Practical Travel Guide
Kyrgyzstan has the most liberal visa regime in Central Asia. Travelers from North America, Europe and the Australian continent can all travel visa free, for varying amounts of time. Check out the map on this website to see where you stand, or use Indy Guide’s visa checker.
If you want to stay for longer than your allotted visa free time, you’ll have to apply for a visa. Visas are usually valid for three months. Go over to the embassy page of the country you wish to apply in for more information.
Traveling in Kyrgyzstan is friendly on almost any budget. Tours can be relatively expensive, and dorms aren’t always good value, but Kyrgyzstan in generally cheap to travel in.
Al prices mentioned are for one person. At the time of writing €1 was 76 KGS
Food & drinks
- Water and soda: 25 – 50 KGS
- Tea: 10 – 20 KGS
- Breakfast and lunch: 100 – 200 KGS
- Dinner: 150 – 300 KGS
- Dorm bed in hostel: 400 – 600 KGS
- Private room in hostel: 900- 1200 KGS
- Homestay and yurt: 400 – 800 KGS
- Horse rental per day: 500 – 700 KGS
- Guide per day: 800 – 1200 KGS
Most of Kyrgyzstan’s roads are serviced by marshrutka and (shared) taxis. Marshrutka are refurbished minibuses and are used for both inner-city and intercity transportation. Shared taxis are mostly used for long distance routes, such as Bishkek to Osh.
Omnipresent in former Soviet countries, marshrutka are the preferred mode of transport for most people in the region. They’re not the fastest or most comfortable mode of transport, but they are a cultural experience and get the job done.
Cities and big towns have a myriad of marshrutky going all over the place. It best to ask your hostel to see which number you need to get on. You can hail a marshrutka from anywhere, just stick out your hand. Most rides will cost 10 KGS, regardless of your destination.
Long distance marshrutka
Usually go from the main bus station, or a small yard next to said station. Although they have set times of departure, they usually just go when full. Ask at your hostel or check out the boards at the bus station (in Russian) for departure times and destinations. Prices depend on how popular a route is, but you’ll generally pay around 300 KGS for a five hour ride.
If time is of the essence, or if there are no marshrutky, there will always be a shared taxi to your destination. Drivers hang around the bus stations, and at designated points in a city or town.
Shared taxis leave when full, and are about twice as expensive as marshrutky. From Bishkek to Osh costs around 1,200 – 1,500 KGS per person.
There are trains in Kyrgyzstan, but they’re not the most convenient option. There’s a northern route, connection Bishkek with lake Issyk-Kul, and a southern route, connection Jalal-Abad with Osh and Andijan in Uzbekistan. You can find schedules on the Kyrgyz Rail website (in Russian), or at the train station.
If you’re really in a hurry, or don’t want to spend a full day (or more) in transit, it’s always possible to fly. There are daily flights between Bishkek and Osh.
For more in-depth information this post by See Her Travel has everything you need to know about transportation in Kyrgyzstan.
Entering and exiting
Kyrgyzstan shares land borders with:
Head over to Caravanistan for the most up-to-date information on all of these crossings.
Check our guide if you want to know more about our experience crossing between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan at Kordai.
Tipping in Kyrgyzstan
Most restaurants include a 10% – 15% service charge in the bill, even small hole-in-the-walls. Always make sure to look for it when the bill is presented. If there’s no service charge, there’s no real need to tip, although it’s appreciated if you do.
Kyrgyz people are generally hospitable people. Mass tourism has, however, put money at the forefront of many minds. What seems like a friendly invite to stay at someone’s house might turn out to be an invite to a makeshift homestay for payment. Remember that it’s not so terrible to cough up a bit of money in exchange for a room and food. Kyrgyzstan’s community tourism board has been teaching people to ask for some money when they offer hospitality to others.
Outside of the more touristic destinations, however, people are still genuinely hospitable without expecting anything in return. Don’t be surprised if you’re invited to chai and some bread with jam, and do feel free to leave them a bit baksheesh as thanks.
Although the majority of Kyrgyz people are Muslim, Islam doesn’t have a profound influence on daily life. Alcohol is omnipresent, and outside of small villages in the south, women can dress however they like.