KYRGYZSTAN

KYRGYZSTAN

KYRGYZSTAN

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Name: Burana Tower
Location: Balasagun, Kyrgyzstan
The Burana Tower is a large minaret in the Chuy Valley in northern Kyrgyzstan. The tower, along with grave markers, some earthworks and the remnants of a castle and three mausoleums, is all that remains of the ancient city of Balasagun, which was established by the Karakhanids at the end of the 9th century. An external staircase and steep, winding stairway inside the tower enables visitors to climb to the top.

The tower was originally 45 m (148 ft) high. However, over the centuries a number of earthquakes caused significant damage to the structure. The last major earthquake in the 15th century destroyed the top half of the tower, reducing it to its current height of 25 m (82 ft). A renovation project was carried out in the 1970s to restore its foundation and repair the west-facing side of the tower, which was in danger of collapse.

The entire site, including the mausoleums, castle foundations and grave markers, now functions as museum and there is a small building on the site containing historical information as well as artifacts found at the site and in the surrounding region.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burana_Tower
Name: Issyk-Kul
Location: Kyrgyzstan
Issyk-Kul is an endorheic lake in the northern Tian Shan mountains in eastern Kyrgyzstan. It is the seventh deepest lake in the world, the tenth largest lake in the world by volume, and the second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea. Issyk-Kul means "warm lake" in the Kyrgyz language; although it is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, it never freezes.

The lake is a Ramsar site of globally significant biodiversity and forms part of the Issyk-Kul Biosphere Reserve. During the Soviet era, the lake became a popular vacation resort, with numerous sanatoria, boarding houses and vacation homes along its northern shore, many concentrated in and around the town of Cholpon-Ata. These fell on hard times after the break-up of the USSR, but now hotel complexes are being refurbished and simple private bed-and-breakfast rentals are being established for a new generation of health and leisure visitors.

The city of Karakol is the administrative seat of Issyk-Kul Region of Kyrgyzstan. It is near the east tip of the lake and is a good base for excursions into the surrounding area.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Issyk-Kul
Name: Osh Bazaar
Location: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Osh Bazaar is one of the largest bazaars in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. It is located on the west side of town, and is not far from the Western Bus Station.

At Osh Bazaar, one can buy food products, almost any common household good, clothes, souvenirs, and even musical instruments. Kyrgyz national clothes are sold in the national goods section, called "Kyyal", and may be special ordered (for size, colour, etc.) through the bazaar vendors. The national goods section also includes vendors who sell carved wooden trunks, national bedding, national cradles, small souvenirs, and many other locally produced items relevant to the traditional and modern culture of Kyrgyzstan.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osh_Bazaar
FLIGHT TIMES / MAJOR CITIES
PLEASE SEE BELOW MAJOR CITIES IN KYRGYZSTAN / CLICK OR TOGGLE BELOW FOR FASTEST AVERAGE FLIGHT TIMES FROM USA.

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COUNTRY INFORMATION GUIDE
PLEASE SEE BELOW FACTS, USEFUL US GOVERNMENT TRAVEL LINKS AND BUSINESS VISITOR ACTIVITIES, FOR TRAVEL TO KYRGYZSTAN.
FACTS:
Official Languages: Kyrgyz / Russian
Currency: Kyrgyzstan Som (KGS)
Time zone: KGT (Kyrgyzstan Time) (UTC+6)
Drives on the right
Calling code: +996
Local / up-to-date weather in Bishkek (and other regions): BBC global weather – click here
US GOVT TRAVEL LINKS:

For more useful information on safety & security, local laws / customs, health and more, please see the below official US travel.state.gov web link for Kyrgyzstan travel advice. NB: Entry requirements herein listed are for US nationals only, unless stated otherwise.

You can also find recommended information on vaccinations, malaria and other more detailed health considerations for travel to Kyrgyzstan, at the below official US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weblink.

