Tips and how to travel to Kyrgyzstan (2024)

By Joan Torres 47 Comments Last updated on May 8, 2024

Kyrgyzstan travel tips

From first-class treks to a very accessible nomadic culture, horse riding and hospitable people, traveling to Kyrgyzstan is the experience, and destination, for those seeking an off the beaten track (but easy) adventure.

After spending two entire months traveling in Kyrgyzstan, I have compiled all the necessary information that will help you plan your trip, from visas and bureaucracy to accommodation, transportation and plenty of cultural facts.

Visit Kyrgyzstan

In this Kyrgyzstan travel guide you will find:

With its Backpacker plan, IATI Insurance is the best insurance for any kind of adventurous destination, like Kyrgyzstan.

Read: Packing list for trekking in Central Asia

🪪 Visa for traveling to Kyrgyzstan

The most liberal visa regime in Central Asia

Most nationalities get a 60-day free visa on arrival, both at the airport and overland.

If you want to renew it, you just need to cross the Kazakh border (1 hour from Bishkek) and come back on the same day.

These countries are: EU countries (except for Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Romania), Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Kuwait, Monaco, New Zealand, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uzbekistan, Vatican City. Japan and Russia can get an indefinite stay. 

The rest of nationalities can apply for a Kyrgyz e-visa

Since September 2017, most of the remaining countries can apply for an e-visa through the official portal. It takes around 1 week and costs 63USD. 

Moreover, if you are in possession of an e-visa, you can travel to Kyrgyzstan both via land and air. 

Be aware that when applying for an e-visa, most nationalities will also need to be in possession of an LOI, EXCEPT for citizens of:

Brazil, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Indonesia, Israel, Macedonia, Mexico, Philippines, Romania, San Marino, South Africa, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey, Venezuela.

If you are not on any of the above lists, read the Kyrgyzstan visa section of Caravanistan for further information on visas.

Extending your visa does not seem to be possible anymore

We tried to extend our visa and they said that, since May 2017, extensions aren’t possible anymore. We tried to extend it in both Karakol and Bishkek. 

It is easier to travel to Almaty and come back. 

Overstaying can be expensive

If you overstayed, you won’t be let to get out of the country unless you are in possession of an exit visa, which you can get at the foreign office located at 58 Kievskaya street in Bishkek, after paying the respective fine.

Kyrgyzstan tourism
A horse grazing in the middle of the Alay Valley – Kyrgyzstan travel guide

🚑 Travel Insurance for Kyrgyzstan

If you visit Kyrgyzstan, travel insurance is a must, as accidents do happen in the mountains. Actually, during a horse trek in Tash Rabat, I fell off the horse and had to stay in bed for nearly 2 weeks.

It was a pretty bad (and scary accident). I had to go to the hospital, all the way to Bishkek, where they carried out different kinds of tests on me which, in the end, turned out to be expensive. Luckily, I was fully insured.

For Kyrgyzstan, I recommend IATI Insurance:

  • Different plans for all budgets
  • It covers a big bunch of adventure activities, including trekking in high altitudes
  • Covers both short-term trips and 1-year long trips.
  • Readers of this blog can get a 5% exclusive discount

⛅ Best time to visit Kyrgyzstan

My favorite month for traveling to Kyrgyzstan: September

Why? July & August would be the ideal season for trekking, especially if you plan to go high in the mountains as, during these two months, the weather is warmer and the likelihood of rain is lower. However, Kyrgyzstan is becoming a popular destination, which means that some areas may be crowded.

In September, nevertheless, most crowds will be gone, and the weather will still be warm enough for trekking, and that is why I consider September to be the best month for visiting Kyrgyzstan.

Travel in Kyrgyzstan during High season (mid-June to Mid-September)

Read my packing list for trekking in Central Asia

Travel in Kyrgyzstan during Shoulder season (Spring and Autumn)

Travel in Kyrgyzstan during Low season (mid-November to March)

This was during the first week of July 😮 (Archa Tör Pass)

🛫 How to get to Kyrgyzstan

How to travel to Kyrgyzstan by air

Getting to the International Airport of Bishkek is fairly easy, as it has quite a few connections with several airports in Europe. Moreover, you should also check Pegasus, a budget airline from Istanbul with daily flights to Bishkek. Alternatively, check out the flights to Almaty, as they are usually cheaper and it is very close to Bishkek. 

