As someone eager to promote the warm culture and green nature of Kyrgyzstan, Apple Hostel manager Aigul actively participates and volunteers in Kyrgyz social life and tourism.
Aigul organizes free dinner on Elderly day, donates school supplies to boarding schools where the majority of children’s parents are migrants abroad and cleaning the area by organizing social clean ups in and around Bishkek.
Apple Hostel is not only the first hostel in Kyrgyzstan but also one of the first organisations that started to recycle paper, plastic and glass for a greener future of Kyrgyzstan and sustainable economy.
Recently Aigul was featured in a short video promoting the beauty and tranquility of nomadic life as it resonates with her own life.
Aigul was born in a city but was courageous to choose the unpopular profession (among women) as a mountain guide in Kyrgyzstan.
Are you thinking about going to Kyrgyzstan for your next trip?
Will it be your first time there?
Are you looking for answers to your questions?
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 by air and land. 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 International 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.
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 example in the bazaars), 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 beliefs, 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 magnificent lakes (and so much more!), then May to October would be the best for you. The temperatures vary where 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 outside, then, yes, you can come even in winter ! Expect intense cold (it can be around -15°C) but if you are well equipped, it should not be a problem!
5. What are the traditional foods?
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!
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 traditional 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 countries and the taste can be surprising. But it’s all 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 surrounding 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 install 2GIS (to find your way around a city) 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 (Called a Kalpak), 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 bazaars, but we also have a souvenir shop just inside our hostel.
17. I am vegetarian/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 writer of Kyrgyzstan. Most of his books are translated in several languages and he is really popular among locals; It is a 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?
At Apple Hostel of course!
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 in the area from which we heard positive feedback from our guests.
We hope to see you soon in Kyrgyzstan !
To book a room or dorm bed at Apple Hostel, please contact us:
Bishkek’s Western Bus Station is confusing for both travelers and locals. It is a big area with multiple different bus bays with specific buses going to different areas of Krygyzstan and other countries.
To help you navigate and know where to get a specific bus/marshrutka to your planned destination (Such as Bishkek to Karakol, Osh, Naryn, Almaty and Tashkent), Apple Hostel has created an easy-to-understand map so you know where to go.
Please have a look at the Bishkek’s Western Bus Station map below:
Night buses to Karakol and Tashkent
If you are planning to go to Karakol or Tashkent during the night, you can buy tickets in the main building (service counters are towards the back and on the east/right side of the building). It is recommended that you purchase the tickets in advance.
Website for Western Bus Station Schedule
To find out about common bus routes (and prices) at Bishkek Western Bus Station, visit the website ‘Avtobeket’ here.
(Note: Many scheduled bus times can be approximated times as most buses depart only when it is full.)
Note the website is not in English so you will need to translate it (via Google Chrome browser). Below is a translated page to give you an idea of the information provided (click on the image to enlarge it).
If you have any questions about transport at Bishkek Western Bus Station, please contact us.
In some areas, staying healthy while travelling can be a challenge. Although it’s one of the most beautiful regions on the planet, Central Asia is one of these risky areas for travellers. Some bacteria, parasites or virus which almost completely disappeared from our occidental countries, are still active here. If locals have developed additional defences, our sometimes weak bodies are more sensitive to those attacks. But don’t panic!
Most of the infections you can catch here are easy to avoid and treat, if you have appropriate habits and information. This is the purpose of this article.
Here we are going to help you to :
Know the symptoms of the main diseases
Treat the symptoms
Explain your troubles in Russian
Know where to find help
Risks incurred in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Malaria can occur from May to October in some Kyrgyz and Tajik regions. The risk is not high, but it does exist in : Gorno-Badakshan, Khatlon, Duchanbe, Leninabad, the western border of Kyrgyzstan and Bishkek area.
Malaria is an infection transmitted by mosquitoes. They bite mostly during the night and in the evening.
Be aware of stereotypes ! Despite what most people think, mosquitoes are not attracted by the light, so staying in the dark is not useful to avoid them. They are attracted by heat and bodies’ smell.
