Kyrgyzstan travel guide
Often referred to as the “Switzerland of Central Asia”, Kyrgyzstan certainly lives up to this moniker with its soaring mountain ranges, glistening glaciers and vertiginous pine forests. If it feels like you’re on top of the world, that’s because you’re not far off.
Despite its ubiquitous natural beauty and considerable size, few people can point to this landlocked nation on the map let alone pronounce its name (it’s Kur-gi-stan, by the way). Even fewer actually visit.
This is due largely to Kyrgyzstan’s geographical isolation, but also because it has been out in the cold politically – since gaining independence from the USSR, the country has remained well under the influence of neighbouring Russia.
Visitor numbers are increasing, but a short tourist season, an underdeveloped infrastructure and poor air links remain obstacles for all but the intrepid traveller. However, those who do make it here are guaranteed an experience they won’t have to share with the crowds.
Although mountains dominate, Kyrgyzstan’s landscapes are surprisingly varied: snow-capped peaks eventually give way to open plains and shimmering lakes. It really does look Switzerland in places, but elsewhere the countryside can conjure up images of Scotland, Kashmir and even the Middle East. The mountain vistas alone are reason enough to visit and no trip to Kyrgyzstan would be complete without trekking up at least one of its impressive summits.
For less active visitors there are a handful of beaches to speak of and, in the small window that passes as summer, holidaymakers can be found bathing on the shores of lakes such as Issyk Kul. Located in the Tian Shan mountains, this is a summer resort for the brave – the water here is bracing to say the least.
It’s not all about the landscapes, though. In fact a big draw for tourists is the prospect of staying with the country’s semi-nomadic shepherds, who live in yurts and eke out traditional lives in this harsh, unforgiving and unremittingly beautiful country.
199,951 sq km (77,201 sq miles).
6,033,769 (UN estimate 2016.
28.3 per sq km.
President Sadyr Japarov since 2021.
Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers Akylbek Japarov since 2021.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Kyrgyzstan on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are regular flights to and from Kyrgyzstan, operated by a range of airlines. Tickets are available online and at local travel agents. However, there may be reduced flights on some routes. Check with your airline or travel agent on status of flights to Kyrgyzstan before travelling. During the winter months flights can face significant delays in Bishkek due to low visibility from fog.
Check with your airline for any Coronavirus restrictions, and for information about Coronavirus restrictions at the airports you’re transiting through. You should check the relevant travel advice pages on GOV.UK before travelling.
You can find further information on returning to the UK from Istanbul on the Travel Advice page for Turkey.
You can find further information on returning to the UK from Dubai on the Travel Advice page for the UAE.
You can find further information on returning to the UK from Moscow on the Travel Advice page for Russia.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Kyrgyzstan.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel in Kyrgyzstan
Inter-regional public transport services are operating. Transport providers may have additional hygiene requirements. You should check with your transport provider before travel. In Bishkek, public transport and taxi services continue to operate as usual.
Public places and services
Businesses and public spaces in Kyrgyzstan have now reopened. Businesses may be following additional hygiene and sanitary requirements. You should comply with hygiene and social distancing requirements.
Local authorities may introduce new restrictions if the Coronavirus situation deteriorates. You should follow local government announcements and media reporting for further information.
Taxi services and city public transport are able to operate as normal. Internal flights between Bishkek, Osh, Jalal-Abad and Batken are operating, though with a reduced service.
Face covering requirements
Some businesses and other organisations may require visitors to wear a face mask. You should comply with any additional screening measures and other restrictions.
Accommodation including major hotels are operating as usual. You should check in advance with your accommodation provider and comply with any additional screening measures and other restrictions.
Healthcare in Kyrgyzstan
If you’re unwell and suspect you have symptoms of Coronavirus you can call Kyrgyzstan’s medical hotline (118, 112 or 103), or the hotlines of local medical services.
Private laboratories are offering COVID-19 testing for people who are not showing symptoms of Coronavirus. Both PCR and antibody tests are available.
To find out more information on local medical care and obtaining medication in Kyrgyzstan, see Health.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
For the latest information on new measures introduced by the Kyrgyz government, see the Kyrgyz government official website, and the Coronavirus response team telegram channel (Russian and Kyrgyz only).
Demonstrations occur regularly in Bishkek and elsewhere across the country. Most demonstrations pass peacefully but on occasion can turn violent, sometimes with little or no warning. You should avoid all crowds and demonstrations and maintain a low profile. Follow updates on local media and any instructions from the police or other authorities.
Muggings (sometimes violent) and theft occur regularly. There have been incidents involving criminals, mostly after dark. Take care if you go out after dark.
Large amounts of money should not be on show and be wary of strangers offering help or being over-friendly. Be particularly aware of your surroundings when using currency exchange offices and visiting the bazaars in Bishkek, particularly Osh Bazaar, where tourists are regularly targeted by pickpockets.
Take care if you travel to the Oblasts (Provinces) of Osh, Batken and Jalal-Abad. While there has been no widespread violence since 2010, underlying tensions continue to exist.