BUSINESS VISITOR ACTIVITIES*:
Activities you may undertake on a business visa / as a business visitor:
PERMISSIBLE
ATTENDING MEETINGS / DISCUSSIONS: TBC
ATTENDING A CONFERENCE: TBC
RECEIVING TRAINING (CLASSROOM-BASED): TBC
NON-PERMISSIBLE
AUDIT WORK: TBC
PROVIDING TRAINING: TBC
PROJECT WORK: TBC
*This information does not constitute legal advice and is not an exhaustive list. For a full legal assessment on business visitor activities, please revert to your internal company legal team / counsel.
TRAVEL INFORMATION**
It is highly recommenced that you access the above official US travel.state.gov web link and read all safety & security information prior to making your travel arrangements / planning your trip.
PLEASE CLICK / TOGGLE BELOW FOR USEFUL TRAVEL INFORMATION TO KYRGYZSTAN.

The official currency is the Kyrgyzstani som (written as ‘сом’ in the Kyrgyzs Cyrillic alphabet or sometimes abbreviated as с). The ISO international symbolisation is KGS. Wikivoyage articles will use som to denote the currency.

Banknotes are available in 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000 and 5,000 som denominations. Coins are available in 1, 3, 5 and 10 som denominations.

Credit cards and ATMs:

Like other countries in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is overwhelmingly a cash economy. Credit cards are rarely used. ATMs are common in Bishkek, and there are a scattering of ATMs in other towns. Many only accept Visa, for Cirrus, Maestro or Mastercard you have to search for ATMs from Kyrgyzkommerts or PCK. You can withdraw US dollars or Kyrgyz som at many ATMs.

Some ATMs charge a fee locally for withdrawals, like PCK 150 som. Kyrgyzkommerts does not. Just try a few and you will find one without fee.

Currency exchange:

Changing money is relatively straightforward. Banks will accept a variety of major currencies, while the money-changing booths that are ubiquitous in urban areas will typically only deal with US dollars, British pounds, euros, Russian rubles, and Kazakh tenges. Neither banks nor money changers will accept any foreign currency that is torn, marked, excessively crumpled, or defaced in any way, so be sure to carefully check any notes you intend to bring into the country for defects.

Many larger cities have currency exchange booths in the center. However, the best rates can be obtained in Bishkek around the corner of Kievskaya St. and Manas Av., or on Abdrakhmanov Sr. between Moskovskaya St. and Bokonbaev St.. Exchange rates are barely 1% off the inter bank rates for US dollars and euros. But also tenge can be exchanged for good rates, it is probably good to obtain some here before heading to the Kazakh border (to pay the bus on the other side).

BY BUS OR MARSHRUTKA:

Minibuses, called marshrutka, in Kyrgyzstan are basically cargo vans (like Mercedes Sprinter) converted into buses with windows and seats. They are amazingly inexpensive and congregate at every village center or bus station. The prices for them are set and straightforward, but sometimes they will not leave until full. However, nowadays it seems that timetable are much more reliable and enforced than in the past.

Always get your ticket at the kassa (if possible), where you will pay a fixed and pre-determined fare independently of the season, mood of the driver, or fact that you are a tourist. If there is no kassa, ask some (uninvolved) locals to determine the proper fare for your destination and hand the driver the exact amount when paying. Often the drivers stack up the price a little when they see you are a tourist. Sometimes they say that it is extra for the luggage and so on. Do not believe them, just pay the normal fare and say njet or jok. Also, always demand your change right away. Sometimes they take your money, believing you do not know the right fare, or pretend to give the change later, just to make you forget about asking for it. Either way, if not starting from a bus station with kassa, always give the fare to the driver directly and no intermediate pretending to “help” you.

Marshrutkas can be hailed anywhere but in Bishkek it makes sense to stick to the bus stop where everyone is waiting.

For connections checkout the 2GIS app and website, which is great for finding the right marshrutka or bus number in Bishkek and all over Kyrgyzstan. The service is used extensively be locals.

BY SHARED TAXI:

Where marshrutkas become scarce due to region or time of day, shared taxis are the preferred mode of transport for locals. With shared taxis you will be quoted a price for one seat. If you have significant luggage you should expect to pay for an extra or partial seat. Nevertheless, you should always negotiate prices, as a foreigner you will likely be asked to pay more than a local. But of course, there is never the need to go with anyone. Just take a different driver or mode of transport if unsatisfied.