How to travel to Kyrgyzstan by land

Kyrgyzstan shares a border with:

Kyzyl Art Pass, between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan

⚠️ Is it safe to travel to Kyrgyzstan?

Something you need to know is that the term Stan doesn’t mean a place is dangerous, but Stan means land, so Kyrgyzstan means the land of Kyrgyz. 

Kyrgyzstan is a safe destination. Period. 

I mean, just check the FCO advice and you will see that all they say is that Kyrgyzstan is a very safe country, and here you need to take into account that the FCO advice is always absolutely biased, meaning that tends to see danger where there is not, especially in the Middle East.

Solo travelers will be just fine and whereas I can’t speak for women, I know many women who have been there, and all they told me was positive experiences. 

The only potential danger you may hear about is that Bishkek used to be infamous for its after-midnight crime, mainly targeting drunk people on their way home from the bars. The situation, however, has dramatically improved but, if that is a concern for you, just take a taxi when you go back home.  

Burana tower
Burana tower, one of the few Silk Road heritage places in the country

🛖 Top 5 experiences in Kyrgyzstan

For all the places to visit, don’t forget to check my 1-month Kyrgyzstan itinerary

Stay with Kyrgyz nomads

Experiencing the nomadic life is one of the greatest Kyrgyz experiences. From staying in a yurt to helping them preparing kurut, their local cheese, during our 2-month journey across the country, we met loads of nomads with we had awesome experiences. 

However, with the tourism increase, some nomadic camps have become too commercial, and what I recommend is that you try to find the most authentic ones. How? Well, by getting off the beaten track but also, if you go to Song Kul, instead of staying at the CBT camp where everybody stays, just go across the lake. 

A really offbeat nomad camp, somewhere in the southern Pamirs

Watch nomad games, but try to find out where the local games happen (don’t go to the touristic ones)

The ancient nomad sports in Kyrgyzstan are just crazy, and bizarre.

From horse wrestling to playing polo with a dead goat instead of an actual ball (Ulak tariysh), the nomadic games of Kyrgyzstan are, definitely, a must-see. 

Every summer, some tourist organizations, like CBT, organize nomad games for tourists, in Song Kul and places like that, but I recommend you find the local ones, as the vibe is just great, plus they do a larger variety of sports. 

To be very honest, I didn’t manage to see a local game in Kyrgyzstan, but I did in Tajikistan, near the Kyrgyz border (where most Tajiks are ethnically Kyrgyz), and it was just awesome.

Go trekking on a horse

Many people may feel bad for riding a horse, but the truth is that Kyrgyzstan is the land of horses and even today, in the rural areas, they are the preferred way of transportation.

Those horses are really used to go over high altitude mountain passes, and you definitely get a different experience, and perspective than going on foot. 

Climbing the Tash Rabat pass – 4,000 meters

Go trekking in some of the most mind-blowing mountains ever

I truly believe that, in a matter of years, Kyrgyzstan will become the trekking destination of reference, competing directly with Nepal and Argentina, and the reason is that its mountains are absolutely jaw-dropping, plus they are much more accessible than any other destination I know. 

Visit the remotest Silk Road Heritage sites

Kyrgyzstan has only a small bunch of Silk Road Heritage sites, but the few it has are truly epic, remote and placed in the most epic locations. 

The most epic Silk Road Heritage site in Kyrgyzstan: Tash Rabat

Kyrgyzstan is about nature and nomadic life 
With very few Silk Road Heritage sites compared to its neighbor Uzbekistan, in Kyrgyzstan, there’s not much to do besides wandering around its gorgeous mountains and experiencing the nomadic life. The truth is that, with the exception of Bishkek and Arslanbob, most towns in Kyrgyzstan are pretty boring as there is no distinctive architecture, soul and social life, as Kyrgyzstan has been a nomadic land for many centuries. When you travel in Kyrgyzstan, you will see that towns are merely used as a base to explore the mountains or take a rest from them.

📚 Books for traveling to Kyrgyzstan

For more books to Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia, check:

The best 28 books on Central Asia

Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide by Bradt

By far, the best and most complete book guide to Kyrgyzstan. Bradt writes the most awesome guides, as they are always filled with great cultural insights and personal experiences. I always buy their Kindle version for whatever country I go to.

Central Asia Guide by Lonely Planet

A classic. If you are traveling throughout the region, this might be a more economical option, rather than buying one guide per country but remember that it is not as insightful as Bradt’s.

