Ashgabat, capital of Turkmenistan, is greatest described as a surreal mixture of North Korea and Las Vegas. Till 2006, this former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan was run by an eccentric (to say the least) dictator, who dubbed himself “Turkmenbashi the Great.” The present ‘President for Life’ is following in his footsteps and has lavishly spent/squandered the nation’s pure fuel wealth on buildings made completely of white marble (enjoyable reality: Ashgabat has the most important focus of marble buildings in the world). As you may anticipate – flying Turkmenistan Air, the nationwide airline – is a weird expertise.
I used to be in Turkmenistan as a part of my current round-the-world journey for a Four-day go to to see Ashgabat for myself and to lastly cross the Gates of Hell, a very eerie pure phenomenon, off my bucket record. I flew in from Erbil, Iraq on FlyDubai and deliberate to journey onward to New Delhi, India. Turkmenistan Air is the one direct choice on this route.
It Begins: The Zaniest, Most Ostentatious Airport I’ve Ever Seen
Architectural inspiration in Turkmenistan tends to be fairly literal. For example, the constructing for the Ministry of Schooling is a big guide and the official nationwide wedding ceremony corridor is a big disco ball. Consequently, I wasn’t even a bit of stunned once I arrived at a world airport evoking a powerful chook.
This may simply be my new, favourite airport!
Verify in was straightforward and uneventful, which left me with loads of time to take pictures of the beautiful airport. I needed to be considerably surreptitious as Turkmenistan has no scarcity of guards (to guard all of the white marble buildings!) who don’t look kindly on images.
The departure space was serene and relaxed. The airport appears far too giant for the variety of passengers and there’s virtually no business exercise of any type. I didn’t see any touts, espresso outlets, memento stands, and even these counters the place passengers get their baggage wrapped in yards of saran wrap.
I did spot an aviation museum tucked away in a nook of the airport. I might have LOVED to spend time right here, nevertheless it was sadly closed. I’d wish to assume it was closed due to the early hour, however I think that, like most of the websites in the Ashgabat, this museum not often truly opens.
Very similar to the remainder of the county, the airport is blanketed with photographs of the present president. Outdoors the airport, I noticed loads of pictures of the President often surrounded by grateful youngsters or cute puppies.
After safety, I walked the size of the airport simply taking all of it in. The whole nation has a colour scheme of white with pops of inexperienced and the airport is not any exception.
From time to time, I’d see an officer ‘guarding’ a gate. Most of them appeared like 17-year-olds in uniforms that have been all the time one measurement too massive. I counted and eight out of 10 of the guards have been just like the one pictured under; bored out of their minds, and watching loud Russian pop music movies.
After spending far too lengthy watching this mesmerizing rotating globe, I made a decision to go to my gate.
On the best way, I noticed certainly one of Turkmenistan Air’s 777s. It’s a little bit of thriller to me the place Turkmenistan Air truly deploys these jets. AirFleets studies that TA flies a 777 to Moscow. The Turkmenistan Air web site doesn’t even record Moscow as a vacation spot. Go determine!
At my gate, I noticed a 737 preparing for the brief flight to New Delhi.
The On board Experience: Chaos
The boarding course of was my first clue that this was not going to be a soothing flight. The boarding course of appears to be a hunger-games fashion rush to the sky bridge. I’d guess perhaps 30% of passengers truly confirmed their passports to the gate agent, whereas the remaining simply rushed on board.
On board, I discovered myself mountaineering to the seat furthest in the again. All the entrance rows in financial system have been occupied by native Turkmens, whereas Indian passengers (principally migrant staff returning residence) have been assigned to the again seats by the toilet. Turkmenistan Air doesn’t permit passengers to pick seats in advance and even at verify in, so this association appeared removed from a coincidence.
This single-aisle plane has seats organized in two rows of three. I couldn’t discover any seat knowledge for the Turkmenistan 737 on-line, however seat pitch felt about common, perhaps 30 or 31 inches, which is snug sufficient for me (I’m 5-feet-7-inches) on a 3 hour flight.
