Mountains in Kyrgyzstan
Mountains in Kyrgyzstan

Mountains in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan, officially the Kyrgyz Republic, is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia
Photo by Mick Truyts

KYRGYZSTAN

Asia

Kyrgyzstan Travel Information

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Key facts

Capital:

Bishkek

Location:

Central Asia, west of China, south of Kazakhstan

Currency:

soms (KGS)

Area:

199,951 sq km

Population:

6,018,789 (July 2021 est.)

Languages:

Kyrgyz (official) 71.4%, Uzbek 14.4%, Russian (official) 9%, other 5.2% (2009 est.)

Religion:

Muslim 90% (majority Sunni), Christian 7% (Russian Orthodox 3%), other 3% (includes Jewish, Buddhist, Baha'i) (2017 est.)

TimeZone:

UTC+6

Tel Code:

+996

Weather

Climate

Kyrgyzstan has a continental climate, with long, cold winters and short, mild summers. The average temperature in the lowlands ranges from -5°C (23°F) in January to 20°C (68°F) in July, while in the mountains it ranges from -20°C (-4°F) to 15°C (59°F). The country receives most of its annual precipitation during the summer months, with the heaviest rainfalls in the northwest and lightest in the southeast.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Kyrgyzstan depends on what you want to see and do.

  • For trekking and hiking in the mountains, the best time to visit is from June to September, when the weather is mild and the snow has melted.
  • For skiing and snowboarding, the best time to visit is from December to March, when the mountains are covered in snow.
  • For horseback riding and experiencing nomadic culture, the best time to visit is from June to September, when the nomads move to the high pastures with their herds.
  • For hot air balloon rides, the best time to visit is from June to September when the weather is mild and stable. Overall, the summer months from June to September are the most popular time to visit Kyrgyzstan as the weather is milder and the snow has melted, which make it ideal for outdoor activities and exploring the natural beauty of the country. However, if you wish to avoid the crowds and enjoy a winter holiday, the winter months from December to March are also a great time to visit.

Transportation

Air travel

The main international airport in Kyrgyzstan is Manas International Airport, located just outside of the capital city of Bishkek. The airport offers flights to many major cities in Central Asia, as well as some destinations in Russia and Turkey. There are also a few domestic airports in Kyrgyzstan, with regular flights to major cities like Osh and Jalal-Abad.

Bus

Buses are a popular and inexpensive way to travel around Kyrgyzstan. There are many long-distance buses that connect the major cities and towns, as well as local buses that serve smaller villages and rural areas. Bus travel can be a bit uncomfortable and time-consuming, but it's a great way to see the country and meet locals.

Marshrutka

Marshrutkas are minibuses that operate on set routes and are a common way to get around Kyrgyzstan. They are often faster and more comfortable than buses, and can be a good option for shorter journeys. Marshrutkas can be found in most towns and cities, and typically depart from a central location such as a bus station or market.

Taxis

Taxis are widely available in Kyrgyzstan, and can be a convenient way to get around, especially in the larger cities. Taxis can be flagged down on the street or found at a taxi stand, and fares are usually negotiated in advance. It's always a good idea to agree on the price before starting the trip.

Car rental

Car rental is also an option in Kyrgyzstan, but it's recommended to have an experienced driver as the roads can be challenging, especially in the mountains. It's also important to have a good map and GPS, as well as insurance coverage, as many of the roads in Kyrgyzstan are not well-marked.

Accommodation

Hotels

Kyrgyzstan has a good variety of hotels that range from budget to luxury options. You can find international chain hotels in the major cities such as Bishkek and Osh, as well as smaller, locally-owned hotels and guesthouses in the more rural areas. Many hotels in Kyrgyzstan offer traditional Kyrgyz-style rooms, which can be a unique and authentic experience.

Yurts

Staying in a yurt is a unique and traditional way to experience Kyrgyz culture. Yurts are portable, round tents that are typically made of felt and used by nomads. Many yurt camps can be found in Kyrgyzstan, especially in the rural areas near the mountains, and offer a comfortable and authentic way to experience nomadic life.

Guesthouses

Guesthouses are a great option for budget-minded travelers. These small, locally-owned accommodations offer a comfortable and affordable place to stay, often with a home-like atmosphere. Guesthouses can be found in most towns and cities in Kyrgyzstan, and are a great way to meet and interact with locals.

Homestays

Homestays are an excellent way to experience the local culture and learn about the daily lives of Kyrgyz people. You will be staying with a local family and have the opportunity to learn about their customs, traditions and even learn how to cook traditional Kyrgyz dishes. Homestays can be found in most towns and villages in Kyrgyzstan.

Camping

Kyrgyzstan is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts and camping is a great way to experience the country's natural beauty. There are many designated camping sites, as well as the possibility to camp in the wild, but it is important to check with local authorities and get the necessary permissions.

