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Turkmenistan Country Report

Country Risk Level



Executive Summary

Turkmenistan is the most isolated country in the Central Asian region. In its highly authoritarian political system, power is concentrated under President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. Depopulated and with largely desert terrain, Turkmenistan’s only economic advantage is its vast gas reserves, which are the fourth largest in the world. In recent years Turkmenistan has become very dependent on gas exports to China, which provide the bulk of state revenues. The lower gas price has led to significant weakening of the government’s financial position, hurting the mainly state-run economy. This has been demonstrated by food shortages, mass layoffs of public-sector employees and acute shortages of both domestic and foreign currency. The potential for a sharp recovery of gas export earnings is low, even with the resumption of gas exports to Russia on 15 April 2019. The two countries are currently negotiating a new five-year gas supply contract to replace the old one, which expired on 30 June. Owing to its neutral status, Turkmenistan does not host foreign military but its armed forces are poorly trained and their combat capacity is low. This exacerbates the security situation along Turkmenistan’s border with Afghanistan, which remains volatile with occasional incursions by Taliban and affiliated militant groups who clash with border guards. Low gas export earnings also threaten the country’s external accounts. Depressed demand due to the weaker outlook for global growth in 2020 because of the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus will further undermine gas export earnings. Reserves – once thought to be extremely high – are likely under extreme duress, pulled down by a lack of foreign capital inflows that would be needed to finance what we assume is a large current-account deficit. However, because the country does not provide any measure of its reserves, we can only guess at their actual levels – perhaps covering around six months of imports.

Operational Outlook

Excessive bureaucracy, high-level corruption, and the need for "inside contacts" are day-to-day elements of business life. President Berdymukhammedov has emphasised the importance of attracting foreign investment, and in practice revisions to production-sharing agreements in the oil and gas sector have been rare. However, the personalised nature of power means that an investor who falls out of favour with the government has little recourse to defend against contract risks. Alleged non-payment of contracts with foreign companies has been an emerging trend during Berdymukhammedov's presidency.


The outflow of radicalised individuals to conflicts in Syria and Iraq mitigates terrorism risks in Turkmenistan but raises security concerns about their return. The rise in militant activities in Afghanistan's northern provinces bordering on Turkmenistan increases the likelihood of cross-border incursions accompanied by terrorist attacks targeting state institutions and armed forces. Firm state control of religious practices, widespread surveillance of population and general lack of susceptibility towards radicalisation among Turkmens make emergence of domestic terrorist groups unlikely. The existence of small fringe of underground Islamist groups poses no terrorism risks at present as they are not committed to violence.


Crime is not a major problem in Turkmenistan if only because of the repressive characteristics of the political regime. Crime levels are thought to be largely low but this cannot be confirmed, as the government denies the existence of crime in Turkmenistan and does not permit external surveys. However, elevated levels are thought to exist in poorer urban areas. There have been reports that foreigners have been targeted in reputable hotels by petty criminals. Organised crime in Turkmenistan largely depends on the windfall profits from the transit of narcotics originating in Afghanistan with which Turkmenistan shares a porous border.

War Risks

Turkmenistan risks armed cross-border incursions by the militants affiliated with the Islamic State in Afghanistan due to a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan's northern provinces, following the withdrawal of coalition forces in 2014. The likelihood of an interstate war with any of the neighbouring states is very low as Turkmenistan maintains friendly relations with them. The signing of a convention on Caspian Sea's legal status by five littoral states in 2018 further mitigates the likelihood of a maritime border dispute with Azerbaijan. Turkmenistan's armed forces are poorly trained and inadequately equipped. Turkmenistan's neutral status makes it difficult for other countries to render military assistance.

Social Stability


The oil price collapse led to a significant reduction in state revenues since Turkmenistan's long-term gas supply contracts with China are linked to oil price. Mass lay-offs and salary arrears across state institutions increase the likelihood of economically motivated protests. The absence of political opposition makes them likely to be both short-lived and peaceful. The reports coming from the country indicate widespread basic food shortages and severe deficit in both local and foreign currency, which reflect ongoing economic crisis. Civil society is in its infancy with most dissidents in jail or abroad.

Health Risk

Vaccinations required to enter the country

No vaccinations are required to enter the country.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

Tick-Borne Encephalitis: For stays in rural zones and for hiking enthusiasts (for children over the age of one).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.


Regarding transportation, the conditions of Turkmenistan’s various modes of transport are less than ideal. Due to the poor state of roads, the absence of reliable road maps, poorly-marked streets, and changing weather conditions, travelers should be extremely prudent while driving in the country. Traveling by rail (slow, uncomfortable, and relatively unsafe) or by air is not particularly advisable.

Furthermore, access to certain areas is heavily restricted or outright forbidden (notably the regions bordering Afghanistan, Iran, and Uzbekistan). Even obtaining official authorization to leave the capital, Ashgabat, could prove difficult. It should also be noted that military reinforcements were deployed to the Turkmen side in mid-March 2014 following incidents that took place along the Afghan border (750 km [450 mi] land border).

Practical Information


Turkmenistan's climate is continental with low levels of precipitation throughout the year. Summer are scorching (40°C) and dry while winters are bitterly cold (-25°C). Spring and autumn are pleasant with mild temperatures. The air is dry in the center of the country but more humid along the Caspian Sea. Violent winds often blow across the Karakum Desert, sometimes triggering sandstorms.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +993
Police: 02
Fire Dept.: 01
Ambulance: 03


Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz


Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal