If you go to the bank you will get a fixed rate 1 USD = 8000
On the black market you will get much more.
I got 25 000 Manat.
WARNING IT IS ILLEGAL TO CHANGE ON THE BLACK MARKET!
At the border it is no problem.
Near the Shopping center in Ashgabat there are some old women.
They change USD for you.
Unique Suggestions: It is your decission.
Be safe and get less.
Or risk something and get more.
No risk no fun.
Fun Alternatives: There is no alternative.
Keep in mind that the hotels not take Manat from foreigners.
They take USD but for 8000!
In many countries the taxi mafia is active,
If they see a tourist they see the dollars and try to cheat you.
So don't be naiv, Get a feeling for the right price by asking other people.
Always ask for the price before you get off.
Always look what the driver does if he uses the taxameter.
If you drive by day be sure that he doesn't use the night tarif.
Be careful that the taxameter is not tuned.
Unique Suggestions: Pay and try to do better next time.
Fun Alternatives: Use public transport
this is a reply I wrote on a question by mail
I didn't have a very great time inTurkmenistan, but otherwise wouldn't have missed it!
I also indeed didn't meet any other travellers when I were there besides another single guy for an evening in Ashgabat (check out www.hansrossel.com if you can read Dutch!). Otherwise you won't be the only white (I assume?) face on the streets; there's still a lot of Russians. So you won't attract too much special attention icw countries like Pakistan or India (unless your dressing inproper of course...).
I wouldn't recommend travelling around alone for a single women though, just because the "uniformed" can be quite intimidating and even more because of the many drunks.
Going with a guide will of course reduce these hassles enourmously. Just make very sure you book a reputable guide. I got my invitation letter from Ayan Travel and I visited their office in Ashgabat once. It's a very professional travel agent with trained and educated guides that do great tours; If you want to check out here's the link: http://www.ayan-travel.com
Hope this helps, I would go again if I had a chance! I hope you will come back on VT to share your experiences, because as you see, VT still needs a recent and good page with more positive input ;-)!
We arrived early in the morning from Nukus (Uz) by taxi and crossed the border pretty easy. After we checked in in the only -and shabby- hotel (beds only) in town, we went to town to look for money, food and water.
We had to go to the market on the other side of the canal, but apparently were not allowed to cross the bridge.
We tried 2 other bridges but were sent back again. We simply didn't want to pay a "special tourist tax" in US$ just to pass the bridge!
Unique Suggestions: In the end we got a ride from a friendly local and managed to got through.
Fun Alternatives: Don't try to cross the bridge
In all Central Asian countries you may encounter some degree of vodka terrorism, and Turkmenistan was no exception
From the town of Mary I bought a seat in a shared taxi that would bring me to Turkmenabat. The other men brought two bottles of vodka and started to drink one after the other. They told me to have some as well, but I politely refused -didn't want to be drunk with 4 strangers in the middle of the desert.
Soon the bottles were empty and they demanded the driver to stop at a shop. One of them came back with another two and hand signed me to pay, what I refused once again.
They became very drunk now, smashing empty bottles on the streets and shouting to everyone around. Apparently one of them was a policeman, since -however they were really rude- the checkpoints were no problem at all.
One of the guys on the back seat started to be a bit agressive, shouted right in my face and pushed me to drink (and to pay) with them. It made him mad that I kept refusing.
I was happy that, when things started to get really out of hand, we -after 4 hours- reached Turkmenabat.
Unique Suggestions: refuse the drinks -even one-if you don't trust the one who offers.
Numerous paper checks during the 28 hour journey from Turkmenbashi City to Mary and annoying attendants going for the bribe.
Just out of town a police officer demanded me to come with him and he took me apart in a small room to check my passport and declaration form. Minutely he checked everything and stared greedy at the few $$ that I showed him to prove that I didn't posess more than declared.
And of course he found out that Turkmenbashi City was not listed in my visa. Have been sitting there 1 hour negotiating the fine. Usually I don't pay if I know he's wrong, but I felt some sympathy for this man and eventually agreed on 10000 manat (ca. $0,40).
During that journey 3 others tried as well -but at these occasions the friendly and helpful Turkmens in my compartment helped me out.
An English fellow long-term traveller told me he had been spending and questioned a night at the Ashgabat police station because they suspected him of being a journalist.
He had with his fancy camera, and without been taking notice, photograped the American Embassy after which he got arrested.
They not only seized his film but -of course- also his camera, so that he had to buy a new one in Ashgabat. Not the best place on earth for buyin camera's...!
Unique Suggestions: be calm and insist you didn't know about.
When I was just smoking a cigarette in the streets of Ashgabat, a policeman halted me and told me to pay $100 for breaking the law!
I didn't take him serious and after some persistent refusal and "no understand" he left me alone. But I was lucky and didn't know that it was forbidden by law!
When president Niyazov got a heart disease in 1997 and he had to quit smoking, he also forbade smoking in public by law!
I read in a newspaper an article that the president caught his pressman smoking and he fined him a months wage!
Unique Suggestions: be calm and insist you didn't know about. If you speak Russian, don't do so. Offer him a cigarette ;-)
Along the route we encountered a dozen checkpoints and everytime our driver got out of the car and handed out a few small notes.
Just before darkness, when we almost had reached the city limits, it took a long time and in the end the driver came back with a uniformed man who called my name (which sounded quite funny :-). He had found an omission.
In the "points of destination" section of my visa some places were stated but not Ashgabat. He demanded $100.
I refused as I knew from first hand that this law was not applicable anymore. For that reason usually this section of the visa is just not filled in, like at my fellow traveller's visas. But in Tashkent they probably didn't know and now here, they tried to cheat me.
I kept refusing and the driver left with the officer again to come back half hour later. He had settled it. Great job!
Unique Suggestions: First of all take care that your visa doesn't list places, or -if it does- you should be sure you don't want to travel to other "points of destinations".
Secondly, if you drive your own vehicle, be prepared to pay something at the checkpoints. The locals do as well and the policemen get no pay other than this. But find out before you go about the usual rate. It should be in any case far less than $1 a time!
Fun Alternatives: fly! this costs no more than ca. $2 in manat one way if you change on the black market.
The centre was abandoned. Only 2 police men sitting on a chair on every corner of the street, barking through megaphones to the occasional pedestrian. The market stalls were empty.
We were halted several times by means of megaphone. What we were doing here, looking for omissions in our papers, demanding money. But we slowly got through.
It turned out that about the whole population had been sent to the cotton fields to harvest on behalf of the State and everybody still around needed a very good reason.
It lasted until the late afternoon before we finally could change money, buy food, buy water.
Unique Suggestions: Never give money when you know everything is all right. Just be patient and act imperturbable!
Bring some extra water and food for the first day! It's hot out there in summer!
Fun Alternatives: Don't go to Turkmenistan
This is a typical desert 'shop' I do not know where the fish is from. I made the driver stop and call the 'shopkeeper' out and asked where is the fish from. Mind you we were driving in barren desert for hours, with hours more to go. The man motioned with his hand, and said there was a river way back there????????
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