During the years of plenty, Turkmenistan’s government built a boatload of mid-range and luxury hotels across the country; a bit soulless, but perfectly fine in terms of service and amenities. Unless you are going into the desert camping, this is where you will usually stay on a tourist visa.
For budget travelers hurrying through Turkmenistan on a transit visa, there are a few cheap hotels that take in foreigners on a transit visa (see below). If your wallet does not allow for even those, you will need to save money camping, couchsurfing and sleeping on overnight trains.
For general tips on toilets, hospitality, breakfast and a selection of top places to stay on the Silk Road, see the overview page.
Hotels in Turkmenistan are often not online yet. You can book your hotels in Turkmenistan through us.
Couchsurfing is probably illegal in Turkmenistan. We are not sure. In any case, on a transit visa, it is possible, there are people hosting travelers, and we have only heard of 1 person getting their host in trouble.
However, if you have friends in Turkmenistan (or, perish the thought, a girlfriend), do not visit them more than once or twice in their home. Rather meet them in a public place. Remember that you are being watched, and that you can get your friends, and the tour operator who is responsible for you, into serious trouble (we speak from experience).
Trains and buses
Overnight trains in Turkmenistan, for instance from Ashgabat to Turkmenbashi or Turkmenabat, are good ways to keep some money in your pocket, save time and get a good night’s sleep all at once. You can do this on a transit or a tourist visa. Trains are clean and comfortable, and a great place to meet locals and talk freely.
Overnight buses? No.
The desert is always most beautiful when the sun is low, and camping in the Karakum is a must if your body allows it. Places like the Door to Hell and Yangikala Canyon lend themselves perfectly for overnight camping, and if you are going on a big desert tour, you will do even more of it.
If you are on a transit visa, you can rent a tent at Darwaza to camp near the burning crater, but elsewhere, you need to have your own gear. With organised trips, the tour operator will take care of everything. Guides and gear are professional: you will definitely not be cold.
Spiders, scorpions and snakes are always a danger in the desert, but they tend to be scared of humans. We have not heard of a tourist getting stung or bitten, so consider it a small risk.
Homestays in Turkmenistan exist! You can enjoy a village meal and a village chat in the idiosyncratic mountain hamlet Nokhur. It’s definitely worth a stopover if you are on the way: you do not get many chances to engage with village life in Turkmenistan.
If you want to meet some really different people, you should ask to visit one of the small settlements deep in the desert. Cannot strictly call it a homestay though, as you will be camping.
Airbnb, apartment rental & hostels
The rental economy is not legal in Turkmenistan. In 2019, however, the first Airbnb listing was reported in Ashgabat. Some hotels have dormitories – see the cheap hotel section below.
The price for hotels is the same for foreigners and locals, only that they have to pay in different currencies: if it’s 100$ for you, it’s 100 manat for locals. In practice this means that many hotels are somewhat overpriced for foreigners, but a good deal for locals. No point in complaining, that’s just the way it is.
In addition, a tourist tax of 2USD per person per night is charged at the end of your stay.
For 80-90$, you can get a double in a 4-star hotel. If you have more money to spend, there are some surprisingly luxurious options in Ashgabat and Avaza.
Yyldyz in Ashgabat is a splurge, but worth at least a visit as it has reliable, unrestricted and password-free wi-fi. Grand Turkmen is another option for wi-fi: just get a coffee and surf if you are not staying there.
On a budget, rather pay 10$ more to stay in a new mid-price hotel for 60$, than stay at a scary ancient Soviet hotel for 50$. The difference in quality is huge and you will be happy to have spent the money.
Cheap hotels for transit visa travelers
We have compiled a list of cheap hotels for travelers on a transit visa. These hotels are not available, or at least not for these prices, for tourists on a tourist visa. On a tourist visa, you can only stay in a select number of state-sanctioned hotels that are more expensive.
The following list is based on traveler reports – we haven’t visited these places ourselves. We welcome your updates in the cheap accommodation in Turkmenistan forum thread.
Since 2019, homestays have started appearing on Airbnb (not on other booking websites). For now this seems to work.
There are 2 hostels, Kuwwat and Syyahat, each offering beds for 10$ each. Doubles with ensuite cost 30$ in Kuwwat, not sure about Syyahat.
Kuwwat got the best reviews in the past: a bit Soviet-y but clean with fresh sheets, good AC, friendly staff who speak English, 2 to 4 beds per room and a small kitchen with hot water but no cooker. Syyahat is considered not very clean.
The most recent review, however, talks of “cockroaches crawling in your room, your bed and your bag” and “shared bathroom with shit on the floor.”
- Syyahat Hotel – Gorogly street 60 (OSM/LP) Location is wrong in Google maps
- Kuwwat Hotel – Kemine street 101 – Tel: +993 12 93 66 51 (OSM). Location is wrong on Google maps.
There’s also Jessica on Instagram – her place costs 20$/night and comes recommended.
Sabat (Gmaps/OSM) on Türkmenbaşy (Karl Marx) şaýoly, near the intersection with Andalyp (Maýakowsky) köçesi. 70 manat for a single, 130 manat for a double room. Old and Soviet, but kept clean, with hot water in the shower. No English spoken.
Gürgenc Hotel offers awful rooms and disgusting bathrooms for 70 manat per person.
The cheap option in Mary is the train station hotel. Price is negotiable: we have read people paying 60, 50 and 15 manat for a double room. It’s a big white building with a green and yellow sign at the top that says “MYHMANHANA”. Rooms are poor and the toilet and shower are in an adjoining building. Expect smells and nasty bathrooms.
If you are looking for something with higher standards, see the Mary travel guide.
If you are heading to or from the Sarakhs border and need a place to stay overnight: the Tejen Hotel in Tejen only costs 12 manat. Pretty derelict but there weren’t any cockroaches and the owners are friendly.
Gurluşyk (OSM/LP) has had 3 reviews so far: One person said: 55 manat per night and run by a group of really lovely women. The food they serve there is fantastic and super cheap. Just check the bathrooms first.
Second person: 15$ for a bed in a 4-bed room. Single or double room for 35 or 45 dollars. Third person paid 180 manat or 10$.
As a tourist, your tour operator will book all the hotels for you. On a transit visa, you need to book yourself. Most hotels cannot be booked online. Some hotels cannot be booked at all in advance, only on the day itself can you call. In Avaza, all hotels are booked out weeks in advance by locals in July and August. The rest of the year you have the place to yourself.
Except for a few of the cheap hotels working under the radar listed above, hotels must always be paid in dollars.