The Turkmenistan transport infrastructure is generally well developed. The only two international airports in the country are in Ashgabat and Turkmenbashi (weekly connection with Turkmenistan Airlines to Istanbul). Numerous domestic flights connect all major cities with the capital, and there are also flight connections between the individual cities. In addition, all larger settlements are connected to each other and to the capital by the south-north or west-east running railroad. In addition, all larger settlements can be reached via paved roads that are passable all year round. There is an irregular ferry connection to Azerbaijan from Turkmenbashi.
According to shoefrantics, the Turkmenistan government supports public transport, all of which are state-run, with extensive subsidies. The foreign visitors to the country also benefit from this, for whom their use is extremely cheap. This applies in particular to train and bus journeys. The former cost just a few dollars – including night trains – and bus rides in cities only cost a few cents. The prices for petrol and diesel were increased significantly again in the first half of 2015, but they are still in the range of a few cents per liter. The prices for taxi rides have increased accordingly, but no more than a few dollars are still to be paid for trips within the country’s major cities, regardless of the distance traveled.
The country’s only major international airport is in Ashgabat. This was currently extensively modernized by 2017 and has been the largest airport in the region by capacity since it was reopened. In theory, it is also possible to handle aircraft such as the Airbus A380 or the Boeing 747-8i. With a fleet of two long-haul aircraft and almost 20 aircraft for short and medium-haul flights, the state-owned Turkmenistan Airlines serves a number of regional and national destinations from its home airport in Ashgabat.
On 05/02/2019 European Agency decided Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) that Turkmenistan Airlines does not meet the minimum standards of aviation safety and therefore on the list (so-called. ” Black List “) operated by airlines is set, where the operation (including landing / flyover) in the EU is prohibited. Turkmenistan Airlines therefore had to discontinue the previously operated non-stop connections to Birmingham, London, Frankfurt and Paris with immediate effect. The French Foreign Ministry named “defects in the material and the maintenance of the machines” as the cause. The flights between Great Britain and Turkmenistan have since been operated by Wamos Air which flies here on behalf of Turkmenistan Airlines. Rumors that Turkmenistan Airlines could resume flights to Europe in April or May 2019 have not yet come true. In February 2019, Turkmenistan Airlines commissioned Lufthansa to help adapt maintenance and material quality to international standards.
The foreign ministries of Switzerland and Austria have been advising since 2010, due to flight safety that is not always complied with or that meets international standards, that domestic flights only take place during the day and only in good weather.
This means that Lufthansa (from Frankfurt with a stopover in Baku, several times a week) is currently the only airline that connects Western Europe directly with Turkmenistan. There are also connections with Turkish Airlines (Istanbul), S7 (Moscow), Belavia (Minsk, seasonal), Flydubai (Dubai) and China Southern Airlines (Urumchi).
The other international airport in the country is Turkmenbashi Airport. Turkmenistan Airlines connects the airport with Istanbul once a week.
Flight connections with neighboring countries of Turkmenistan or the countries of Central Asia are currently only offered by Turkmenistan Airlines:
Kazakhstan: Almaty, at least weekly, scheduled service since 2016
Tajikistan: Dushanbe, no scheduled service, occasional flights since summer 2017
Iran: currently no flight connection
Kyrgyzstan: currently no flight connection
Uzbekistan: Currently no flight connection. The weekly flight from Uzbekistan Airways to the Uzbek capital Tashkent, which was mostly operated with an Ilyushin 114 until 2016, was suspended in spring 2017 until further notice.
- Domestic flights:
The following airports are served by Turkmenistan Airlines from Ashgabat:
Turkmenbaschi (several times a day)
Balkanabad (several times a week)
Daschogus (several times a day – permission to enter the border regions required)
Mary (several times a day)
Turkmenabad (several times a day)
In addition, there are connections from Daschogus (usually several times a week) to: Turkmenbaschi, Balkanabad, Mary, Turkmenabad. As well as (rarer) connections between the other domestic airports.
The passenger fleet used by Turkmenistan Airlines in scheduled service currently consists of older aircraft of the Boeing 757-200 types (3 aircraft, built between 1993 and 2001) and modern aircraft of the Boeing 737-700 (2 aircraft, built in 2009), 737-800 (7 Pieces, built between 2007 and 2017) and 777-200LR (2 pieces, built in 2014).