Don’t forget to check my list of the best books on Central Asia and the Silk Road

🕌 15 facts about Kyrgyzstan, its people and culture

1 – Kyrgyzstan used to be part of the Soviet Union – It acquired its independence in 1991, with the collapse of the USSR.

2 – The origin of the Kyrgyz – Kyrgyz people are an ethnic nomadic group which is believed to have come from a region within Siberia, during the 10th and 15th centuries.

Originally, they used to have red hair but, over the centuries, they have mixed with all kinds of groups, especially Mongols and Turks.

3 – Kyrgyz make up 66% of the population – The biggest minority are Uzbeks (15%), followed by Russians (10%).

4 – It’s a Muslim country. Well, not really – Like in most Soviet countries, religion is not a big deal anymore, especially in the north of the country.

In the south, people tend to be more traditional, so you may see more mosques or men with beard and Muslim hats, but nothing relevant. During Ramadan, I was in Bishkek and didn’t see any sign of people fasting.

Alcohol is available everywhere and there is no sex segregation. You will see that women of all ages will always come to you to start a conversation.

5 – However, Saudi Arabia wants to reverse this – They are funding the construction of mosques across the country.

Read: 35 Tips for traveling to Kazakhstan

Kyrgyzstan people
A very Muslim, nomadic man, which is very rare to see. His wife wears a niqab

6 – Kyrgyz is the national language but Russian is widely spoken – Kyrgyz, a Turkic language, is the country’s official language.

Russian is spoken by most of the population, except in the south of the country, which has a significant Uzbek population who, for some reason, don’t really speak it.

7 – English is a problem – Communicating with people is one of the biggest issues in Kyrgyzstan, as very few people speak English. 

8 – At least, you must learn the Cyrillic alphabet – Extremely useful, especially when it comes to reading restaurant menus and bus directions.

9 – Bishkek is surprisingly Westernized – When you arrive in Bishkek and discover all those restaurants and bars where local people hang out, who dress incredibly well, you realize that this is not what you were expecting.

10 – The rest of the country is more traditional – Outside of Bishkek, most people still live a traditional life, where people’s main life goal is getting married and having children as early as possible. I met several 20-year old women who already had two kids.

11 – Kidnapping brides is still a big deal – And what do I mean by kidnapping brides? In Kyrgyzstan, a man can take a random woman who is just walking on the street to his house and, if both parents agree, he can marry her and the woman can’t say anything.

I know, it’s not a real kidnapping but it’s a crazy tradition and, even today, some locals told me that this is practiced by 20% of the population, especially in small, rural villages.

If you want to know more about, check out this video:

12 – The most hospitable people in Central AsiaIn this region, the Kyrgyz are famous for their hospitality. When we went trekking in the mountains, I remember that there was not a single day when someone didn’t invite us to his or her yurt to have some tea and bread with home-made jam and butter.

Traveling in Kyrgyzstan is very pleasant, as the Kyrgyz people, who will always bless you with their smiles, are kind and hospitable by nature.

13 – You can’t believe how clean they are – When you visit Kyrgyzstan, you will realize that these people have a real obsession with cleanliness.

Even in youth hostels, sometimes I could never go to the toilet because there was someone cleaning it. In guest houses and home-stays, women spend the entire day mopping the floor and cleaning the kitchen.

I don’t know whether it’s true or not but, a Russian man told me that, during Soviet times, Kyrgyz people had a bad reputation for being dirty. In order to change this general opinion, they became obsessed with cleanliness.

14 – Girls are pretty, very pretty – Kyrgyz women are stunning, especially in Bishkek. On the other hand, all foreign women say that, in general, Kyrgyz men are not very handsome.

15 – Always remove your shoes – You must always remove shoes when you enter any house, yurt and even hostels and guesthouses.

Read: 70 Tips for traveling to Pakistan

Kyrgyzstan girl
A cute, nomadic girl

🐪 About nomadic life in Kyrgyzstan

The most accessible nomadic life in the world

From time immemorial, the ethnic group known as the Kyrgyz have been a nomadic people who tend to move continuously throughout the mountains and valleys of the region with their cattle.

Today, a large proportion of the Kyrgyz population still live a nomadic, traditional life, not very different from their ancestors.

In summer, which is from June to September, you will find hundreds of nomad camps everywhere, either next to the road or in the remotest mountains, where they settle so their horses, cows and sheep can graze freely.

