Bishkek (Бишкек) (population in 2009 approx. 835,000) is the capital and largest city in Kyrgyzstan.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Bishkek is the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic and sits in the Tien Shan mountain range in the Chui Valley. It is a relatively new city and has limited historical sites, but it makes a great place to start your trips to the mountains and alpine lakes of the Tien Shans. Bishkek is, however, an interesting example of a czarist planned city; laid on a grid with wide boulevards flanked by irrigation canals and large trees, buildings with marble façades, and Soviet apartment complexes. Many young travelers find Bishkek's nightlife a delight and the people are friendly and very hospitable. Bishkek is a city of many young people that hang out in Clubs and small cafes. Kyrgyzstan has the most liberal tourist visa regime in Central Asia, so Bishkek makes a great place to start a tour of the silk road and collect your visas to neighbouring countries.
Bishkek was founded when the Uzbek khan of Kokand built a small clay fort by a settlement on a tributary of the Chuy River in 1825, to connect up several stop-off points on the Silk Road through the Tian Shan mountains. In 1862 it was captured and trashed by Russians, before they set up their own garrison. Russian peasants were soon lured here by land grants and the fertile soil of the Chuy Valley.
The renamed town of Frunze became capital of the new Kyrgyz ASSR in 1926, but it was renamed Bishkek (the Kyrgyz form of its old Kazakh name, Pishpek) in 1991.
See graph/information to the right.
- 1 Bishkek's Manas International Airport (FRU IATA). The airport is a 30 min drive from the city centre. It is not modern, but efficient. Most of the international flights depart and arrive at very early hours of the morning.
The following airlines with world hubs operate to/from Bishkek:
- Aeroflot - Moscow Sheremetyevo (5 hr flight, Airbus 320)
- Turkish Airlines - Istanbul Atatürk, Ulaanbaatar
- Pegasus - Istanbul, Osh
and for closer destinations:
- Air Astana - Almaty
- Avia Traffic Company - Almaty, Dushanbe, Isfana, Jalal-Abad, Novosibirsk, Osh, Tashkent
- China Southern Airlines - Ürümqi
- Iran Air Tours - Mashhad
- Iran Aseman Airlines - Mashhad, Tehran-Imam Khomeini
- Kyrgyzstan Airlines - Batken, Delhi, Dubai, Dushanbe, Islamabad, Jalal-Abad, Kazarman, Kerben, Krasnoyarsk, Moscow-Domodedovo, Novosibirsk, Osh, Tashkent, Urumqi, Yekaterinburg
- Rossiya - St Petersburg
- S7 Airlines - Novosibirsk
- Tajik Air - Dushanbe
- Uzbekistan Airways - Tashkent
There are a few ATM in the basement of the airport, and several small cafes and convenience shops that are open around the clock. Keep your baggage tag receipt with you as your receipt may be checked by airport security to make sure you have picked up the correct baggage.
Also keep your boarding pass. Customs have been reported to ask to see them.
To/from the airport:
- A taxi to and from the city centre can be arranged for approximately 500 som, but prepare to negotiate from a much higher price. Most international flights arrive in the very early morning hours, so the taxi drivers will demand a higher price based upon the late or early hours. If you share a taxi the price should be 150 som per person.
- 2 Marshrutka 380 connects the city centre for 40 som. The drivers seem to ask an extra 10 som for luggage—only pay if you really have large luggage. The marshrutka parks right in front of the airport and stops at Chuy Prospektesi in the center of Bishkek.
There is a twice-weekly train service to and from Moscow, called the "Kirgizia" with two days operated by the Kyrgyz railways, and the other two by the Russian railways. The train has 2 and 4-berth sleepers and a restaurant car. All trains go through Kazakhstan.
In addition, there is a service that goes to and from Balykchy on the western edge of the Issyk Kul lake. (In 2018) it starts in Bishkek, both station Bishkek I (no idea where it is!) and station Bishkek II (south of Ala Too Square), at 06:25 in the morning. The return service is at 17:08. One cannot buy tickets in advance, one has to go there half an hour before the train leaves and then the ticket office will sell them for 69 som per person. The ride takes 4½ hr but it is worth it to get in contact with local people. Especially those with many children will use the train instead of the marshrutka. The trip is quite scenic. As of Aug 2018 the train was about one quarter full on departure, and it was easy to find a seat.
- 3 Western Bus Station (besides others, local marshrutkas 133 and 344 run between the Western and Eastern Bus Station). Serves most western and south western destinations in Kyrgyzstan, but also Taraz and Almaty.
- 4 Eastern Bus Station (besides others, local marshrutkas 133 and 344 run between the Western and Eastern Bus Station). Serves all eastern destinations including Karakol and Kochkor.