Money

Money Tips for Travel

  • Research the currency and exchange rates of your destination before you depart.
  • Notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans to avoid any potential issues with international transactions.
  • Bring a mix of cash, credit, and debit cards--and possibly a travel money card.
  • Be aware of the fees associated with withdrawing money from ATMs and using credit cards abroad.
  • Make sure to have a backup option for accessing money in case your primary method doesn't work.
  • Consider using a card with no foreign transaction fees.
  • Be aware of the local customs and etiquette when it comes to paying.
  • Keep an eye on the exchange rate throughout your trip and try to make large purchases or withdraw large sums of money when the rate is favorable.
  • NEVER accept currency conversion at ATMs! Always get your home bank to convert at much better rates.
  • Think about getting a Wise or other travel debit card; these can provide much better rates and some free ATM withdrawals.

ATM and Credit Cards

  • Research the availability of ATMs and credit card acceptance at your destination before you depart.
  • Keep your ATM card in a safe place and be mindful of your surroundings when using it.
  • Try to stick to using ATMs that are affiliated with major banks.
  • Keep your credit card information safe and secure, and be aware of potential scams.
  • Make sure your cards have the necessary security features, such as chip and pin.
  • Be aware of the fees associated with withdrawing money from ATMs and using credit cards abroad.

Exchange Rates

  • Research the currency and exchange rates of your destination before you depart.
  • Consider using a card with no foreign transaction fees.
  • Be aware of the local customs and etiquette when it comes to paying.
  • Keep an eye on the exchange rate throughout your trip and try to make large purchases or withdraw large sums of money when the rate is favorable.
  • Be careful of places that may offer to exchange money at rates that seem too good to be true.

Mobile

When traveling, getting mobile access is very important these days. If you are working remotely, wanting to update social media, or need to access your banks SMS authentication messages having a reliable service is a must. At WhereNext we recommend:

eSIM

Services such as those offered by our partner, Airalo, allow you to easily order and install an eSIM for different countries or regions that you are traveling in.

Dual SIM phone

If you have a phone that supports dual SIM's then you can get a SIM on arrival for each country, this is probably better done at a telco store rather than at the airport.

Extend your home plan

Depending on where you live and your mobile service provider you may be able to extend your plan to cover mobile roaming at reasonable rates.

Keep your primary SIM

With the amount of accounts we all have that require two factor authentication via SMS, keeping a constant number for these accounts is a must.

Community

There are several online communities and platforms that you can use to meet people while traveling, both for making new friends or for networking professionally. Some popular options include:

Facebook groups

There are many Facebook groups dedicated to connecting people while traveling, from expat groups and travel communities to groups specific to certain cities or regions of the country. You can search for groups based on your interests or location and connect with others who share similar interests.

Meetup

Meetup is a platform that allows you to find groups of people that share your interests in your local area. There are Meetup groups all around the world, and they cover a wide range of topics, such as language exchange, sports, and cultural activities.

Internations

Internations is a social network for people who live or work abroad. It has a large community of expats and organizes regular events, activities and gatherings that allow members to connect and socialize.

Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing is a platform that connects travelers with local hosts, who offer free accommodation and a chance to experience the local culture. It's a great way to meet locals and make friends!

Reddit

Reddit has a large community, and there are several subreddits dedicated to connecting expats and travelers. You can use it to ask questions, get advice, and connect with others who are also living or traveling in the country.

Linkedin

LinkedIn is primarily a professional network, but you can also use it to connect with people who work in the same industry or have similar backgrounds. It can be useful to connect with people before you arrive and establish a few professional contacts to help you get started.

At WhereNext, we use Nomad List as a global community and then research more local ones for our destination. These are just a few examples of online communities you can use to meet people; please suggest any others that you think are appropriate for this destination.

Insurance

Travel insurance can provide financial protection and peace of mind for travellers in the event of unexpected situations or emergencies. It covers a wide range of needs--even some you might not expect!

Medical Coverage

Travel insurance can provide coverage for medical expenses if you become ill or injured while traveling. This can include coverage for doctor visits, hospital stays, and emergency medical transportation. It's also a good idea to ensure that your travel insurance covers COVID-19 related illness and delays!

Trip Cancellation and Interruption

Travel insurance can provide coverage if you need to cancel or interrupt your trip due to unexpected events such as illness, weather, or travel bans. It can also provide coverage if your trip is delayed or if your travel provider goes out of business.

Lost or Stolen Luggage

Travel insurance can provide coverage for lost or stolen luggage, as well as personal items such as passports and electronic devices.

Emergency Assistance and Evacuation

Many travel insurance plans offer emergency assistance services, such as providing information on local hospitals and doctors, assistance with replacing lost or stolen documents, and help with arranging transportation in the event of an emergency. At WhereNext we have partnered with Global Rescue for evacuation services, which are highly recommended if you are undertaking dangerous activities or are travelling to dangerous parts of the world.

Liability coverage

Travel insurance can also provide liability coverage in case you cause an accident or harm someone while you are traveling.

