Region: North & Central Asia
The official language is Kyrgyz, a Turkic language closely related to Turkish, Turkmen, Uzbek and Kazak. Due to the previous Russian influence, most people speak Russian (particularly in the North) and this is considered the second official language. English is rapidly emerging as a popular language amongst those working in tourism.
Area (sq. km):
198,500 square meters
Kyrgyzstan is 6 hours ahead of GMT. It is +1 hour from the second Sunday in April to the Saturday before the last Sunday in September.
Kyrgyzstan has relatively low rainfall due to its continental climate, and has an annual average of 247 days of sunshine. In the mountain areas, temperatures range from -14ºC to -20ºC in January, and 8ºC to 14ºC in July. In the lower areas, the temperatures are between -4ºC and -6ºC in January, and 16ºC to 24ºC in July. Heavy snowfall in winter will close mountain passes between mid/late October and early/mid May.
Late spring and autumn are considered to be some of the best times to visit Kyrgyzstan. Winter sees consistently sub-zero temperatures across the country, while in July and August temperatures can reach 32ºC to 40ºC in the Fergana Valley. The countryside and mountain valleys are most pleasant from late June to late September.
Bishkek Manas Airport (FRU) is 30km (18 miles) north of Bishkek. There is a minibus shuttle service to the city centre when the airport is open (travel time – 30 minutes). Taxis are available from the airport at the taxi stand, but their fares can be unregulated; passengers should make sure that the taxi-metre is on or, if there is no meter, negotiate a fare before leaving the airport. There is also the bus service 153 every 30 minutes (travel time - 45 minutes).
International calls must be placed through the operator at a telephone office (usually attached to a post office), or though the reception at some hotels. Local calls within the city are free of charge, but a fee may be levied by hotels if calling from the room or reception. The international country code for Kyrgyzstan is 996, but Bishkek has its own international code of 312. International roaming for mobile (cell) phones is generally not supported outside Bishkek.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Round two-pin continental plugs are used.
Traditional Kyrgyz cuisine is characterized by its nomadic influences. Mutton is a staple meat, with Chinese influences providing some spices and flavour, and commonly served as ‘shashlyk’(kebabs of skewered, charcoal-barbecued meat). As in many Central Asian countries, ‘plov’ is a common dish, with rice fried together with shredded vegetables (usually turnip or potato) and scraps of meat. Other dishes popular in the region are variations of noodles – spicy ‘laghman’ and ‘shorpur’ with meat and vegetables – and stuffed dumpling (‘manty’). Don’t forget to try other local specialities such as the beer-like ‘borso’ (made from fermented millet), and for those traveling in the spring, the national drink of kymys (fermented mare’s milk).
Look out for special purchases such as hand-made felt carpets with traditional designs (‘shyrdaks’), embroidered Kyrgyz felt hats (‘ak-kalpak’), and chess sets with themes from Kyrgyz folklore. Bishkek is the most reliable place for souvenir shopping, with several department stores, galleries and handicraft specialists. The Jayma Bazaar in Osh is well known for its colourful spectacle of Central Asian trading.
Visa: Many nationalities no longer require a visa to travel to Kyrgyzstan for up to 60 days, including Australia, Belgium, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, USA and Switzerland. Nationals of other countries not listed should check their requirements at their nearest embassy. A Letter of Invitation (LOI) is rarely needed, but should it be required by your embassy please contact your booking agent immediately after booking as this can take up to 15 days to be processed and is not included in your trip cost.