- 5 Alamedin Bazaar (many marshrutkas go by Alamedin Bazaar: 134, 137, 147, 258, 285). Has marshrutkas from/to the Kyrgyz/Kazakh border (25-30 som) and from/to the begin of Alamedin Gorge (25 som). The marshrutkas to the gorge start from across from Mysi Jaliliya 152. The marshrutkas to the border stop on the northern side of the junction next to the bazaar, towards the border. Several marshrutkas lines go to the border, but they usually have таможеня written on their destination sign or shout it out when stopping. Sometimes even private drivers are willing to take people (~70-100 som per person), beside the annoying taxi drivers waiting here too of course.
- 6 Ala-Archa National Park bus stop. 08:15, 10:50, 13:30, 16:15 to Ala-Archa and back afterwards. Marshrutka 265 runs from/to here. If not, try 7 one road further north.
- From Osh. There are no normal buses between Bishkek and Osh. The Bishkek-Osh highway is a narrow mountainous road in a good condition, and big buses or marshrutkas are not allowed to cross the Tor-Ashu and Ala-Bel Passes. The most popular option is a shared taxi departing from the taxi stand near the Bazaar in Osh, (or from the Osh Bazaar in Bishkek until 20:00-21:00 in the opposite direction). You better start in the morning, not to miss the great view along the road. Try to reserve the front seat, even by paying a hundred som more, because the driver will squeeze 3 passengers in the back seat. In 2018 the price was 1,500-1,700 som per person.
A more comfortable overnight option is the cargo-passenger minivan ('busik', ‘бусик’) from Kara-Su market, which is located 30 km from the center of Osh. Shared vans or taxis between Kara-Su and Osh are frequent and cost 30-40 som. In Bishkek, the minivans arrive at the Dordoi Bazaar. The price is only 500-700 som, they have comfortable sleeping bunks, but windows are small and you will pass most beautiful scenery in the night. Minivans depart daily between 15:00 and 18:00. You don't have to book seats in advance: just come there and choose the car and the driver you like.
It is also possible to buy a seat from a truck for about 500 som. The truck leave the bazaar in Osh daily at 15:00.
The return journey is described here: Osh#Get in.
- From Almaty (Kazakhstan). Bishkek is approximately a 3½ hr drive from Almaty along a relatively good highway. A marshrutka from Almaty Sairan bus station costs 1,800 ₸ (bay 1). There is usually a rest stop at a petrol station about 1 hr from the border. At the border you have to step out with all your luggage and go through customs control by yourself. After the Kazakh immigration control you have to walk over the border river bridge. Then the Kyrgyz immigration control follows. Usually the whole border procedure will only take 5-10 min while the marshrutka often needs longer. As of 2018, the Kazakh marshrutka does not cross with the passengers, but another marshrutka is waiting on the Kyrgyz side. Be sure to keep your bus ticket with you and the people from your ride in sight so that you can find and enter the correct ride later. The (second) marshrutka will drop you at the Western Bus Station.
If you miss your ride for some reason, do not worry. Ignore the money-hungry taxi drivers waiting for you. At the right of the road is a parking place where local marshrutkas depart to Bishkek center for 25-30 som.
There are also shared taxis/vans for about 1,500 ₸ per person from nearby the Almaty Sairan bus station to the border. (Or you rent an entire taxi.) KLM and Lufthansa offer bus services from Almaty airport to Bishkek (and back again), so travelers can meet their early morning flights. However, as of Sept 2018 it was not possible to find any information about the Lufthansa/KLM bus at Almaty airport.
The return journey is described here: Almaty#Get in.
- To/From Taraz (Kazakhstan). There are also additional long distance road connections from/to Taraz, Kazakhstan, connecting Shymkent & Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
- From Kashgar (China). Truly adventuresome travelers may want to attempt to get to Bishkek via the Chinese/Kyrgyz frontier crossing over the Torugart Pass. The pass connects Kashgar via an important route that runs along what was once the ancient Silk Road, linking Western China with the heart of Central Asia. The pass tops off at a height of 3,752 m and is known as one of the most frustrating passes in Central Asia, as both sides can be closed for holidays, early snowfall, or for other unknown reasons. Only attempt this route if you have time and your patience can handle it. You will need a special permit to cross the border at Torugart. For easier crossing from China, go first to Osh through the Irkeshtam Pass. In there you will find a bunch of people offering rides on the Kyrgyz side of the border. Bargain with them hard as they might suggest $100 for the trip to Osh from the beginning, in 2018 they settled for 3,500 som for the trip to Osh but could probably have gone lower.
Kyrgyzstan's capital, like many places in the former Soviet Union, has an extensive network of minibuses, known as Marshrutkas. There are hundreds of mini-buses (marshrutkas) that ply all parts of the city. They generally cost 10 som, 12 som after 9pm. They typically have around 14 seats, with standing room for around ten extra people during busy periods. Marshrutkas are easily identifiable and display their number and basic route information (in Russian) on the front. There is a great English website for checking connections. To flag one down, simply hold out your right hand, parallel to the ground. Once you get on, pay the fare to the driver. When you want to get off say "ah-stah-nah-VEE-tyeh" or simply "Stop". According to the law marshrutkas should stop at bus stops only, but this is only respected if the driver sees a police car. So, in practice you can ask driver to stop anywhere and he will drop you off at any point on their route.