Domestic flights are operated with Boeing 737s, are subsidized by the government and therefore extremely cheap. Skytrax, which specializes in the valuation of airlinesawards Turkmenistan Airlines 2 out of 5 possible points. The reasons given are the below-average to significantly below-average evaluation of service, cabin equipment, seating comfort, safety procedures, on-board entertainment, catering and fleet management, among other things. Accordingly, most of the airline’s reviews on the relevant portals are bad.
The International Civil Aviation Association carried out a safety check at Turkmenistan Airlines in April 2010 and, with the exception of the qualification and quality of the training of the technical staff, did not find any significant negative deviations from the global average.
In recent years, numerous new routes have been opened in Turkmenistan, existing ones have been electrified and others are planned or under construction. However, these extensions are initially aimed exclusively at freight traffic and not every major project that has been announced will actually be implemented.
Passenger trains run daily between Turkmenbashi, Ashgabat, Mary and Turkmenabad and between Ashgabat and Daschogus, and some of the timetables are now available on the Internet. In addition, a few regional trains run from Ashgabat to larger suburbs to the east and west of the capital. The other railway lines are not released for passenger traffic. International connections released for passengers do not exist.
When traveling from Iran, a connection that runs several times a day ends at the Serakhs border crossing northeast of Mashhad. On the Turkmenistan side, you can continue your journey by bus or taxi.
There are no rail connections (approved for passenger traffic) with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.
Almost all wagons and locomotives newly acquired from China are used according to modern western standards. Due to the decade-long neglect of the existing infrastructure (east-west connection, Trans-Caspian railway) and construction defects in the construction of new routes (north-south connection from Ashgabat to Daschogus), travel times are very long. The average speed between Ashgabat and Daschogus is less than 20km / h, so 24 hours are needed for the 450km long route with trouble-free operation.
Roads and road traffic
The Turkmenistan road network covers a total length of around 18,000 km and enjoys state priority in the development of the national infrastructure. However, only the important west-east and north-south axes are paved or at least paved. These roads (marked in yellow on the infrastructure map in the country overview and nature section) connect the most important centers in the country and can be used all year round. Most of the road network, however, consists of unpaved desert and mountain slopes, most of which are only accessible with all-wheel drive and some of which are only open seasonally. In the desert, dust and sand storms are the greatest obstacle, in the mountains slopes can become impassable after heavy rainfall (mostly in spring and sometimes in midsummer) or snowfalls.
The main roads of the country run parallel to the rail connections listed. The country’s most important trunk road is the west-east-northeast road from Turkmenbaschi to Turkmenabad via Ashgabat and Mary (M37) mostly well developed and provided with lane markings. There are numerous smaller and sometimes larger settlements along the route. All larger towns have refueling, supply and accommodation facilities. Another west-east connection exists between Daschogus and Turkmenabad. The road runs parallel to a railway line and almost parallel to Amu-Darja. Special permits are required to drive on the road, as some of the routes run in a correspondingly defined border region. Information on this is available from the consular department of the Turkmenistan embassy and the commissioned tourism agency.
The north-south connection from Daschogus to Ashgabat is only well developed in the immediate vicinity of the capital. Further north, the quality of the road decreases significantly. In the section between Yerbent and Daschogus, sometimes mighty sand drifts, larger potholes and a sometimes barely existing asphalt surface mean considerable obstacles. The only petrol pump between Ashgabat and Daschogus is in Yerbent. However, this is not always in operation. Aside from small shops in Yerbent and Bakhardok, there are no other supply options on the route. In Yerbent there is a very simple (!) Overnight accommodation that is almost exclusively used by long-distance drivers and cannot be recommended without restrictions for women. The traffic on this route is very thin. Suddenly approaching and sometimes very strong sand and dust storms harbor the risk of losing orientation, especially in the summer months. This risk is exacerbated in the area of blocked road sections. Appropriate precautions should therefore be taken before crossing the desert.
