Kyrgyzstan officially referred to as the Kyrgyz Republic is a South-Central Asian Union country that offers great natural beauty with a nation proud of their nomadic traditions. It is a landlocked country that shares its borders with Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the southeast. The area that was to become modern Kyrgyzstan was annexed by Russia in 1876 and after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 it became an independent country. It is progressive in many ways: its visa policy is the most liberal policy in entire Central Asia and its government prides with its progressive attitude.
There are many things to do and see in Kyrgyzstan. From the traditional Eastern market in Bishkek that sells virtually everything you might think of, to the famous Dordoi Bazaar, known as the largest market in Central Asia, there is something for everyone here. If you’re more of a nature lover, you can swim, sail and sunbathe in Issyk Kul the world’s second biggest high altitude mountain lake, or experience the nomad life in Son Kul, the gorgeous high altitude lake which will make you really experience the semi-nomadic Kyrgyz life.
Warnings & Dangers in Kyrgyz Republic
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
It can be challenging to travel to Kyrgyzstan as it is a country filled with both petty and violent crime, with corrupt police and no one to turn to. Though it is a beautiful country where crime is on a decline, you should exercise caution at all times.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Public transport is not the safest option for a tourist as this is the prime spot for pickpockets to operate. However, the core network of roads has been rehabilitated and the main roads can now rival many in the western nations. And though they’re starting to deteriorate due to poor maintenance, many of them are being rapidly reconstructed. Be careful and keep your windows up while driving – thefts from cars are also common.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH
Pickpockets are widespread throughout the country and many tourists can't emphasize this enough. They can be found on every corner, so be extremely vigilant, especially when handling money.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : HIGH
The Kyrgyz Republic is extremely prone to natural disaster, the most serious of which are earthquakes, landslides and floods. Kyrgyz republic is located in an active seismic zone and due to that and its mountainous landscape earthquakes, landslides, mudflows and avalanches etc. cause severe damage in terms of both human lives and economy.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
Mugging and kidnapping aren't too common, but they do happen. Be careful around clubs and bars, and when going back home always call a taxi instead of walking. Avoid poorly lit and deserted streets and keep in mind that drink spiking also happens here, so don't accept anything from strangers.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
Terrorists aren’t exactly likely to carry out attacks in Kyrgyz Republic, but you should remain vigilant, as there has been some terrorist activity and armed violence, particularly south and west of Osh.
SCAMS RISK : HIGH
There are a couple of scams circling around Kyrgyzstan. Many of them involve meeting foreigners right off the bat, at the airport. Taxi drivers often wait outside Manas International Airport and then rip off foreign passengers, many speculating that the airport staff tells them who's a tourist and who's not. There have also been reports of people being greeted by total strangers who happen to know their names. For this reason, always pre-book transportation from the airport with a reputable company or arrange for your accommodation owners to find you one.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : HIGH
It is not safe for women to be traveling to Kyrgyzstan alone. If you do, you should know that women are often targeted when alone on the streets. Avoid remote streets as much as you can, both during day and night. Stay out of the streets at night and be vigilant for any possible dangers at all times.
So... How Safe Is Kyrgyz Republic Really?
Any traveler planning to visit Kyrgyzstan should bear in mind that this country is constantly ridden with strife and political turmoil. And while several countries advise foreigners to not travel to Kyrgyzstan at all at this time, because of some attacks on Westerners that have occurred, the Kyrgyz people view the situation differently. Generally speaking, there are fights and assaults here, and they generally occur around nightclubs and bars, just as in any other large city. Bear in mind that downtown Bishkek can get dangerous after dark. While we’re at night clubs and bar, don’t forget that drink spiking also occurs in this country so never accept drinks from strangers and don’t let your drink out of your sight.
As for petty crime, tourists often repeat again and again about how widespread pickpockets are in Kyrgyzstan. Bearing this in mind, just apply all precaution measures you would in any other urban area in the world. You already know how skillful pickpockets can get and swoop in and swipe your bag clean, so keep your wallets hidden and your valuables at home.
When it comes to more serious forms of crime like rape, assaults, and kidnapping, they have happened and involved tourists in the past. There have even been incidents with tourists being held up and robbed. Gang crime is also an issue and don’t be surprised to see uniformed police officer involved in thefts as well. The main place where muggings tend to occur is downtown Bishkek, but you should be vigilant around all bars, clubs, hotels and parks, as foreigners are perceived as easy targets around these spots. Avoid taking public transport or even walking outside after dark. When returning from pubs or nightclubs, call a taxi instead of walking home as there have been reports of bands of young men robbing foreigners on their way home.
- Visas - Citizens of all countries, including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, may apply for a visa with a purpose of tourism or business and group tourist types of visa for 30 or 90 days online through the Kyrgyz Republic eVisa system. All you have to do if you’re an eVisa holder is arrive via Manas International Airport, Osh International Airport and Ak-jol checkpoint on the Kyrgyzstan-Kazakhstan border. If you are not sure about your visa status, visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will let you know whether or not you need visa based on your nationality and the country you want to visit.
- Currency - The official currency in Kyrgyzstan is the som. Kyrgyzstan has mostly a cash economy so credit cards are rarely used or accepted by establishments, while ATMs are present in Bishkek and scarce in other towns.
- Weather - Kyrgyzstan has dry continental to polar climate in high Tien Shan, subtropical in southwest and temperate in northern foothill zone.
- Airports - Manas International Airport is the main international airport in Kyrgyzstan. It is located 25 km north-northwest of the capital, Bishkek.
- Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to Kyrgyzstan since it covers not only the costs medical problems, but also theft and loss of valuables.