait for the next car. Expect payment to be about $2 per person. Note that hitchhiking is an entirely safe mode of transport in Turkmenistan—everyone uses it.
There are also official taxis which can be easily found in front of the arrivals hall of the airport and close to the railway station. They are safer but more expensive.
Ashgabat has a very extensive and convenient bus system. The main public transport hub is Teke Bazaar. From that place any location within the city or in its environs can be easily reached. In the modern part of the city there are air-conditioned bus stops with detailed maps of routes of every bus line departing from a stop. The cost of a single ride is 0.20 TMT. The price should be paid by every passenger to the basket located close to driver's seat while getting off the bus. Alternatively a multi-ride should be presented to the driver.
Much of central Ashgabat can be navigated on foot and can be fun with all the great buildings.
The Russian Market, located in the central shopping area, is the best place to stock up on supplies or put together a picnic lunch. Bursting to the seams with fresh fruit, vegetables, cold meats, cheeses, salads and caviar there's sure to be something here for your needs. There are also some inexpensive street food type stalls around the edge serving up hot food, if your Russian or Turkmen is up to the task.
Across the road from the US embassy lies the Ashgabat Hotel, a drab concrete structure which hasn't seen much maintenance since it was built in the Soviet period. It's probably the best budget place in Ashgabat but definitely doesn't offer great value for money.
The President Hotel near the National Museum lies outside the main central area but has great views back across the marble mile and offers you all the amenities you'd expect from a top hotel.
There are a couple of internet shops in town which are open office hours only, you need to have your passport with you to leave with the attendant.
See also International Telephone Calls
There is no mobile phone coverage across large parts of the country outside of the main centres.
Turkmen Post is a reliable carrier for any purchases such as rugs that you wish to send home. There are no international courier firms in Turkmenistan.
We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Ashgabat
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