By bus and trolleybus
Bishkek also has a bus and trolleybus system which is less extensive and generally slower. They only stop at designated bus stops and operate only till 22:00. The fare is 8 som in buses and in trolleybuses. Passengers enter at the back door and leave at the front; they pay on exit.
There are several private taxi firms in Bishkek that you can easily reach through their three digit numbers including: 150, 152, 154, 156, 166, and 188. Daytime taxis throughout the city are a flat rate of 100 som and 120 som past 22:00. There are also numerous "gypsy cabs" situated at nearly every intersection. While most travellers and long-time expats report no problems, you are cautioned to be aware, especially at night and near nightclubs. Generally tourists use the local taxi services which can be reached through several numbers: 150 Euro (Evro) Taxi, 152 Super Taxi , 156 Express Taxi and 188 Salam Taxi. Before 22:00 most runs in the city are 100 som and afterwards are 120 som.
Many taxis do not use flat rate, you negotiate a price in advance. Short distance inside city can be 80 som. A taxi for a day can be negotiated. An hour drive to mountain costs about 1100 som while getting back is usually much more expensive because the driver has to run twice without passengers since during your stay he needs to return to the city to work.
There are only a few bike shops in town. They all rent bikes:
- 1 Velo Leader, Moskovska 226. 10:00-18:00. (The directions of Lonely Planet are wrong.)
- 2 Elite Sport/Drive Bikeshop, Toktogula 170. A giant bike shop.
Bishkek is a pleasant city to wander with numerous leafy parks, tall trees, peppered by Soviet era statues and monuments. However there isn't a great deal to see beyond this, and the city can comfortably be 'done' in a day (or two if visiting the suburban markets). Most museums are closed on Mondays.
- 1 Ala-Too Square. The main city square is a vast expanse of concrete that ceased to be called Lenin square in 1991, and is the site of frequent political demonstrations and regular festivals. A statue of Lenin was the focal point until 2003, before he was banished to a much less conspicuous location behind the museum and replaced by a statue of Erkidik (freedom). At night many vendors set up photograph and karaoke booths, and there's a synchronised sound and light show in time with the fountains, however travellers should avoid visiting the square after dark. There is also a military monument with an hourly changing of guards.
- 2 National Historical Museum. This museum sits between Ala-Too Square and the Parliament building. On the south side is an enormous statue of Lenin that was moved from the north side of the building after the Soviet Era. The bottom story of this three floor museum displays seasonal exhibits, while the second highlights Soviet-era achievements during the Communist Era. The top floor showcases the history and culture of the Kyrgyz people. Entry costs 300 som. Closed Mondays.
- 3 Panfilov Park. While this park may be in need upkeep and renovation, it's a great look into the past when Kyrgyzstan was a part of the Soviet Union. Beware that few of the rides have any safety mechanisms, and the safety mechanisms they may appear to have are probably not functional. The ferris wheel offers a great view of the greater city.
- 4 Osh Bazaar. If you're looking for a fresh sheep's head, locally made Korean picked salad, shashlik or any other type of Kyrgyz snack, this is the city's best known food bazaar. Although it's certainly not Central Asia's most colourful bazaar, there are hundreds of products to choose from, especially in the spring and summer months when produce is fresh from farms in the outskirts of town. There is a separate clothes market south of the main produce bazaar. To get there you can take trolleybus 14 on Chuy, bus 20 or 24 on Kiev or 42 from Soviet. Like any crowded space, be wary of pick-pockets; however visiting the Osh Bazaar is a most and rewarding trip. There are also smaller markets including Alamedin Bazaar and Ortosay Bazaar, which are open daily but are at their largest and most interesting at weekends. Dordoy Bazaar is Central Asia largest market of imports, mostly from China.
- 5 M Frunze Museum, 364 Ul. Frunze (NE of Parliament (Look for cottage enclosed in government building)). This museum houses the home of General Mikhail Frunze, the World War I and civil war general born in Bishkek (of Moldovan parents) whose name Bishkek bore until the city was renamed after independence. There are many photos and displays of early Bishkek days from an era when it was mostly a Slavic city and few vehicles existed.
- 6 Dor Doi Bazaar (Dordoy) (10 mins outside the city towards north east.). This is an attraction because it is the biggest market in northeast asia. Here you can by everything you can imagine since it is the main market for trading Chinese and Russian goods. The market is divided into multiple sections based on the types and origins of goods.
- Zhirgal Banya. You can buy tickets (300 som) for the Zhirgal Banya (baths) from the ticket office around the side. There's a sauna, ice-cold pool, and for an extra 200 som an attendant will lather you up, scrub you and then hose you down. For those into a little bit of self-flogging, birch branches are available free.
- Karven Club. If you want to swim, the Karven Club has an outdoor pool which is perfect for a blistering summer's day, and there's a also a modern gym and fitness centre. For one hour it's 400 som but it's much better value to pay 500 for a whole day of use and hang around for as long as you like.
