Kyrgyzstan Travel FAQ

Visa and Registration

Citizens of many countries can enter Kyrgyzstan visa-free for at least 30 days. Visas upon arrival at Manas International Airport are available for citizens of some countries, and e-visas are available for citizens of all countries. Learn more about Kyrgyzstan’s visa policy here.
A Kyrgyz visa is not sufficient to travel to all regions of Kyrgyzstan, as some regions require an extra border permit. Advantour only processes border permits for light treks that we organize and accompany, as we are unable to take full responsibility for alpinism and other more extreme sports. Border permits take at least three weeks to process, so make sure to apply in advance.
A group visa is issued for a group of two or more non-family member applicants traveling to the same location for the same purpose.
A letter of invitation (LOI or visa support letter) is a written document in support of a person seeking a visa to enter a foreign country. The tour agency submits an application to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which reviews the application. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reviews the application, reserving the right to deny any application without providing explanations. Approved applications are telexed directly to the embassy or consulate where you intend to obtain your visa. However, this cannot guarantee visa issuance at the embassy. Not everyone will need a LOI to apply for a Kyrgyz visa.
A consular fee is money charged by the embassy or consulate to issue a visa.
Citizens from some countries need to register within 5 days of arriving in Kyrgyzstan. A general rule is that if you do not need a visa to enter Kyrgyzstan, then you will not need to register, but please check the full list in order to avoid problems. A notable exception is Uzbekistan, where citizens can enter without a visa but must register. It is possible to register without going through a tourist agency, but it requires more than basic Russian and a lot of patience to navigate the complex bureaucracy. Failing to register may incur fines and delays in leaving the country. For more about registration requirements and the services we offer, click here.

Before Arrival

The main tourism season in Kyrgyzstan lasts from April to October. During this time, the snow in the mountains is at its lowest levels, opening up trekking trails and roads to destinations higher up in the mountains. Some places, like Son-Kul and Kel-Suu, are only accessible from June through mid-September, while Tash Rabat is accessible from May to the end of September. Places at lower elevations and with well-traveled transportation routes, such as Bishkek, Osh, and Lake Issyk-Kul, are accessible year-round. In the winter, ski resorts are open for those who love winter sports.
Summers in Kyrgyzstan tend to be hot, and winters cold (like any average continental climate). In the mountains, temperatures can drop below freezing even in the warmest months, so visitors should bring warm clothing if going up to higher elevations, no matter the season. Travelers should also bring a brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunblock, to protect against the sun at higher elevations. For more details about the weather, click here.
There are direct flights connecting Kyrgyzstan to several other countries. The main international hubs are Moscow and Istanbul, with travelers often being routed through these two destinations on their way to Kyrgyzstan. There are also direct flights from Bishkek to Delhi, Dubai, Ulaanbaatar, Urumqi, and to several destinations in Russia, including Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, and Krasnoyarsk. There are also flights to regional destinations, including Almaty, Astana, Dushanbe, and Tashkent, though there are no direct flights to Ashgabat. There are also domestic flights to Batken, Isfana, Jalal-Abad, and Osh.
There are no strict limits or official limitations on women’s clothing, but visitors should be aware of cultural norms and should be respectful. In some parts of the country, especially rural areas and in the southern half of the country, women dress more conservatively, so female visitors are advised cover their shoulders, midriff, and décolleteé, and to avoid very short skirts or shorts. In Bishkek and most of northern Kyrgyzstan, anything can be worn comfortably. When entering a church or mosque, women should cover their hair with a scarf and make sure to wear a skirt that comes at least to their knees.
Kyrgyzstan shares land borders with Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest, and China to the southeast. Some border crossings are not open for tourists, and some are only open seasonally. There are border crossings that are regularly and reliably crossed by foreigners in to and out of all four countries bordering Kyrgyzstan. Check the full list of border crossings here.
If you take prescription medications, you should bring enough to last you through your entire trip. Prescriptions should be kept in the original container with your name on them. Over-the-counter medications can be easily found in Kyrgyzstan, but might not be exactly the same as found in your home country. For this reason, we encourage you to bring over-the-counter medications in their original boxes for commonly encountered ailments, such as allergies, pain, or stomach problems.
Visitors are allowed to bring 1.5 L of liquor and 2 L of wine when entering Kyrgyzstan.
We will provide mats for sleeping, but you should bring your own personal belongings like you would for any other trek. Sleeping bags are available to rent, but it would be better if you brought your own. You should bring hiking boots, sunscreen, sunglasses, a sun cap, warm clothing, a raincoat, and a backpack to carry everything. You are expected to carry your own personal belongings, but extra porters can be hired if you are unable to carry all of your own personal items.