In any case passengers had discovered their seats, the flight attendants didn’t appear too fussed about seatbelts being fixed or baggage bins being shut. A couple of dangled open as we taxied for takeoff.
As soon as we have been on the taxiway, take off was clean and fast.
As we hit cruising velocity over Afghanistan, the flight employees began the food and drinks service. That’s when the chaos started.
As I patiently waited in the again row, I observed that the ambient noise degree onboard was shortly rising. Passengers forward of me have been shouting and elevating a commotion. It seems that, inexplicably, Turkmenistan Air had determined to cater this flight to India with just one meal selection: beef. This wasn’t the wisest selection provided that we have been touring to a rustic the place many revere cows as sacred and consuming beef is taboo. The flight attendants didn’t deal with the racket nicely and placed on a “take it or leave it” angle as they rushed to get their service full. I felt genuinely sorry for the hungry passengers who acquired caught with nothing however a bread roll and a few rice.
Thankfully, I’ve no qualms with beef and was truly pleasantly stunned by the not-totally-dry texture of the kebabs.
The remainder of the meal was about nearly as good because it seems to be, excluding the chocolate dessert. That was scrumptious! I remorse leaving Turkmenistan with out shopping for luggage full of those sweets.
The remainder of the flight was absurdly loud. After all of the hullabaloo of the meal service, most of the different (hungry) passengers have been unruly all through the flight and congregated in the aisle-way and across the loos. Seat belt indicators have been ignored and the plane felt extra like a overcrowded bus or subway automotive than a world flight. The attendants couldn’t have cared much less and I’ve by no means missed my Bose noise-cancelling headphones extra.
Luckily, the flight caught a tail wind and arrived in smoggy New Delhi barely forward of schedule. Whereas de-planeing I received one final take a look at the president, in all his bulkhead wall glory.
How To E-book With Turkmenistan Air
Reserving with Turkmenistan Air is half the enjoyable (torture?). I’ve by no means seen an airline make it so troublesome to provide them cash. Turkmenistan Air doesn’t appear to listing any of their ticket stock on the GDS methods that the majority airways use, which signifies that their flights gained’t be bookable on flight aggregators like Kayak or on-line journey brokers like Expedia. Googling “Turkmenistan Air” will take you to this considerably official wanting website although I’m not 100% positive it’s even run by the airline. In my case, the web site didn’t present the ASB-DEL flight I wanted to e-book, despite the fact that I noticed it listed on Google Flights.
The answer: Momodo.com. Momodo is a journey aggregator owned by Kayak. It was the one journey search engine I discovered that persistently displayed Turkmenistan Air stock and linked to reserving websites the place I might truly full the acquisition.
Given their full lack of airline companions, there’s completely no method to make use of factors or miles to ebook with Turkmenistan Air. Nevertheless, in the event you’re decided to make use of miles, Turkish Airways flies to the capital day by day from Istanbul and ought to be bookable with any Star Alliance program.
When you’re planning to go to Turkmenistan, please observe that the nation has strict visa necessities, even by Central Asia requirements. Vacationers should apply for a Letter of Invitation months in advance utilizing an area operator to deal with the logistics. Transit visas are supposedly typically out there on arrival, however I personally wouldn’t be snug not having one pre-arranged. Ping me in the feedback under if you need extra particulars on arranging journey to Turkmenistan or should you’re interested by what there’s to do when you arrive.
Would I like to recommend Turkmenistan Air? Positive! The expertise is weird, however when you’re up for an journey and heading to the nation, Turkmenistan Air is probably going going to be probably the most direct routing and offer you an amazing preview of what to anticipate on the bottom.
I’d be extra cautious recommending Turkmenistan Air for a connecting route (e.g. Manchester to Amritsar, vis ASB) due to the danger of being stranded in a rustic with strict visa guidelines. As a lot as I beloved the airport, I wouldn’t need to in a single day there with all that Russian pop music blaring by means of the night time.
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