Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Kyrgyzstan travel guide - Travel S helper

Kyrgyzstan

travel guide

Kyrgyzstan, formally the Kyrgyz Republic, was previously known as Kirghizia. Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked and mountainous country that is bounded on the north by Kazakhstan, on the west by Uzbekistan, on the south by Tajikistan, and on the east by China. Bishkek is the capital and biggest city.

Kyrgyzstan’s documented history stretches over 2,000 years and includes a diverse range of civilizations and empires. Although physically isolated by its rugged terrain – which has aided in the preservation of its old culture – Kyrgyzstan has historically served as a crossroads for many major civilizations, most notably as a stop on the Silk Road and other economic and cultural routes. Though it has long been inhabited by a series of autonomous tribes and clans, Kyrgyzstan has been repeatedly subjugated by foreign powers and gained sovereignty as a nation-state only after the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991.

Kyrgyzstan has remained an officially unified parliamentary republic since independence, despite the fact that it continues to face ethnic tensions, revolts, economic difficulties, transitional administrations, and political party disputes. Kyrgyzstan is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Eurasian Economic Union, Collective Security Treaty Organization, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Turkic Council, TÜRKSOYcommunity, and United Nations.

The bulk of the country’s 5.7 million inhabitants are ethnic Kyrgyz, followed by substantial minority of Uzbeks and Russians. The official language, Kyrgyz, is closely linked to the other Turkic languages, but Russian continues to be widely used, a remnant of a century-long multicultural policy. The majority (64 percent) of the people are non-denominational Muslims. Apart from its Turkic roots, Kyrgyz culture is influenced by Persian, Mongolian, and Russian influences.

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Kyrgyzstan - Info Card

Population

6,729,363

Currency

Kyrgyzstani som (c) (KGS)

Time zone

UTC+6 (KGT)

Area

199,951 km2 (77,202 sq mi)

Calling code

+996

Official language

Kyrgyz - Russian

Kyrgyzstan | Introduction

Tourism in Kyrgyzstan

Issyk Kul Lake is one of Kyrgyzstan’s most popular tourist destinations. Along its northern coast, there are many hotels, holiday resorts, boarding homes, and sanatoriums. The most popular beach areas are at Cholpon-Ata and neighboring towns such as Kara-Oi (Dolinka), Bosteri, and Korumdy. In 2006 and 2007, more over a million visitors visited the lake each year. However, owing to the region’s economic and political instability, the number has decreased in recent years.

Every area has attractions and difficulties for people interested in hiking and camping. Southern Osh, the region between Naryn City and the Torugart pass, and the mountains and glaciers around Karakol in Issyk-Kul are among the most popular camping destinations. Many tour businesses in Bishkek and the provincial capitals provide local guides and porters for hiring.

Skiing as a tourist sector is still in its infancy, although there is one reasonably priced and well-equipped base approximately a half-hour drive from Bishkek. Toguz Bulak’s ski base is 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Bishkek, on the route to the Issyk Ata valley. Outside of Karakol, in the Karakol Valley National Park, there is a ski base with three T-bars and high-quality rental equipment.

Geography Of Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked Central Asian nation bordered by Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. It is located between the latitudes of 39° and 44° N, and the longitudes of 69° and 81° E. It is the furthest away from the sea of any individual nation, and all of its rivers run into closed drainage systems that never reach the sea. The Tian Shan mountain range occupies more than 80% of the nation (Kyrgyzstan is often referred to as “the Switzerland of Central Asia” as a consequence), with the rest made up of lowlands and basins.

Issyk-Kul Lake, or Ysyk-Köl in Kyrgyz, is the biggest lake in Kyrgyzstan and, after Titicaca, the second largest mountain lake in the world. The Kakshaal-Too range, which forms the Chinese border, has the highest peaks. Peak Jengish Chokusu, at 7,439 m (24,406 ft), is the highest point and the northernmost peak above 7,000 m (22,966 ft) in the globe, according to geologists. Heavy snowfall in the winter causes spring floods, which can cause significant damage downstream. Mountain runoff is also utilized to generate energy.

Kyrgyzstan has substantial metal reserves, including gold and rare earth metals. Because to the country’s mainly mountainous geography, less than 8% of the land is farmed, with the majority of this located in the northern lowlands and the outskirts of the Fergana Valley.

Bishkek, the capital and biggest city in the north, has a population of around 900,000 people (as of 2005). The historic town of Osh, situated in the Fergana Valley on the border with Uzbekistan, is the second city. The Kara Darya, which runs west across the Fergana Valley into Uzbekistan, is the main river. It joins another important Kyrgyz river, the Naryn, over the border in Uzbekistan.

The Syr Darya, which formerly flowed into the Aral Sea, is formed by the confluence. It no longer reaches the sea as of 2010, since its water is diverted upstream to irrigate cotton crops in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and southern Kazakhstan. The Chu River also passes through Kyrgyzstan shortly before entering Kazakhstan.

