Turkmenistan Road Network

By | December 21, 2022

The R1 from Ashgabat to Darvaza with 2×3 lanes.

Turkmenistan’s main road network.

According to wholevehicles, Turkmenistan has a thin road network, a result of its low population density. There are only a small number of through roads, of variable standard, some roads also count 2×2 or even 2×3 lanes outside Ashgabat, but many other roads are simple. The 600 km Ashgabat – Türkmenabat Motorway is under development.

Since 2000, the Turkmen road network has been greatly improved. Around the capital Ashgabat a large network of wide roads with numerous junctions has been constructed. Most major roads have 2×4 lanes. However, there are no through highways far beyond Ashgabat. The country has few through roads, especially because the north and east of the country mainly consists of uninhabited desert. The M37 is the main trunk road, running from the Uzbek border at Turkmenabat via Mary and Ashgabat to Turkmenbashi on the Caspian Sea. From Turkmenbashi ferry services run to Baku, which provide the easiest access to Europe. There are no through roads along the Caspian Sea through Kazakhstan. There is one main road to Iran, from Ashgabat to Mashhad. The A388is a regional highway from Mary to western Afghanistan. A main road runs along the Amu Darya from the Afghan border area parallel to the Uzbek border to northwestern Uzbekistan. A regional road runs from Ashgabat to Nukus in the north.

Outside of these major roads there are extensive areas that have no roads at all. Major roads are generally of reasonable quality, minor roads are easy. In many areas there is only one paved road and all other roads are unpaved.

The petrol price in Turkmenistan is one of the lowest in the world. In October 2021, the petrol price was 1.50 manat per liter, at that time € 0.37 per liter.

Foreign cars are required to have a GPS device on board when entering Turkmenistan with which the authorities can follow the route.

History

History

Turkmenistan is located in the area that was inhabited by the Turkmen. It lies on the historic Silk Road from China to Europe, a trade route that had great significance until the 18th century. Historic towns and places on the Silk Road were Nisa (near today Ashgabat), Merv (near Mary), Urgench (now Konye-Urgench) and Amul (Türkmenabat). There were roughly two routes, the northern route along the Amu Darya and the southern route via the oasis of Merv to Iran.

In 1869, the Russian city of Krasnovodsk was founded on the shore of the Caspian Sea. From here began the colonization of Turkmenistan by the Russians. Krasnovodsk is today known as Türkmenbaşy. In 1881 the Russians had conquered much of the Turkmen territory and the border with Iran was established. The border with Afghanistan was established in 1897. The area was originally governed as Transcaspia, or the Transcaspian Oblast. This was the southwestern part of Russian Turkestan.

Turkmenistan was traditionally a nomadic area with no larger cities or industry. Until the end of the 19th century there was virtually no organized infrastructure. When it came under Russian influence, a railway line from the Caspian Sea to the Amu Darya at Türkmenabat was built in the period 1880-1886. For a long time this was the primary form of transportation in the area. In 1925, it was organized as the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR).

Turkmen SSR

A road network in the Turkmen SSR did not begin to emerge until later. From 1930 the first streets in Ashgabat were asphalted, possibly these were the first paved roads of the Turkmen SSR.

In 1945 the Turkmen SSR had the following road connections;

  • Ashgabat – Kyzyl-Arvat (Serdar) – Gudri-Olum (Iran border)
  • Ashgabat – Sernyy Zavod
  • Ashgabat – Tejen – Mary – Bayram-Ali
  • Mary – Karaul-Khana (Afghanistan border)
  • Tejen – Serakhs – Serhetabad (Afghanistan border)
  • Basaga (Afghanistan border) – Kerki – Chardzhou (Türkmenabat) – Urgench – Dashoguz – Konye-Urgench (partly by Uzbekistan)
  • Chardzhou – Uzbekistan border
  • Kerki – border Uzbekistan
  • Minor road networks around Ashgabat, Mary, Dashoguz & Krasnovodsk (Türkmenbashy)

Presumably none of these roads was paved. Notable omissions in the road network at the time were the missing connection between Mary and Türkmenabat (formerly called Chardzhou), the connection from Ashgabat to Krasnovodsk (modern-day Türkmenbashy) and there was no through road from Ashgabat to Northern Turkmenistan towards Dashoguz or Konye-Urgench..

In the earthquake of 1948 almost the entire city of Ashgabat was destroyed. Virtually all buildings at that time were single-storey dwellings, nearly all of which had collapsed. In 1949 the reconstruction of Ashgabat began. The city has been largely rebuilt in the Soviet style with brutalist architecture and wide boulevards, although there was hardly any car traffic. Most of these were built after 1960.

American road maps from the 1950s show that at that time there were no asphalt roads outside the cities in Turkmenistan. Improved dirt roads already existed, especially to the west and east of Ashgabat, as well as in the irrigated north of Turkmenistan around Dashoguz and Konye-Urgench. At that time there was no road connection between Mary and Türkmenabat. The first through-road paved roads were probably built from the 1960s. The main corridor at the time was a tarmac road from the border with Iran at Gudri-Olum via Ashgabat and Mary to Türkmenabat and the border with the Uzbek SSR. This road appears on a 1974 CIA map as a paved road. A map of 1981 also shows a tarmac road from the Caspian Sea to Ashgabat. This route coincides with the M37, the only Soviet M-number in the Turkmen SSR.

From the 1960s, roads were built in the Karakum, mainly to support the production of oil and gas. Presumably during that period a main road was also built from Ashgabat to Konye-Urgench in the north of the country. This is the R1.