Bishkek is a cheap place to learn Russian (or Kyrgyz). A private 1½-hour lesson with a native Russian speaker should cost between USD5–7. Courses are also available at the American University of Central Asia and the Kyrgyz-Russian-Slavic University. There is also a private school that caters to individual learning: The London School in Bishkek. This school offers Russian and Kyrgyz to anyone at anytime of the year for as little as 120 /hr. During the warmer months they are often full so book in advance.
A number of international organizations have offices in Bishkek, however most employees are recruited from abroad. If you speak Russian, there might be occasional opportunities to find temporary or long-term work. There are also English language schools that will employ native English speakers.
Due to the unstable political situation, there is not a lot of foreign business investment, but there is the Kumtor Gold mine and many foreign exploration companies attempting to develop the natural resources of the country.
If you want to fit in with the locals, be sure to get one of the stylish Kyrgyz felt hats (kalpaks) worn mainly by men. You can also get textiles such as traditional patterned carpets (shyrdaks), which are well-made but can be expensive. For cheap souvenirs, avoid the Tsum department store and head directly for the Osh Bazaar. You may have to dig around the stalls as there isn't as much variety or quality as in Tsum, but the prices can be far cheaper if you put your bargaining skills to the test.
- 1 Dor Doi Bazaar (Dordoy) (10 mins outside the city towards north east.). Open air market with hundreds of double stack shipping containers. It's divided into multiple sections based on the types and origins of goods.
- Geoid, Kiev 107 (entrance on the left side). Geoid sells maps for trekking 1:200,000 and overview maps 1:1,000,000. 150-300som.
- 2 Zum Department Store. Mobile phones, clothing, wine, souvenirs, tobacco, make-up, electronics. This shopping mall is located in the centre of town off of Chui street. Complete with Mastercard and Visa ATMs, Zum also displays a great selection of food stands, just outside. Like anywhere in Bishkek, don't be afraid to haggle
Bishkek is probably the best choice for food in Kyrgyzstan. From typical Kyrgyz food like Besh barmak or central Asia classics as Plov, Shashlyk or Samsas can be found around the city. Also Russian dishes are fairly ubiquitous in Bishkek because of the large number of ethnic Russians who still live in the city. There are an also growing number of restaurants and cafes catering to more varied tastes from Turkish to Korean. Also Uyghur food is popular and fit the taste of many westerners as well as locals. E.g. the chain Arzu have a few restaurants.
There are hundreds of stands that sell gamburgers, a local adaptation of hamburgers but really share little in common: they are sliced döner kebab-style meat served on a bun with cole-slaw, cucumber, mayonnaise, ketchup and some chips. They usually cost around 60 som. One of the most popular gamburger stands in Bishkek is at the corner of Sovietskaya and Kievskaya, across the street from the main post office. It's a popular area for local students to pick up a cheap meal, and they even serve the rare chicken hamburger.
Throughout the city are a lot of street-side vendors selling samsis, which is a staple of most locals' lunch. The green kiosks opposite the Philharmonic Hall ticket office sell some of the freshest, cheapest and best prepared in Bishkek and they are popular with students from the nearby universities. You can usually find a row of shashlyk grills inside any bazaar or just outside any chaykhana (teahouse).
For some pre-independence nostalgia, try the cafeterias of government ministries and universities. For about one US dollar you can experience what it was like to eat Soviet-style cafeteria food.
- 1 Fakir (Behind Bishkek City shopping mall). Provides authentic and safe traditional Kyrgyz food and is very popular with locals. Good sized portions and excellent prices. Open for lunch and dinner. Beer and non-smoking areas available. 80-160 som.
- Faiza, Jibek Jolu. Excellent local food frequented by locals. Great samsas and laghman (noodles). Dirt cheap. 80-160 som.
- Watari. found on Frunze 557, serves delicious udon noodles, curries and soups and the numbers of Japanese expats that frequent this restaurant is a testimony to the quality of its food.
- Daamgyy. 24-hour self-service restaurant next to Apple Hostel on the western side of the western bus station. A main and a drink will cost under 100 Som/€1.25. Wide range of food which changes every day.
- Dragon's Den, 5557 Frunze St, e-mail: email@example.com. Across from Grand Hotel - Great food at great prices and a great expat hang-out, menu offers both great European and local favourites as well.
- 2 Old Edgar (Stari Edgar) (behind the Russian Drama Theatre). This is one of the most popular places with expas. In the summer, there is ample outdoor seating and in the winter, the bomb-shelter style building decorated in a nautical motif is Bishkek's most original dining venue. The food tends to be average, but the house band has entertained generations of visitors.
- Aria. One block south of Vefa Center, this Iranian-owned restaurant serves good Iranian and Turkish dishes while also offering Russian fare. The multi-flavored kalyan-hookahs attract a varied, hipster-like crowd.
- Dolce Vita Pizza (on Akhunbaeva, to the east of Manas, about one block). Possibly the best pizza available in Bishkek. Its thin crust is baked in an open-fire oven; there is also a whole range of Italian dishes and pastas. ~250-380 som.
