Turkmenistan may be vaguely familiar to you as a country, but we’re going to explore it and its currency in more detail here. The country uses the manta as its official currency.
Each manat is divided into 100 tenge, so you will find an assortment of coins that are in both these denominations. There are six tenge coins and these are the 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 tenge coins. In addition you can use the one and two manat coins.
The country also has a variety of banknotes that are commonly in use. The smallest is the 1 manat banknote and they go all the way up to the 500 manat note. In between you will find notes worth 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 manat.
The currency in use at present is known as the new manat and goes under the ISO code TMT. This has only been used since 2009, but before this the manat was originally introduced in 1993 under the ISO code TMM. Inflation was the reason for the replacement.
The reason for the original introduction of the manat was that Turkmenistan wanted to replace the currency it had at that point, which was the Russian rouble. This marked the breakaway of Turkmenistan from the Soviet Union as it was then.
There is one thing you need to bear in mind with regard to this country – it likes to deal in cash above all else. This means it is worthwhile having a good amount of cash on you throughout your time in the country. The good news is this can include US dollars as well as the manat, which means you may want to bring US dollars into the country to use rather than getting hold of the manat beforehand. You can either exchange it for the local currency or have a mix of both, which can work quite well.
If you like the idea of carrying traveller’s cheques with you, make sure you take these in US dollars as well. They are easy to exchange for cash in the banks so they are a safe way to carry money into the country without actually having stacks of banknotes on your person!
Literally the two ways you should think about getting cash are to use what you arrive with and to cash in those cheques. There is little chance of using a cash machine as you would at home, and even card payments are a rarity here. It might well take a bit of getting used to in getting back to cash all the time.
You can do this quite easily by using any good currency converter. You’ll find them online as well as being available in app format. Make sure you locate the current Turkmenistan manat as denoted by the ISO code TMT instead of the old one of TMM. You’ll only ever get the actual rate when you use a currency converter. If you exchange cash for the manat when you are abroad or in your own country you will be charged commission and the exchange rate will be adjusted accordingly.
There is an embassy for Turkmenistan in the UK so if you wish to learn more about the country and what it has to offer, you can visit them at http://www.turkmenembassy.org.uk/.
No doubt you’ll want to know how safe you’ll be when you go to Turkmenistan. The good news is that petty crime is quite rare here, so while it is still a good idea to protect yourself against crime as much as you can, you shouldn’t worry about it being prevalent regardless of where you are going. You won’t be able to go into certain parts of the country so it is wise to check in advance to see where you should go and which parts to steer clear of. Border areas are particularly prominent as no-go areas.
Even though crime is rare it makes no sense to assume it doesn’t occur at all. As such it is still wise not to wear excessive or expensive jewellery and you shouldn’t carry or flash large amounts of cash about either. Aside from that keep your bags with you at all times – don’t hang jackets or bags on the backs of chairs where you cannot see them while seated, for example.
Turkmenistan is in Central Asia. The Caspian Sea lies directly to the west and the country’s western border faces onto it. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are to the north, while Afghanistan is to the south-east. Iran lies to the south of the country.
The capital of the country – and a popular place for visitors to go to – is Ashgabat. This can be found near the southern border of the country and it is perfectly safe to visit. The city itself is only a little over a century old. This is quite recent when compared to the capital cities of some other countries. It is quite a distinctive city in many ways, particularly as the Karakum Canal runs right through the middle of it.
Shopping is a major activity in many cities but here there is one particularly good shopping expedition you should not miss. It is the Oriental bazaar known as Altyn Asyr. The market is so big it can easily be seen from the air. Indeed it has even been designed to look very like a carpet from above, so watch out for it if you fly in over the city. While the bazaar is huge it has a clock tower in the middle, so head for this if you are shopping with friends or family and you get lost. It is the most notable sight in the whole bazaar.
Ashgabat also has a stunning theme park in the city, which has been open since 2006. There are all the kinds of rides here that you would expect to see, except that many of them have been given an appealing Asian twist. For instance if you board the roller coaster you can look forward to dipping down over the top of a miniature version of the Caspian Sea.
You should also take the time to find the Ashgabat Fountain. It is a world beater for having the largest number of pools for a fountain in a single public space. There is a story of the Turkic peoples attached to the fountain so it is more than just a stunningly pretty sight too.
Elsewhere you can visit the Repetek Biosphere State Reserve. This is further over to the eastern side of the country. You probably won’t have seen another reserve quite like this, since it is a desert. As such the creatures here are partial to desert landscapes, including the desert monitor. Needless to say, for a desert region it can get very hot indeed during the summer months.
While the capital city of Turkmenistan doesn’t date back by a huge distance, the same cannot be said of Gonur Tepe. This is an archaeological site and it contains various structures that date back to the 2nd millennium BCE. As such you can get a look back into the Bronze Age, something few of us can do at any point. The layout of the site is quite amazing considering how old it is. You can use your imagination to explore the designs and layout and consider how people would have lived there.
Finally back in Ashgabat you can have a look at the Turkmen Carpet Museum. If you visit the bazaar you will see carpets being sold there – they are a significant and popular purchase for many people. The carpets in this museum date back some considerable way – back to the 18th century in some cases. The size of some of them will take your breath away; you certainly wouldn’t be able to fit many of them in your living room, or even on the ground floor of your home if you knocked all the internal walls out!
Turkmenistan has some real treats to share with the visitors who make their way to the country every year. The entry requirements for visitors can seem a little strict so it is best to make sure you have your visa sorted out and any other requirements met prior to going there. However if you put the effort in you can soon start enjoying the many sights and sounds it has to offer. From natural sights and locations to the history of the country and its capital city, there is plenty here to satisfy even the most curious traveller.
If this is your first time in the country you will certainly have a memorable trip.