After Arrival

The water in Bishkek is safe to drink, but we recommend visitors boil it before drinking. Bottled water is available almost everywhere in Kyrgyzstan, and is safe to drink. On treks, the water is boiled spring water, since it is impossible to carry bottled water on long treks.
In Bishkek, a lunch will cost around $10 per person, but possibly more, depending on what you order and where you eat. Meals may be cheaper in other regions or in smaller towns. For Kyrgyz cuisine, we recommend Navat, Arzu, and Tyubeteyka, for Chinese cuisine we recommend Beijing Duck and Chinatown, and for European cuisine we recommend Dolce Vita, Prego, and Navigator.
Many restaurants and home stays will be flexible in making meatless options or offering vegetarian options. If there aren’t vegetarian meals on the menu, there are plenty of foods (like fruits, vegetables, and bread) that don’t contain meat. Please notify us if you have dietary restrictions in advance so we can make sure to accommodate your requests.
Traditional Kyrgyz dishes feature a lot of meat and bread, but lots of other foods are available too. The main meats are lamb, beef, and chicken. Pork is hard to find, since the population is majority Muslim. Fresh fruits and vegetables are common, especially in the summer (just make sure to wash them well before eating). There are many restaurants that feature Russian, European, or Chinese dishes, too, especially in Bishkek.
Medical care is widely available in Kyrgyzstan, and our guides and company will do all we can to assist you in a medical emergency. We will provide a translator in case doctors or medical staff do not speak English. On treks, guides will be able to help with basic first aid. Alpinism is the most difficult scenario in which to offer help, so climbers should take precautions to ensure their safety and reduce risks.
Yes, SIM cards are available from authorized dealers (but will require a passport to register) or from unauthorized dealers.
There are three mobile phone carriers in Kyrgyzstan: Beeline, O!, and MegaCom.
The majority of banks and hotels accept Visa and MasterCard. Many shops only accept cash, though some may take cards. Smaller cities and rural regions accept payments almost entirely in cash (Kyrgyz soms). ATMs can be found in cities in larger towns, but not in small villages. ATMs will accept most major cards, and there are no restrictions on ATM usage as in other countries (beyond a daily limit that depends on cards). Currency exchanges are also prevalent, and generally have a reasonable exchange rate.
Yes, you can leave items either in a car or in a hotel while you are on a trek. This may require additional payment. Please check with the driver or hotel management before leaving your items somewhere.
Bazaars are a great way to experience Central Asian culture, but can create some problems. Make sure to be aware of pickpockets, and to keep you belongings and documents in a safe place. Bazaars can also be great to photograph, but please ask for permission before taking pictures of people.

Transportation Questions

Bishkek is connected to Moscow, Ekaterinburg and Novokuznetsk in Russia by railroad. The most commonly used railroad goes from Bishkek to Balykchy, on Lake Issyk-Kul.
There is no electronic train ticket system available in Kyrgyzstan. Tickets may be bought at most 30 days before the trip.
Buses, trolleybuses, marshrutkas and taxis are the most common forms of transportation in Kyrgyzstan. Buses and trolleybuses are 8 som ($0.11) and marshrutkas (vans with fixed routes) are 10 som ($0.14) for rides within cities. Taxi fares range from 70 som to 300 som ($1.02 to $4.41), depending on the distance. Some taxis run on meters, and some require negotiating a fare. Metered taxis are generally cheaper, as are taxis in cities other than Bishkek. Fares for transportation between cities will range from 100 to 400 som ($1.47 to $5.88) or possibly even higher, depending on the distance.

