1 month in Kyrgyzstan: a practical guide and tips

1 month in Kyrgyzstan: a practical guide and tips

We were fortunate enough to stay in Kyrgyzstan for one month and make the most of this beautiful country. We went cycling, horse riding and walking, staying in hostels, guesthouses and yurts, camping wild. In parallel with the travel diaries, we have concocted a practical guide that contains all the information you need to organize your trip to Kyrgyzstan.

Before you start, the first thing to know is that, as French, we do not need a visa for a total of 60 days. No more excuses not to walk on Kyrgyz lands in the next few years!

Our itinerary
Our trip started cycling until we got sick and went backpacking for horseback riding and hiking. We concocted a small map with our bike route, as well as the towns and points of interest we went to.

Part of Kyrgyzstan
You can find our travel stories under the following links:
  1. Cycling in Kyrgyzstan
  2. Song Kul Lake on horseback
  3. Hiking at Ala Kul Lake
  4. Stroll in the Skazka Canyon
  5. 2 days riding on Lake Kul Ukok

1 month in Kyrgyzstan: a practical guide and tips

Move By bike
Kyrgyzstan is a country much appreciated by cyclists because the landscapes are grandiose and one can easily find oneself alone when one ventures through the mountains. The only difficulties lie in the different passes to pass (Yes, Kyrgyzstan is not flat, it is a series of climbs and descents it easily passes the bar of 3000 meters of altitude) and tracks of lands, of small pebbles or corrugated iron that hurt your bike (remember to tighten the screws regularly!). But if you come to Kyrgyzstan, that's also why.

Outside main roads, cars and trucks are few. We tried to focus on yellow roads or small red on our road map (Gizi Map bought in Bishkek in the geoID store). The driving of the Kyrgyz is rather rough, they drive fast and sometimes do not take enough safety distance to overtake. Nevertheless, high traffic portions are in the minority. For Issyk-kul, focus on the southern part of the lake rather than the north.

Before getting sick in Chaek, we wanted to do everything by bike. The route we had in mind was: to join Song Kul Lake, go back down Naryn and cycle through the valley, reach the southern part of Issyk-kul and return to Bishkek. But that was before our changes of plan, so we tested other means of travel to complete this guide.

1 month in Kyrgyzstan - Between the Kyrgyz mountains by bike
In marshrutkas
The marshrut what? It is the public transport par excellence in Kyrgyzstan. A kind of minivan, where you crowd inside. Some are even equipped with a bunk to spend the night. The marshrutkas roam the country, you can easily move using this means of transport and besides it is not expensive.

To find the right marshrutkas is simple, just go to the bus station (or a semblance of bus station in the smaller cities) and ask if it goes to your destination. We never got to know the schedules, we never booked in advance, we always went there and we were always brought back to the good marshrutkas, giving priority to the departures in the morning in case There was no transportation in the afternoon. We also noticed that there were not necessarily rules according to the filling: sometimes we were better sitting than at other times.

On some portions, as between Balykchi and Kochkor, there are no marshrutkas but shared taxi. A driver takes you in his minivan and leaves when the vehicle is full. The price is cheap and is the same for everyone.

Rent a 4 × 4 or Russian van
Many people rent 4 × 4 with or without a driver to be as independent as possible. It is a good solution for not being dependent on public transport and can cover a good part of the country. We met several people who rented a vehicle without a driver and did very well alone, provided you know at least change a tire! The only thing to know is that you will often be stopped by the police for any reason and you will have to drop a small ticket. According to a couple to meet at Tunduk, it is necessary to prepare a good bundle ticket of 200 soms, it is what they must give according to them, no more (they often negotiated not to pay more and it worked).

Another couple, also met at Tunduk, had rented a Russian van (you can see their pictures on their facebook page ), it looked really nice and the advantage of being able to sleep inside.

The stop
In Kyrgyzstan, everyone becomes a driver at the slightest thumbs up, but rare are those who will take you for free (sometimes it works anyway, but ask before the driver so that there is no confusion). In the more remote villages, the stop is a means of transport like the others also used by the locals.

We hitched up to Tosor to go to Skazka Canyon and join Kochkor. But also to Bishkek to return to our hostel and from Ak Suu to Karakol after our trek to Lake Ala Kul. Even at 5, we have always found a vehicle.

In the city
To spend as little as possible, the solution is the marshrutkas that costs 10KGS regardless of the destination. You just have to find the right mini bus and for that you can use the BUS.kg application.

Otherwise, another solution is the taxi which necessarily costs more or you can use the application Namba Taxi, the local UBER.

Kyrgyzstan is probably the country in which we have made the most of different housing. Hotel, hostel, guesthouse, yurt, bivouac or tent in a garden, everything is possible. In town, it will be more hotel, hostel or guesthouse and in the mountains it will camp or sleep in a yurt.

Traveling to Kyrgyzstan
The yurts are usually provided with blankets, but we slept all the same dressed because at more than 3000 meters of altitude, in August, it is very cool (I also put my cap to warm the head). We also had a silk sheet with us. For the more cautious, plan a sleeping bag and more. Our last night on Lake Kul Ukok was particularly cool, even with the blankets. I really missed my sleeping bag and my down jacket that stayed in Bishkek. Since yurts are not BBC, there is a risk of drafts, especially if you sleep at one end. Rates, a night in a yurt with breakfast costs 450KGS.

