We used the Kazakhstan – Kyrgyzstan border crossing at Kordai to get from Almaty to Bishkek. Here’s our report of the crossing, including transport times, prices, and places to stay on either side of the border.
Coming from Almaty to Bishkek, or visa versa, this border crossing is very straightforward.
Almaty, Kazakhstan to the border
The journey begins at Almaty’s Sayran bus station. To get there from the superbly budget-friendly Amigo Hostel, we took a taxi for 300 tenge.
Regular marshrutky from Almaty to Bishkek leave from Sayran between 6 and 11 in the morning. The minibuses depart every half hour, or when full. A ticket costs 1,500 tenge per person, and there’s no need to buy one ahead of time–just show up when you’re ready to go. The ride to the border takes about four hours, including a stop or two for snacks and toilet.
The Kazakhstan – Kyrgyzstan border crossing at Kordai
This border is open 24/7, though is reportedly busier in the evenings.
Immigration services at the border go smoothly, but timing depends on how busy it is. It took us about half an hour to actually cross the border. On the Kazakh side there are no forms to be filled out, no departure fees, and no questions are asked. On the Kyrgyz side your passport will be taken into a side room to be stamped, which takes only five minutes.
Once you’ve crossed the border, you’ll have to wait for your marshrutka, so make sure to remember the license plate number. Many people only take the marshrutka to the border, so following your fellow passengers might not be helpful. We spent many a panicked minute frantically searching for fellow passengers and/or our marshrutka, only to have it roll through customs half an hour later.
Heading to Kyrgyzstan? Check out our Kyrgyzstan backpacking budget report!
If you don’t have further transportation, there are several local marshrutky and a million and one taxi drivers waiting around at the border. A taxi to the center of Bishkek shouldn’t cost more than 300 som.
Changing money at the border
There’s a small money exchange booth with reasonable tenge-som spreads. One tenge got 0.19 som at the time of writing. Spreads in the city are a bit better though, so if you have a lot of money to change, it’s better to do it there.
Arriving in Bishkek
After a short 20 minute ride, the marshrutka from Almaty drops you off at the western bus station (Zapadny Avtovokzal or Западный Автовокзал). To save yourself a bit of effort, we recommend the Apple Hostel, only a three minute walk away from the station. It’s reasonably priced, the staff are all incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, and the western bus station makes for a convenient landmark when navigating Bishkek’s marshrutka network.
So there you have it, a quick guide on getting from Almaty to Bishkek. Let us know in the comments if anything changes.