General Questions

Though the distances may not be very large, winding roads that have to pass around mountains and borders mean that journeys by car can sometimes take a while.
Route Est. distance, km Est. distance, miles Est. driving time
Bishkek – Osh 690 430 14 hours
Bishkek – Cholpon Ata 260 160 4 hours
Bishkek – Karakol 405 250 7 hours
Bishkek – Jalal-Abad 565 350 11 hours
Bishkek – Kochkor 195 120 4 hours
Bishkek – Naryn 315 195 6 hours
Bishkek – Naryn – Torugart 540 335 1 day driving + 1 day crossing border
Bishkek – Talas 290 180 7 hours
We believe that offering tours without flight fees gives several advantages. First, you have more flexibility in choosing your route, such as choosing which airport you want to leave from, or which route you take to get to Kyrgyzstan. Second, many people join our tours when they are already in Kyrgyzstan, thus they don’t need air tickets. Buying your own tickets gives you the most freedom and comfort and allows you to find the right ticket for you. We can also buy air tickets, but only for airlines that are available in our system. Please contact us if you would like to buy tickets through our services.
Buying and drinking alcoholic beverages is permitted.
The country code for Kyrgyzstan is +996. Check here for area and carrier codes.
Kyrgyzstan has 220V outlets that are standard Euro plugs (types C and F). Visitors from countries with different voltages should buy a converter, and visitors from countries with different plug shapes should buy an adapter. The capacity and circuit of your devices should be considered when buying a converter.
Kyrgyzstan is officially bilingual, with Kyrgyz and Russian used as official state languages. Russian is more common in Bishkek and in the government, while Kyrgyz is the most common language in rural areas and other cities. Uzbek and Tajik can be commonly found in southern Kyrgyzstan, and there are communities that speak Uyghur, Turkish, and other Turkic languages. English is becoming increasingly popular as a foreign language, and German, French, and Chinese can also be found. Guides and interpreters often speak several languages.
The national currency of Kyrgyzstan is the som. Coins in denominations of 1, 3, 5, and 10 soms, plus bills in 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 som are in circulation. 1 som can be divided into 100 tyiyn, though tyiyn are used very rarely.
We offer customized tours on a regular basis. If you are interested in activities or sites mentioned on our website, please contact us, and we will be pleased to help you. We can also design a tour based on the number of days you want to travel, even if you don’t know exactly which places you would like to visit.

A single supplement is the surcharge added to the cost for solo travelers when they book a room alone. Our tour prices are calculated using double rooms as a starting point, therefore single rooms are charged as a single supplement.

Half board includes breakfast and either lunch OR dinner. Full board includes all three meals.
A double room is a room shared by two people with one king-sized bed. A twin room is a room shared by two people with two smaller, separate beds.
A guest house is run by local residents who live on the premises. It’s similar to a bed and breakfast, or an inn. Guest houses tend to be relatively inexpensive hotel-like accommodations. Homestays (family-run accommodations) are houses where local people live and receive visitors. Visitors may stay overnight and eat breakfast, and can order lunch and dinner to try home-made traditional dishes.
Homestays will offer a separate bedroom for guests, which usually has beds, but occasionally may have mattresses on the floor. Blankets and towels will be offered. The toilet will be shared, and may be outside. Toilets may be western-style, or may be squat toilets, so be prepared to be flexible. Breakfast is included in the price for homestays, and additional meals can be purchased separately.
There usually aren’t beds in yurts, but there are thick mattresses on the ground, plus blankets (but often no towels). Yurts are usually shared with 4-5 people, depending on the size of the yurt. Toilets are outdoors, and almost certainly not western-style. There will almost always be no hot water, and quite often no electricity (yurt camps closer to towns might have electricity, but ones in the mountains and jailoos will most certainly not have electricity). Yurts in higher elevations where it gets cold at night will have small stoves for heat, which will be lit at night and left to burn until morning.
Be prepared to be flexible with toilets. Toilets can be anything from western-style restrooms to simple outhouses, with everything in between. Some places will have squat toilets, and some places may not have running water. On the road, cafes and gas stations will have public toilets, which will cost between 5 and 10 som ($0.07 to $0.14).