Numerous formal and informal rules apply to the use of Turkmenistan roads. In particular, it is forbidden to drive dirty vehicles on Turkmenistan roads! This regulation also applies to two-wheelers. To avoid severe fines, vehicle owners should make sure to keep their vehicles free of dirt at all times. Especially after passing sand drifts or driving on slopes, the vehicle must be cleaned before reaching the next checkpoint.
The country’s only port city is Turkmenbashi. From here there is an irregular (theoretically daily, but in practice often only three or four times a week) ferry connection to Baku and, according to previous reports, established in 2014, the ferry connection to Olya near Astrakhan in Russia is even more irregular. When traveling to Turkmenistan, according to unconfirmed reports, pre-ordered visas can be picked up at the Turkmenistan consulate in Ashtrachan. If this is confirmed, the ferry would be a potentially attractive connection from Russia to Turkmenistan. Both the visa situation and the ferry timetable are currently unclear, so that contacting the consulate and the shipping company is strongly recommended.
In addition to the Lufthansa flight between Baku and Ashgabat, the 17-hour crossing is the only reasonably regular means of transporting passengers between the two countries. It should be noted that the journey often takes more than 20 hours due to technical defects or lay times at sea and that journey times are notoriously irregular. Travel times of over 30 hours are not uncommon. However, lay times of more than 3 days are comparatively rare. In rare individual cases, waiting times of up to six days reported. It is important to ensure that the destination country’s visa does not expire during the waiting time or that it was obtained from the beginning with a corresponding time buffer. By looking at the current position of the ferries between Turkmenbaschi and Ashgabat, an approximate estimate of the next departure and – for safety reasons – the presumably deployed ship can be made.
Depending on the ship, the railway ferries have a larger number of partly modern, but often very simple passenger cabins and can transport a limited number of private vehicles. As far as is known, the hygienic facilities are kept simple throughout. Some ships have a small bar with a limited range of snacks and alcoholic beverages.
The official price for the crossing is currently around US $ 90. In fact, the travel costs are often dependent on the individual time pressure during the price negotiation, the negotiating partner’s willingness to negotiate and the additional fees to be paid to other people. In total, depending on your negotiating skills, you can expect around US $ 70 to 200 per person. To avoid extra fees, it is advisable to get on board as inconspicuously as possible and immediately after receiving the ferry ticket. Six different ferries operate. The official prices are the same for all ferries. Especially with regard to the safety standards, however, only the two newer models at least partially meet Western requirements.It is extremely helpful that travelers who have used this ferry and a (semi-state Azerbaijani) tourism organization not only provide informative travel reports but also, in some cases, extremely detailed compilations of the information on the requirements and procedures for purchasing a ticket. The point of arrival and departure in Baku is the central port building in Baku, and the point of arrival and departure in Turkmenbaschi is usually the track system, which is a bit out of the way. At least some of the ferries are used to transport entire freight trains. Leisure activities are not provided on board, but staying on the upper deck is possible on most ships without any problems.
In addition to the passenger ferry, cargo ship connections with a limited number of passenger cabins also operate from Turkmenbaschi. The ports regularly visited are Aktau (Kazakhstan), Olya (Russia, Dagestan) and Enzeli (Iran). It is strongly advisable to ask the shipping company in advance; if necessary, spontaneous inquiries from the ship owner on site can also help. Visas for the respective destination countries must be available in any case. Attention: Freight traffic does not follow a strict schedule. Longer idle times and delays must be taken into account. The price depends solely on negotiating skills, although depending on the distance, a basic price similar to the connection to Baku should be calculated (i.e. at least 100-120 dollars to Enzeli to at least 180-230 dollars to Olya).
A few years ago, the government put the country’s first gas liquefaction plant into operation in the immediate vicinity of the city. According to official information, their continuously expanded capacity is currently around 340,000 t of liquid gas per year. According to official information, the capacity is currently around 80% (annual output of around 270,000 t of liquid gas). By means of its own (also in the process of being expanded)) For the first time, these raw materials can be offered directly on the world market in a fleet of oil and gas tankers. Previously, the government relied on pipeline-bound supplies through transit countries for gas exports. The new opportunities have also enabled the government to improve its negotiating position in price negotiations for gas sales.
The port plays a subordinate role for the rest of the movement of goods.