BY TAXI:

Taxis are abundant all over Kyrgyzstan, and are especially keen to transport tourists, due to high margins involved. They are relatively expensive for Kyrgyz standards, and if you are travelling on a light budget, they are mostly never worth the money—marshrutka and autostop are the better and more authentic options.

As in most other countries, if relying on the service of a taxi, never trust any taxi driver, solely use them for their taxi service, and always agree on a price (all incl.) upon entering. Taxi drivers will overcharge tourists without hesitation. It might not seem like much money, but you would not do the same thing at home, and it also corrupts the local system.

You can also purchasing all the seats of a shared taxi at the bus station for a specific destination, in case you do not want to wait for the taxi to fill up with people before leaving.

BY TRAIN:

The only domestic rail link is the summer-only train between Balykchy (Western edge of Issyk Kul) to Tokmok through to Bishkek. It’s a scenic route but the train takes at least twice as long as a taxi and it’s half the price. You may meet a lot of interesting folks, mostly pensioners, that need the 40-80 soms they would save by taking a mini-bus or taxi. Otherwise, there is ca one train per day to the Kazakh border (and onward to Russia).

BY PLANE:

There are several daily flights between Bishkek and Osh. There are also a few flights a week between Bishkek and Jalal-abad and Batken. The flights are operated on local airlines using 30- to 40-year-old Soviet planes. On the other hand, the mechanics and pilots are well trained how to operate these old beasts.

BY BICYCLE:

Kyrgyzstan is popular with long distance bike treks, particularly around Issyk Kul and passes through the southern mountains to Tajikistan.

The tunnel at the Too Ashuu (Тео-Ашуу) pass on the highway between Bishkek and Osh isn’t at 2,500 m as it is mentioned on most maps—the tunnel is at 3,100 m.

BY RENTAL CAR:

Tourists renting a private car and driving in Kyrgyzstan is virtually unheard of and not recommended. The roads are in poor shape, police is highly corrupt, auto insurance doesn’t exist, and hiring a taxi is too easy and cheap to make this an option. Long-term foreign residents frequently drive, but many opt to use a driver.

ON FOOT AND NAVIGATION:

Kyrgyzstan is an excellent place for hiking and trekking, providing many interesting and picturesque trails in the mountains or around its lakes. For reliable maps and comprehensive trails and map information, consult OpenStreetMap, which is also used by this travel guide, and by many mobile Apps like OsmAnd (complex with many add-ons) and MAPS.ME (simple but limited).

FOOD:

Kyrgyz food is the product of a long history of pastoral nomadism and is overwhelmingly meat-based, which means that virtually all of the traditional dishes contain meat. If you are vegetarian you can, however, ask for vegetarian food and in many cases will receive a tasty vegetarian meal without much hassle, or you can purchase your own fresh fruit, vegetables, and fresh bread from one of the many small stands or food bazaars that are ubiquitous in every city. While some people from the West think of large vegetables as desirable, small and flavourful is the rule here. The same approach is valid for pistachios and almonds as well. Washing vegetables before consumption is recommended.

Besh barmak (literally: five fingers, because the dish is eaten with one’s hands) is the national soupy dish of Kyrgyzstan (Kazakhs would probably disagree). For preparation, a sheep or horse is slaughtered and boiled in a large pot. The resulting broth is served as a first course. The meat is then divided up between those at the table. Each person in attendance receives the piece of meat appropriate to their social status. The head and eyes are reserved for guests of honour. The remaining meat is mixed in with noodles and, sometimes with onions, and is traditionally eaten from a large common dish with the hands, although nowadays more often with a fork or spoon. If you can land an invitation to a wedding, you’ll most likely get a chance to eat besh barmak, although you can also find it in traditional restaurants. Kyrgyz people like soupy food in general, those foods that are served as a kind of pasta in Russia such as pelmene, they prefer as soup.

