Money & costs
The currency in Turkmenistan is the manat (M). It’s set at a fixed government exchange rate, but traded for far less on the black market. Notes come in denominations of 10,000, 5000 and 1000, with 1000 and 500 manat coins. The rate of exchange on the black market at the time of research was around 24,000M per US dollar. Check the rate daily however, as it does fluctuate.
The black market is easy and accessible to foreigners, and the only place you’ll get a realistic exchange rate. Official bureaux de change and hotel exchange counters are best avoided, as they will exchange at the official rate, giving you 75% less for your money.
While it may seem a little dodgy to exchange money on the black market, everyone does it without fear of the police, in broad daylight no less. No one exchanges money at the official rate (except to buy airline tickets) so no exchange certificates are ever checked.
- Trade a round amount, for quick mental calculations.
- Fold it up in a pocket, to avoid fumbling in an open purse or wallet.
- Tell them what you have, but don’t pull it out; some claim they want to check it for counterfeit, and may substitute smaller notes.
Cash advances on credit cards are only available in Ashgabat and ATMs are non-existent. Outside Ashgabat emergency money can be wired through Western Union only. Credit cards are accepted by luxury hotels in Ashgabat, but by few other places; you’d be ill-advised to rely on them. Travellers cheques are not accepted anywhere so don’t bother bringing any. It’s best to bring US dollars in all sorts of denominations. Ones, fives and tens will prove handy when paying for just about anything; they are especially helpful around borders when you may need just a little cash for a taxi or a customs fees.
The only time you’ll ever need to show an exchange receipt is for buying plane tickets. If you are not flying don’t bother with the official rate and don’t worry about collecting exchange receipts.
Finally, don’t change too much money because if you have extra manat at the end of your trip you’ll get a poor rate if you try to change back to dollars. Any rate, however, is better than what you’ll get once you cross the border – it’s hard to get rid of manat in neighbouring countries.