It’s their summer job

During the summer months, Kyrgyz nomads move from cities to the mountains, so their herds of cows, sheep, goats and horses can graze freely.

When the season is over, they sell some of these animals, as well as dairy products and meat. This is the only source of income most of them rely on.

They live in yurts

Yurts are perhaps the most iconic symbol of Kyrgyzstan. These cozy skin-made tents, which can be seen all across the country, can be incredibly warm during the freezing nights.

A yurt camp in Song Kul

You can always stay with them, no matter where you go

Whether you just want to get a warm meal or spend the night, wherever you go trekking, the nomads will always welcome you, at least in my experience.

But remember that, even if they don’t ask, they may expect you to pay something.

Get off the beaten track because the touristic areas are too commercialized

If you go to popular places, such as Song Kul for example, most nomad families have spare yurts, which have been built for tourists.

Whereas there is nothing wrong with staying there, the experience won’t be very authentic.

If you have a chance, try to find yurts around the Alay Valley, the Pamirs or even in less popular treks around Karakol. In these yurt camps, you may sleep in the same yurt as the family and even join in with their daily tasks.

Enjoying some shorpo with a nomadic woman – Kyrgyzstan travel guide

🍲 Facts about food and alcohol in Kyrgyzstan

1 – Food is not amazing but it’s OK to fill your stomach – You will not love it but, after traveling in Kyrgyzstan for 2 months, I was not especially bored of it.

2 – The typical food – Lagman (a hearty noodle soup), manty (meat dumplings) and shorpo (meat broth) are the staple food.

3 – But don’t trust mantys While traveling in Kyrgyzstan, the only day I got slightly sick was after eating some street mantys. Be careful where you order them, as the meat they are filled with may have been outside of the fridge for days.

4 – In small towns and villages, only staple food – In bigger towns, you can easily find more choices, like salads, kebab or Western food. However, in villages, you’ll have to fill your stomach with lagman and mantys.

5 – You are expected to know what to order from the moment you enter the restaurant – It’s your first day in Kyrgyzstan, the first time you enter a restaurant, holding a menu written in an alphabet which you’ve never seen before.

However, they will expect you to know what to order within 10 seconds of giving you the menu. If you tell them to wait for 5 or 10 minutes, they won’t really understand you and will stand next to you. It’s very weird but you’ll get used to it. 

6 – If you are vegetarian, you are fucked – It’s said that Kyrgyzstan is the country with the highest consumption of meat per capita in the world.

At most restaurants, it’s extremely difficult to find vegetarian dishes and, when you ask for something vegetarian, they kind of freak out.

Even sometimes, when I ordered a salad, it came with pieces of cooked beef in it. True story.

7 – Even chicken is difficult to find – If you find chicken on a menu, just order it!

8 – Beer and vodka are available everywhere – Welcome to the ex-Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan! Despite being a Muslim country, alcohol consumption is present everywhere, even in small villages and towns.

9 – Get used to people being completely smashed at 9am – You’ll definitely meet Kyrgyz men who are massively wasted, who can barely walk, quite early in the morning.

10 – You must try kymys If you go to the mountains and stay with nomads, ask for kymys, which is fermented milk. Most people don’t like it, as it has a weirdly sour, strong taste.

It has some small percentage of alcohol. However, if you don’t like it the first time, give it another chance. I tasted it in four different places and in two of them it was surprisingly good.

11– Kyryt is the snack in fashionKyryt are some sort of cheese and yogurt balls which are available all across Central Asia but Kyrgyzstan is where they are most prevalent.

Again, some people don’t like them but, like kymys, some of them were good, some of them weren’t.

12 – A fruit paradise – If you come during the season, markets are filled with all kinds of fruits, incredibly tasty and ridiculously cheap. In summer, you will find plenty of nectarines, watermelon, strawberries, raspberries and much, much more!

Kyrgyzstan food
Some very nice girls selling kyryt, the national snack in Kyrgyzstan

🐴 Horses in Kyrgyzstan

It’s the land of horses

Horses are as much part of their culture as the yurts. From epic horse treks over 4,000-meter mountain passes to herds of tens of horses grazing in stunning meadows, if you like horses, you are going to love Kyrgyzstan.

They learn how to ride a horse at the same time as walking

When you are in the mountains, you will see plenty of kids (including little girls) riding big horses.

You must go horse trekking

Trekking over high mountain passes, riding one of those beautiful beasts is one of the highlights of Kyrgyzstan.

