Kyrgyzstan Travel Tips
Kyrgyzstan has earned a spot as a top travel spot for those who love mountains, adventure, and pristine nature. Even as it grows in popularity, Kyrgyzstan has managed to preserve its unique spirit and remains a unique and unforgettable destination for any traveler. Visitors are warmly welcomed and can take part in ancient nomadic traditions and customs, which will be sure to leave an impression on any guest. Kyrgyzstan’s nature is practically unrivaled, with towering snowy peaks reaching over 7,000 m (22,965 feet), hidden alpine lakes, high meadows, and dramatic gorges and canyons. And of course, Lake Issyk-Kul is a must for any trip to Kyrgyzstan, a perfect base for hiking, trekking, horseback riding, skiing, and swimming. The following guide provides a few tips to make your trip to Kyrgyzstan as smooth as possible.
Preparation for a Trip to Kyrgyzstan
Advanced reservations are recommended to ensure that hotels and tickets are available. The most popular season is from April to October, but sometimes there are crowds for ski season, from December to March. Travelers can make reservations through our online booking system.
How to Get to Kyrgyzstan
The easiest way to get to Kyrgyzstan is to fly. There are several flights a day from Bishkek to Moscow and Istanbul, making these the main hubs for transport. There are also flights from Bishkek to Delhi, Dubai, Novosibirsk, Tashkent, Astana, Almaty, Urumqi, and other destinations. International flights land at Manas International Airport, near Bishkek (IATA code FRU), and there are some flights to Osh (IATA code OSS). The main international carriers are Aeroflot and Turkish Airlines, as well as some flights with Air Astana, Fly Dubai, S7, and Pegasus. Air Manas and Avia Traffic are two local carriers with flights both within Kyrgyzstan and to international destinations.
Visitors can also cross into Kyrgyzstan via land borders from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and China. Some border crossings require extra documentation and permits to travel through restricted border regions, and may be closed on weekends and holidays. Travelers should be prepared and knowledgeable when crossing land borders to avoid extra hassles.
For more about transportation and flights, click here.
Arriving in Kyrgyzstan
Visitors must declare currency if they are carrying more than USD 10,000 or the equivalent. It is prohibited to import arms and ammunition, illegal drugs and narcotics, fruits and vegetables, and live animals (without official permits). Prescription drugs should be kept in the original bottle, and for some restricted medications, travelers should carry the prescription with them.
Citizens of some countries can visit Kyrgyzstan indefinitely, citizens of some countries can stay for a certain time without obtaining a visa beforehand, and citizens of some countries can obtain a visa on arrival. There is a visa office in Manas International Airport for those wanting to obtain a visa on arrival. E-visas are also available through the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, though e-visas cannot be used to cross all border points. Some visitors have to register with the State Registration Service, and visitors should double check current registration requirements to avoid having to pay a fine.
For more about the visa policy of Kyrgyzstan, click here.
Like in any country, visitors should arrive at the airport 2-3 hours before their flight to check in. When crossing by land, visitors should ensure that the border crossing is open on the day they want to cross, and that they have all necessary visas and border permits. Fines may be levied if a visitor has overstayed their visa or has not complied with registration laws.
Customs officials may be interested in seeing receipts for items that look like antiques or for carpets. In rare cases will an official certificate or tax payments be requested.
The main tourist season in Kyrgyzstan is from April to October, as this is when the weather is the warmest and the snow is at its lowest levels. Certain destinations are only accessible in these warmer months, and are blocked by snow the rest of the year. In the cities and lower areas, temperatures can be quite high during these summer months, but may dip below freezing at higher altitudes. Visitors should bring warm clothing with them even if they are coming in the warmest months of the year. Places like Issyk-Kul, Son Kul and Tash Rabat could see snow and cold temperatures even in the summer. Tourism in the winter months is also growing in Kyrgyzstan. December through March are popular for skiing or snowboarding trips, as there are several ski resorts around Bishkek and Issyk-Kul.
Transportation between cities and towns in Kyrgyzstan can be done by taxi or minibus. Drivers can usually be found at local bus stations. Some minibuses drive standard routes with standard fares, and so the price does not need to be negotiated. Many taxi drivers will fill up an entire car with passengers who negotiate their fare depending on how far they are going along a route. Fares should be agreed upon before the journey to avoid scams or unpleasant disagreements. Most busses and taxis do not have a set schedule; instead, they leave when the bus is full. There are some trains both within Kyrgyzstan and to several destinations in Russia, but the busses and taxis are the most reliable way to travel.
Accommodation in Kyrgyzstan varies widely, from luxury to rustic. Some places are created with international luxury standards in mind, such as hotels in Bishkek like the Hyatt. Staying at these hotels is comparable to staying anywhere in the world (and the prices are comparable too). There are also more budget-friendly options, such as locally-run hotels or hostels. Outside of Bishkek, homestays and yurt camps are more common. These are the best way to fully experience real life in Kyrgyzstan, though amenities might not be the same as in hotels. Travelers should be willing to be flexible when traveling to villages and more remote regions.
Hardy travelers may be fine eating all the food offered to them, but those with weak stomachs may want to exercise caution. Tap water, fermented dairy products, and unwashed fruits and vegetables may not cause problems for everyone, but some people might want to be cautious. Cautious travelers should bring medications to prevent loose stools, or ask a doctor for special antibiotics for traveler’s diarrhea, just in case. Travelers should also make sure that all their vaccines are up to date, though there are no extra vaccines required for traveling in Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan has a mostly cash-based economy, though some places may accept cards. Banks and currency exchanges will accept many major currencies, including US dollars, Euros, Russian rubles, British pounds, Kazakh tenge and Chinese yuan. Visitors should bring crisp, new bills, as old or damaged bills may not be accepted. Cash can also be withdrawn from ATMs, which can be relatively easily found and accept most foreign cards. When traveling outside of major cities and into more remote regions, travelers should bring all the cash in Kyrgyz som that they should need, in case there are no places to withdraw or change money.