Report: The Kazakhstan – Kyrgyzstan border crossing at Kordai

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.

The marshrutka to the Kazakhstan - Kyrgyzstan border crossing at Kordai, at the Sayran bus station in Almaty

The marshrutka from Almaty to Bishkek

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 inside of a marshrutka driving through the Kazakhstan - Kyrgyzstan border crossing at Kordai

 

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!

Waiting for a marshrutka at the Kazakhstan - Kyrgyzstan border crossing at Kordai

… and our marshrutka is… where?

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.

Sebastiaan

Just another Dutchie. Extrovert with introverted tendencies. Some say I'm lazy, I say I'm masterfully inactive.

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11 thoughts on “Report: The Kazakhstan – Kyrgyzstan border crossing at Kordai

    Beautiful article guys!This will be so helpful to us when we get there.Seems like this border crossing was extremely smooth ( except for not knowing where your minibus was) This article is so rich and full of useful information.We’ll definitely follow your advice and change money in the city.How long did you stay in Bishkek? Can’t wait to make it to Kyrgyzstan, it looks like an amazing country!!

    Glad it’s helpful guys! Hope it’s the same when you cross (two years form now). ?

    Bishkek is not that interesting. We had to stay for a while to get our visas sorted out, but we wouldn’t recommend staying longer than two days, considering the beautiful nature it’s surround with.

    Emma says:

    Does the driver collect the passports

    Sebastiaan says:

    No, you leave the bus and cross customs yourself.

    Damien says:

    Just crosses the border of Kyrgzystand into Kazaghstan last night, I dont know if things have changed or its because its midnight but i was told to queue up with the Kyrgzystan citizens with passport queue (at least thats what i think because everyone on my queue had passports while the other were holding documents and ID).

    Everything was smooth and on the Kazaghstan side, I had to fill up a simple customs form and thats about it, everything smooth.

    Alex says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience, I’m sure it’ll be helpful for future travelers 🙂 Enjoy Kazakhstan!

    Alana says:

    Hi, do you know roughly what time the first marshrutka leaves from Almaty? We want to get one as early as possible as we will only be in Bishkek for a day.
    Does anyone know roughly when the last one leaves from Bishkek?

    Thanks!

    Meena says:

    Hi,

    buses from almaty to Bishkek are leaving from 6:00am to 7:pm.

    Alex says:

    Thanks for the tip! I’m sure it will be very helpful to future travelers 🙂

    Pete says:

    Here are my notes from my visa run, Almaty to Bishkek to Almaty. I included a lot of detail to hopefully paint a complete picture for anyone who might find it useful. Maybe it will reduce someone’s stress about doing it the first time.
    Bring passport, money (about 5000 tenge)
    Open Yandex taxi app
    Type in Sayran
    Pick first one in Russian
    Visually confirm it’s right location on Yandex map because location is west of small lake
    Arrive at Sayran bus station 9:10 am
    Building is yellowish stone or orange stone color
    The entrance is on the northwest side of the building
    Go straight through the metal detector
    Continue straight
    Go to the ticket booth on left
    Translate I need to buy a ticket to Bishkek or just say Bishkek
    Pay 1800 tenge for a 1 way ticket
    Show ticket to person at gate near ticket booth
    Show ticket to person near door that leads outside, translate “where do I wait for the van?”
    Her answer was 1 so I waited at the big sign with 1
    Take photo of the van license plate so you can get back in the van at the border crossing
    Show ticket to van driver
    Get on the van
    Van is about an 18 seater. There is some space for luggage at the backdoor but not a lot of room. Maybe like 1 small or medium piece of luggage per person but I’m not sure.
    The van will start filling up with other people
    When the van was full we left, I waited in the van for about 30 minutes
    Van leaves at 9:51 am
    Temperature outside was about 15C temperature in the van was probably around 19C not too hot not too cold
    Kazakh SIM card “kcell” service was on E for the trip so I could get messages slowly or once in awhile
    Gas station stop at 11:27 AM for about 20 minutes. Snacks and toilet here.
    Stopped at first border 1:19 pm (Leaving Kazakhstan)
    Get out of van and walk for 5 minutes with the other passengers
    Give passport and look at the camera (just like Arrival Immigration process at all airports). They will keep your Kazakhstan arrival card (white piece of paper)
    Walk for 3 minutes
    Second border (entering Kyrgyzstan). Give passport and look at the camera.
    Walk 5 minutes
    Some taxi drivers will get in your face and ask if you need a ride I just kept walking straight
    Look for some of the people you were on the van with before and wait with them
    Eventually the van will come
    Confirm it’s the same van by looking at the license plate photo you took before
    Back on van by 1:45 pm (so the border crossing process took about 15 minutes total)
    Wait for 7 minutes on the van for it to fill up
    Some new people got on the same van and some people left
    I didn’t have cell phone service in Kyrgyzstan because Kazakhstan SIM card
    2:30 pm arrived in Bishkek bus station
    Walked to a yellowish building nearby where there was a ticket booth and white vans parked outside
    The price was 400 som for Bishkek to Almaty so I walked northeast for 30 seconds to a money changer and exchanged 3000 tenge for about 540 som
    I went back to the ticket window and bought the ticket and asked the lady which bus and she said 5
    Showed driver my ticket and got on the white van
    Waited in the van for 2 hours for it to fill up
    We departed at 4:42 pm
    Now I did everything in reverse, do the 2 border crossings again.
    You will need to fill out another Kazakhstan Arrival card when entering. I just put my name and nationality on it. Not any address.
    Arrived back at the Almaty bus station at 9:01 pm so the whole process took me 12 hours.

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