Facts & numbers
- Capital: Bishkek (before Frunse)
- Area: 199.900 km²
- Population: approx. 6,3 Mio
- Population density: 28 inhabitants 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 CET: +5 hrs
- Electricity: 220 Volt/50 Hertz alternating current
- Visa: No for stays up to 60 days (for citizens of European Union)
- Required documents: Passport
Kyrgyzstan is a still relatively little-visited country in Central Asia, but has a lot to offer. It is a scenically, culturally, historically immensely diverse land full of contrasts. It’s history is moving, full of great heroes and proud epics. Kyrgyzstan is a secular state that had to go through turbulent times following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but is a pleasant destination compared to other Central Asian states with a similar background. The interplay of remnants of the Soviet era, old traditions and the emergence of new, modern developments is highly interesting.
Although Kyrgyzstan is not huge with just under 200.000km2, it has a very diverse landscape. More than 90% of the land surface is mountainous, much to the delight of mountain lovers and hikers. Only on about 20% of the area agriculture is possible. That is the reason why a large part of the people is concentrating on livestock. 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 Dschengish Chokusu. Over 90% of the state area is above 1.500m. Up to there, the landscape is determined by steppes, which is irrigated by sophisticated irrigation systems. From 1,500m onwards there are alpine meadows and pastures with thousands of sheep, goat and yak herds.
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 is the Naryn. In addition, the Central Asian state has nearly 2,000 lakes, most of them glacial lakes above 2,500m. Only 16 lakes are larger than 1km2. The Kyrgyz word for lake is Kul. The largest lake is the Issyk Kul, which is located at 1,600m, and is popular because of its pleasant temperatures in the summer swimming lake.
Climate and best travel time
Kyrgyzstan is characterized by a semi-arid climate, dry-hot summers and long cold winters. Most rains are in spring. At this time, the snowmelt takes place. There can be considerable differences between daytime and nighttime temperatures, so getting ready with clothes is essential.
In summer temperatures can reach up to 45 ° C in the south, while in winter temperatures can reach below -30 ° C (at higher altitudes).
The best travel time for trekking and hiking trips is in summer (June-September).
Average temperatures for Bishkek (800m)
Average temperatures for Naryn (2.000m)
Food and drinks
The Kyrgyz are avid tea drinkers. And they are not averse to alcohol either – Kumys, made from fermented mare milk with a 3% alcohol content, and vodka are the favorite drinks. Of course, the kitchen is with lot of meat – a country with large herds and low cultivation naturally lives much of meat. Mutton is preferred, but also beef and horse meat are consumed. There are countless types of breads, which are highly recommended. Dairy products are also very popular.
Beshbarmak is the Kyrgyz national dish, which is also known in Kazakhstan and Sinkiang. It consists of horse meat or mutton and is cooked in a broth for several hours and served with handmade noodles.
Generally speaking, Kyrgyzstan is a country that is harder for lovers of the meatless cuisine. Fruits and vegetables are abundant in the markets, but in restaurants you often search in vain for vegetarian dishes. Attention! Also for meat lovers hard to get used to: the Kyrgyz love for fat meat! 😉
Entry and visa
There is no visa requirement for EU citizens (and Swiss) up to a stay of 60 days. For entry, a passport valid for at least three months upon departure is sufficient. Travels with a stay of more than 60 days require a visa. From 1 September 2017 onwards one can apply for an E-Visa for a stay of 60 to max. 90 days in advance or directly at an international Kyrgyz border crossing or at your country’s Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic.
Border crossings can be closed ad hoc. The border crossing Karamyk to Tajikistan is not accessible to foreigners.
The use of stolen or lost and rediscovered travel documents is not recommended, even if the complaint has already been revoked by the competent authority. Since this revocation may not be known by the border control authorities, this can lead to problems and eventually to a refusal of entry.
Health & Vaccinations
The quality of medical care does not meet european standards. It is highly recommended to bring a first-aid kit, which not only contains regularly needed medicines, but also medicines for typical travel illnesses. Our guides are not allowed to administer medication 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 enjoyed peeled and cooked.
For people sensitive to altitude, special care should be taken when traveling to higher altitudes on their journey.
During excursions into the woods there is a risk of TBE transmitted by ticks in the early summer months.
In the border area to Kazakhstan northwest of Bishkek as well as in the southern provinces Osch, Jalalabad and Batken a careful insect protection is recommended for the prevention of malaria.
It is recommended that you contact your GP or other appropriate facility about 8 weeks prior to departure to inquire about the recommended vaccinations.
No vaccinations are required to enter Kyrgyzstan. However, protection against diphtheria, tetanus, polio and hepatitis A and B is advised. Please consult your doctor or a tropical medicine doctor.
Good to know
The import and export of the national currency is prohibited, unlimited foreign currency allowed, but declarable. Euro can be changed almost everywhere, and there are cash dispensers almost everywhere in the country where you can raise money with your debit or credit card. Be sure to unlock your debit card before traveling to Kyrgyzstan.
Items for personal use can be imported duty-free (this includes 1000 cigarettes or 1000 grams of tobacco and 1 1/2 liters of alcohol and 2 liters of wine). More valuable items should be declared upon entry. The import of unpacked food is prohibited.
The luggage must be completely re-exported. The export of antiques, hunting trophies and works of art is only permitted with a permit. Precious metals and furs must not be exported.
The quoted amounts are non-binding guideline, legally binding information can only be given by the representative authority of this country.
All statements without guarantee.