Climate Of Kyrgyzstan

The climate varies by area. The Fergana Valley in the south-western part of the country is subtropical and very hot in the summer, with temperatures exceeding 40 °C (104 °F). The northern foothills are temperate, while the Tian Shan has a climate that ranges from dry continental to arctic, depending on elevation. Temperatures in the coldest regions remain sub-zero for approximately 40 days in winter, and some desert areas receive continuous snowfall throughout this time. Temperatures in the lowlands vary from about -6 °C (21 °F) in January to 24 °C (75 °F) in July. Summer temperatures in the low-lying Fergana Valley to the south may reach the low 40s.

Enclaves and exclaves In Kyrgyzstan

In the Fergana Valley, there is just one exclave, the small hamlet of Barak (population 627). Uzbek territory surrounds the hamlet. It lies approximately 4 kilometers (2 miles) north-west of the Kyrgyz–Uzbek border, in the direction of Andijan, on the route from Osh (Kyrgyzstan) to Khodjaabad (Uzbekistan). Barak is administratively part of Kyrgyzstan’s Osh Region’s Kara-Suu District.

Kyrgyzstan has four Uzbek enclaves. Sokh (area 325 km2 (125 sq mi) and a population of 42,800 in 1993, although some estimates go as high as 70,000; 99 percent are Tajiks, the remainder Uzbeks) and Shakhimardan (also known as Shahimardan, Shohimardon, or Shah-i-Mardan, area 90 km2 (35 sq mi) and a population of 5,100 in 1993; 91 percent are Uzbeks, the remainder Kyrgyz); Chong-Kara is located on the Sokh River, halfway between the Uzbek border and the Sokh enclave. Jangy-ayyl is located approximately 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Batken, on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border near Khalmion.

There are also two Tajik enclaves: Vorukh (exclave area between 95–130 km2 (37–50 sq mi), population estimated between 23,000 and 29,000, 95 percent Tajiks and 5 percent Kyrgyz, distributed among 17 villages), located 45 kilometers (28 mi) south of Isfara on the right bank of the Karafshin river, and Kairagach, a small settlement near the Kyrgyz railway station.

Demographics Of Kyrgyzstan

In 2013, the population of Kyrgyzstan was projected to be 5.6 million people. 34.4 percent are under the age of 15 and 6.2 percent are above the age of 65. The nation is rural, with just approximately one-third of the people living in cities. The average population density is 25 persons per square kilometer.

Ethnic groups

The Kyrgyz, a Turkic ethnicity, are the nation’s biggest ethnic group, accounting for 72 percent of the population (2013 estimate). Other ethnic groups include Russians (6.0%), who live in the north, and Uzbeks (14.5%), who live in the west. Dungans (1.9 percent ), Uyghurs (1.1 percent ), Tajiks (1.1 percent ), Kazakhs (0.7 percent ), and Ukrainians (0.5 percent ) are among the smaller ethnic minorities (1.7 percent ). There are approximately 80 ethnic groupings in the nation.

The Kyrgyz have traditionally been semi-nomadic herders who live in circular tents called yurts and manage sheep, horses, and yaks. This nomadic practice is still alive and well in the summer, when herding families return to the high mountain pasture (or jailoo). Sedentary Uzbeks and Tajiks have historically cultivated the Fergana valley’s lower-lying irrigated land.

Since independence, Kyrgyzstan’s ethnic makeup has shifted dramatically. The proportion of ethnic Kyrgyz has risen from about 50% in 1979 to over 70% in 2013, while the percentage of ethnic groups like as Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, and Tatars has decreased from 35% to around 7%. Since 1991, a significant number of Germans, who totaled 101,000 in 1989, have moved to Germany.

Religion

Kyrgyzstan’s main religion is Islam, with 80 percent of the population practicing Islam, 17 percent practicing Russian Orthodoxy, and 3 percent practicing other faiths. According to a Pew Research Center study from 2009, Kyrgyzstan has a greater proportion of Muslims, with 86.3 percent of the population practicing Islam. The majority of Muslims, 64 percent, are non-denominational Muslims, while approximately 23 percent are Sunni, following the Hanafi school of thought. There are a few Ahmadiyya Muslims in the nation, although they are not recognized by the government.

State atheism was promoted throughout the Soviet era. However, Kyrgyzstan is now a secular state, despite Islam’s increasing political influence. For example, there has been an effort to arrange for officials to go on hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) tax-free.

While many people in Kyrgyzstan see Islam as a cultural backdrop rather than a devoted daily practice, prominent leaders have voiced support for reinstating Islamic principles. Tursunbay Bakir-Ulu, the human rights ombudsman, for example, said, “It is not unexpected that in this age of freedom, there has been a return to spiritual roots not just in Kyrgyzstan, but also in other post-communist republics. It would be unethical to create a market-based society that had an ethical component.”

Furthermore, Bermet Akayeva, the daughter of Kyrgyzstan’s former President Askar Akayev, said in a July 2007 interview that Islam is spreading throughout the country. She highlighted that numerous mosques have lately been constructed and that the Kyrgyz are becoming more devoted to Islam, which she saw as a positive trend “That is not a negative thing in and of itself. It helps to maintain our culture moral and clean.” There is a modern Sufi order that follows a somewhat different version of Islam than mainstream Islam.

