Kyrgyzstan Basics

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The Basics


Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European plugs with two circular metal pins are in use.

Money: The official currency is the Som (KGS), which is divided into 100 tyiyn. US dollars are the easiest foreign currency to exchange at banks and official exchange offices. Major hotels in Bishkek usually accept credit cards, but Kyrgyzstan is predominantly a cash economy. ATMs are often hard to come by; Bishkek has plenty, but there are a only few in Osh and Issyk-Kul. Travellers exchanging money in Kyrgyzstan should note that they'll get a better exchange rate by changing larger bills, and that many counters will not accept dirty or or wrinkled notes.

Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: Kyrgyz is the official language followed closely by Russian, which is understood and spoken by almost everyone in Kyrgyzstan.

Entry requirements for Americans: US citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Kyrgyzstan, and do not require a visa for a maximum stay of 60 days.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: British citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Kyrgyzstan. Holders of British passports endorsed 'British Citizen' do not need a visa for a stay of up to 60 days. British passport holders with other endorsements can usually obtain a visa on arrival, but this should be confirmed through official sources.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Kyrgyzstan, and do not require a visa for a maximum stay of 60 days.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Kyrgyzstan, and do not require a visa for a maximum stay of 60 days.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Kyrgyzstan. A visa is required.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Kyrgyzstan, and do not require a visa for a maximum stay of 60 days.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Kyrgyzstan, and do not require a visa for a maximum stay of 60 days.

Passport/Visa Note: Most foreign nationals can obtain a visa on arrival in Kyrgyzstan. Note, however, that it is not possible to apply for a visa from within the country if the visitor entered under the visa waiver agreement. If the visitor is likely to spend more than 60 days in the country, it is highly recommended that a visa is applied for and obtained prior to arrival in Kyrgyzstan or upon landing at the airport in Bishkek. Visa extensions under these circumstances are possible. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Travel Health: There is a small risk of malaria from June to November in Kyrgyzstan, mainly in the areas bordering Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, but most cases are in areas rarely frequented by tourists and a generous amount of bug spray should be sufficient to ward off the disease. Medical care and medical supplies are limited and it may be difficult to find someone who speaks English. Comprehensive medical insurance is advised, which should include air evacuation. Update regular vaccines including the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), varicella (chickenpox), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis and polio vaccines, as well as the yearly flu shot. Some travellers may at risk of contracting hepatitis A and B, typhoid, yellow fever and rabies (when coming into contact with animals); and should therefore seek the appropriate vaccinations and take the necessary medical precautions.

Tipping: Tips of 10% will occasionally be included in bills.

Safety Information: Visitors are often a target for muggings and theft, mainly in the cities, but also occurring in the rural areas. It is therefore not advisable to display wealth, take unofficial taxis or public transport, or walk in unlit areas at night. There is a low threat of terrorist activity particularly in the south west. The political situation is tense due in part to continuing high levels of corruption and crime, and all demonstrations should be avoided. Tensions also exist over recognition of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek borders and most governments advise against travel to the Ferghana Valley area, as well as along the Tajik-Kyrgyz border. While major cities such as Bishkek and the Issyk-Kul region are fairly stable, the situation could deteriorate rapidly in any area of the country. Avalanches and mudslides in mountainous areas are common in the spring with the snow melt, and this leads to frequent road closures and disruption to transport. There is often a high risk of earthquakes.

Local Customs: Identification should be carried by travellers at all time while visiting Kyrgyzstan. Although Kyrgyzstan is a secular state, most Kyrgyz people are Muslim and visitors should respect local customs, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan. Dress is conservative. It is bad etiquette to take photos of people, particularly women, without their permission. Shoes must be removed when entering a yurt (nomad's tent), and refusing an offer of kumys (fermented horse milk) might cause offence. Homosexuality is frowned upon.

Business: Generally most people speak Russian and most business is carried out in Russian in Kyrgyzstan; translators are available. Business hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, Saturday 9am to 1pm.

Communications: The international dialling code for Kyrgyzstan is +996. City codes for Bishkek and Osh are (0)312 and (0)322 respectively. Mobile coverage is fairly widespread and local SIM cards are easy to purchase. Internet is accessible and free wifi is available in hotels and cafes in major tourist areas.

Duty Free: Adults over 18 may bring the following into Kyrgyzstan without paying duty: 200 cigarettes or 250g tobacco products, 3 litres of alcohol (if over 21 years), and perfume for personal use.