Ah, in case you are wondering, no, you don’t need any previous riding experience. A guide will always come with you.

But be careful!

Horses are no joke. They are dangerous so don’t try to gallop if you don’t have any experience.

I actually had a pretty bad accident, felling off a horse in Tash Rabat when I tried to gallop (I am a stupid, inexperienced man). I had to stay in bed for two weeks and fully recovered after one month. I could have been much, much worse, so be careful.

Horse riding Kyrgyzstan
Riding a horse in Tash Rabat

Hiring a horse is cheap

It costs around 700KGS ($10) a day plus 1,000KGS ($15) for the guide, which can be split between several people. If they try to charge you more, they are ripping you off.

But be aware that they eat them!

When you see a herd of horses grazing over a dreamy meadow, don’t get too much in love with them because many of them will end up in a butchery!

Horse games

Horses are so rooted in their culture that they are also main protagonists in their national sports. Among many others, Ulak Tsrtysh is the most popular game, which is a form of polo where they play with a dead goat which is beheaded right before the game begins. Violence in any match is more than guaranteed.

For more information on horses, read: Horse riding in Tash Rabat, Kyrgyzstan

Horse wrestling
Horse wrestling

🏔️ Trekking in Kyrgyzstan

Around 90% of the of the country is above 1,500 meters and with that, I’ve told you everything already.

Kyrgyzstan is home to some of the finest world-class hikes. For decades, travelers with a slight sense of adventure, who wanted to savor some first-class hikes, used to go to Argentina, Switzerland, and Nepal. However, just a couple of years ago, the most intrepid travelers quickly realized that trekking in Kyrgyzstan could easily rival Patagonia and the Himalayas.

For more information, check:

Hiking in Kyrgyzstan, everything you need to know

Lenin peak base camp
On my way to the advanced base camp of Lenin peak

💻 Internet and connectivity in Kyrgyzstan

eSIM for browsing, calling and traveling in Kyrgyzstan

Basically, an eSIM is a regular SIM card with a digital format that works like a normal physical SIM card, with the added benefit that you can buy it from home before the beginning of your trip, hence avoiding the hassle of buying it at your destination. 

With Holafly, you can get a SIM Card for a wide range of destinations, including Kyrgyzstan

Moreover, you can benefit from a 5% discount with the following code: AGAINSTTHECOMPASS

Kyrgyzstan has the best internet in Central Asia

High-speed Wi-Fi is available almost all across the country, even in high altitude towns such as Sary-Mogol and Sary-Tash, something I would have never expected.

About getting a SIM Card for traveling around Kyrgyzstan

If you get a local SIM-Card, 3G is also quite fast. Get a mobile company called O! For just a few dollars, they offer weekly deals for both internet data and calls. This mobile company has street stalls all over the country.

Get a VPN for traveling in Kyrgyzstan

You should always use a VPN when you travel, especially when you connect to public Wi-Fi networks.

Your connection will be much safer. 

Moreover, you will be able to access content which is typically censored in Kyrgyzstan. 

I recommend ExpressVPN – Extremely easy to use, fast and cheap. 

If you want to learn more about VPN, check: Why you need a VPN for traveling.

💰 About money, budget and costs

In Kyrgyzstan, they use the Kyrgyz SOM and, approximately:

1 USD = 88.60 SOM

Kyrgyzstan is a very cheap country to travel, the cheapest country in Central Asia, and a budget backpacker’s dream. You can easily find home or yurt stays for 10USD a day, including dinner and breakfast. Meals cost around 1-2USD in local eateries and between 2-4USD in mid-range places.

Expect to pay 10-15% extra for service
Except in cheap, local eateries, you will always pay an extra 10-15% for service when the bill comes.

Public transportation within cities costs 15c and buses between nearby towns, less than 1USD.

Budget backpackers can easily travel around Kyrgyzstan on 20USD a day.


ATMs are available everywhere and, in many of them, you can select the option that you want to cash out USD, instead of KGS. In my experience, the maximum I was able to get was 200USD at a time.

Exchanging money

I’ve never seen so many exchange offices, especially in Bishkek, where you find one in absolutely every corner.

Scams, getting ripped-off

I felt that nobody tried to rip me off – except for taxi drivers, of course, perhaps because mass tourism hasn’t arrived here (yet).