Other religions prevalent in Kyrgyzstan include Russian Orthodox and Ukrainian Orthodox forms of Christianity, which are mostly followed by Russians and Ukrainians, respectively. A population of 5000 to 10000 Jehovah’s Witnesses meet in congregations that speak Kirghiz, Russian, and some Chinese and Turkish. A tiny minority of ethnic Germans are also Christians, mostly Lutherans and Anabaptists, with a Roman Catholic population of around 600 people.

A few Animistic traditions remain, as do Buddhist influences such as the attaching of prayer flags to holy trees, however others consider this practice to be based in Sufi Islam. There are a few Bukharian Jews in Kyrgyzstan, although most emigrated to other countries, mostly the United States and Israel, after the Soviet Union collapsed. There is also a tiny population of Ashkenazi Jews who escaped to the nation from Eastern Europe after WWII.

The Kyrgyz parliament overwhelmingly approved a bill on November 6, 2008, raising the minimum number of followers for recognizing a religion from 10 to 200. It also made “aggressive action intended at proselytism” illegal, as well as religious involvement in schools and any activity by unregistered groups. On January 12, 2009, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed it.

There have been numerous reported police raids on peaceful minority religious gatherings, as well as allegations of authorities planting fake evidence, but there have also been several court rulings in favor of religious minorities.

Language In Kyrgyzstan

Russian and Kyrgyz, a Turkic language related to Uzbek, Kazakh, and, of course, Turkish, are the official languages of Kyrgyzstan. The country language of Kyrgyz is more prevalent than the urban language of Russian, and it’s not unusual to encounter ethnic Kyrgyz individuals in Bishkek who don’t speak Kyrgyz. While English is growing more common, it is still seldom used, thus in order to communicate successfully, one needs acquire at least a few basic Russian or Kyrgyz words (yes, no, please, thank you, etc.) depending on the area. If you’re totally lost, consider asking young folks, particularly students.

Kyrgyzstan, like the rest of the former Soviet Union, utilizes the Cyrillic script, which may be confusing for Western visitors. The characters, on the other hand, are not difficult to learn, and once you have, you will notice that many of the words are recognizable. For example, the Latin alphabet transliterates “ресторaн” as “restoran,” which means “restaurant.” However, keep in mind that both Kyrgyz and Russian use Cyrillic.

Economy Of Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan’s central bank is the National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic. Kyrgyzstan was the poorest nation in the former Soviet Union, and it is also the poorest country in Central Asia today. According to the CIA World Factbook, one-third of the country’s population was poor in 2011. According to UNDP, the degree of poverty will continue to rise: in 2009, 31% of the population was poor, but this number increased to 37% in 2011.

Despite the support of major Western lenders such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank, Kyrgyzstan has struggled economically since independence. Initially, they were the consequence of the Soviet trade bloc’s disintegration and the subsequent loss of markets, which hampered the republic’s transition to a demand economy.

The government has cut spending, eliminated most price subsidies, and implemented a value-added tax. Overall, it seems that the government is dedicated to the transition to a market economy. The administration aims to create a pattern of long-term steady growth via economic stability and reform. Kyrgyzstan joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) on December 20, 1998, as a result of reforms.

The fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent loss of its large market had a significant impact on the Kyrgyz economy. In 1990, 98 percent of Kyrgyz exports were destined for other areas of the Soviet Union. As a result, the nation’s economic performance in the early 1990s was poorer than that of any other former Soviet republic save war-torn Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan, as industries and state farms failed as their usual customers in the old Soviet Union vanished. While economic performance has improved significantly in recent years, especially after 1998, challenges persist in ensuring sufficient fiscal revenues and maintaining an adequate social safety net. Remittances from around 800,000 Kyrgyz migrants working in Russia provide for 40% of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP.

Agriculture is a significant economic sector in Kyrgyzstan. By the early 1990s, the private agriculture sector was accounting for one-third to one-half of certain harvests. Agriculture accounted for 35.6 percent of GDP and almost half of employment in 2002. Kyrgyzstan’s topography is hilly, which facilitates cattle farming, the country’s most important agricultural industry, and the resultant wool, meat, and dairy products are valuable commodities. Wheat, sugar beets, potatoes, cotton, tobacco, vegetables, and fruit are the most important crops. Because imported agrichemicals and gasoline are so expensive, most farming is still done by hand and horse, as it was decades before. Agricultural processing is an important part of the industrial economy and one of the most appealing areas for foreign investment.

Kyrgyzstan has abundant mineral resources but little stocks of petroleum and natural gas; it imports both petroleum and gas. Significant quantities of coal, gold, uranium, antimony, and other precious metals are among its mineral reserves. Metallurgy is a significant sector in which the government wants to attract international investment. The government has aggressively promoted foreign participation in gold extraction and processing at the Kumtor Gold Mine and other locations. Because of the country’s abundant water resources and hilly topography, it is able to generate and export significant amounts of hydroelectric electricity.

Nonferrous metals and minerals, woollen goods and other agricultural products, electric energy, and some engineering items are the main exports. Petroleum and natural gas, ferrous metals, chemicals, most equipment, wood and paper goods, certain foods, and some building materials are all imported. Germany, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan are among its most important trading partners.

