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“The world hates change. Yet it is the first thing that allowed it to progress.”

Charles F. Kettering

Turkmenistan has been a country closed to tourists for a long time and yet, in November 2023, luckily for us, the country reopened its borders, which is the reason why we can transit there. This option allows us not to repeat the same circuit as on the outward journey and thus to continue to discover other countries.

Although more financially interesting than making the detour via Georgia, crossing Turkmenistan is very expensive and can only be done when accompanied by a guide. To reduce costs, we therefore cross with other travelers and limit the duration of our stay. During this time, we unfortunately do not have the opportunity to stop where we want, whether to visit or meet the locals.

Although this crossing allows us to visit some remarkable sites of the country and recognizes the gap that exists between its capital and its more rural regions, due to visiting restrictions and the cost of the stay, we can only fly over the country and regret not being able to soak up more of it.


VISA - To travel to Turkmenistan, a Visa and a guide are required, more information below.

EXCHANGE - 19 manats/USD (unofficial rate applied)

VEHICLE - Customs clearance book (CPD) not requested, but many taxes are applied, more information below.

DIESEL - 0.071 USD/L + fuel tax of 0.2 USD/km

INSURANCE – 100 USD for a van and 35 USD for a car

OTHER - No payment by international card or money withdrawal is possible in the country. Bring enough USD (new USD 100 bills only).

DOG - Vaccination against rabies from 30 to 365 days, microchip not required.

- Tax 8 USD / animal and 4 USD bank fees.



We had to contact the Owadan agency a month and a half before our entry into the country, because some administrative procedures were necessary upstream, in particular: obtaining a letter of invitation (LOI), provided directly by the agency; preparation of the itinerary to present to the authorities.

Since we are tourists, when crossing the border we have to complete a lot of paperwork to be allowed to enter the country. We also have to pay many taxes and sometimes these can exceed the initial budget announced by the agency.


For 4 days of transit for 4 vehicles and 8 people:


  • Guide and nights: 305 USD/P

  • Visa: 55 USD/P

  • Immigration tax: 10 USD/P

  • Tourism tax: 2 USD/P/day

  • PCR test: 36 USD/P

  • Bank fees: 4 USD/group

VEHICLE: 273 - 383 USD / vehicle

  • Vehicle tax: 110 USD/van or 65 USD/car

  • Fuel tax: 0.2 USD/km (800 km = 160 USD)

  • Tire disinfection: USD 5/vehicle

  • Application fee: 5 USD/vehicle

  • GPS: 10 USD/group

  • Insurance: 100 USD/van or 35 USD/car

  • Bank fees: 4 USD/vehicle

DOG: 12 USD/pet

  • Tax: 8 USD/pet

  • Bank fees: 4 USD/pet


As it is currently impossible to return to Turkmenistan without a guide, we contacted the Owadan agency, specialized in transits in the country, to organize the crossing over 4 days. However, the numerous taxes imposed by the country as well as the presence of the guide make such a crossing very expensive.

Transiting in a group helps reduce costs by sharing agency fees. (this becomes particularly interesting from 3 vehicles.) The only places where we stopped were those that we had initially planned with the agency.

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The gate to hell

The main source of income in Turkmenistan is linked to its gas and oil deposits. In 1971, the Soviets attempted to drill to extract gas from a shallow underground pocket. Unfortunately, the natural vault is too fragile and collapses, carrying away the drilling equipment and releasing the gas into the atmosphere. Even if the pocket is destroyed, gas continues to escape from the ground. Thinking it won't last, they set it on fire. This crater has been burning for more than 50 years now and it has never been able to be closed.

After a long and exhausting day of driving on roads in just catastrophic condition, around 10:30 p.m., we finally discovered the glow of flames escaping from the ground. We finally arrived in front of “the gate of hell”.

After a good meal offered by the agency, we set off to put our vehicles around the crater and enjoy this special spectacle. We leave the next morning, after a short night, towards the capital.

the marble city

Since its independence in the 1980s, Turkmenistan has had only three presidents. These are in reality more monarchs than presidents given that they gain power by descent and not by election. The people do not have a say in the decisions taken in the country.

The second president as well as the third president, the one who currently leads, wanted to give a certain prestige to the capital of the country Ashgabat. For them, the best way to achieve this was to chase world records. In 25 years, this capital has become the city with the most marble buildings, the largest indoor Ferris wheel (which has not been operating for 5 years), the largest flag pole in the world (a record currently broken by other cities), the stadium with the largest horse's head in the world, the largest star-shaped building in the world. You will have understood, everything is the greatest. We wonder what other records the president will seek to break for the proper functioning of his country and for the well-being of its population.

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White cars

While in the rest of the country we drove on roads that broke records in terms of pothole size, here they were pristine. In some parts of the city there is activity, but in many neighborhoods the only locals we encounter are those responsible for cleanliness.

In Ashgabat, everything must shine, even the cars (beware of hefty fines). These cars must also be white or gray to be able to drive in the city. The only ones entitled to an exception are ambassadors, who can drive in black cars, and tourists.

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