Song Kul
Song Kul at sunrise

🏨 Accommodation: where to stay in Kyrgyzstan

Staying in a homestay in Kyrgyzstan

Everybody has a home stay. Kyrgyzstan has the peculiarity that, no matter where you go, locals offer their houses to foreigners for home stays. 

Whether it is a remote village or a touristic destination, as soon as you arrive, women will approach you, asking if you want to stay at their house, and they are always superb: comfortable, clean and nicely decorated. You will not want to leave!

However, remember that they always expect you to pay, even if you are in a very remote village and you get randomly invited by someone to stay, even if they don’t ask you for money, they are expecting you to give something.

Price is always per person, not per room so, if you travel alone, Kyrgyzstan can be great

There are homestays all over the country, and you can easily find and book them online.

Staying in a yurt in Kyrgyzstan

A yurt is a round tent typically used by nomads in Central Asia and Mongolia, which is usually covered with animal skins.

In the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, if there are nomads, there will be also yurts, since that’s what they use for shelter.

They are incredibly warm and cozy and staying in one is a must-try experience for anyone traveling in Kyrgyzstan.

Staying in a hotel in Kyrgyzstan

In Bishkek, Osh and pretty much any larger city, you can also find regular hotels.

Kyrgyzstan homestay
A woman preparing our dinner at her house

🛺 How to move around Kyrgyzstan – Transportation

Traveling around Kyrgyzstan by public transportation

Mashrutka is the way to go

Mashrutkas are some kind of vans and mini-vans that connect all cities and towns in Kyrgyzstan.

They are extremely cheap and it’s very easy to move around with them, as you can find a station (or more) at every bazaar in absolutely every town. You just need to get on at the station and say which city or town you want to go.

Shared local taxis

Late in the evening, for long distances or in very remote towns, marshrutkas don’t run that often, so you will have to take a local shared taxi.

They are more expensive but, definitely, faster than marshrutkas. However, some drivers are completely nuts and may drive at over 120km per hour along narrow mountain roads.

A few things to keep in mind:

Remember that old women have the power – In any bus, marshrutka or taxi you go, women can choose any seat they want, even if you arrived one hour before them. In city buses, always give up your seat to any women over 40-50 years old. If you don’t, they will tell you to stand up. When I fell off the horse and had to stay in bed for 2 weeks, I was sitting in a marshrutka on the way to the hospital. I could barely stand up and, when a woman entered and told me to move and I couldn’t explain why I couldn’t, I created a lot of trouble until she understood.

At 40ºC, windows are still closed – Kyrgyz are afraid of air currents and no matter what time of the year it is, even if it’s the peak of the summer and 40ºC outside, they like to travel with the windows closed and the AC switched off. Sometimes, you can negotiate with the men but, if there are old ladies, forget about it.

Remember to be patient – Ninety percent of Kyrgyzstan is composed of high mountains which means that, every time you want to go from town to town, you will have to cross them, making your journey particularly slow. In addition, in some more remote destinations, shared taxis and marshrutkas leave once they are full and, sometimes, it takes some time to fill them. Just keep in mind that traveling in Kyrgyzstan can be particularly slow.

Hitchhiking in Kyrgyzstan

Hitchhiking is extremely easy and common among the locals. However, remember that, in Kyrgyzstan, everybody is a taxi driver so if you are looking for a free ride, you will need an extra dose of patience.

yurt kyrgyzstan
A yurt camp in Song Kul

❗ More information for traveling in Kyrgyzstan

📢 In my Travel Resources Page you can find the list of all the sites and services I use to book hotels, tours, travel insurance and more.

What is CBT?

CBT (Community Based Tourism) is a very popular tour agency in Kyrgyzstan that can arrange any kind of activity you want to, from yurt stays to trekking, taxis, permits and anything you can think of.

CBT has offices all over the country and it is so popular because, despite being a tour agency, they offer very cheap and competitive prices.

However, bear in mind that, of course, it will always be cheaper to arrange things on your own.

Check the best books about Central Asia and the Silk Road

All guides and articles for traveling in Kyrgyzstan destination

Travel guides to other countries in Central Asia

Traveling to Kyrgyzstan


Very informative blog, thanks! I’m looking at travelling to Kyrgystan on my bike (the northern half of the country, around Naryn, and wonder how much rain I should expect. The climate charts indicate it’s pretty dry, but most blogs mentions seemingly frequent downpours and rain. Would you say that rain is a serious downside there in July-August?

