More obstacles to freedom of movement

There are not that many destinations worldwide where residents of Turkmenistan can fly to directly from Ashgabat. Now there is one country less. Travel agencies have stopped accepting documents for visas to Thailand.

Since early October Ashgabat travel agencies, in particular "Siyakhat", "Dag Siyakhat", "Ashgabat siyakhat" and others which used to assist residents of Turkmenistan with tourist visas for Thailand, are no longer offering this service.

"For the time being we are not accepting documents for Thai visas. Probably in November we will resume accepting documents for visas", – almost all travel agencies provide this answer when you contact them by phone. If you contact them personally, employees of travel agencies explain that the head office is located in Ankara gave such instructions. The Consulate of Thailand reportedly has refused to accept documents from Turkmen citizens.

As recently as September 2013 one could apply for a Thai visa and obtain it two weeks later at a cost of 200 manats ($70). Several years ago, visas on arrival were issued directly at Bangkok airport for only $10.

The flight from Ashgabat to Bangkok is operated twice a week in B-757-200 aircraft of Turkmenistan airlines, but it mainly transports transit passengers from other countries. Even when visas were issued, there was a maximum of 5 to 7 residents of Turkmenistan on board. Our residents headed there on business, for medical treatment and sometimes on holidays.

We are also receiving reports that starting from October flight tickets to Istanbul for a two week stay rate are no longer sold in the booking offices of Turkmenistan airlines. Previously, if the stay in Turkey was less than two weeks, tickets could be purchased for $480 whereas now they are sold at a 30 day stay rate of $580, even if the stay is limited to seven days.

There is no passenger railroad or bus service between Turkmenistan and foreign countries. Planes remain the only means of transportation which can be used to exit the country. Needless to say, not everybody can afford airplane tickets operated by foreign airlines. If you include the problems of obtaining visas, Turkmenistan remains a country closed not only to foreign visitors but also for the country's residents.

Source: TIHR