I was recently backpacking in Turkmenistan, where I visited Ashgabat, Mary, Merv, Darvaza, Dashogus and Konye-Urgench amongst some other cool sites. It is by far the strictest country I have been in in terms of website banning. I was shocked by how many websites have been blocked by the government there. Although since depression kicked in, I haven’t blogged or relied on social media as much as I did a few years ago.
That said, I was offline for almost 6 days here and this gave me an excuse to stop updating my Instagram feed as I simply couldn’t access it. Of course with a VPN you could gain access easily, but having a new laptop now, my VPN was lost when my previous laptop broke.
Facebook was completely blocked here. This wasn’t too bad as I took the Don’t Stop Living Facebook page offline and cut back on using it in the wake of severe depression, but there is a possibility I will backdate my posts on Facebook.
Two years ago, in 2016, I was travelling (not backpacking! As I had no backpack!) in Senegal and The Gambia. It was a crazy adventure and I used mostly Twitter for it, with the hashtag #MSMLostLuggage . This time, in Turkmenistan, I was unable to use Twitter sadly as it was blocked.
Although it is a majority Muslim state, Turkmenistan does have gambling. However many of the online gambling sites are simply blocked. This means locals will find it difficult to earn online via bingo sites deals and doing football bets. There are lots of local markets for bartering though – sheep, goats and camels can be bought and sold!
Sadly the world’s most popular video streaming website is also blocked in Turkmenistan. However, making videos is fine and I have now uploaded lots of videos from Turkmenistan onto my YouTube channel. I have some great vidoes of two of the UNESCO sites in the country, as well as the Darvaza Gas Crater, we camped beside it.
And the fifth website on my list that was blocked happens to be Instagram. No hashtagging and uploading selfies from the Palace of Turkmenbashi or the Darvaza Crater. Ah well, I will just have to backdate my photos if I ever want to show them on my Instagram feed.
Finally, the Turkmenistan visa is a difficult one to get, go through an agent like I did, use Silk Road Explore to secure that visa.
Here are the details for booking a tour to Turkmenistan:
International Agent – Silk Road Explore
28 Minbulakskiy Lane, 720042,
Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic
+996 550 914 408
Local Agent – Owadan Tourism
207 Oguzkhan Street Office 335
Telephone – +993 12957673, +993 12957681
[email protected] (for agents and operators)
[email protected] (for backpackers and independent travellers)