To avoid it, you can adopt some easy habits :
Wear large, covering and light clothes
Spray your clothes and skin with an insecticide
Cover your bed/tent with a net
Use repulsive electric diffuser to protect your room at night
Some medicines are available as well, but not necessary here due to the low level of risk.
Symptoms that you should be aware of :
There are difficult to spot because very commons (fever, digestive disorders, muscle aches…) but in case of persistent fever following mosquito bites, you should go to the doctor once back home.
Typhoid fever is an infection due to a bacteria transmitted by water and food. It is highly contagious. It can occur evrywhere is Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
To avoid it, here are some simple rules of hygiene :
Wash your hands carefully after/before going to the toilets (use hydroalcoholic serum that you can easily find in pharmacies or even supermarkets)
Don’t drink water from the tap or from the rivers if you don’t have an efficient filter
Be careful with fruits and vegetables, if you can’t wash them with drinkable water, choose food that you can peel before eating (oranges, bananas…)
The best way to avoid typhoid fever is vaccination. Talk to your doctor before leaving your country.
Digestive troubles (diarrhea, constipation)
To have a precise diagnosis, you should go to see a doctor and have some blood and feces analysis.
They are transmitted by parasites (sometimes some kind of little worms or their eggs) who will stay in your intestines after a contamination by water, food or contact with infected surfaces.
To avoid this risk (really high in the region), the rules are pretty much the same as for typhoid fever :
Avoid risky food (raw or not well cooked, fruits or vegetables which you can’t wash…)
Use a filter or drink only bottled water
Diarrhea +++ (feces are often watery and yellow)
They last 4 to 5 days and are really invalidating. For the cyclists/people who camp, try to find a comfy place to stay, don’t stay alone in the nature, you will have tough moments !
Altitude sickness (or acute mountain sickness) is caused by rapid exposure to altitude, when your body struggles to adapt itself. This risk is high while traveling in the Pamir, because it can occur from 2500 m / 3000 m above sea level.
Difficulties to fall asleep
To avoid it, there is no magical recipe. You can’t know if you will suffer from altitude sickness of not, our bodies are unequal. A good hydration can help.
One of the general rule is not to sleep more than 400m higher than the night before. So you should ride the Pamir step by step, to help your body to adapt to the reduction of oxygen in the air.
There is a preventive medicine : acetazolamide (Diamox) but it’s difficult to find in the region, better to take it beforehand, in your country. Ask your doctor. You can take a pill twice a day as soon as you start the ascent.
Be careful ! This medicine is a diuretic (it means that it helps to get rid faster from urines) so you should drink a lot to compensate (don’t wait to be thirsty).
Altitude sickness can lead to serious troubles, but fortunately it’s really rare for healthy people. It can be acute pulmonary edema or cerebral edema.
Symptoms are alarming and impressive, such as breathlessness (even when resting), loss of conscious, balance troubles, cough with or without sparkling spittle.
The main treatment is to go down ! In general, 500m are enough to help and it should not leave any aftermath.
Fever/Headache : paracetamol (парацетамол), 1 g every 6 hours in case of persistent fever
Diarrhea : : *nifuroxazide (нифуроксазид) 200 mg every 6 hours (maximum 3 days) OR *smecta (смекта) ; 3 times a day (7 days maximum)
Nausea/vomiting : métopimazine Vogalène (вогален) 1 pill a day OR dompéridone (домперидон) 1 pill 3 times a day.
Be careful ! Those medicines are delivered without prescription because of the low rate of side effects and allergies. But, if you don’t know those medicines or if you have a chronicle disease, talk to your doctor. The advice on this article can’t replace a medical check-up.
Furthermore, Central Asia is a risky area for hepatitis A and B. Once again, the best way to prevent it is the vaccination (anticipate it before leaving your country).
About the medical facilities in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
Unfortunately, even in big cities, medical standards regarding equipment, hygiene and facilities are very far from the occidental ones. Visiting a local hospital can be really scary for someone used to european health system for example. In case of serious troubles, even locals are going to India or China. Regarding visa issues, it would probably be easier for you to fly to Turkey where the medical system is really performing.
