The first step in travelling to Turkmenistan is to contact a local Travel Agent (I used Oguz Tour) and give them precise details of your plans, they will then apply for your Letter of Invitation. You need to start this process at least 2 months before your planned departure date. They will email you the Letter of Invitation which you must print and that is all you need to get on the plane to Turkmenistan. Cost of the 5 night, 6 day tour was US$830 paid in cash, included all food, accommodation, car and driver (no guide), pickup from the Airport and drop off at the Uzbekistan Border.
Getting to Ashgabat is not easy because not many airlines fly there. My route took me from Perth to Bangkok (7 hrs) on Thai Airways, 6 hour layover and then a 7 hour flight on Turkmenistan Airlines to Ashgabat. The airline does not have a website and I made the booking through their main Agent Deepika Travels in London, you cannot book through the website in the link, you have to call them and they are about half the price of any other booking website. I had read some funny stories about this airline but it was a very pleasant flight, only about half full, more than enough leg room, wide seats and they served two meals. The Ashgabat Airport looks brand new and everything was immaculate, it was also completely deserted. First stop is the visa counter where I was the only one and handed in my Letter of Invitation, paid US$99 at the counter next door and the visa was pasted into a full page of my passport. Next Immigration and except for 3 passengers myself included (I was the only tourist) the rest of the passengers were in transit so we were processed immediately, my suitcase arrived soon after and I was out of the airport very quickly, quite a painless experience.
Driving into the city I was confronted by a mass of white, marble clad, blocks of flats and practically no traffic, and no people, the few cars I saw were also mainly white Toyota’s. The streets were very clean, this is one of the cleanest cities in the world if not the cleanest. The old city is gradually being demolished and replaced with these white marble clad buildings. There are also very few signs or billboards anywhere just this unbroken whiteness with a splash of gold here and there. There are police everywhere randomly checking cars, which have to be white or silver and clean, a dirty car will result in a fine hahaha. People are very law abiding, crime is low, education and medical services are free though people who can afford it go to Turkey or India for treatment. There are many excellent restaurants and prices are high for everything, this is not a cheap place to live. All social media is blocked though you can get around this with a VPN but the speeds are so slow it not worth the effort. You must be accompanied by a guide at all times, you are not allowed to wander off on your own, apparently in the name of Safety but aren’t we living in a very safe city with little or no crime hahaha.
Carpet Museum, Monument of Neutrality, TV tower, National museum.