- Buddha Bar (corner of Akhunbaeva and Sovietskaya). Possibly the most popular restaurant in Bishkek. Regular entertainment and a menu featuring other dishes than pizza and sushi; shashlyk is also good here. The menu is in English. ~210-300 som.
- 3 Metro Pub, Chui and Turizbekova. This is where international aid workers, embassy staff, mining personnel and Manas Airport contractors come for a pint and a decent meal. Especially crowded on St. Patrick's Day and Halloween. ~210-300 som.
- Shao Lin, Jibek Jolu and Isanova. One of the best known Chinese restaurants in Bishkek. The quality is up to most western standards, but tends to still be a little oily. The soups are especially large - better to be shared. ~210-300 som.
- 4 Steinbrau Pub, A. Herzen St (hidden away in a residential area near the train line, about 300m east of Sultan Ibaimov St. Taxi drivers usually know it). A German beer hall with patchy, but sometimes excellent, German food and genuine beer.
- Four Seasons Restaurant - (across from the Hyatt) Delicious food with a large selection of European and Asian cuisine. Outside dining is available in the summer. Live music year-round, baby-sitting for the kids, and popular with foreign dignitaries. While it's not to be confused with the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City, it's a great dining experience nonetheless.
There are a few coffee shops in Bishkek that even feature wi-fi.
- Kafe Coffee. Two locations- 9 Manas Ave/South of Moskovskaya & 40/1 Togolok Moldo, which is south of the City Sports Hall towards Chui. Both locations serve a variety of non-alcoholic, heavily caffeinated drinks and feature free Wi-fi. The Togolok Moldo site also has outdoor seating. As of May 2010, The Kafe Coffee located on Manas uses the SAIMA CARD - a pay system of Wi-fi.
- Sierra Coffee, Manas 57/1, VEFA Center - 3rd floor, Russian Business Center (Razakova St) and Tash Rabat Shopping Center (Gorky St). Opened its first cafe/restaurant in the Spring of 2012 on Manas St, next to the Russian Embassy, between Kiev and Toktogul. Excellent coffee and coffee specialist drinks. Breakfasts, sandwiches, wraps, soups, salads.. Free WiFi. Counter service by English speaking staff. A place to network and to meet other English speakers. Sierra also roasts their own coffee, offering fresh roasted coffee for sale in a variety of origins and roasts.
- 1 Adriano, Isanov 87. 24hours open. 110₩.
- 2 Coffee Relax, Toktogul Street 140, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 08:00-24:00. Great quality in everything. Professional and polite service. Coffee varieties to the taste. Menu including European and Turkish Cuisine. 200 som - 500 som.
For young and single people, Bishkek's nightlife is impressive. Foreigners are welcomed at most venues with open arms, and many times they do not need to pay a cover charge. See the "Stay Safe" section for more on how be aware while you're having fun in Bishkek.
- 12 Bar (Razakova Str. 32). Set atop one of higher buildings this makes a great place for a rooftop drink. A plush place where Bishkek's young and wealthy go to see and be seen - hence good idea to dress up at least a little. Drinks around $2-4 a pop.
- Fire and Ice (Chui and Erkindik). This popular, Pakistani-owned disco near the Bishkek city center is located right above a bowling alley.
- Retro Metro. You'll find the DJ spinning from inside the front section of a tube train engine (hence the name). The 80s kitsch is a popular spot for really late night partying.
- Promzona. A trendy Russian rock establishment with a mostly Russian clientèle. Jazz musicians play on Tuesdays with rock and blues acts on the weekends. Check out their extensive drink menu. 600 som entry fee.
- Sweet 60s (Molodaya Gvardia and Kievskaya; near cinema Oktyabr). Live music everyday, with jazz evenings on Wednesday and Sunday.
- Golden Bull (On Chuy, next to the White House. Enter from the back yard of another building.). Beers cost 200 som. The new staff is not that friendly as it used to. Do not go alone in any condition. 300 som for entrance.
- GQ Exclusive night club, пр. Чуй (Located by Sonaba not far from the Sports complex and movie theater), ☎ . Upscale night club with dancing girls on the stages. Opaque floors that light up for ambience with the music. There's also a show at the bar where they light the bar on fire. Generally 500 som entry unless you make connections..
- Homestel, Timiryazev St. 118 (From the western bus station go east 100m down silk road ave. to the large intersection with young guard boulevard, cross the intersection past the petrol station and go 60mfurther on silk road ave, on the right (south) is timiryazev St.). House converted into hostel, quiet clean and close to the western bus station - but further from the centre of town. 4 staff members take up a lot of the common room. Secure parking, wifi, washing machine, Dorms 410 som, private 1300 som.
- Versal Hotel, Tashkentskaya 10. Only 2km north of the city centre this small homestay hotel is a decent option in a quite neighboor of Bishkek. There are no signs outside and taxi drivers have problems to find it. Doubles from $30.
