Turkmenistan Visas and Letters of Invitation (LOI)

“How did you get into Turkmenistan? Isn’t it closed to foreigners?”

Turkmenistan is a special bureaucratic animal when it comes to trying to get a tourist visa to visit. But, with a little bit of advanced planning and an expanded daily budget, it usually is possible, particularly if you don’t work for a media company or human rights organization. We believe our visit to Turkmenistan was well worth the effort and adjustments required.

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Reflections: Expectations and Delivery in Turkmenistan

While planning our itinerary through Central Asia, we dismissed Turkmenistan mainly due to Audrey's impressions of the place. She envisioned a dark, totalitarian state where people mysteriously die in jail. The outlandish whimsical declarations of its leader, Turkmenbashi, would be humorous if they didn’t encase the six million people living there in a difficult reality. Having worked with Turkmenistan and some of its neighbors in the job she’d recently departed, Audrey was certain this wasn’t her vivid imagination running wild.

Dan kept Turkmenistan in sight and brought it up often enough to keep it on the radar of travel possibilities.

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Kicking Up 4000 Years of History in Turkmenistan

If a baby died, its bones would be kept in a ceramic jar in the house.

— Our guide Oleg providing another fascinating background tidbit on the ruins at Gonur Depe, Turkmenistan.

Fifteen minutes later, one of us literally kicked up the fragmented top of an ancient ceramic urn encrusted with earth and filled with small bones. The bit about the bones may sound morbid, but when you realize that what you just overturned with your hiking boots probably dates back 1000s of years, it becomes a really cool find.

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Reflections: Crossing the Caspian Sea

Your trip across the Caspian may provide some of the scariest and most fulfilling moments of your entire journey.

— A veteran journalist we met in Tbilisi, Georgia who had seen it all in the former Soviet Union.

Although we are posting this from Pingyao, China, we dial back a few clicks to the beginning of our journey in Central Asia in an attempt to adequately address the images in our mind and the notes in our journals.

Oddly shaped like a damaged index finger or a distressed plume of smoke, the Caspian Sea pumps out oil and caviar in the midst of the surrounding desert and extreme landscape.

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Ashgabat, The City of Love: A Scavenger Hunt

Ashgabat has been adorned by many beautiful buildings, which made unique architectural ensemble. – A quote on the reverse side of an “official” postcard of the main drama theater named after Turkmenbashi.

One part Las Vegas, another part Pyong Yang, Ashgabat springs up out of the middle of nowhere in the Turkmen desert. You wonder how and you wonder why.

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No Beards, No Spandex: Rules to Live By?

No less idiosyncratic than its architecture, Turkmenistan's laws are the stuff of laughter and legend. Though locals may plead ignorance or flat out deny that some of these laws ever existed, here's what we discovered about some of the more notable whacky entries conjured up by the former president, Sapmurat Niyazov (otherwise known as Turkmenbashi, Leader of all Turkmens).

What's true and what's Turkmenbashi urban myth? Here's the scoop on Turkmenistan's laws and rules based on our peek inside the country.

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