Most other dishes encountered in Kyrgyzstan are common to the other countries of Central Asia as well. Plov or osh is a pilaf dish that at a minimum includes julienne carrots, onion, beef or mutton, and plenty of oil, sometimes raisins. Manti are steamed dumplings that normally contain either mutton or beef, but occasionally pumpkin. Samsa are meat (although sometimes vegetable or cheese) pies that come in two varieties: flaky and tandoori. Flaky somsa are made with a phyllo dough while tandoori somsa have a tougher crust, the bottom of which is meant to be cut off and discarded, not eaten. Lagman is a noodle dish associated with Uyghur cuisine, but you can find everywhere from Crimea to Ujgurs. Most of the time it is served as soup, sometimes as pasta. The basic ingredients of lagman (plain noodles and spiced vegetables mixed with mutton or beef) can be fried together, served one on top of the other, or served separately. Shashlik (shish kebabs) can be made of beef, mutton, or pork and are normally served with fresh onions, vinegar and bread.

Almost all Kyrgyz meals are accompanied by tea (either green or black) and a circular loaf of bread known as a lepeshka. The bread is traditionally torn apart for everyone by one person at the table. In the south of Kyrgyzstan, this duty is reserved for men, but in the north it is more frequently performed by women. Similarly, tea in the north is usually poured by women, while in the south it is usually poured by men.

At the end of a meal, Kyrgyz will in some cases perform a prayer. Sometimes some words are said, but more often the prayer takes the form of a perfunctory swipe of the hands over the face. Follow the lead of your host or hostess to avoid making any cultural missteps.

DRINK:

Drinking is one of the great Kyrgyz social traditions. No matter if you are served tea, kymys, or vodka, if you have been invited to a Kyrgyz person’s table to drink, you have been shown warm and friendly hospitality. Plan to sit awhile and drink your fill as you and your host attempt to learn about each other.

Drinking tea:

When offered tea, you might be asked how strong you want it. Traditionally, Kyrgyz tea is brewed strong in a small pot and mixed with boiling hot water to your desired taste. If you want light tea, say ‘jengil chai’. If you want your tea strong and red, ‘kyzyl chai’. You might notice that they don’t fill the tea cup all the way. This is so that they can be hospitable and serve you lots of tea. To ask for more tea, ‘Daga chai, beringizchi’ (Please give tea again). Your host will happily serve you tea until you burst. So once you’ve truly had your fill and don’t want to drink any more, cover your tea cup and say, ‘Ichtym’ (I’ve drunk). Your host will offer a few more times (and sometimes will pout if you say no), this is to make sure that you are truly satisfied. Once everyone at table has finished drinking tea, it is time to say, ‘Omen’, and hold your hands out palms up and then brush the open palms down your face.

Restaurants and cafés give free refills of hot water if you want to drain your tea bag once more. You usually pay per tea bag.

Vodka:

When entering a local store, you might goggle at the amount of vodka on display. Introduced by the Russians, vodka has brought much joy and sorrow to the Kyrgyz over the years. Most vodka you will find for sale was made in Kyrgyzstan and can provide travellers with one of the worst hangovers known, mainly if you are stupid and buy one of cheaper ones. But for approx. €2 you can have good Kyrgyz vodka, e.g. Ak-sai. Some professional vodka drinkers say that this is because foreigners don’t know how to properly drink vodka. To drink vodka in the right way, you need to have zakuskas (Russian for the meal you eat with vodka). This can consist of anything from simple loaves of bread to full spreads of delicious appetizers. Quite common are sour or fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and of course meat.

First, find someone to drink with. Second, choose your vodka: the more you spend, the less painful your hangover. Third, choose your zakuska, something salty, dried, or fatty. This is so that the vodka is either absorbed by the food or repelled by the fat. Fourth, open your bottle… but be careful, once you open it you must drink it all (a good vodka bottle doesn’t have a cap that can be replaced). Now, pour your shots. Fifth, you will toast! You must toast! Toast your friends, toast their futures, toast their sheep, toast their cars. Sixth, drink! Drink it all! Now chase it with a zakuska and repeat until you can’t see the bottle or it is empty.

