For general tips on how to deal with the police,the local driving style, some basic driver’s Russian as well as GPS files with fuel stations and places to stop over, see the driving overview page. Here we discuss the state of the roads, where to find parts, repair shops, and how to deal with transporting, customs and selling a car.
You might want to invest in a good road map of Turkmenistan before you leave.
Traffic is generally not too busy; especially if you just came from Iran, it will be a pleasant surprise.
The roads are in a bad state. Reconstruction is on the way, but for now, only the bridges are in place. Except very bumpy potholed roads everywhere except in the major cities. Turkmenbashi – Balkanabat is ok though, as is the road from Ashgabat to the Iranian border.
Ashgabat to Dashoguz has paved road in very good condition for the first half starting from Ashgabat. The second part is a rough sandy desert road, with a lot of road works. If you want to see the gas crater, you need to go 5 km of the main road through a heap of sand. A 4 hour ride from the capital. You will probably need a gps to find it if you’re going without a guide.
A 4WD is not necessary unless you want to drive into the desert (i.e. to the crater or Yangikala canyon). The locals drive Ladas, Opels and Toyota Corollas, there aren’t so many 4x4s.
And keep your car clean! Especially in Ashgabat police is very strict on dirty cars: head to the car wash before you enter the city unless you want to be frequently stopped by the police.
Insurance, border payments and police checks
At the border you will be paying a sizeable amount of money: fuel compensation, road tax, obligated insurance, immigration card and entry tax. The amount changes depending on your vehicle: 150$ for a 4WD Toyota, 255$ for a Land Rover, up to several hundred dollars for a minivan.
When leaving the country there is often another 20$ customs fee.
Police checkpoints are frequent on the road. Drive slow when approaching. You will probably be pulled over, but will be allowed to pass through after showing your documents.
You are allowed to drive 50 km/h in towns and cities, 100 km/h on intercity roads. Police check for speed on the edge of towns, but rarely in between cities. Few road signs.
Between Turkmenabat and the border lies a pontoon bridge over the Amu Darya. Locals go for 1 manat, foreigners pay US$42.00 (+20Manat processing fee). There is no point arguing, there is no other option, and the bridge closes at 6pm. Additionally, there is at times a huge traffic jam near the bridge, so come on time.
Border crossing reports
August 2013, Turkmenbashi: 7 hours with one car!
June 2013, Turkmenbashi: After getting off the boat, it took 7 hours to get through customs with 7 cars. 13 stamps were needed. Turkish truckers ahead of us made the process slower than usual.
Prices for fuel are really low in Turkmenistan. You paid your fuel compensation tax at the border to make up for your bargain at the pump, though.
June 2013: Diesel was 0,5 manat/liter, petrol 0,6 manat/liter.
All petrol stations are 24 hours. There is no self service. Not all pump stations carry diesel, but every decent-sized city will have a few pumps carrying diesel fuel. You cannot fill jerry cans or containers at the pump.
All stations are monitored with CCTV.
Petrol stations sell petrol. If you want to buy motor oil, fluids or coolant, you need to find an automagazin.
Car parts, motorcycle parts and mechanics
We cannot recommend anyone yet. If you know of a reliable mechanic anywhere in Turkmenistan, please let us know in the comments!
Selling/leaving a car/motorcycle in Turkmenistan
Probably the best place to sell a car in Central Asia is Kyrgyzstan. There is a big market for second-hand cars from Lithuania in Kyrgyzstan, implying that import duties are the lowest here. Selling your car or motorcycle in Turkmenistan… sounds like an adventure!