- Maria Guesthouse, # 223 Pobeda str. (5 min. walking from Arzu restaurant), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-out: 12:00. The guesthouse is very clear and pleasant, it has single and double rooms (10),WC + hot shower in each room. Guest kitchen, big hall, free Wi-Fi, free laundry. Pick up from International Airport Manas available. Parking inside. 500/1000som.
- Nomad's Home, Drevesnaya 10 (right behind the eastern bus station, coordinates: 42 53.300/74 37.755), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Two Kyrgyz women, Raisa and Gulnara, run this friendly homestay. Dormitories, double rooms, and tent camping are available (with one of the double rooms inside a yurt!) Breakfast served sometimes. Pick-up from and drop-off to Manas International is available as well as visa assistance. Can be very crowded, with only one bathroom for all the guests. Has a yard which you can park your bicycle/motorcycle. Per person: tent 150, dorm 300, double 400som, Yurt for 3 people: 500som.
- Sabyrbek's Guest House, 21 Razzakova (just south of Moskovskaya) (Opposite German embassy. The buzzer is broken, but banging loudly on the large metal door should attract their attention (or call).), ☎ , , e-mail: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. The home of the famous Kyrgyz author T. Sydykbekov, is now managed by his son the amiable Sabyrbek. It is very centrally located. Guests are welcome to use the kitchen facilities. Internet is available and the showers are now hot. dm/dbl/yurt 450/600/350 som.
- 1 Sakura Guesthouse, Michurina 38 (Walk north from the crossing of Soviet and Jibek Jolu for 100m. Turn right on the small alley between two shops and keep walking for 50m, then turn right and you'll see the guesthouse, coordinates: 42 53.183/74 36.842), ☎ , (Mobile), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 8AM - 7PM, check-out: 11AM. This nice guesthouse, has several dorms and a collection of double and triple rooms. Bathrooms are plentiful and spotless, with Western-style toilets. There is also a kitchen where you can do some cooking and an area for hanging out and chatting. Free laundry. Free wifi. Bikes and motorcycles are welcome to park inside. The alleys around the guesthouse are not lit and can feel a bit scary at night but are safe to go around. dm/dbl/tpl 550/1500/2050 som. .
- South Guest House, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. A great bargain with a nice view of the mountains outside Bishkek. The young Kyrgyz host, Nanchan, can help accommodate to your needs with traveling suggestions, sightseeing tours, before you arrive. Pick-up from Manas International is available.
- Vasiliy Guest House, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A Kyrgyz family living in a Russian apartment block, run this friendly homestay. it can be easily reached by buses from centre. Breakfast with fresh bread and home made jams is delicious. The mother does handicrafts and have a good collection of traditional work for sale. Vasiliy is a guide who can give useful information on trekking and other out door activities. Pick-up from and drop-off to Manas International is done in father's old Lada.
- 2 [dead link] KG Friends Hostel, 170/13 Toktogul Street (On Toktogul Street between Manas and Isanova), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-out: 12:00. The hostel is in the same yard as the Interhouse City Center Hostel. Self-serve kitchen. Free coffee and tea. The washing machine is free of use. The hostel opened in July 2015 and is run by two nice women. English, Italian or German spoken. dormm 500 som (USD8).
- Apple Hostel, Chymkentskaya 1b (right next to the western bus station), ☎ , (WhatsApp), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Next to the main bus station. Dormitories as well as double/twins with private bathroom and A/C (the latter for 1820 Som/€22.75), breakfast included. If coming from the airport, get marshrutka 380 and get off at the junction with Jibek Jolu Avenue: from there it's a 10-minute walk.
- 3 Futuro Hotel Bishkek, Кыргызская республика, г. Бишкек, ул. Хивинская 29, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. This brand new fantastic hotel offers great rooms with splurge facilities and latest multimedia as Wi-Fi, English channels and movies on demand. Great 24hr service and if you have an early flight they prepare a lunchbox for you. The only downside is the location 5 km east of the city center at the Chuy Ave, but there are frquent bus connections. Single/Double USD60.
- 4 Asia Mountains 2, 1-a Linienaya St (go south along Gogol St all the way to the train line, then look for Linienaya (pretty much a driveway) on the right). Reasonable hotel with some mountain views. A bit hidden away and a walk to the main streets but close to the Steinbrau pub. Asia Mountains 1 is on Gorky St south of the train line.
- 5 Alpinist, Panfilov 113, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A great value in the center of Bishkek; the Alpinist has single, double, and triple occupancy rooms available with satellite TV and internet ports, a full service cafe, a conference room, and - being true to its name - a climbing wall!
- [dead link] Touristan Guesthouse, 6 Koenkozova Street (Diagonally opposite Togolok Moldo Park), ☎ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 13:00. Solid mid-range option in a renovated building in one of the nicer parts of central Bishkek. Large rooms, free wifi, international TV, decent breakfast, powerful showers, Nespresso machine in reception. from US$60.