In terms of telecommunication infrastructure, the Kyrgyz Republic ranks lowest in Central Asia according to the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index (NRI) – an indicator used to determine a country’s degree of progress in information and communication technology. Kyrgyzstan was rated 118th overall in the 2014 NRI rating, the same as in 2013.

How To Travel To Kyrgyzstan

Get In - By plane

The Manas airport in Bishkek is Kyrgyzstan’s major hub, although Osh Airport is becoming more well connected with excellent airline options. Both airports offer frequent flights to Istanbul and Moscow, which serve as international hubs. There are also numerous flights each week to regional centers like as Tashkent and Ürümqi, as well as a weekly service to Dubai. Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Tashkent, Uzbekistan, are both a 5-hour drive from the border.

Get In - By train

Trains to Bishkek leave a few times a week from Moscow (Kazanskaia station) and go via Kazakhstan (3714 kilometers, more than 3 days) (Kazakh transit visa is required for most of non-CIS nationals). Poezda.net and rzd.ru provide further information (the second one available only in Russian and contains current ticket prices which were about 100EUR in 2008 for “plackartniy” class). Carrying portable stove fuel cans on the train is prohibited.

Get In - By car

Driving in Kyrgyzstan is hazardous by Western standards. The government, on the other hand, has spent a lot of money rebuilding a core network of roads that can now compete with motorways in many Western countries. The main roadway between Bishkek and Osh is an engineering wonder that winds its way across the hilly terrain. In addition, the highway from Osh to the Chinese border at Irkeshtam, as well as the highway from the hamlet of Sary Tash to the Tajikistan border, is being rebuilt to international standards in phases. Many additional roadways are being repaired as well, when money allows. In addition, when finances become available, the maintenance roads that feed into the core network are being upgraded. In the same way, maintenance is being privatized on a trial basis. This is not to imply that driving is simple in the Republic. However, progress is being achieved despite the restricted fiscal resources.

Locals in cities and surrounding regions have become used to missing road drain covers, dry dusty roads (where water tankers sometimes spray water to keep dust down), and overall poor, poorly maintained roads.

It will almost certainly cost you money if you are stopped by the police.

The route from Almaty to Bishkek is the busiest in Kazakhstan. It’s possible that crossing the border at Kegen will be more difficult. Smuggling is common and apparent along this border, and it’s clear that immigration and border officers are in collusion with the smugglers. It is not possible to get a visa on arrival in Kyrgyzstan, therefore if you are traveling from Kazakhstan, make sure you have at least a double-entry/multiple-entry visa for Kazakhstan in case of problems with Kyrgyz border authorities.

Keep an eye out for minibuses pulling away as well.

Travel time:

  • From Almaty, Kazakhstan, it takes 5 hours to go to Bishkek, while from Taraz, it takes 5 hours.
  • The route from Uzbekistan to Bishkek passes via Kazakhstan and takes more than 10 hours to travel, as does the way from Osh in the south.
  • The route from Tajikistan to Osh runs from Khudjant (Tadjikistan) and continues via Batken (Kyrgyzstan) to Osh. This is one of the most challenging roads to navigate. The major road passes through the Uzbek enclaves, although there is also a route that bypasses them. If you’re taking a cab, tell the driver to take the long way around Uzbekistan. From Khorog to Osh, there is also a road.
  • There are two passes from China: Irkeshtam, which leads to Osh, and Torugart, which leads to Naryn.

Get In - By bus

Many Bishkek bus terminals, notably Almatenskaya Station, provide minibuses between Bishkek and Almaty. Between Osh to Kashgar, there is also a bus service.

How To Travel Around Kyrgyzstan

Get Around - By plane

Between Bishkek to Osh, there are many daily flights. Bishkek and Jalal-abad and Batken also have a few flights each week. Local airlines run the flights, which are flown using 30-40 year old Soviet aircraft. The technicians and pilots, on the other hand, are well-versed in how to operate these ancient monsters.

Get Around - By train

Balykchy (on the western side of Issyk Kul) to Tokmok, then on to Bishkek, Karabalta, and the Kazakh border is the sole internal rail connection. The trains take at least twice as long as a cab, but they’re half the price, and you get to meet a lot of fascinating people, mainly retirees who need the 40-80 dollars they’d save by taking a minibus or taxi.

Get Around - Buses and taxis

Within Kyrgyzstan, minibuses (marshrutkas) and shared taxis are the most popular and accessible modes of transportation. They’re very cheap and gather in the middle of every town or bus terminal. You may also book a private cab by buying all of the seats at the bus terminal or by calling a taxi company.

The rates for minibuses are fixed and clear, but they don’t usually depart until they’re completely filled, so you may find yourself carrying a kid on your lap. You will be given a fee for one seat in a shared cab, and if you have a lot of baggage, you should expect to pay for an additional or partial seat. You should haggle pricing, but you will almost certainly pay more as a foreigner than a native.

