The land of nomads

Kyrgyzstan

Welcome to Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide

Kyrgyzstan has a diverse and stunning mountain landscape, a 2000-year-old nomadic history and is inhabited by hospitable people from varying ethnicities. Overall it’s around five times larger than Switzerland, yet with a population of only around 6 million people. About 90% of Kyrgyz territory lies above 1500 meters and the climate is continental, with very cold winters and hot summers. The difference in elevation from 400m in Ferghana Valley to 7439 on top of Peak Pobeda allows summer travelers to experience hot weather in the valleys and snow in the mountain regions.

Nature of Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz like to call their country the “Switzerland of Central Asia” referring to its democratic political system and mountainous nature. When it comes to its natural beauty, this term is really an understatement – Kyrgyzstan’s landscape is much more diverse and the peaks much higher than in the Swiss Alps. Since nature is the centerpiece of Kyrgyzstan’s beauty, the best time to travel is in the summer – shepherds take their yurts to pasture when the high peaks are accessible to tourists and the trekking routes have picturesque views.

Lake Issyk Kul is the second largest mountain lake in the world surrounded by mountains that attract locals as well as foreigners to its shores. Kyrgyzstan has a visa-free regime for most westerners, so for up to sixty days you can explore snow-peaked mountains and wild trekking routes, sleep in yurts and guesthouses, enjoy local cuisine whilst getting to know the locals and shop for traditional Kyrgyz hats (“kalpaks”) in bazaars and so much more.

At a glance

  • Population:
  • 6,000,000
  • Area:
  • 199,951km²
  • Languages:
  • Kyrgyz, Russian
  • Time zones:
  • UTC +6
  • Currency:
  • Som (KGZ)
  • Climate:
  • Continental
  • Geography:
  • Mountains
    Highest point: Peak Pobedy 7,439m
  • Dialing code:
  • +996
  • Electricity:
  • 220V, 50Hz, European plug

Kyrgyzstan in photos

Top tours in Kyrgyzstan

Book your favorite small-group tour today; discover the grandeurs of Central Asia while making friends on your way! Happy Holidaying with Kalpak Travel!

Cultural Tours

Kyrgyzstan & China Tour

Kyrgyzstan, China

21 Jul 2017

other departures

Price:

€2090

Available

16 days

Cultural Tours

Classic Kyrgyzstan Tour

Kyrgyzstan

13 Jul 2017

other departures

Price:

€1990

Available

10 days

Travel information

MONEY & COSTS:

The Kyrgyz currency is called the Som (KGS). In the capital Bishkek there are many ATMs that you can find in shopping centers, supermarkets or on the main streets. All of them accept Visa cards and some, like Kyrgyz Kommerts Bank, Demir Bank and Uni Credit accept other cards such as MasterCard or Maestro card. Outside of Bishkek, we don’t recommend relying on ATMs as there are so few of them. We also recommend that you bring some cash in new USD banknotes of denominations of at least 20 USD. There are many exchange offices, some working 24/7. Small and old-looking bank notes are harder to exchange. Paying directly with a credit card is still not possible at most places, except for high-end restaurants, hotels and a small number of international stores. An emergency fund of around 500 USD in cash is always good to have during guided trips to Central Asia.

SAFETY:

Kyrgyzstan is the most liberal and democratic country in the Central Asian region. For the last seven years, the political situation in the country has been calm and there is nothing to suggest that this situation might change. Guests and locals are treated with respect and the whole country can be regarded as very safe destination for travelers. That said, you are advised to wear a money belt, watch your belongings, avoid dark streets at night and only use official taxis. Your safety is our first priority at Kalpak Travel; we know and regularly assess all our Kyrgyz partners and we closely monitor political events.

ENTRY & EXIT:

Citizens of most Western countries do not need a visa for a stay of up to 60 days in Kyrgyzstan. To be sure whether you need a visa or not you can check on www.thevisamachine.com. Any special permits that you might need for access to places that will be visited during your tour, we will provide to you free of charge.
As soon as we receive your deposit payment, we will confirm your booking and send you an email with important pre-departure information. Please read it carefully as it contains important information on customs regulations for Kyrgyzstan.

BEST TIME TO GO:

The climate of Kyrgyzstan is continental and dry in the majority of the country, including the largest cities. In the Ferghana Valley in the south and in capital Bishkek, summers are very hot with day temperatures between 30° and 40° Celsius. However, most of the country is situated more than 1500 meters above the sea level, where temperatures are in the mid-20s during summer. At high altitudes of 3000 meters or more it may even snow overnight during the summer, so make sure you bring some warm clothes. The best season to visit for activity or jeep tours would be in summer and winter for skiing tours. Please note, weather in some mountain areas may be very changeable.