- 6 Crocus Guest House, Komsomolskaya 5, ☎ , , e-mail: email@example.com. Guest house, which has a cozy family atmosphere, offers an accommodation in 6 double rooms with shower, the satellite television, fridge, and Wi-Fi connection. Guesthouse also offers a garden with a summerhouse and sauna with the swimming pool. Guest house is located in the quite east-northern part of city Bishkek, not far from the main street “The Silk Way”.
- MBA Business Center Hotel, Panfilov 237, ☎ . Lots of space, a friendly staff, but questionable comfort and some broken appliances at this hotel located inside an actual business center on the 4th floor. One thing worth noting is the absence of stairs that may bring you to safety in case of a fire: the elevator is the only way in (and out), since the staircase is blocked by a door at the 3rd floor. Anyway, the staff assures that "there will be no fire".
- [dead link] Radison Guesthouse in Kyrgyzstan!, Abdymomunova 259, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A guesthouse downtown with a garden, air conditioning, private baths (w/ 24 hr hot water), satellite TV, and full concierge services.
- Ak Keme, Prospekt Mira 93, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Upscale hotel located about 8 kilometers from city center, offers a conference center, a health club, indoor and outdoor pools with bar access, and spa services.
- [dead link] Hotel Holiday, Abdrahmanova 204, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Popular and central hotel.
- Hyatt Regency Bishkek, Sovietskaya 191, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 15:00. 5-star hotel in business district, largest in the country. Popular with foreign dignitaries and businessmen.
- [dead link] Jannat, Micro Rayon 7, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. This new hotel is located about 20 minutes outside the city center and is home to the Monte Carlo casino. Silk and felt textiles add a bit more of a Kyrgyz feel to the hotel.
- [dead link] Club Hotel Bishkek, Frunze 425-B, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 15:00. This upscale luxury hotel is located on the 5th floor of the Dostuk Hotel.
- Park Hotel Bishkek, Orozbekova 87, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. Modern hotel in the business district.
Bishkek is safe compared to many major Asian cities. The most dangerous places are the streets during rush hours when you try to cross them. At night take the usual precautions. However even the parks are quite safe. If you go to out and plan to drink you should always take a taxi for about 120 Som because a drunken person stumbling around is everywhere in the world an easy victim.
Pickpockets are a major problem in and around markets, especially at Osh Bazaar. Look out for young men with large plastic bags "bumping" into you. Keep your valuables at your accommodation if you plan to visit the markets, and if you bring a purse, camera, backpack etc. keep it in front of you.
Nightclubs and their surrounding areas can be a hotbed for crime in the form of theft, prostitution, or even assault by people waiting to take advantage of an unsuspecting traveler or expat. Ask locals or hotel staff which areas are safer than other and take precautions if you plan on club hopping. Do not walk from nightclub to nightclub at night; instead spend 120-150 som on a taxi. Potential muggers have been known to wait outside bars and clubs, especially the ones frequented by ex-pats, follow drunk ex-pats and then rob them.
Keep a cool head and be aware of your surroundings when hanging out inside and outside of nightclubs. Most clubs have numerous buff, semi-professional security guards, but you should be vigilant nonetheless. Do not leave any belongings on the table while you go to dance. Be careful around the taxi area outside the club; occasionally, unsavory characters pick this location to mug drunk foreigners as they leave the club late at night. You might not get much help from club security when it comes to theft.
Bishkek has a lot of prostitutes and sexual-transmitted diseases are on the rise in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. Always take proper precautions if you plan on being sexually active.
If you are a victim of a crime, you are probably best served by reporting the incident to your embassy, rather than to the militsya (police). Sometimes militsya will approach foreigners and ask them for documents, such as your passport. It's best to keep a photocopy of your passport and leave the original at your hotel if you can. On the rare occasion that they make problems, be polite, but firm, in your refusal and insist that you be put in touch with your embassy first.
In the past it occurred that (fake) policeman approach you on the street, especially if you look like a tourist, such as carrying a big backpack, and ask to check the belongings. Often, their aim is to steal your valuables and money. They can do it very professionally, and you only will notice later, that something disappeared. The best way, is to pretend you don't understand them, trying to call your embassy, or just walk away asap. Also keep your valuables in a safe place and don't expose them to others all the time in Kyrgyzstan. Even sometimes normal local people, who invite you to have a tea at their home, if they see that you left some valuables unattended, may be tempted to steal.
Irrigation ditches and other holes in the ground can seriously injure the unaware person - especially when walking at night. Many streets are poorly lit or not lit at all, and it is easy to fall into them. Avoid manhole covers, grates and similar fixtures - they are frequently loose and even missing.
Bishkek is more or less a museum relic of the former Soviet Union Bloc. Despite Kyrgyzstan's poverty and the decay of its infrastructure, Bishkek remains a relatively safe, clean, functional city. Bishkek is not an old city and possesses no ancient landmarks, but it nonetheless has its own kind of charm, which often arouses nostalgia in people who knew the old Soviet Union. For some visitors, Bishkek is merely a stop on the Silk Road to refresh supplies before returning to the mountains. However, expatriates generally consider themselves lucky to benefit from its easygoing lifestyle, open-minded spirit, party culture and low cost of living. If you come with the right expectations you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.
