The retail market, especially in Bishkek, continues to develop apace and there are now several modern shopping complexes and supermarkets and lots of individual specialist boutiques selling mainly imported food, clothes, footwear, electronic goods etc.
For lovers of the exotic, the bazaars are open 7 days a week.
There are also several bazaars selling literally everything and the Dordoi Bazaar on the northern outskirts of the city is in fact the largest market in Central Asia. Buyers come from all over, including Russia, arrive here to purchase goods for wholesale in their own countries. If you have money it is possible to buy virtually anything you could wish for here.
Aside from ordinary shops, there are a host of specialist sstores in Bishkek where you can buy anything you may need, including specialized trekkingt equipment and clothes.
There are lots of pharmacies in the towns and western drugs and medicines are quite freely available but if you need special prescriptions you would be well advised to bring an adequate supply with you. Opticians are everywhere and offer very good services at very good prices compared to Europe/USA.
In specialized food shops in large cities you can buy virtually all your favourite food and drinks.
The majority of shops are open from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. and some are open 24 hours a day. Supermarkets work from 10 a.m. till 8 p.m. You are advised to go shopping and to the markets with Kyrgyz soms only and no other currencies.
Money The Kyrgyz Som is freely exchangeable and in Bishkek there are literally hundreds of exchange offices where it is possible to exchange most currencies. These usually offer a better rate than the banks. It is possible to use international credit cards in some places in Bishkek and in some banks you can use your credit card to get money from abroad. Whether you do this or bring cash with you, it is advisable to get either new 100 USD notes (a lot of places will refuse to exchange or offer lower exchange rates for old notes) or minimum Euro 50 notes to exchange. Western Union Money Transfers are possible in the cities. Exchange facilities do not exist in the villages. The som has been remarkably stable over the last couple of years and exchange rates as of Sptember 2016 were 68 som/USD and 81 som/Euro.
In Bishkek the best method of public transport is by electrified trolleybuses running between designated stops and costing 8 soms per trip. There are hundreds of private minibuses (marshrutkas) and a trip in these will cost 10 soms (fixed fares) but they will stop anywhere on their route to pick up/ put down passengers. PLEASE BE AWARE OF PICKPOCKETS AT ALL TIMES on public transport and in shops/stores/markets! Taxis are available on the street or by telephone around the clock but are more expensive at night. Always agree the price before getting in the taxi. In Bishkek, a taxi ride will normally cost between 150 and 250 soms in the daytime. For those who wish to go to other destinations there are bus stations in every big town where you can choose between buses, minibuses (marshrutkas) and taxis. It is possible to share a taxi (usually 4 to a vehicle) and this is usually the quickest way to travel. DO NOT PAY BEFORE YOU ARRIVE AT YOUR DESTINATION!
Photography The Kyrgyz love having their photograph taken but other nationalities are not so forthcoming and so it is always advisable to ask before taking your camera out. Photography is generally banned in Museums but can usually be arranged for a suitable 'fee'. Avoid photographing military objects, airports, police and service personnel.
How to get here
You can reach Bishkek directly by the following airlines:
FROM - TO
Days a week
Moscow - Bishkek
Almaty - Bishkek
China Southern Airlines
Urumchi - Bishkek
Dubai - Bishkek
Dushanbe - Bishkek
Istanbul - Bishkek
Ulan-Bator - Bishkek
Tashkent - Bishkek
Please note that timetable is subject to change and contact airlines for valid schedule.
Conditions of residence Citizens of following countries from July 2012 no longer need a Kyrgyz visa neigther have to register with OVIR (the foreigner-registration department)
United Arab Emirates
Tourists from other countries can obtain a visa from an Embassy or Consular Office of the Kyrgyz Republic, tourism company - if booking a holiday through them - or at Manas (Bishkek) airport on arrival. The cost of a visa varies.
Unless a tourist is a citizen of one of the above-listed countries, he/she MUST register with the OVIR office within 3 days of arrival. In case of failure to do so may result in a 25 USD fine.
Overseas diplomatic missions of the Kyrgyz Republic
Customs and airport taxes
There is no airport tax on internal flights and most international flights. Standard airline rules apply about baggage allowances/excess baggage - check your weight allowances before departure from your home airport.