In bivouac, it's almost like a yurt but cooler. Our highest camp was 2500 meters above sea level. It is therefore necessary to provide quality material and keep warm, also for clothes.

Summary of our accommodations:
  1. Bishkek: Tunduk Hostel - $ 20 per double room; $ 8 tent in the garden
  2. Sosnovka: Guesthouse
  3. Chaek: Guesthouse Eco Tour (to flee)
  4. Kyzart: tent in the garden - free
  5. Kochkor: Jailoo - 350 soms the bed in dormitory
  6. Karakol: Karakol Issyk Kul Otel (to flee) - 17 € the double room with breakfast
  7. Karakol: Duet Hostel - 250 som futon in the yurt
  8. Altyn Arashan: Eco Yurt Camp - 900 soms / people (meals and breakfast included)
  9. Tosor: Eldos Ata Eco Hotel
  10. Kochkor: Saikal Guesthouse

Food in Central Asia is not known to be the finest in the world. Composed mainly of rice, mutton, fat and sometimes bowels, it is not easy every day!

Our best culinary memories are those on horseback rides or at the Saikal guesthouse in Kochkor. We could taste many specialties, sometimes as amazing as fish and pasta for breakfast. Apart from that, when you are taken in hand, you rarely die of hunger. The tables in the yurts are always filled with breads, jams and sweets, and we enjoyed tea time with fresh bread and homemade jams.

When one wants to be autonomous, there is the possibility to make some races in the towns and villages more or less large and one will always find pasta and bread, but especially of the Vodka (to 1 € the bottle) or snickers ! The choice will be quickly limited and not very diverse, especially in small villages. Vegetables are also rarer. Cycling, plan reservations because we are quickly cut off from the world.

1 month in Kyrgyzstan: a practical guide and tips

Where it gets complicated is when you want to eat at the restaurant, because we must focus on cities. Even in Kochkor we did not have much choice.

Specialties: Laghman, Manty, Buckwheat, Kumis, Kourouts

Good addresses and tips:
  • Karakol Restaurant in Bishkek
  • Supermarkets with catering party: Bishkek or Sokuluk Globus. They have the advantage of offering prepared and varied dishes.

SIM card
Upon arrival at the airport, you will be offered a free prepaid sim card and there is no trap! The sim card is indeed free everywhere, just pay the credit we put on it. Several operators are on the market: O, Beeline and Megacom. We had at first O and Beeline, then I changed to O too, because Beeline has a much smaller network.

To charge your credit, go to a terminal that can be found in supermarkets or directly to the operator:
  1. Choose your operator
  2. Enter your phone number
  3. Put a 100KGS ticket
  4. Confirm and you will receive a confirmation by SMS

1 month in Kyrgyzstan: a practical guide and tips

With 100KGS you have the right to 10GB of data internet, 5 minutes of communication for 1 week. If you do not feel comfortable with the terminal, go to your operator and ask that it be done for you.

Dress and equip yourself
By bike, it is necessary to have all the equipment to be fully autonomous, knowing that you can be several days in a row in the mountains, without going through towns or villages. You can find the complete list of equipment in our article dedicated to camping equipment for a bike trip. Regarding clothing, plan warm clothes for the evening when you are in the mountains because as soon as the sun goes down, it is quickly cold. The day, pedaling we were hot: shorts and t-shirt were sufficient. In the evening we put on the trousers, the fleece, the jacket and the hat (and even the gloves).

On horseback, we did not have special outfits, just pants in which we are comfortable and closed shoes. I favored my sports leggings because it has the advantage of being flexible and without embarrassing seams. As on a bike, you need to wear warm clothes for the mountains. I did not have my jacket with me and it was a shame, because it would have been useful several times in addition to my fleece, my long-sleeved merino and my windbreaker. If your horseback riding is organized by an agency, you do not need camping gear, however, take at least one silk sheet, at best your sleeping bag if you are afraid of getting cold.

Kul Ukok
On foot, we had the same equipment on horseback because we did not need to be totally autonomous. If you go on a trek for several days and you plan to camp, in these cases, it will obviously all the camping equipment. Even if on your way you will pass next to yurt camps, they can be full in high season and will therefore have no places to welcome you (there is not always against the possibility of planting the tent next to the yurts and share the meal). Plan good walking shoes, snacks, water and you Kyrgyz mountain.

1 month in Kyrgyzstan: a practical guide and tips

The simplest solution is to go through an agency that will organize the horse riding from beginning to end, with a guide. Several agencies offer horseback rides, the best is to compare the prices and benefits of each. We passed by Jailoo (in Kochkor) the two times we went horseback riding. CBT is also famous. It takes between 90 and 150 € for a horseback ride of 2 or 3 nights. The price will depend on the number of people in the group (up to 4 people maximum for 1 guide) and the duration of the trek. For example, we paid 135 € per person for Song Kul Lake: 4 days of horse (3 nights) to 5 people (2 guides).

It is also possible to rent a horse by the day from the peasants and leave alone. Being completely novice in the practice of the horse, this solution was really not made for us!

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