Get Around - Biking

Long-distance bike journeys are common in Kyrgyzstan, especially in Issyk Kul and across the southern highlands to Tajikistan.

Get Around - Hitchhiking

The idea of “free rides” isn’t well understood in our country. This is especially true if you are a foreigner. The majority of drivers will ask you to pay a modest fee for petrol. You may either attempt to explain why you don’t want to pay or use the Russian phrase Bez deneg. Alternatively, you may pay the whole amount.

You may always bargain if the driver is asking for too much money! As a general guideline, you should pay the same or less than you would for the bus.

Get Around - Horseback

From the saddle of a horse, this is the most authentic way to view Kyrgyzstan. As the Kyrgyz are renowned riders going back to the days of Genghis Khan, there are many tourism companies that can help you make it happen. All Kyrgyz are believed to be born on a horse, but this seems to be less frequent as the country becomes more urbanized.

Get Around - Driving

It is almost unheard of and not advised for tourists to hire a private vehicle and drive in Kyrgyzstan. The roads are in terrible condition, the police are crooked, car insurance is non-existent, and renting a cab is much too simple and inexpensive to make this a viable choice. Long-term foreign residents drive regularly, although many prefer to hire a driver.

Destinations in Kyrgyzstan

Regions in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan may also be split into northern and southern areas due to the presence of numerous mountain ranges. Chui, Issyk-Kul, Talas, and Naryn oblasts make up the northern (and colder) area. Jalalabad, Osh, and Batken are located in the southern (and warmer) area. The Fergana Valley, a rich agricultural area shared by Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, runs across the southern half of Kyrgyzstan.

  • Bishkek and the Northwest
    The region around Bishkek is home to the majority of the nation’s population, as well as the magnificent Ala Archa National Park, while the western portion of the country is less frequented and poorly inhabited.
  • Issyk Kul and the Tian Shan
    The magnificent high alpine, saline lake Issyk Kul and the towering Tian Shan, Heavenly Cloud, Mountains are certainly on the minds of any brave visitors going to this isolated area.
  • Ferghana Valley
    The Ferghana Valley is both unique and unstable, culturally lively and varied, hotter and lower lying than the rest of the nation.

Cities in Kyrgyzstan

  • Bishkek — Bishkek is the country’s capital and biggest city.
  • Balykchy — Balykchy is the western entrance of Issyk Kul Lake.
  • Jalal-Abad — Jalal-Abad is an excellent choice for a Ferghana Valley visit since it is more safer and simpler to get than Osh or places farther southwest.
  • Karakol — Karakol is a hidden treasure in Issyk Kul’s distant east end.
  • Kochkor — Kochkor, located immediately south of Balykchy, is a popular starting point for hikes into the Tian Shan Mountains.
  • Naryn — Naryn is located in the Tian Shan Mountains, near Lake Song Kul, and serves as a gateway to the whole southeastern area, including its ruins, mountains, and high alpine lakes.
  • Osh — Osh is Kyrgyzstan’s second largest city and home to Central Asia’s largest and busiest outdoor market. It is a fascinating, 3,000-year-old, radically diversified Ferghana Valley market town.
  • Talas — Talas is a town in the northwest of the country, located north of Besh-Tash National Park.
  • Tokmok — overshadowed by Bishkek but still substantial by Kyrgyzstani standards, Tokmok is located near the historic Burana Tower and the remains of Ak-Beshim, an ancient Silk Road city.

Other destinations in Kyrgyzstan

  • Lake Issyk Kul — pearl of Central Asia, an enormous, crystal blue high alpine lake up in the Tian Shan Mountains.
  • Lake Song Kul — Issyk Kul’s little cousin, far more remote, and many would say more beautiful as well.
  • Lake Kul Ukuk
  • The caravanserai of Tash Rabat — a well-preserved 15th century stone caravanserai near Naryn.
  • Burana Tower — all that remains of the ancient Silk Road capital of Balasagun, a massive minaret standing alone on the step.
  • Ala Archa National Park — gorgeous Tian Shan high alpine landscapes within easy striking distance of Bishkek.

Accommodation & Hotels in Kyrgyzstan

Many individual people rent out their apartments to foreigners, and a reasonably nice apartment may be rented for a very cheap weekly rate. You may believe you are paying too much, given that the typical wage was $200-$300 in 2014 and may now be twice as much. Look for amenities such as cable television, a toilet and a bath, and clean rooms. More daring tourists may choose to stay in a “yurta,” which can be found for as little as $8 per night in Bishkek’s “yurtadorm.” Staying in a yurt in Bishkek is not very unique, but it may be more fascinating in more remote regions. Nomads sleep in these heated wool tents. Some tourism companies in Bishkek may organize such a stay, but be prepared to live the nomadic lifestyle, which includes gastronomic delights that may be unfamiliar to western palates.

Those who want to book house stays ahead of time may do so via Community Based Tourism (CBT). They can arrange you house stays in most Kyrgyz cities and villages. They can also help you plan yurt stays and treks. While many of these organizations retain the bulk of the money, CBT Kyrgyzstan promises that 80 to 90% of the money will go to your host family. Although amenities differ across houses and people, there are some fantastic travel opportunities, such as being welcomed to an unexpected goat feast or sharing fermented mare’s milk with nomads.

