Kyrgyzstan is still a relatively unvisited country in Central Asia, but it has a lot to offer. Landscapes, culture, history, an immensely diverse country full of contrasts. The story is lively, full of great heroes and proud epics. Kyrgyzstan is a secular state that had to go through turbulent times after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but compared to other Central Asian states with similar background, it is a pleasant destination. Impressive is the interplay of remnants of the Soviet era, old traditions and the emergence of new, modern developments.
Facts and Figures
- Capital: Bishkek (formerly Frunse)
- Area: 199,900 km2
- Population: approx. 6.3 million
- Population density: 28 p.e. per km2
- Official languages: Kyrgyz, Russian
- Religion: 75% Sunni Muslims, 20% Russian Orthodox, rest Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists
- Currency: 1 Som (KGS) = 100 Tyiyn
- Time difference to CET: +5 h
- Electrical current: 220 Volt/50 Hertz alternating current
- Visa requirement: No – stay up to 60 days (for EU citizens)
- Travel documents: Passport
Despite the fact that Kyrgyzstan with just under 200.000 km2 is not huge, the landscape is very diverse. More than 90% of the country’s surface is mountainous, much to the delight of mountain and hiking enthusiasts. Agriculture is only possible on about 20% of the area. So it is no coincidence that a large proportion of people concentrate on livestock farming. Many Kyrgyz still live as (semi-) nomads. Kyrgyzstan is dominated by the mountain ranges of Tien Shan, Alai and Pamir. The highest mountain is the 7.440m high Dzhengish Chokusu. More than 90% of the country’s surface is located above 1,500m. Until then, the landscape is dominated by steppes, which are irrigated by sophisticated irrigation systems. From 1.500m there are alpine meadows and pastures, on which thousands of sheep, goats and yak horses flock.
The The Son Kul is the second largest lake in the country and is located at 3,000m above sea level.
Kyrgyzstan is not only a land of mountains, but also of lakes and rivers. There are more than 3,000 rivers, the largest of them the Naryn. In addition, the Central Asian state has almost 2,000 lakes, most of them glacial lakes and located above 2,500m. Only 16 lakes are larger than 1km2. The Kyrgyz word for sea is kul. The largest of them is Issyk Kul, which is located at 1,600m and is a popular swimming lake due to its pleasant summer temperatures.
Climate & Travel Time
Kyrgyzstan is characterized by a semi-arid climate, dry hot summers and long cold winters. Most rainfall is in the spring. At this time the snow melt also takes place. There can be significant differences between day and night temperatures, so preparing for them with clothing is essential.
In summer temperatures can reach 45 °C in the south, while in winter temperatures can drop to below -30 °C (at higher altitudes).
The best time to travel is just for trekking and hiking trips in summer (June-September).
Average temperatures for Bishkek (800m)
Average temperatures for Naryn (2.000m)
Climate & Travel Time
The Kyrgyz are enthusiastic tea drinkers. And they are not averse to alcohol either – they prefer to drink kumys, made from fermented mare’s milk with an alcohol content of 3%, and vodka. Naturally, the cuisine is heavily meat-intensive – a country with large herds and little cultivation, of course, thrives on meat. mutton meat is eaten, but also beef and horse meat. In addition, there are countless (fladen) breads, which are highly recommended. Dairy products are also very popular.
Beshbarmak is the Kyrgyz national dish, but it is also known in Kazakhstan and Sinkiang. It consists of horse or mutton meat and is cooked in a broth for several hours and served with handmade noodles.
In general, Kyrgyzstan is a more difficult country to travel for lovers of meatless cuisine. Fruits and vegetables are plentiful in the markets, but in the restaurants one often searches for vegetarian dishes in vain. Look out! Hard to get used to even for meat lovers: The Kyrgyz love fatty meat and you often look in vain for lean parts
Entry and Visa
There is no visa requirement for EU (and Swiss) citizens up to a stay of 60 days. A passport valid for at least three months at the time of departure is sufficient for entry. Visas are required for trips with a stay of more than 60 days. From 1 September 2017, for a stay of 60 to max. 90 days in advance a so-called “e-visa” can be applied for electronically or directly at an international Kyrgyz border crossing point or, as before, at the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic.
Border crossings may be closed on an ad hoc basis. The Karamyk border crossing point to Tajikistan is not open to foreigners.
The use of stolen or lost and recovered travel documents is discouraged, even if the complaint to the competent authority has already been revoked. As this withdrawal may not be known or not in time to the border control authorities, this may lead to problems up to refusal of entry.
Health and Vaccination
The quality of medical care does not meet European standards. It is strongly recommended to bring a travel pharmacy with you, which contains not only regularly needed medicines, but also medicines for typical travel diseases. Our guides are not allowed to administer medications and only carry a first aid kit.
By following basic hygiene rules (washing hands, avoiding raw foods) most health problems can be avoided. It is recommended to drink only bottled water or boiled water. Fruits and vegetables should only be peeled and cooked.
No vaccinations are required for entry into Kyrgyzstan. However, protection against diphtheria, tetanus, polio and hepatitis A and B is recommended.Please consult your doctor or a tropical medicine doctor.
Good to know
The import and export of the national currency is forbidden, unlimited foreign currency permitted, but subject to declaration. Euros can be exchanged almost anywhere, there are also cash dispensers almost everywhere in the country, where you can make money with your Maestro or credit card. Be sure to activate the ATM card from the bank for the destination before travelling to Kyrgyzstan.
Personal items may be imported duty-free (including 1000 cigarettes or 1000 grams of tobacco, 1 1/2 litre of alcohol and 2 litre of wine). More valuable items should be declared upon entry. The importation of unpackaged food is prohibited.
The luggage must be re-exported in its entirety. The export of antiques, hunting trophies and works of art is only allowed with a permit. Precious metals and furs may not be exported.