Excellent article Joan. I appreciate the details you put in there. Few points like you are expected to know what to order from the menu and closed windows at 40ºC left me in splits 🙂 🙂

hello is it possible to travel to Kazakhstan from Kyrgyzstan should i need to get transit visa or without visa i can travel ?

Completely true. Except #21. That russian man obviously exagarrated on his words saying “long back kyrgyz was dirty” (as if he existed long back).
The thing is in kyrgyz culture, women take a main role in house keeping, caring of kids, while men as a main provider. Thats why from the early age mothers guide daughters to be independent and know how to cook, clean, and be a support for parents and her future husband. BTW #71 – as for the simcard, its freely distributed at the exit of the airport (beeline, o, megacom) with few free load inside. Tho u have to approach service senter within a few days along with your original passport and get it registered to continue the service. I advised you to avail megacom it has a fast and cheap internet data (20Gb per month – 3.6$, 50Gb – 5.8$, 100Gb – 8.7$, with free call and sms within a network). Its much better if your phone suports 4G. Thats it 🙂 For any inquires kindly contact my WhatsApp#: +996 700 800 900

Hello! Thank you for your feedback, very much appreciated 🙂 !
As per your first comment, I don’t really know what are the exact reasons, as I am just putting into a few words what some people told me! However, in any case, what you are describing (claiming that women take care of the household) is very generic and happens to almost every culture and country in the world, so it doesn’t really explain why Kyrgyz are so obsessed with cleaning.
As per your second comment, I will update my post accordingly as soon as I can!

Thank you for this amazing article. Agree with everything,. If you need any guidance in Kyrgyzstan, I can help you

Hello AIgerim, I am planning a trip from US to either Almat (cheaper & still close to Bishkek) Looking for someone to guide through Nature. trekking, hiking, hot springs, polar plunge, experience falcon hunting, Yurt sleeping with authentic Nomads. On a budget, Waiting for a flight price drop in Aug. So no set time yet , But Aug-Sept.

Hi! I am from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and I absolutely love the way you descibed our reality! You definetly noticed unique features of kyrgyzstani life. Shared your post on Facebook, hope you’ll get more view and we’ll get more tourists 😀
Thank you!
BTW, there are several really good ski resorts (the best one in Karakol) in Kyrgyzstan, so turists are more than welcome in winter season!

Thanks for for sharing it, really 🙂 and it’s my pleasure to say nice things about Kyrgyzstan. It is actually one of my most favorite countries. Yes, I had heard about the ski resort and heard it’s great!

I had not had Kyrgyzstan on my radar at all, until reading this blog from you! I love to travel and I love to hike, so now you have me excited to give Kyrgyzstan a try this summer. However, I have reached out to each of the three companies that you recommend for guide services, as I am only English-speaking, so I will need a guide to help me navigate the trails and communicate with the locals.

I live in the US, so am trying to communicate with these companies by email, but it’s been over a week, and no reply from them. Do you recommend my going to Bishkek in June and trying to find an English-speaking guide then? Or is that not realistic? I’m a very experienced traveler and hiker, but as a woman, I am also cautious because I travel alone.

I appreciate your advice. Thank you! And thank you for the inspiration to travel to Kyrgyzstan. 🙂

Hey Lyenne! It is actually better if you go to their offices once you are in Bishkek, or even at the destination in particular, like in Karakol. You will definitely find guides and, most importantly, it will be cheaper

Thank you for your detailed information, it looks amazing Last year also I and my boyfriend we visited all this places, it was taken 20 days. Before coming to Kyrgyzstan we contacted with local companies and got all informations. Decided to do it by ourselves. When we land to Bishkek airport it was difficult to communicate with people, because people’s are dont speak English or French. And in Bishkek we changed our plan booked tour for 19 days. Because our friends recommended. Everything was great. Our guide was professional and speaks English very well.

In Kyrgyzstan some places no internet connection where is big mountains. And you need to take warm clothes, during the summer we see some snow 🙂

Hey Joan 🙂 ,
I’m so glad to have come across your page. Its so exciting and deeply informative. The descriptions are stunning and have given me a Stronger YES to go to Kyrgyzstan already!

I would like to know your advice on the below,
-How many number of days (minimum) would you recommend to see around Kyrgyzstan? (Song Kul, Issyk Kul, Ala Kul, Ak-suu, all these gems and horse-treks in my mind)
-What time of the year would be ideal to do the visit?
-What are the “you can’t afford to miss” things to do and or places to visit in Kyrgyzstan?
-Is it safe to travel as a couple or groups traveling is better for safety?
Looking forward to your responses; to plan our trip.