Things To See in Kyrgyzstan

  • Bishkek, the capital, has bazaars as well as Soviet-era monuments and architecture.
  • Only a half-hour drive from Bishkek lies Al-Archa National Park, which has high peaks of over 4,000 meters.
  • The Sulaiman-Too mountain near Osh is Kyrgyzstan’s sole World Heritage Site. A market, mosques, and Soviet architecture may all be found in Osh.
  • Issyk Kul, in eastern Kyrgyzstan, is the world’s second biggest alpine lake, surrounded by mountains.
  • Wander around Osh Bazaar – Traditional Eastern market in Bishkek selling everything from spices to dishwashers.
  • Dordoi Bazaar, the biggest bazaar in Central Asia, is located 20 minutes north of Bishkek and offers inexpensive Chinese products.
  • Issyk Kul, the world’s second largest high-altitude alpine lake, is a great place to swim, sail, and sunbathe.
  • In Naryn Oblast, stay in a yurt at Tash Rabat – Ruins of a Caravansarai.
  • Song Kul, a high-altitude mountain lake less frequented than Issyk Kul and perfect for witnessing traditional semi-nomadic Kyrgyz life in action, allows you to live like a nomad.

Food & Drinks in Kyrgyzstan

Food in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz cuisine is dominated by meat and is the result of a long history of pastoral nomadism. And when we say overwhelmingly, we really mean overwhelmingly. Those who are vegetarians may choose to reconsider their habits and buy their own fresh fruit, vegetables, and bread from one of the numerous tiny stands or food bazaars that can be found in every city, dine at Chinese restaurants, or stick to only bread and tea. While people in the West are conditioned to think of big veggies as attractive, here the norm is tiny and flavorful. Pistachios and almonds may be prepared in the same way. It is suggested that you wash your veggies before eating them.

The national soupy meal of Kyrgyzstan is Besh barmak (literally: five fingers, since the dish is eaten with one’s hands) (Kazakhs would probably disagree). A sheep or horse is killed and cooked in a big kettle for preparation. As a first course, the resultant broth is served. The meat is subsequently distributed to those seated at the meal. Everyone in the room gets a piece of meat that corresponds to their social standing. The head and eyes are kept for distinguished visitors. The leftover meat is combined with noodles and, sometimes, onions, and originally eaten with the hands from a big communal dish, but today it is more often eaten with a fork or spoon. If you get invited to a wedding, you’ll almost certainly get to try besh barmak, but it’s also available at conventional restaurants. The Kyrgyz enjoy soupy cuisine in general, especially dishes that are served as a kind of pasta in Russia, such as pelmene.

The majority of the other foods eaten in Kyrgyzstan are also found in other Central Asian nations. Plov or osh is a pilaf dish with julienne carrots, onion, beef or mutton, lots of oil, and sometimes raisins. Manti are steamed dumplings that are usually made with mutton or beef, but may also be made with pumpkin. Samsas are meat (and sometimes vegetable or cheese) pies that are available in two types: flaky and tandoori. Flaky somsas are prepared using phyllo dough, while tandoori somsas have a harder crust that is chopped off and discarded rather than eaten. Lagman is a noodle dish popular in Uyghur cuisine, although it can be found all over the world, from Crimea to the Ujgurs. It’s usually served as a soup, but it may also be eaten as pasta. Lagman’s fundamental components (simple noodles and spicy veggies combined with mutton or beef) may be cooked together, stacked on top of each other, or eaten separately. Shashlik (shish kebabs) are often prepared of beef, mutton, or pig and served with raw onions, vinegar, and bread.

Tea (either green or black) and a round loaf of bread known as a lepeshka are served with almost all Kyrgyz meals. One person at the meal typically tears the bread for everyone. This job is designated for males in the south of Kyrgyzstan, although it is more often done by women in the north. Similarly, in the north, tea is often poured by women, while in the south, tea is typically poured by males.

In certain circumstances, Kyrgyz will say a prayer at the conclusion of a meal. Sometimes words are said, but more often than not, the prayer is just a cursory sweep of the hands over the face. To prevent cultural blunders, follow the example of your host or hostess.

Drinks in Kyrgyzstan

One of the major Kyrgyz social customs is drinking. If you’ve been welcomed to a Kyrgyz person’s table to drink, you’ve been given warm and pleasant hospitality, regardless of whether you’ve been served tea, kymys, or vodka. Plan to sit and drink for a long while you and your host try to get to know one other.

Drinking tea

You may be asked how strong you want your tea when you’re given it. Kyrgyz tea is traditionally made strong in a small pot and then blended with boiling hot water to taste. Say ‘jengil chai’ if you want a light tea. ‘Kyzyl chai’ is the tea to have if you like it robust and crimson. You’ll see that they don’t completely fill the tea cup. This is so they can be accommodating and offer you plenty of tea. ‘Daga chai, beringizchi’ is a phrase used to request more tea (Please give tea again). Your host will be delighted to offer you tea till you pass out. So, after you’ve had your fill and don’t want to drink any more, cover your tea cup and say, “Ichtym.” Your host will offer a couple more times (and may pout if you decline) to ensure that you are completely pleased. When everyone at the table has finished their tea, say ‘Omen’ and raise your hands palms up, then brush your open palms along your face.

