You are thinking about going to Kyrgyzstan for your next trip ? It will be your first time there ? You’re asking some questions around and nobody is able to answer ?
Great ! This article is made for you !
We are going to answer to the 20 most common questions that people are asking about this amazing country.
If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to post them in the comments section, we will help you to figure everything out ! Don’t worry, there is no stupid question !
- Where is Kyrgyzstan and how can I reach it ?
Kyrgyzstan is a large country (about 200 000 km²) located in Central Asia. It shares borders with Kazakhstan in the North, China in the East, Tajikistan in the South and Uzbekistan in the West. So, if you are traveling by land, you can cross easily from any of those countries. If you are coming by plane, many airlines offer good deals to flight to Bishkek, the capital city.
2. Do I need a visa ?
For some nationalities, Kyrgyzstan has a 60-days visa free system. You only need a passport to come here and can stay up to 60 days.
If you are not on this list, you may need to apply for a visa in any kyrgyz embassy, or online with the e-visa system, or you will get one upon arrival at Manas airport in Bishkek. This works for people coming from :
If your country is not on any of those lists, you need to apply for a visa with an invitation letter to some specific embassies.
If you need more information, check the official website of the Kyrgyz MFA : http://www.evisa.e-gov.kg/
3. Is it safe ? Is it okay for solo women to travel there ?
Kyrgyzstan is indeed a really safe country with a pretty low rate of criminality. And, yes, it’s safe as well for solo women (this article is indeed written by a solo woman traveler 😉 ) Of course, as in many big cities, you should watch out for your belongings while in a busy area (for exemple in the bazars), but nothing more. Locals usually have a good attitude towards foreigners and they will help you if you have any kind of trouble. Behave positively, respect the culture and beleifs, and everything will go well ! The main risk for you here, will be to fall in love with the country and to extend your stay !
4. When is the best moment to go ? What about the weather conditions ?
The best moment to go to Kyrgyzstan varies depending on what you are looking for.
If you want to hike, enjoy the colourful nature in the protected areas, watch wildlife, ride a horse, camp in the mountains, swim in magnificient lakes (and so much more !), then, May to October should be the best for you. The temparatures vary, it can be really hot in summer, but you will still see some snow high in the mountains.
If you want to ski, admire cities covered by snow, avoid the high season to feel the authentic local life in the villages, enjoy the hot springs while it’s freezing oustside, then, yes, you can come even in winter ! Expect intense cold (it can be around -15°C) but if you are well equiped, it should not be a problem !
5. What is the traditional food ?
Kyrgyz food is mainly based on meat (sheep, horse, beef) and dairy products. You will find a large variety of traditional dishes, and you will need time to try everything ! Here are just some examples :
- Paloo (also called Plov) is a typical Central Asian dish made with rice, meat, carrots, garlic, sometimes dried fruits… there are many kinds of Paloo ! And of course, in each region they will tell you they have the best 😉 Try, and make your own ranking !
- Manty are steamed dumplings filled with ground meat and onions. You can find them in many outside kiosks, all around the country.
- Samsa (similar to Indian samosas) are available at every street corners, and are usually made with bread filled with meat or vegetables or cheese, and so on
- Beshbarmak is a tradtional Kyrgyz dish made of meat and flour. It is usually served with horse meat. Beshbarmak means “five fingers” in kyrgyz language.
- Lagman are fresh noodles mixed with peppers and some other vegetables. It can be quite spicy.
Tea and bread are also very popular in Kyrgyzstan.
Regarding beverages, you will find a lot of dairy products as kymyz (fermented mare’s milk) or fermented cereals as bozo for example. For westerners, those drinks are really different from everything you have in your coutries and the taste can be surprising. But it’s part of the experience !
6. How can I communicate with people ?
Kyrgyzstan has two official languages : Kyrgyz and Russian. They use cyrillic alphabet (the kyrgyz version and the russian version). But don’t worry, if you can’t speak any of those languages, you will be fine. In big cities, you will find people who can speak english, locals are more and more used to the touristic industry. And if they don’t, be creative ! As everywhere else you can use body language, signs, drawings… you have many options !
7. What is the currency and how can I withdraw/exchange money ?
The local currency is the Kyrgyz som (KGS). When we are publishing this article, the exchange rate is around 1 $ ≈ 69 KGS or 1 € ≈ 79 KGS. There are exchange offices all around the big cities, as well as banks with ATM. Visa is the easiest card to use, but some banks also accept Mastercard and American Express. The bank system is pretty reliable and stable in Kyrgyzstan, but usually the amount you can withdraw is limited (max 200 $ or 10 000 soms). Compare the rates before exchanging money. Note that in the exchange offices, they would prefer big, crisped and clean bills (100 $, 50 $, 100 € or 50 € ). For small or old bills (they are pretty picky…), the exchange rate will be lower.