- 3 Canada, 189 Moskovskaya Street, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- 4 China, Prospekt Mira 299/7, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The embassy has moved: the old address at Toktogula street is no longer valid. For obtaining a tourist visa a inviting letter is required. Travel agencies, which can provide it, are Kyrgyz Concept , Chui 126 and Mrs Liu, Chui 142. The price including consular fees is $US120–150, But the lower price you can find in the "GS-tour" company. The price is USD80 and higher. (☎English: +996555 51 52 52, +996708 51 52 52, ☎Russian: +996773 75 10 00) Address: Shopokava 29, 3.
- Germany, Rassakova 28, ☎ . Germany offers the Schengen Visa in Kyrgyzstan.
- Kazakhstan, Tynychtyk Avenue (old name: Mira), 95 A, ☎ (Consulate), e-mail: email@example.com. The Wikimapia entry. Phone number of the embassy: +996 (312) 69-20-98. Payments for the visas must be made in Kazkommertsbank, the closest office is the Zhibek Zholy branch.
- Tajikistan, Karadarinskaya 36 (Take the trolley bus 17 to south and get off the bus at the Duplex Lounge Bar. The embassy is at the end of the road that goes to the left after Duplex. By bicycle head south on Soviet, turn left/east into Gorky, then south/right into Karl-Marx. Turn left/east at the 2.trafficlight. The embassy is at the end of the road. coordinates: 42 50.866/74 37.756), ☎ . 10:00-13:00, 14:00-16:00. Tajiks visas are issued on spot. 30day USD60 + 50som, 45dayUSD$70 +50som ,GBAO permit is free..
- United States of America, Prospekt Mira 171, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. It is recommended that you visit the website for the embassy's hours and the process for arranging an appointment.
- Uzbekistan, Tynystanov 213 (coordinates: 42 52.390/74 36.536), ☎ . They won't even let you in unless you have an appointment. Call after 14:00 and get one, most likely for the next but one working day. Opening hours Tu-F 12:00. Download the application form at http://evisa.mfa.uz. Many nationals, including Finnish and Dutch, need a letter of invitaion. Processingtime is 12 days, urgent 4-8 days. With a LOI you get it on the spot, even if you don't need one. They just need your passportcopy and don’t take your passport. Price 30 days USD75, urgent USD105.
Free wifi is widespread. Most "foreinercafes" have free wifi (Coffee, Foyer, Obama, Cyclone, Pirogoff-Vodkin, Vostok Zapad, Tubeteika, Movie City Bar, Buddha Bar, etc.) There is also free wifi at the vefa shopping center on the corner of Gorkiy and Soviet.
Getting mobile phone service or even internet service is rather straight forward and a good idea, even if you're here for only a few days. You get SIM cards in almost every hotel or from people at the exit of the Airport. To activate them, put them into your phone and then go to one of the payment machines in supermarkets, petrol stations, etc. On the screen of the machines, select the provider of your SIM, enter the phone number on the SIM and finally put in some money. For all providers you get 1.5 GB data volume and many free SMS for only 100 som. You first have to select your tariff (by calling something like "*624*1#") after your payment to benefit from the low prices. This self-explanatory if you look at the advertisements of the providers.
Thirty minutes outside of Bishkek the 4,000-metre (13,000-foot) "foothills" of the Tian Shan range (Celestial Mountains).
- Al-Archa National Park - This park goes the length of a beautiful valley where you can hike in several kilometres to a glacier. Inside the park is a hotel and couple of small cafes. Taxi services can take you and wait a few hours for about 1000 som (USD25). From the newly renovated lodge you can trek to the stone house located at 3,300 m and it takes about 4–5 hours. The stone house charges 500 som per night for bunk beds or you can camp. From there you can climb Corona Peak or Uchitel peak 4,585 m or head to glacier.
- Burana Tower (Just outside the close-by town of Tokmok, which can be reached with a frequent minibus departing from the east bus station of Bishkek. From Tokmok take a taxi or a bus, departing around 12 and 15, to Burana. The buses return to Tokmok around 14 and 16). A nice tower/minaret surrounded by some beautiful countryside. At the same site, there are also a small museum, some petroglyphs, burial mounds and remains of walls. 30 som to climb the tower and about 15 som to enter the museum.
- Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan, Kievskaya 168 (crossroad Turuspekova), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. This trekking club organizes one day or longer public treks or hikes in the mountains around Bishkek, for just few hundreds som a day, including transport to/from the start of the trek and guide. Food and equipment you should bring with you, though probably you could rent some equipment from them. Usually size of the group is 10 people or more, both locals and expats. Booking few days in advance is better, since group size is limited by number of the seats in the bus. They mostly have treks on weekends or holidays. Sometimes they have other outdoor activities like rafting. Their website has events schedule in English.