Vodka

You may be surprised by the quantity of vodka on display when you go into a neighborhood shop. Vodka, which was introduced by the Russians, has given the Kyrgyz people both pleasure and sadness throughout the years. The majority of the vodka sold in Kyrgyzstan is produced in Kyrgyzstan and may give travelers one of the worst hangovers ever, especially if they purchase one of the cheaper varieties. However, excellent Kyrgyz vodka, such as Ak-sai, may be had for about €2. Some expert vodka drinkers claim that this is due to foreigners’ lack of understanding on how to drink vodka correctly. You must have zakuskas in order to sip vodka properly (Russian for the meal you eat with vodka). This may range from simple loaves of bread to elaborate presentations of delectable appetizers. Sour or fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and, of course, meat are all quite frequent.

Find someone to drink with first. Only alcoholics use alcohol alone. Second, choose your vodka wisely: the more you spend, the better your hangover will be. Third, choose your zakuska, which should be salty, dry, or fatty. This is done to ensure that the vodka is either absorbed or rejected by the fat. Fourth, pop the cork on your bottle… but be cautious, since once it’s open, you have to drink it all (a decent vodka bottle doesn’t have a replaceable cap). Pour your shots now. You will toast in the fifth place! You have to toast! Toast your friends, their futures, their sheep, and their automobiles. Drink, sixth! Take it all in! Repeat until you can’t see the bottle or it’s empty, then chase it with a zakuska.

If you’re drinking with natives, skipping a round isn’t an issue. They would just pour you a symbolic drop, and when they clink glasses, you must use your right hand to gently smack sparring partners’ glasses instead of your own.

Traditional drinks

For centuries, the Kyrgyz have brewed their own drinks. These beverages may seem odd at first, but after a few attempts, they become very delicious. The majority are slightly alcoholic, although this is just a by-product of the fermentation process.

Kyrgyz women make bozo, a millet-based drink, in the winter. This drink tastes like a cross between yogurt and beer and is best served at room temperature. Five or six cups provides you a warm fuzzy sensation on a chilly winter day when you’re snowed in.

It’s time to create either jarma or maxim in the spring. Jarma is a wheat-based beverage with a yeasty, beer-like flavor and a gritty aftertaste (it is made from whole grains after all). Maxim, which is made up of maize and wheat, has a strong and spicy flavor. It’s finest served ice cold and makes for a refreshing drink on hot days.

During the summer, yurts line the main street, offering fermented mares milk known as kumys (умc). This traditional drink, served from barrels carried down from the highlands, is one of the most hardest to adjust to. It has a smokey finish and a very powerful and pungent foretaste. Kumys begins with fresh horse milk (samal), which is then combined with a starter produced from the previous year’s kumys and cooked in a pot. The mixture is heated to just below boiling, then put into the stomach of a horse to ferment for a length of time. The indigenous grass ‘chi’ is then roasted and chopped into tiny pieces over an open fire. The roasted chi and milk are combined in a barrel after the milk has completed fermenting and will keep for the summer if kept cold.

Tang is another drink that is believed to be beneficial to one’s health and may help with hangovers. It’s prepared with souzmu, a salty creamy yogurt that’s produced from blasted spring water.

Other drinks

Kyrgyzstan has its own cognac distillery, which makes excellent, though sweet, cognac, with the favored brand being “Kyrgyzstan Cognac,” which the locals often refer to as “our cognac.”

You can also get a good variety of not-so-good local and foreign beers, since many Kyrgyz prefer to drink beer rather than harsher spirits. Arpa, Nashe Pivo, and Karabalta are some of the local beers. Arpa is a beer that beer experts highly recommend. While it is considered a popular beer, it has a style that is comparable to an American Pale Ale (less hoppy than its Indian counterpart). Because Kyrgizes prefer vodka over beer (a half litre of each costs the same…), beer stays in tubes for longer. It is uncommon to have a cleaning service on a regular basis. Bottled beers are preferable, except for their peculiar tendency of pouring the whole bottle into the glass at once.

There are also a variety of carbonated and still bottled waters from different parts of the nation. The somewhat salty “Jalalabad Water” is very popular among southerners.

Money & Shopping in Kyrgyzstan

Prices in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is arguably Central Asia’s cheapest nation. A street snack may cost as low as half a dollar in the United States. A good meal will set you back about USD5. In budget home stay lodgings, sleeping is inexpensive. A twin room at a mid-range hotel costs about USD30 to USD60.

Money in Kyrgyzstan

The Kyrgyzstani som (written as ‘cом’ in the Kyrgyzs Cyrillic script or often shortened as ‘с’ ) is the national currency, split into 100 tyin. KGS is the ISO worldwide symbolization. Banknotes are available in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, and 5000 som. Coins are available in denominations of 1, 3, 5, and 10 som.

