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Get around in Kyrgyzstan

Posted by in on 6-5-13

Flights

There are several daily flights between Bishkek and Osh. There are also a few flights a week between Bishkek and Jalalabad and Batken. The flights are operated on local airlines using 30-40 year old soviet planes. On the other hand, the mechanics and pilots are well trained how to operate these old beasts.

 By train

The only domestic rail link is between Balykchy (Western edge of Issyk Kul) to Tokmok through to Bishkek through to Karabalta and on to the Kazakh border. The trains take at least twice as long as a taxi, but are half the price and you get to meet a lot of interesting folks, mostly pensioners, that need the 40-80 soms they would save by taking a mini-bus or taxi.

 Buses and Taxis

Minibuses (marshrutkas) and shared taxis are the most common and accessible option for travelling within Kyrgyzstan. They’re inexpensive and congregate at every village centre or bus station. You can also arrange a private taxi by purchasing all the seats at the bus station or contacting a taxi firm directly.

The prices for mini-buses are set and straight-forward, but it won’t generally leave until it is full and you may be asked to have a child in your lap. With shared taxis you will be quoted a price for one seat and if you have significant luggage you should expect to pay for an extra or partial seat. You should negotiate prices, but as a foreigner you will likely pay more than a local. Another option that is developing is Iron Horse Nomads: they offer a service between Cholpon Ata and Bishkek with pre-purchased tickets for 700 soms. which is2-3x the price of a Marshrutka and just a bit more than a taxi.

 Biking

Kyrgyzstan is popular with long distance bike treks, particularly around Issyk Kul and passes through the southern mountains to Tajikistan.

 Wintersports

Heliskiing in Kyrgyzstan is a secret Tipp for Freeriders all over the world. Eurosolutions is organized by germans and provides different Packages of Freeriding. Heliskiing

 Hitchhiking

The concept of free rides is not really understood here. Particularly if you happen to be a foreigner. Most drivers will expect you to pay a small sum of money for gas. Either you can try to explain that you do not want to pay, the russian phrase Bez deneg can be used. Alternatively you can just pay the sum.

If the driver is asking for too much money you can always haggle! As a rule of thumb you should either pay the same price you’d pay for the bus or lower.

 Horseback

This is the real way to see Kyrgyzstan by the saddle of a horse. There are several tourist agencies that can make it happen for you, as the Kyrgyz are famous horsemen dating back to the days of Ghengis Khan. It is said that all Kyrgyz are born on a horse, although with growing urbanization that seems to be less common.

 Driving

Tourists renting a private car and driving in Kyrgyzstan is becoming more and more popular. The roads are getting better and the police are becoming friendlier toward tourists and treat them better than they do locals. One problem remains: auto insurance isn’t common (London-Bishkek/Jubilee does provide insurance). Hiring a taxi is easy and cheap, making this a good option. Most long-term expats drive, though some opt to use a driver.

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