Ashgabat, Turkmenistan Report of what it's like to live there - 06/04/18
Personal Experiences from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, i have also lived in China, Japan, Germany, Mexico, England, and Korea
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Oregon, USA. Adding in the layovers, the trip would take two days.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We live is a very spacious apartment in Arcibil with chandeliers and 20 foot ceilings. The commute time is 20 minutes to work.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
The cost for western products and meat is very high. The cost for fruits and vegetables in season, eggs, and bread is very reasonable.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Shampoo, conditioner, hair dye, nail polish, white rice, and sugar
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
I like a very good Chinese restaurant near my apartment. I also like the restaurants near the embassy and our neighborhoods.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
There are no bugs in my apartment.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I mail letters through the embassy.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Lots of household help. Most use maids and childcare. You can also hire drivers.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credit cards are not widely accepted. when they are accepted, it is safe. ATMs are often out of order.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I went to the Catholic mass at the Vatican mission. There are also LDS and protestant groups that meet privately in homes. No churches except Russian orthodox and Muslim mosques.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You should be able to get around comfortably if you are able to use polite greetings/phrases, shop, take a taxi, and order food. There are several language schools and costs are very inexpensive for classes.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. The sidewalks are not flat and you sometimes have to cross the street quickly to avoid cars.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
All are cheap and plentiful.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
There are no terrain issues in Ashgabat. All paved roads. There are potholes on the small roads but generally, you should be able to use a small or large car equally well. You will find a lot of Japanese made models here.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
The high speed is actually slow speed. It is difficult to stream or download anything. When you do, you need to multitask and be patient.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We kept our home country plan so we could call the States and use it when we are other places in the world.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Typically, expat spouses do not work on the local economy. The pay rate is low and i don't believe that work permits are easy to obtain.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are opportunities. Teaching English at the American Corner and helping out at the international school are popular opportunities with volunteers.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Conservative and modest. Formal dress is only needed for the Marine and Christmas balls.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Turkmenistan has a very low crime rate. I feel like you could walk around at night anywhere and be safe. This is due to strict law enforcement and harsh penalties.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The quality of medical care is an issue. Standards are not high and even locals go to India, Turkey or Russia to take care of health issues if they can afford to do so. This might be the greatest challenge there is in Ashgabat in my opinion. We all try to stay healthy.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
The air is generally very clean. Occasionally, there are sand storms and they leave salt and minerals in the air till it rains.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
The majority of the time is sunny, even in the winter.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Mostly hot and dry, but the short winter gets cold. I was okay this past winter with one coat and one jacket.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There is only one school K-12 and i have only heard positive comments. It has a small teacher/student ratio. They will move to a new building in the fall of 2018.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Most expats use nannies in their homes for childcare.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Only through the international school.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
It is a small, welcoming, and friendly community. Overall morale is good.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
I go on embassy CLO trips/tours/events and joined the local expat book club. All are great ways to meet others.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It depends on what is your agenda and how flexible you are about seeking out fun things to do. I see that there are happy families and singles. If you compare it to the cities that you already know, it will only be frustrating. if you approach it that it is a unique once in a lifetime experience, you will have a positive experience.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
These problems exist internally. Most westerners who visit are all lumped together as outsiders. Therefore, it seems the prejudice directed at us, and is more generic, based on being outsiders rather than gender or ethnicity.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
I like art so I most enjoyed going to artist studios and buying directly from the artist. I also enjoyed going to the seamstress at the Russian bazaar and a trip to Dashoguz.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
My adult daughter was recently here and we hired a driver for two days to take us to the mosques, monuments, parkes, museums, and ancient city of Nisa. I also like the cable car ride and resort Gala.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
It is a shopping post. I have bought oil paintings and rugs. I hope to later buy jewelry and woven goods for gifts.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Security and the opportunity to learn about a remote isolated culture that is rarely seen by others.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I do. It is a very comfortable place to live. I am never bored. It can be as quiet as you want it or you can fill your schedule with social activities and explore the country and neighboring countries.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Most of your winter clothes.
4. But don't forget your:
Fan, books, and iPad.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
I read a book by a former Peace Corps volunteer that wss interesting and helped explain the political issues and the daily life.