Changing money is a very simple process. Banks accept a wide range of major currencies, while money-changing booths, which are common in cities, usually only take US dollars, British pounds, euros, Russian rubles, and Kazakh tenges. Banks and money changers will not accept foreign cash that has been ripped, marked, excessively crumpled, or defaced in any manner, so double-check any notes you plan to bring into the nation for flaws.

Credit cards and ATMs

Kyrgyzstan, like other Central Asian nations, has mostly a cash economy. Credit cards are used seldom. In Bishkek, ATMs are plentiful, and there are a few scattered across the country. Only Kazkommerts bank accepts MasterCard, Maestro, and Cirrus, and their ATMs are few and far between. At numerous ATMs, you can get US dollars or Kyrgyz som.

Culture Of Kyrgyzstan

Traditions in Kyrgyzstan

The Kyrgyz celebrate the traditional New Year celebration Nowruz on the spring equinox in addition to the New Year on January 1st. This spring festival is marked by feasts and activities, such as the Ulak Tartish horse race.

Bride kidnapping is an illegal but still performed custom.

It’s disputed if bride abduction is a traditional practice. Some of the misunderstanding may come from the fact that arranged marriages were formerly common, and one method to get out of one was to organize a consenting “kidnapping.”

Flag

The 40-rayed golden sun in the middle of the flag represents the 40 tribes that formerly comprised Kyrgyz culture before Russia’s involvement during the Soviet Union’s ascent. The sun’s lines symbolize the yurt’s crown, or tündük (Kyrgyz тyндк), a motif seen in many aspects of Kyrgyz architecture. Kyrgyzstan’s peace and openness are symbolized by the red part of the flag.

Horse riding

The significance of horseback riding in Kyrgyz culture is reflected in traditional national sports.

Ulak Tartysh, a team game that resembles a cross between polo and rugby in which two teams of riders compete for possession of a headless goat carcass that they attempt to deliver across the opposition’s goal line, or into the opposition’s goal: a big tub or a circle marked on the ground, is very popular in Central Asia.

Sports

Football is Kyrgyzstan’s most popular sport. The Football Federation of Kyrgyz Republic, which was established in 1992 after the Soviet Union’s disintegration, is the country’s official governing organization. It is in charge of the Kyrgyz national football team.

In Kyrgyzstan, wrestling is also a prominent sport. Kanatbek Begaliev (silver) and Ruslan Tyumenbayev (bronze) both won medals in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games (bronze).

In Kyrgyzstan, ice hockey was not as popular until the inaugural Ice Hockey Championship was held in 2009. The men’s national ice hockey team of Kyrgyzstan won the Premier Division at the 2011 Asian Winter Games, winning all six games. Kyrgyzstan’s ice hockey team competed in their first major international tournament. The men’s ice hockey team of Kyrgyzstan joined the IIHF in July 2011.

In the nation, bandy is growing more popular. When the Kyrgyz national team won bronze in the Asian Winter Games, it was the country’s first medal. They competed in the Bandy World Championship 2012 for the first time, which was their first participation in the event.

Respect

Respect is a standard in the West. The Kyrgyz people are extremely westernized, despite the fact that they are officially a Muslim nation. There are no specific clothing requirements. Although the dress code in Bishkek is Western and sometimes exposing, women in the south of the nation should dress more modestly to avoid drawing unwanted male attention. Evenings may be dangerous since alcohol drunkenness is common at this time. Proceed cautiously.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Kyrgyzstan

Stay Safe in Kyrgyzstan

In comparison to Western Europe, Kyrgyzstan is a safe nation.

As in any other major city, fights and attacks tend to cluster around nightclubs and bars. There is no evidence that Bishkek is especially hazardous for foreigners at this time. There is scant evidence for additional cities in the Kyrgyz Republic.

There have been allegations in the past of dishonest police officers checking visitors’ luggage in order to take money. The embassy should be informed of these occurrences. Since many nations no longer need visas, visitors cannot be harassed by unscrupulous police officers claiming that anything is wrong with their visa or registration.

Bride kidnappings, also known as Ala Kachuu, are a tragically frequent and traditional phenomenon in Kyrgyzstan’s rural, in which a woman is abducted and forced to marry. Two American women were bride abducted in Kyrgyzstan’s rural regions, according to the US Embassy in 2007.

In Kyrgyzstan, corruption is a major problem, and the population is persuaded that the police cannot be trusted. Previously, some police would stop vehicles and demand a bribe.

Stay Healthy in Kyrgyzstan

Car accidents and accidents when crossing the street or falling into a hole in the sidewalk provide the greatest danger in Kyrgyzstan. You should also be cautious while approaching stray animals and stay away from dogs.

The safety of food and drinking water varies greatly by location. The national drink of Kyrgyzstan, Kumys, is said to be very healthful and may treat a variety of illnesses.

It should be noted that some communities do not have power 24 hours a day. As a result, restaurants may offer you quick-heated, pre-cooked dishes, or meat may not have been kept in a refrigerator prior to preparation. Because they don’t usually cook the meat long enough, the latter may induce food poisoning or parasite-borne diseases. As a result, only consume meals that were cooked the same day.

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