Thanks in advance 😀

Hey Fatima, thanks for your comment, here are my responses:
– I think you’d need minimum 2 weeks to visit these places
– June to September is best and when the weather in the mountains is warmer
– Besides the places you mentioned, I loved Alay Vallay and Tash Rabat
– Kyrgyzstan is safe for anyone 🙂

I like your style of writing – informative, honest with a sense of humour.
I have a plan to visit just one country for a week in Central Asia in 2020.
While googling and reading up, I came across your blog and find it has all the info I need in my deciding process. So, the idea I have now is if I’d like to experience a nomadic mountaineous life, go with Kyrgyzstan and if I’d like to explore bazaars and ancient towns/architectures, go with Uzbekistan.

Absolutely wonderful descriptions. Very insightful and helpful, especially considering that you made it a point to inform your readers about certain subtler aspects of Kyrgyz culture that would otherwise surprise people when they visit, not knowing what to expect. Reading about all your travels and adventures here has only made me think strongly about visiting Kyrgyzstan this year 🙂

Keep up the good work, and all the best with your other travels and writing as well!

Hi Joan,
thank you so much for your interesting and inspiring info on Kyrghystan! Based on that we would like to go there for a 10 days trip first half of September, after a 10 days trip in Uzbekistan. as we only have 10 days, we would like to do it by car with a driver in order not to loose too much time: do you have any suggestions or drivers we can contact?

I loved Bishkek. I didn’t go to trek just to visit and fell in love with the city, culture, and how inexpensive it was! The clubs are fun, karaoke was incredible, food excellent, and very easy to get around via taxi. The hotel I stayed at was 5 star quality under $40USD a day and the food there was some of the best I had in the country. I went to the mountains as well and saw amazing scenery. Snow on the mountains, wild horses, and wildlife. I was shocked at how western Bishkek was. I honestly felt like I was in an Asian neighborhood in the middle of Los Angeles. The people were extremely friendly, the woman are beautiful, but there is some things as a westerner you have to get used to. Lots of pushing and shoving when its crowded seemed pretty normal and if you are shopping be aware of counterfeit items. Other than that the country was beyond what I expected and I will be back soon!!! Issyk Kul is the next destination for me next time I am there and I would love to visit Osh. My entire 3 week journey including plane ticket, food, going out, and my incredible hotel was less than $2000. Its the biggest hidden secret in the world right now.

Thanks for the article. I have lived in Kyrgyzstan for many years. Mountains, Bishkek, Issyk-Kul. It’s very beautiful there. The people are hospitable.

I enjoyed your article about Kyrgystan.
Most likely we will be going and hopefully this summer!
That’s why I searched for the info online.
So…. I’m a vegetarian. I was told to take a jar of jam with me but I don’t think this will cut it 😉
We are planning to hike and spend as little time in a city as possible.
How f****d i quote :))) do you think I am?

We don’t want to carry our bags all day, we prefer them to be dropped off to the next location. Or maybe we can afford a porter for a day or two.
My partner had a shoulder op. So he is still bit vulnerable.
I also read that you recommend to book hikes when we get there.

Can you recommend any local tour companies? When I try the online places you mentioned prices are high.

Is it best to fly to Bishkek or other cities have better hikes in the area?

We don’t want to get to high up, I don’t like cold or be in snow.

We would do probably 2-3 weeks.

Can you please recommend me best trails and places, and give me advice on planning?

Hello, sorry for late answer.
Vegetarians may have a hard time, since even the local shorpo (soup) is meat based… Cheese, bread, nuts, jam, fruits… That’s the type of food you find in the mountains. You can also find instant noodles in shops.

I don’t know any specific tour company, but you can easily arrange or find many in specific villages and towns in Kyrgyzstan.

For trails and places, you can check following guides:

Hi Joan,

We are travelling to Kyrgyzstan in August and your travel blog helped me complete my 8-day itinerary, now I know what I should prioritise to make the most of our trip. I will be going with my 3 sons and they are excited.


Hello! Thanks for putting so much effort into this blog!

I am going to travel a little in the country very soon but I don’t have a lot of money. Where would you recommend hiking solo? I can’t afford tours as I’m a backpacker. I don’t have to reach the peaks or get to the most difficult places, but I would still love to be near the mountains at least. What would you recommend in these cases? Cheers!

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