With a population that has grown by over 300,000 in the last ten years, Ashgabat is a city that is evolving rapidly, while the amount of money flowing into the Turkmenistan economy is enabling the city to rebuild itself as one of the most interesting capitals in Europe.
The population of the city is primarily Turkmen, although there are also substantial Azeri, Russian and Armenian communities living in Ashgabat. The Türkmen language is spoken by the majority of the city's people, with other common languages including Russian and Uzbek. English is not particularly well spoken or understood in Ashgabat.
Turkmenistan is not a particularly religious country, but moderate Islam is becoming more popular in the country. Ashgabat itself now has a primarily Sunni Muslim population, while there is also a significant Eastern Orthodox population living in the city.
Ashgabat has an arid climate due to its close proximity to the Kopet-Dag mountain range, which means it has summers that are typically hot and dry, with winters tending to be cool and short.
Temperatures can reach close to 40°C during the height of the summer in July and stays very warm at night during the summer months. In the winter, temperatures in Ashgabat can regularly dip below freezing — despite this snow is fairly infrequent in the city.
March and April are usually the wettest months in Ashgabat but the city does not typically see a lot of rain. Indeed, annual precipitation in Turkmenistan is just 201 millimetres.
Citizens of all countries around the world require a visa to visit Turkmenistan — there are no visa-exempt nations. All foreign nationals who are planning to visit the country must first supply an invitation letter that can be issued by a travel agency licensed in Turkmenistan.
Prior approval from the Turkmenistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs is necessary to secure a visa that is granted on arrival and is valid for ten days, which is then extendable for another ten days.
For longer stays or business purposes, make sure to get in touch with your closest Turkemistan embassy or directly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Your employer may also be able to help you with the necessary red tape.
Anyone who is planning to visit Atamurat, Cheleken, Dashoguz, Serakhs or Serhetabat during their time in Turkmenistan needs to secure a special permit, which is again issued prior to arrival by country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The only foreigners who do not require a visa to visit Turkmenistan are residents of Atyrau Province and Mangystau Province in Kazakhstan and residents of Xorazm Province and Bukhara Province in Uzbekistan, as well as people from various other parts of Uzbekistan.