Ashgabat, Turkmenistan Report of what it's like to live there - 03/12/19
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?
Ashgabat is my ninth assignment, mostly difficult or places that are not well known.
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?
There are three airlines that fly in and out of Ashgabat: Lufthansa through Frankfurt, Turkish Airlines through Istanbul, and Fly Dubai. All have direct flights to the U.S. from the connection hub. The trip in total is usually 24 hours. You arrive in the U.S. the same day but it takes two days to return, losing a day. Between the three airlines, there are daily flights. If traveling during peak season, you need to plan ahead because airplane can be full. Layover depends on final destination.
3. How long have you lived here?
One and half years.
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?
Large three bedroom apartment with beautiful views of either the city or the mountains. Commute time to the International School is 10 minutes by foot. Commute to the US Embassy is about 15 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries can be a little pricy but if you fully use your consumable allowance, it is fine. Many order dry goods through the pouch. Green markets in neighborhood carry wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. I have had no trouble finding what I need that I can't have shipped. There are a couple large style grocery stores that carry most of what you need.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Any specialty things, favorite breakfast cereal, crackers, peanut butter, should be shipped or can be ordered upon arrival. Fully use shipment for liquids; i.e. laundry detergent, etc. since that can't be sent through the pouch. I either shipped or ordered almost everything except perishables: fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk and cheese.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Great burger restaurant, chinese food, and lots of steak houses and shashlik restaurants. Many of the restaurants deliver. I haven't done delivery, but many do. Plenty of restaurants to choose from for lunch or dinner.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No problems here. Haven't seen any at all.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I do not use local postal facilities. Diplomatic pouch takes two to three weeks. DHL discontinued service recently.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Most of us have household help anything from twice a month, once a week or daily. Once a week is about $30 per day for cleaning. More for food preparation and shopping. Some housekeepers speak English.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Most of the larger hotels have gyms and spas with membership. Also a gym near the U.S. Embassy. I've been told they are reasonably priced. If you have children at the Ashgabat International School, they have a gym that is free.
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?
I don't use my credit card in country but some do at the major hotels and grocery stores.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
The Vatican Embassy holds Sunday evening Catholic services.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Tutors are available. A little is nice to have if you go to the green markets, but can get along without.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
There are sidewalks most areas, although uneven in places. Apartment buildings have elevators but some have steps to get into the building, some have ramps. With a little creativity,you could get along fine.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Buses and taxis are safe and affordable.
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?
Any kind is fine. Most parts will have to be ordered in. No problems with burglary or carjacking. If parking in a building underground garage, a smaller vehicle would be preferred.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No particular health concerns. It is a dry climate so might consider a humidifier for the bedrooms. Air quality is very clean. Local medical care is not used. Nor is local medication recommended.
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?
Air quality is excellent. No impact on health other than dry.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Overall climate is moderate. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter, dry most of the time with some rain occasionally.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Most expats are associated with the school. There are a few businessmen in town.
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?
Mostly socialize with expats. Make your own entertainment, invite people over, etc. Occasional concert to go to. Travel outside city limits together.
3. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The museums. The view of the mountains in the morning when the sun shines. Great trips to ruins outside city limits.
4. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
You can purchase hand woven rugs here and embroidery pieces.
5. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Very few foreigners ever get to visit, let alone live here. Not many can say I've lived in Turkmenistan.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I was expecting more cultural events: opera, symphony, ballet, since it is a former Soviet Union country.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. Do you have any other comments?
Great museums. Wonderful parks to walk. Interesting things to see outside city limits.