If you are drinking with locals it’s not a problem to skip a round. They would just pour you a symbolic drop and when they are clinking glasses you have to use your right hand and slap sparing partners’ glasses slightly instead of your glass.

Traditional drinks:

The Kyrgyz for generations have made their own variety of beverages. At first, these drinks might seem a bit strange, but after a few tries they become quite tasty. Most are mildly alcoholic, but this is just a by-product from their fermentation processes.

In the winter, Kyrgyz wives brew up bozo, a brew made of millet. Best served at room temperature, this drink has a taste somewhere between yogurt and beer. On cold winter days, when you are snowed in, five or six cups gives you a warm fuzzy feeling.

In the spring, it is time to make either jarma or maxim. Jarma, a wheat based brew, has a yeasty beerlike quality but with a gritty finish (it is made from whole grains after all). Maxim, a combination of corn and wheat, has a very sharp and zesty taste. It is best served ice cold and is a great pick me up on hot days.

Summer sees yurts lining the main street selling kumys (Кумыс), fermented mares milk. Ladled out of barrels brought down from the mountains, this traditional drink is one of more difficult to get used to. It has a very strong and pungent foretaste and a smoky finish. Kumys starts off as fresh horses milk (known as samal), the samal is then mixed with a starter made from last year’s kumys and heated in a pot. The mixture is brought to just before boiling and then poured into a horse’s stomach to ferment for a period. A local grass called ‘chi’ is then roasted over a fire and cut into small pieces. Once the milk is finished fermenting, the roasted chi and milk are mixed in a barrel and will keep for the summer if kept cool.

Tang is another drink thought to be useful for the health and good for hangovers. It is made from gassed spring water that is mixed with a salted creamy yogurt called souzmu.

Other drinks:

Kyrgyz have their own cognac distiller, which produces excellent, albeit highly sweet cognac, with the preferred brand being “Kyrgyzstan Cognac”, which the locals sometimes call Nashe Cognac, meaning “our cognac”.

You can also find an excellent selection of not so excellent local and imported beers as many Kyrgyz have been taking to drinking beer versus harder spirits. Locally produced beers include Arpa, Nashe Pivo, and Karabalta. Arpa is highly recommended by beer connoisseurs. While being considered a common person’s beer, its style is somewhat similar to an American Pale Ale (less hoppy than its Indian counterpart). Due to the fact that Kyrgizes prefer more vodka than beer (actually, half litre of each costs the same), beer is staying in tubes for longer time. Regular cleaning service is not common. Bottled beers are better, except their strange habit to pour all the beer into the glass at once.

There are also a multitude of bottled waters (carbonated or still) from various regions of the country. Especially popular with southerners is the slightly saline “Jalalabad Water”.

Many private citizens rent out their flats to foreigners and a fairly luxurious flat could be agreed for quite low price a week. Noting that the average salary is US$200-300 in 2014, now it could twice as big, you may think you are paying excessively. Look for cable TV, toilet and bath and clean quarters. More adventurous visitors may wish to stay in a “yurta,” for example in Bishkek it costs from US$8 a night in “yurtadorm”. It is not that special to stay in a yurt in Bishkek, but it can be more interesting to do so in more rural areas. These are boiled wool tents used by nomads. Some tourist agencies in Bishkek will arrange this sort of stay, but be prepared to truly live the lifestyle of the nomad which includes culinary delicacies which may seem foreign to the western palette.

For those wishing to have home stays arranged in advanced there with the Community Based Tourism (CBT). They can organize home stays in most cities and villages in Kyrgyzstan. They can also arrange yurt stays and trekking. While many such organizations keep the majority of payment for themselves, CBT Kyrgyzstan claims that between 80 to 90% of payment will go to your host family. Amenities will vary between homes and locals, but overall some great travel experiences can be had such as, being invited to an impromptu goat feast, or enjoying fermented mare’s milk with nomads.

Camping is possible virtually everywhere and anywhere. Just make sure to stay away far enough from any settlement or village, otherwise you will not get a good night’s sleep due to the constantly barking dogs. It is also possible to put up tents at many yurts for a few som, where you sometimes have a shower and mostly a toilet. Also, they will be happy to prepare meals and dinner for you. If you want to camp wild but stick to the proven ones, checkout OpenStreetMap which has many camp sites for Kyrgyzstan in its database.