Travel insurance can provide financial protection and peace of mind for travellers in the event of unexpected situations or emergencies. It can help cover the costs of medical expenses, trip cancellations, lost or stolen luggage, and more. It's always a good idea to review the coverage and compare the different options available before making a decision. At WhereNext we both use and have partnered with Safety Wing for general travel insurance.

Entry Requirements

Here are some general travel tips regarding entry requirements that apply across all countries:

Passport

Make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of your arrival in the country you are visiting. Some countries will not allow you to enter if your passport is set to expire within a certain period of time.

Visa

Check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting to see if you need a visa. Some countries require a visa for entry, while others do not. Make sure to apply for a visa well in advance of your trip as the process can take several weeks. Check the latest Visa requirements and if necessary get an online Visa with our partner iVisa.

Health Requirements and COVID-19 Rules

Check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting to see if there are any health requirements for entry. Some countries require vaccinations or proof of medical insurance. Check the latest health requirements and if necessary get an online Visa with our partner iVisa.

Travel Insurance

Consider purchasing travel insurance, especially if you are traveling internationally. Travel insurance can cover you in the event of trip cancellation, medical emergencies, and other unexpected events. Our travel insurance partner is SafetyWing. For dangerous activities and/or countries consider a rescue service like those offered by our partner, Global Rescue.

Customs

Be familiar with the customs and laws of the country you are visiting. Some countries have strict laws regarding drug possession, alcohol consumption, and dress codes.

Currency

Check the currency exchange rate and make sure you have enough local currency for your trip. Some countries may not accept credit cards or travelers cheques, so it is always good to have some cash on hand. At WhereNext we recommend use a Wise debit card, which provides low cost currency conversions and ATM withdrawals.

Research the country

Research about the culture, customs and laws of the country you are visiting. It will help you to understand the place more and also prepare you better for the trip.

Contact Information

Make a copy of your passport and keep it in a separate place from your passport. Also, leave a copy of your itinerary and contact information with a friend or family member at home.

COVID Status

I am vaccinated 
Kyrgyzstan Open
Test
Not required
Quarantine
Not required

Check Visa Requirements

      Things to Do

      Kyrgyzstan, a country tucked away in Central Asia, offers a unique blend of breathtaking natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. From snow-capped mountains to verdant valleys, and from ancient nomadic traditions to modern-day adventures, Kyrgyzstan is a destination that will leave you in awe. Here are the top 10 things to do in Kyrgyzstan:

      1. Trekking in the Tien Shan Mountains

      The Tien Shan Mountains offer some of the most spectacular trekking opportunities in the world. From the stunning alpine lakes of Son-Kul and Issyk-Kul to the rugged peaks of Lenin and Khan Tengri, the Tien Shan Mountains are a trekker's paradise.

      2. Visiting the Issyk-Kul Lake

      Issyk-Kul is the second-largest mountain lake in the world and the crown jewel of Kyrgyzstan's natural wonders. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, this stunning lake is a must-see destination for any traveler to Kyrgyzstan.

      3. Exploring the Silk Road Cities

      Kyrgyzstan was an important stop on the ancient Silk Road and many of the cities and towns along this route have been well-preserved. Explore the medieval city of Osh, the ancient caravanserais of Tash-Rabat and Kyzyl-Oi, and the unique rock paintings at Saimaluu-Tash.

      4. Immersing in Nomadic Culture

      Kyrgyzstan is home to a vibrant nomadic culture that has remained largely unchanged for centuries. Experience the traditional way of life of the Kyrgyz people by visiting a yurt camp or participating in a horseback riding tour.

      5. Skiing and Snowboarding in the Tian Shan Mountains

      Kyrgyzstan is a winter sports paradise, with some of the best ski and snowboarding opportunities in Central Asia. Ski or snowboard down the slopes of Karakol and Cholpon-Ata, or take a heli-skiing tour in the remote Tien Shan Mountains.

      6. Visiting the Son-Kul Lake

      Son-Kul is a high-altitude alpine lake located in the Naryn province of Kyrgyzstan. Surrounded by rolling hills and snow-capped mountains, this pristine lake is a perfect destination for horseback riding, hiking and fishing.

      7. Exploring the Ala Archa National Park

      Ala Archa National Park is a stunning nature reserve located just outside of Bishkek. With its rugged mountains, alpine meadows, and glaciers, this park is a hiker's paradise and offers a wide variety of trails for all skill levels.

      8. Visiting the Bishkek City

      Bishkek is the capital and largest city of Kyrgyzstan. This is a good place to start your journey and explore the culture and history of Kyrgyzstan. Visit the Ala-Too Square, the National Museum, and the Osh Bazaar, one of the biggest markets in Central Asia.

      9. Taking a hot air balloon ride

      Take in the panoramic views of Kyrgyzstan from above by taking a hot air balloon ride. You'll be able to see the beautiful landscapes from a unique perspective, and it's a great way to see the vastness of Kyrgyzstan's nature.

      10. Visiting the Sary Chelek Reserve

      Sary Chelek Reserve is a UNESCO biosphere reserve located in the Jalal-Abad province of Kyrgyzstan.

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