We can recommend some place still though :
Bishkek : Eldik Family Medicine Clinic (2 american doctors work there)
1,2 jash gvardiya boulevard (in front of the swimming pool Delphin ‘Дельфин‘)
Mail : email@example.com
Phone : 0776 652 079
Dushanbe : Prospekt Medical Clinic
33 Sanoi street
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone : + 992 37 224 30 92
Except those places, it would be better for you not to go alone in a hospital, ask some help to locals. You’ll find a lot of “polyclinics”, those centers are not recommended because of the lack of hygiene and asepsis. Moreover, it’s common that the medical staff refuses to take care of foreigners – or ask for some kind of bribe.
Emergency numbers in Kyrgizstan:
State’s services : 103
Private services : 1339
The public services are cheaper but the private services are faster. If you have an insurance or don’t mind paying more, we advise you to call the private services.
In case of emergency, if you need help to translate, you can call our manager Aigul (whatsApp) :
+996 553 280 881
Be careful ! When you buy medicines, go to the pharmacies. There are a lot of medicines at the bazaar but most of them are counterfeit.
Some useful worlds in Russian to explain what you have :
Cholpon Ata, which stands for “Father Star”, is named after the famous astrologist who once resided in the city. You’ll see a memorial when you enter the city across from the old airport; the memorial was funded by a local businessman who died 5-6 years ago. The memorial is called ‘Cholpon Ata Oluya’ and was built on the 21st of August, 2000. The site is free to enter.
Cholpon Ata is a resort town on the northern shore of Issyk Kul lake. It is most famous as being one of the countries best beach resorts, but it also has plenty of other things to see in and around the city. Most famous are the ancient Petroglyphs, an open-air site that hosts 2-3000 stones dating from 800 BC to 1200AD. There is also a historical museum in the centre of town and a tranquillity park – called Ruh Ordo. It was built by one of the local self-made millionaires, who grew up in an orphanage and as a result, named himself as “needless”.
You’ll also find an impressive hippodrome in the city. The hippodrome features some of the best racing horses across the country. There is a stable horses available for you to ride for a small fee.
The city gets crowded in summer, but it’s definitely worth a visit. A good place to stopover for a night or two if you’re on your way to Karakol.
Check out our guides on how to get to Cholpon Ata from Bishkek and our thorough guide on things to see and do in Cholpon Ata.
Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan, the centre of fashion, politics and a»better» life for locals. There is a steady internal migration from rural areas to Bishkek during the past decade. However, since May 2015, Kyrgyzstan has become a part of the Customs Union. The good side of it is that it stimulates domestic production. As a result, some people are moving back to villages to work on agricultural projects. You can read about it more @https://www.opendemocracy.net/anna-yalovkina/as-kyrgyzstan-joins-customs-union-business-finds-itself-in-standby-mode
For tourists, Bishkek is a small town quite developed and influenced by the international public that we have here (French, German, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Turkish among others). Yet it still has some remnants of the Soviet Union (a statue of Lenin in the city centre close to Panfilov park and several other statues dedicated to the Soviet army soldiers) It is quite small considering that it takes only 40 minutes by a mini-bus to move from one side of town to another. Transportation is well developed and could take you anywhere in town for just a little over 10 cents. The main attractions include Osh bazaar, White House, Ala Too square, Gum (the first shopping mall), a Russian orthodox church and a Central mosque, Panfilov and Victory Parks all of which are located within a walking distance to each other.
As for a traveller, Bishkek is a great place to stop in Central Asia. There are plenty of coffee shops and cafes with free Wi-Fi and a good speed. The atmosphere is quite relaxing, people are friendly, it is easy to move around and everything is pretty cheap ($3 for a meal on average; a bottle of beer is less than $1) In Bishkek you can sort out most of your visas (to India, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, with the hardest ones to get to China and Russia); get some work done (not crowded with tourists yet) and just enjoy life including its night clubs and entertainment centres.
Here is an article from Jonny, a travel blogger from Don’t Stop Living, about why he has spent more than a month in Bishkek @http://dontstopliving.net/why-im-spending-at-least-a-month-in-bishkek-magnetic-kyrgyzstan/