HEALTH:

Do not drink water, unless it is bottled, filtered or boiled. Do not use tap water for brushing teeth or making ice either. Do not eat ice cream. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled. If you follow these basic rules, you are likely to avoid any health issues like traveler’s diarrhea. Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and Tetanus are recommended vaccinations for Kyrgyzstan. Ensure you are fully insured for medical emergencies including repatriation. Medical services in Kyrgyzstan are basic at best.

FAQs on Kyrgyzstan

WIFI
Most of the hotels and hostels in cities provide free Wi-Fi access. In rural areas, homestays and yurt stays generally have no internet access.

Local Sim card

You can buy a local sim card and use it on your phone if it is unlocked. Upon request, our guide may present you a sim card.

Emergency

In the case of emergency your friends/family can call us and we will pass their message to you. Please take note of the 24/7 emergency number indicated in your travel documents.

Kyrgyz and Russian are the official languages of the Kyrgyz Republic. Russian is spoken more in larger cities and Kyrgyz everywhere. The alphabet for both languages is Cyrillic. Kyrgyz language is similar to Kazakh, Uzbek and Turkmen and part of the Turkic family of languages. All our guides speak English, but overall in Kyrgyzstan very few people understand or speak English.

Local population is friendly and hospitable, but not very sociable. You will be staying at guesthouses and yurts that belong to local families. You can bring a postcard with you and show where you come from and try to make simple conversations. If you are interested in getting in touch with locals we recommend you to familiarize yourself with social dos and do nots as explained in our blog article. Our guides are trained to be cultural mediators and will be happy to facilitate conversations with your hosts and translate for you.

Kyrgyzstan is a secular state and population is predominantly Muslim. Religion is, however, not widely practiced and quite moderate. There are still influences from Zoroastrianism and people are quite superstitious. The ethnic Russians living in Kyrgyzstan are orthodox Christians.

People in Kyrgyzstan do not dress more conservative than in Europe. If you visit Kyrgyzstan in Summer, feel free to wear same clothes that you would wear back home. It’s that simple.  Only exception to this rule concerns visits of religious buildings like Mosques or Churches. When visiting these places, you will need to wear long pants and women need to cover their shoulders and head with a veil.

No, it is not and we recommend you to drink bottled water, use filter or boil it. Moreover, please do not use tap water for brushing teeth and order your drinks without ice.

Central Asia is generally not an ideal place for vegetarians, however you can order side dish such as plain rice, mashed potatoes and in some places, even grilled vegetables. Most of the national dishes in cafes are made with meat, predominantly mutton. In guesthouses and yurt stays you need to talk to the guide so he can arrange something. In some cases, you can also alter some meals with quick noodles that can be bought in stores. More information of food in Central Asia you can find here.

Bishkek has nice coffee places that look Starbucks alike, you can use there wifi for free and get some snacks.  Outside the capital the best coffee you can get is an instant coffee, if you are coffee-lover we recommend taking little Italian coffee machine, coffee you can bring with you or buy in Bishkek.

In cafes, service of 10-15% is usually included on the bill, however this does not go directly to the waiter, he gets only salary. Usually the amount is rounded up and If you are very content with the service you can leave some tip. Guides and guesthouses do not expect tips from you, if you are happy with their services provided they will certainly appreciate a little tip.

Most of the hotels and hostels are clean and have western standard toilets with shower. Guesthouses differ in quality of facilities and services offered from place to place, but usually have shared shower and usually a western toilet. Yurt stays are naturally located in summer pastures and do not have shower and western style toilet. Toilets there are little self-made cabins with a hole on the ground. It is always handy to have roll of a toilet paper, hand sanitizer and a torch in rural areas.

The most expensive services for laundry is in hotels, since they charge 1-3$ per laundry item. Hostel laundries are cheap and charge per machine load. In guesthouses, it is not always available and should be discussed there. In yurt stays or during camping we recommend you to use bio-degradable wash.

Your safety is the first priority for Kalpak Travel, in organizing our tours we discuss every detail to make sure that your tour runs smoothly and you will have a wonderful experience with us. Our guides are well trained to deal with emergency situations and we will get you help as quickly as possible. In case of serious illness, we will help you to get proper medical assistance, do everything possible to get you to your homeland and inform your family. To join our tours, you are required to have travel insurance. Please make sure it fully covers medical emergencies including repatriation costs.

Main intercity roads have been recently repaired, newly paved and well maintained. However, the roads in suburbs and in villages can be in poor condition or not paved at all. Kyrgyzstan is mountainous land with high passes and many passes have rugged roads. Not all roads have guard rails and proper signs. Our drivers are experienced and professional drivers who can drive you safely in Kyrgyzstan. All our vehicles are well maintained and checked before each departure.

Travellers' Impressions of Kyrgyzstan