8. Where should I go while in the country ?
Kyrgyzstan has a lot to offer. Depending on what you are looking for, many areas will be interesting for you. The main cities are Bishkek, Osh, Karakol and Cholpon-Ata, but we strongly advise you to get a taste of the magical nature around. We provide a lot of tours that you will love. To find out more, check our Tours and treks page.
9. What is the cost of living there ?
Compared with western standards, Kyrgyzstan is extremely affordable. You can eat in a canteen for 1-2 $ and have a full meal, take a long ride across the country in a minibus for less than 10 $, have a beer in a cosy bar for 1 – 2 $, … And in the market places, you’re invited to bargain !
10. What are the main religions ?
Around 80 % of the inhabitants are muslims, and 17 % russian orthodox. It’s not really a conservative country compared with the countries around. You will be able to visit colourful mosques as well as gleaming cathedrals.
11. Can I go camping in the nature ?
Definitely yes ! It will be very easy and safe, the summer season welcomes a lot of campers and locals are used to it. We encourage you to do it ! You should also try to sleep in a traditional yurt to understand how live the nomadic people. You don’t have your on gear ? Don’t worry, Apple Hostel can provide you whatever you need for a good trip deep in the nature !
12. I am traveling by bicycle, how are the roads ?
Kyrgyzstan became super popular among cyclists since the last 10 years. The roads are okay in most of the country, you would prefer the summer season though. The traffic can be a bit hectic in big cities but in the surronding areas, you will have the whole road just for you ! Furthermore, you will easily find places to fix your bicycle around the country.
13. How is the internet/wifi network ?
Kyrgyzstan has a pretty reliable internet network and you will easily find wifi in the big cities. Cafes, bars, restaurants, malls and hostels offer free good wifi. If you are addicted to technology and need to be connected everywhere, you can buy a local sim card. Several operators offer pretty cheap packages with calls and 4G internet. We can also help you with that as we provide sim cards in our hostels !
14. Can I travel there with my kid(s) ?
Sure ! They will enjoy the beautiful nature and the scenery will be a unique experience for them ! You will find plenty of activities to do with kids (short hikes, swimming, skiing, cycling, visiting amusement parks, and so on). We offer private rooms in our hostels where you can stay together, with a family atmosphere !
15. How will I travel around the country/cities ?
Kyrgyzstan has a good public transport network. You can easily reach many cities or villages by marshrutkas (minibus) for affordable prices. There are many bus stations everywhere, don’t worry if you can’t read cyrillic, the drivers are shouting their destinations ! Inside the big cities, you also have a lot of bus and minibus, as well as taxis. We advise you to intall 2GIS (to find your way inside cities) and Yandex (cheap taxis in the main cities) that will help you. We can provide shuttle services and we also rent cars and bicycles. Ask us about it !
16. What kind of souvenirs should I bring back home ?
You will find a lot of souvenirs shops all around the country. Traditional hats, musical instruments, clothes, horse equipment, flags, handicrafts, dolls… You will need space in your luggage ! You can find a lot of items in museums and bazars, but we also have a souvenir shop just inside our hostel !
17. I am vegeterian/vegan, what could I eat ?
Yes, Kyrgyzstan is a meat country. But NO, you won’t die from hunger ! You will easily find a lot of seasonal fruits and vegetables in the markets all around the country, as well as dry fruits, different kind of nuts, bread and so on. You will enjoy the place in accordance with your eating-habits !
18. What should I do if I have a health problem there ?
Kyrgyzstan can be pretty tough on some stomachs. But don’t worry, you just have to respect some easy rules to avoid being sick ! If you have some troubles still though, we invite you to read our article about health in Central Asia.
19. Which books can I read about Kyrgyzstan and the region ?
We advise you to read any of Tchinguiz Aitmatov’s books, the national writter of Kyrgyzstan. Most of his books are translated in several languages and he is really popular among locals. Nice topic to start a conversation in a cafe ! About tourism, Bradt and Lonely Planet published several guides about Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia in general, it can help you to decide what you want to see !
20. Where should I stay while in Kyrgyzstan ?
In Apple Hostel of course 😉 We have accomodations in Bishkek, Osh and Cholpon-Ata. We are a family run hostel well known by travelers, with affordable prices, comfy rooms, and all the facilities you need. Our hostels are the perfect places to meet other travelers ! For other cities, we can help you to arrange your stay in hostels/hotels/guesthouses from which we heard positive feedback from our guests.
We hope to see you soon in Kyrgyzstan !