Skip Navigation

Travel Guide Asia Kyrgyzstan Bishkek

edit

Introduction

Bishkek (Бишкек), the capital of Kyrgyzstan, is also the country's largest city with 940,000 inhabitants. It is located near the border with Kazakhstan. Although the city is relatively young as the capital, becoming the capital of the Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan in 1926 during the Soviet period, it was founded in 1878. It is one of the more pleasant urban destinations in the region.

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 II 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.
  • Dor Doi Bazaar (Dordoy) (10 minutes 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.

Top

edit

Events and Festivals

Independence Day

The August national holiday of Independence Day is marked with pride and celebration all over Kyrgyzstan. In the capital, parades and exhibitions take place, and folk events, concerts, and demonstrations form part of the revelry.

Ramadan

The Islamic month of Ramadan is the religion's most important event in Kyrgyzstan, taking place according to the Muslim calendar usually in August or September, with the devout fasting between sun-up and sundown. They hit the streets every evening to feast and be merry with friends and the month ends with Eid al-Fitr, a joyful day of feasting and family parties.

Top

edit

Weather

Bishkek has a bitter climate, with harsh conditions, especially during the long and cold winter months of November to March. Rain or snow is possible year round but on average it is a dry country. Spring and autumn are wetter than the rest of the year when sunny and dry conditions rule the country. In the lower parts of Kyrgyzstan, summers are around 27 °C maximum, and around 15 °C at night. During winter, temperatures are between -5 °C and -15 °C but also here temperatures can drop well below -30 °C sometimes.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max2.7 °C3.3 °C10.1 °C18.1 °C23.1 °C28.4 °C31.4 °C29.9 °C24.8 °C17.1 °C10.1 °C4.8 °C
Avg Min-8.6 °C-7.3 °C-0.3 °C6.3 °C10.9 °C15.1 °C17.5 °C15.7 °C10.6 °C4.5 °C-1.1 °C-5.4 °C
Rainfall26 mm31 mm47 mm76 mm64 mm35 mm19 mm12 mm17 mm43 mm44 mm28 mm
Rain Days6.26.48.58.87.94.43.22.22.75.86.55.6

Top

edit

Getting There

By Plane

Manas International Airport (FRU) is serviced by flights from London, Frankfurt, Istanbul and Moscow, as well as Delhi and Ürümqi. In addition, the airport offers flights to a number of smaller regional destinations.

A taxi to and from the city centre can be arranged for approximately 500 soms, 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 soms per person.

The marshrutka 380 connects every 10-20 minutes to the city centre for 50 som to the Osh market and for 100 som to the Western bus station (both destinations are only about 1 kilometre away from each other). The minibus parks right in front of the airport and stops at Chuy prospektesi.

By Train

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 Uzbekistan.

In addition, there is a service that goes to and from Balykchy on the western edge of the Issyk Kul lake. (In 2016) it starts in Bishkek, station II at 6:30 in the morning. One cannot buy tickets in advance, one has to go there half on hour before the train leaves and then the ticket office will sell them for 70 Som per person. The ride takes about 4-5 hours 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.

By Car

Bishkek is approximately a 3½ hour drive from Almaty, Kazakhstan along a relatively good highway.

The Bishkek-Osh highway is a narrow mountainous road in a good condition, and big buses or public passenger minivans 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. 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 soms more, because the driver will squeeze 3 passengers in the back seat.

By Bus

Kashgar, in the Chinese province of Xinjiang (Eastern Turkestan), is the only nearby destination that is serviced by bus.

Top

edit

Getting Around

By Car

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 soms and 120 soms past 10PM. 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 [1], 156 Express Taxi and 188 Salam Taxi. Before 10PM most runs in the city are 100 soms and afterwards are 120 soms.

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.

By Public Transport

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 15-20 som. 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.

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.

By Foot

Much of central Bishkek can easily be explored on foot.

By Bike

There are only a few bike shops in town. They all rent bikes.

Top

edit

Eat

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.

Top

edit

Drink

There are a few coffee shops in Bishkek that even feature wi-fi.

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.

Top

edit

Sleep

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Backpackers Hostel Free & Easy in Bishkek47, Ulitsa Kara-Koo Archa-Beshik JalHostel-
Castle Hotel BishkekCholpon Ata, Lake Issyk Kul BishkekHotel-
CrocusKyrgyzstan, Bishkek city, st. Komsomolskaya 5.GUESTHOUSE-
Rodem House109,Umetalieva st.HOSTEL-
Interhouse BishkekTopograficheskiy,9 Sovetskaya Cross SkryabinaHOSTEL-
Silk Road Backpackers8, Isanova Str. Apt. 49HOSTEL-
BaikhanVIP, Ala- Archa 1 Leshoz streetHOTEL-

Top

edit

Work

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 a number of English language schools that will employ native English speakers. Due to the current unstable political situation, there is not a large amount 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.

Top

edit

Learn

Bishkek is a cheap place to learn Russian (or Kyrgyz). A private 1 1/2 hour lesson with a native Russian speaker should cost between $5–7. 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 soms/hr. During the warmer months they are often full so book in advance.

Top

edit

Keep Connected

Internet

You will find internet access in Bishkek fairly easy to locate as there are a number of internet cafes. Outside Bishkek, access may be more difficult to find, although a number of internet cafes are opening in some of the regional centres such as Osh, Djalal Abad, Tokmak and Karakol.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Kyrgyzstan's country code is +996.

There are three GSM-based operators in Kyrgyzstan: MegaCom, Beeline and O!.
Coverage and speed are good in the major cities, but can be very slow to non-existent in the countryside. When purchasing a SIM card, you officially have to show a photo ID. Since March 2014 SIM registration in Kyrgyzstan is compulsory. Existing SIM card holders must register personal ID details by March 2015 or face disconnection. Start-up price for prepaid SIM cards is around 125-200 Som.

Post

Kyrgyzpost is the national postal service in the country. Services are relatively cheap but slow. It might take weeks for a letter or postcard to arrive in your home country. For packages, use international courier services like DHL, FedEx, TNT or UPS.

Top

Quick Facts

[edit]

Coordinates
  • Latitude: 42.8679
  • Longitude: 74.5984

Accommodation in Bishkek

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Bishkek searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Bishkek and areas nearby.

Contributors

as well as bentivogli (3%), hasbeen (2%), Hien (1%)

Bishkek Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Bishkek

This is version 21. Last edited at 17:14 on May 30, 17 by hasbeen. 13 articles link to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License