Hostels are beginning to open in the country, but many are still overpriced for what they are and might not meet your expectations. Of course, hotels can be found in most cities. Their comfort though can vary widely, especially where there are not many tourists, and you might be confronted with a 1-star Soviet “luxury” room with missing toilet seats and cheap Chinese synthetic and coloured bed covers.

If you intend to couchsurf, be aware many Kyrgyz are unaware what Couchsurfing is and may expect you to pay (why would a rich foreigner get anything for free?). Don’t assume, ask! (It won’t cost the world.)

**All travel information has been sourced from wikivoyage. However like wikipedia, wikivoyage is an open platform editable by any member of the public. Therefore, although very useful, all above information IS INDICATIVE ONLY and must be verified prior to personal use. Moreover, if you wish to see more information please visit: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Kyrgyzstan
TOP ATTRACTIONS
PLEASE CLICK / HOVER ON THE IMAGES BELOW FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Name: Burana Tower
Location: Balasagun, Kyrgyzstan
The Burana Tower is a large minaret in the Chuy Valley in northern Kyrgyzstan. The tower, along with grave markers, some earthworks and the remnants of a castle and three mausoleums, is all that remains of the ancient city of Balasagun, which was established by the Karakhanids at the end of the 9th century. An external staircase and steep, winding stairway inside the tower enables visitors to climb to the top.

The tower was originally 45 m (148 ft) high. However, over the centuries a number of earthquakes caused significant damage to the structure. The last major earthquake in the 15th century destroyed the top half of the tower, reducing it to its current height of 25 m (82 ft). A renovation project was carried out in the 1970s to restore its foundation and repair the west-facing side of the tower, which was in danger of collapse.

The entire site, including the mausoleums, castle foundations and grave markers, now functions as museum and there is a small building on the site containing historical information as well as artifacts found at the site and in the surrounding region.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burana_Tower
Name: Issyk-Kul
Location: Kyrgyzstan
Issyk-Kul is an endorheic lake in the northern Tian Shan mountains in eastern Kyrgyzstan. It is the seventh deepest lake in the world, the tenth largest lake in the world by volume, and the second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea. Issyk-Kul means "warm lake" in the Kyrgyz language; although it is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, it never freezes.

The lake is a Ramsar site of globally significant biodiversity and forms part of the Issyk-Kul Biosphere Reserve. During the Soviet era, the lake became a popular vacation resort, with numerous sanatoria, boarding houses and vacation homes along its northern shore, many concentrated in and around the town of Cholpon-Ata. These fell on hard times after the break-up of the USSR, but now hotel complexes are being refurbished and simple private bed-and-breakfast rentals are being established for a new generation of health and leisure visitors.

The city of Karakol is the administrative seat of Issyk-Kul Region of Kyrgyzstan. It is near the east tip of the lake and is a good base for excursions into the surrounding area.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Issyk-Kul
Name: Osh Bazaar
Location: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Osh Bazaar is one of the largest bazaars in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. It is located on the west side of town, and is not far from the Western Bus Station.

At Osh Bazaar, one can buy food products, almost any common household good, clothes, souvenirs, and even musical instruments. Kyrgyz national clothes are sold in the national goods section, called "Kyyal", and may be special ordered (for size, colour, etc.) through the bazaar vendors. The national goods section also includes vendors who sell carved wooden trunks, national bedding, national cradles, small souvenirs, and many other locally produced items relevant to the traditional and modern culture of Kyrgyzstan.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osh_Bazaar
FLIGHT TIMES / MAJOR CITIES
PLEASE SEE BELOW MAJOR CITIES IN KYRGYZSTAN / CLICK OR TOGGLE BELOW FOR FASTEST AVERAGE FLIGHT TIMES FROM USA.

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Our team is dedicated to providing a consular service which focuses on attention to detail, delivering a personal approach and with a high focus on compliance. Feedback is very important to us, therefore any comments you provide about our service are invaluable.

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