In the 1980s a paved road was also built from Mary to the border with Afghanistan. This is the A388. This was built parallel to the railway line from Mary to Serhetabat, which was opened in 1898. The purpose of this road seems to have been mainly to support the military operation in Afghanistan, this region has very little significance for traffic within the Turkmen SSR.

In 1986, the Turkmen SSR had 13,000 kilometers of road, of which 10,800 kilometers were paved.

After independence

Turkmenistan was not prepared for independence and development of the road network was limited in the 1990s. In 2003, Ashgabat’s street names were changed from names to numbers, with the exception of major roads, which were often named after President Niyazov and his family. After Niyazov’s death in 2006, the old Soviet street names have been restored.

After 2000, revenues from oil and gas increased sharply and the Turkmen government was able to develop a larger network of asphalt roads. To stimulate tourism, the road from Ashgabat to Köneürgench was widened to 2×3 lanes through the Karakum desert and a branch was built to the city of Dashoguz. This was constructed in part to open up the Darvaza gas crater, which lies just off this road and is one of Turkmenistan’s primary tourist destinations.

Most of the investment in the road network went into developing city roads in the capital Ashgabat, where wide avenues with tall marble buildings were built to impress. Numerous monuments and special buildings have been realized, especially on the south side of Ashgabat. In the period 2006-2011 a ring structure was built around the south and east sides of Ashgabat. After 2010, the M37 west and east of Ashgabat has doubled. A new resort on the Caspian Sea has also been built with new road infrastructure around the city of Türkmenbashi. The road infrastructure that was built in the period 2010-2020 mainly consisted of double-lane roads that were partly grade-separated. However, Turkmenistan did not yet have fully-fledged motorways. In 2019, construction began on a 600-kilometer-long motorway from Ashgabat to Türkmenbat to replace the M37 as a main east-west route through Turkmenistan. In 2021, the first 203 kilometers of this will be opened between Ashgabat and Tejen. This is the Ashgabat – Türkmenabat Motorway.

List of roads in Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan’s main road network is still based on that of the Soviet Union, with M-roads, A-roads and R-roads. These road numbers are often not signposted. There is only one M-road, the M37, and one A-road, the A388, along with a number of R-roads (Cyrillic: Р-roads).

# No. Route Length
M-37 Border Uzbekistan – Türkmenabat – Mary – Ashgabat – Balkanabat – Türkmenbashi 1,430 km
A-381 Border Uzbekistan – Konye-Urgench – Daşoguz 106 km
A-388 Mary – Yoloten – Serhetabat – Afghanistan border 310 km
R-1 Ashgabat – Konye Urgench 525 km
R-3 Gökdepe – Ashgabat 57 km
R-7 Tejen – Serakhs 112 km
R-8 Serakhs – Sehetabad ? km
R-9 Serakhs – Hanhowuz – Mary 125 km
R-10 Tejen – Babadayhan 65 km
R-15 Serdar – Gyzyletrek – Gudri-Olum – Iran border 265 km
R-16 Kum Dag – Esenguly – Gudri-Olum 335 km
R-17 R-20 – Oglany – Jebel – Hazar 210 km
R-18 Türkmenbashi – Bekdash – border Kazakhstan 235 km
R-20 Turkmenbashi – Chagyli 235 km
R-21 Karaoy – Konye Urgench 50 km
R-25 Gazojak – Baýramaly – Yoloten 500 km
R-28 A-388 – Tagtabazar – Afghanistan border 75 km
R-35 Gazojak – Turkmenabat 330 km
R-36 Keleb – Kerki – Turkmenabat 265 km
R-37 Kerkiçi – Koytendag – border Uzbekistan 140 km
R-38 Seydi – Farabo 80 km
R-39 Farab – Kerkic 250 km
R-47 Boldumsaz – Gurbansoltan Eje – Daşoguz 65 km
R-50 Akdepe – Gurbansoltan Eje 30 km
R-53 Boldumsaz – border Uzbekistan 20 km
R-89 Kerkiçi – border Uzbekistan 55 km
Main Roads in Turkmenistan
Ashgabat – Turkmenabat Motorway

European roads

European roads in Turkmenistan
E40 • E60 • E121 • E003

Asian Highways

Asian Highways in Turkmenistan
AH5 • AH70 • AH75 • AH77 • AH78

Road numbering

It is unclear to what extent road numbering actually occurs on the signage, road numbers may not be signposted at all. Most sources assume that Turkmenistan may retain the Soviet-era road numbering, with M, A and R numbers. In 2021, signposts were placed with the number M37, this is the only M number in Turkmenistan. In addition, there are two A numbers, the A381 and A388. There is also a network of R-roads, which is written with the Cyrillic. Turkmenistan has used the Latin script since independence and road maps sometimes still indicate the numbers with a P, as if no transliteration to R had taken place. The R-roads are regional roads, formerly also known as republic roads.

Around 2000, E numbers were introduced in Turkmenistan. The E003 runs through the country, from the Iranian border via Ashgabat and Turkmenabat to the Uzbek border. Road numbers are not indicated on both older signposts and modern signage. As a result, Turkmenistan actually has no real road numbering.

Signage

Signage in Ashgabat.

In addition to the older Soviet signage, which is usually only in Cyrillic, the capital Ashgabat also uses a newer generation of signposts, distinguishing between white and blue targets. This signage is designed in Turkish style. White signs indicate local destinations, blue signs indicate through destinations. These signs use Turkmen, a Turkish language with a Latin script. Cyrillic translations will not return here.

Turkmenistan Road Network