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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan - Consular Information Sheet
September 24, 2001

TRAVEL WARNING (Issued September 19, 2001): The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Turkmenistan. While the Government of Turkmenistan has taken steps to increase security around the country, the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and the proximity of Turkmenistan to Afghanistan have raised additional security concerns for Americans there. Afghanistan, which borders the southern part of Turkmenistan, continues to harbor international terrorist Usama bin Laden.

As a result of these concerns, the Department has approved the authorized (voluntary) departure of non-emergency personnel and family members of U.S. Embassy personnel in Turkmenistan. All American citizens in Turkmenistan are urged to review their personal security situations and to take those measures they deem appropriate to ensure their well-being, including consideration of departure from the country. The U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat remains available for emergency American citizen services assistance.

Americans who decide to remain in or visit Turkmenistan should exercise maximum caution and take prudent measures. This includes maintaining a strong security posture by being aware of their surroundings, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, varying times and routes and notifying the U.S. Embassy in case of any change in the local security situation as well as if there are changes in their contact information.

U.S. citizens in Turkmenistan are strongly urged to register and obtain updated security information at the American Embassy in Ashgabat. The U.S. Embassy is located at 9 Pushkin Street, off Maqtymquly Street. The telephone number is 993-12-35-00-45, fax number 993-12-51-13-05. Americans are encouraged to call the Consular Section of the Embassy. Emergency services for American citizens are available 24 hours per day through the same telephone number.

For further general information regarding travel to Turkmenistan, U.S. citizens should consult the Department of State's Consular Information Sheet for Turkmenistan, available via the Internet at http://travel.state.gov.

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Turkmenistan is the least populated of the New Independent States, and in many ways it remains unchanged from the old regime. Tourist facilities are not highly developed, and many of the goods and services taken for granted in European countries are not yet available. The capital city is Ashgabat.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Visas for Turkmenistan are issued at the Embassy of Turkmenistan, 2207 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 588-1500, Internet address: http://turkmenistanembassy.org. A valid letter of invitation stamped by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is required at the time of application. The stamp must be obtained in Ashgabat by the issuers of the invitation. Travelers may also obtain 10-day visas at the airport if they have with them the stamped letter of invitation. Any traveler arriving without a visa or without the needed documents to obtain a visa at the airport may be sent back immediately to the point from which he/she embarked for Turkmenistan. American citizens who arrive in Turkmenistan by car or train without visas should obtain visas at the Velayat Hakimliks (Regional Mayor’s Offices) closest to their point of entry upon presentation of a letter of invitation. Americans arriving in Turkmenistan by ferry from Azerbaijan are required to present entry documents to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative at the post of Turkmenbashi. Visa extensions may be obtained by applying at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and paying an additional fee. Because of frequent changes in visa policy, the Embassy of Turkmenistan should be contacted prior to travel for the most current information.

CRIME INFORMATION: Turkmenistan has a low rate of violent crime, but common street crime has increased, especially at night. The U.S. Embassy recommends that Westerners, especially women, not walk or take public transportation or taxis alone, especially after dark. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State’s pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to ensure a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care in Turkmenistan is limited. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of public and private hospitals and English-speaking physicians in the country. Due to the privatization of pharmacies, availability of non-prescription drugs has increased, but there is still a shortage of some medicines. Two clinics can conduct consultations and/or operations performed by foreign (German and Turkish) specialists.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: The U.S. Embassy recommends that travelers ensure that their hepatitis and typhoid fever vaccinations are current. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Turkmenistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Condition of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Since independence in 1991, Turkmenistan has seen an increase in the number of cars, leading to heavy congestion on major routes in Ashgabat during rush hour. Drivers can be undisciplined and aggressive. Primary roads in Ashgabat are of high quality, well maintained and lit, but side streets are often in disrepair and poorly lit. Drivers should exercise extreme caution on intercity roads. Although paved, rural roads are narrow, often in a state of disrepair, and not lit. Livestock and large agricultural vehicles in the road also present hazards.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial service at present between the United States and Turkmenistan, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Turkmenistan Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Turkmenistan air carrier operations.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Turkmenistan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Turkmenistan of items such as carpets, jewelry, musical instruments, pieces of art, archaeological artifacts, antiques, etc. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Washington, D.C. for specific information regarding customs requirements. Travelers who want to take carpets out of Turkmenistan must obtain a certificate from the Carpet Museum in central Ashgabat indicating that the carpet is not of historical value. In addition, buyers may have to pay a tax calculated on the size of the carpet.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Turkmenistan’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Turkmenistan are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports and Turkmeni visas with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Turkmenistan is a cash-only economy. However, several new hotels accept credit cards. Only Vnesheconombank cashes traveler’s checks or accepts Visa, Master Card and Eurocards for cash advances. Vnesheconombak charges 5% of the amount for this service. Commercial and other checks require up to one month to clear. Travelers are advised to take only new, clean U.S. dollar bills (1990 and newer) with them. Banks frequently do not have small bills for change. More detailed information is available at the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Turkmenistan is an earthquake-prone country. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.

CHILDREN’S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction issues, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Turkmenistan are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat and obtain updated information on travel and security within Turkmenistan. The U.S. Embassy is located in Ashgabat at 9 Pushkin Street, tel. (993-12) 51-13-06 or 35-00-45; fax (993-12) 51-13-05. the Embassy’s Internet address is http://www.usemb-ashgabat.usia.co.at/

* * *

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated September 13, 2000 to incorporate information about the current Travel Warning for Turkmenistan.

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