Tensions exist over recognition of the Kyrgyz/Tajik borders. There are regular security incidents along the Kyrgyz/Tajik border with exchanges of gunfire. On 14-16 September clashes escalated into armed conflict between the Kyrgyz and Tajik military which resulted in over 100 dead, including civilians, and significant destruction of civilian property and infrastructure. In addition around 140, 000 civilians were displaced. There is a risk of further risk of further violence and border closures at any time.
There are also occasional violent incidents on the Kyrgyz/Uzbek and Kyrgyz/Kazakh borders. There is a risk that uncontrolled Kyrgyz/Uzbek border areas may be land-mined. Check in advance which border posts are open.
You should only use officially recognised border crossings. The border can be closed at short notice, particularly Tajik/Kyrgyz border near the Vorukh enclave. You should remain vigilant in border areas and check local media reports before you travel.
There are frequent power cuts throughout the country.
A Tourist Police call centre is available for tourists in Issykkul oblast. Please call or contact via WhatsApp +996 705 00 91 02 (staff speak Russian and English).
You can drive in Kyrgyzstan using a UK driving licence for up to 30 days or an International Driving Permit. If you need an International Driving Permit, from 28 March 2019 you will need to have a 1968 International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in Kyrgyzstan. You can only get IDPs over the counter from 2,500 UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.
Petrol stations are limited in rural areas and diesel is often unavailable. Make sure you take all you need for your journey. Take extra care when driving, particularly over long distances. You should avoid giving lifts to hitchhikers given incidents when drivers have been robbed by people they picked up. Many roads are poorly lit and poorly maintained with road works or damaged roads often not clearly signposted. Roads outside the capital are often blocked by snow in winter. There is currently no MOT and no legal requirement for vehicles to be insured. Pedestrians often have a low awareness of road safety.
If you are stopped by the police and are issued a fine, they should give you a paper copy of the protocol including instructions on how to pay the fine. Fines can be paid through electronic terminals, or in banks. You should not pay cash fines directly to the police officers involved, although some may have an electronic terminal for collecting card payments. Some fines may be reduced if paid promptly.
You should avoid flagging down taxis. Use telephone, SMS, or taxi services, which are more reputable and have English-speaking dispatchers. Wherever possible use main roads when travelling in and around Bishkek and avoid large crowds even if in a vehicle.
Avoid using local buses and mini-buses as they are not always properly maintained and are notorious for pick-pockets. There have been cases of sexual harassment and assault on public transport.
Internal flight services currently operate between Bishkek, Osh, Jalal-Abad and Batken.
On 19 May 2022, the UK sanctioned Aeroflot, Rossiya Airlines and Ural Airlines. It is now illegal under UK law for any British national or British company to do business with these airlines. This includes the purchasing of flight tickets.
All Kyrgyz airlines are banned from operating services to the EU because they do not meet international safety standards.
Where there’s a clear business need to travel internally within Kyrgyzstan, British government staff may use Air Manas flights (formerly known as Pegasus Asia). On occasion British government staff have also used Avia Traffic flights where no other option is available.
You can see a list of recent incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety Network.
The International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
You are advised to check the UK Air Safety List when flying with foreign air carriers. The Civil Aviation Authority UK Air Safety List (ASL) identifies foreign airlines which do not meet international safety standards. These airlines are banned from operating commercial air services to, from, and within the UK. You should:
- use the list to inform your decisions on which air carriers to use when flying overseas.
- consult local travel providers to find alternative air routes or other means of travel, e.g. road or rail.
In 2020 the International Civil Aviation Organisation conducted an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Kyrgyzstan.
During the winter months flights may face significant delays due to heavy fog.
Trekking in Kyrgyzstan often involves travelling to very remote areas. There is a high risk of avalanches, landslides and rock falls. Weather can change very quickly, including with heavy snowfall blocking roads and trekking routes. This is particularly a problem in the autumn and winter, but at higher altitudes there is also a possibility of snow in the summer months. Sunstroke, serious sunburn and altitude sickness can also cause problems, particularly in mountainous areas.
Adequate insurance, including for any activity at high altitude, is essential. If you’re trekking or mountaineering, be vigilant and be prepared to adapt your plans to reflect local conditions and advice. Use a reputable trekking agency, let someone know your estimated return time and do not trek alone. In remote areas, mobile phone coverage is extremely limited, and any medical facilities basic. Some Kyrgyz mobile phones also have difficulties in connecting to satellite phones.
There is a limited mountain rescue service staffed by volunteers, but the rescue equipment they have is limited, and the difficult terrain in Kyrgyzstan can make access impossible in some cases. The 24/7 emergency numbers for the mountain rescue service are +996 312 651 404 or +996 312 651 221.
Doing business in Kyrgyzstan
If you’re considering setting up an investment or doing business in Kyrgyzstan it is essential to research carefully, including looking into potential business partners thoroughly. You may also want to consult a local lawyer. Kyrgyzstan is ranked 144 out of 180 countries in the 2021 Transparency International Global Corruption Index. Although there are British companies operating successfully in Kyrgyzstan, there have been a number of instances of British people getting into difficulties, including having assets stolen or being physically attacked. Getting redress through the Kyrgyz legal system can be slow and getting judgements implemented can be very difficult. The British Embassy is not able to get involved (including offering advice) in private disputes over property, employment, commercial or other matters.
There is a list of local lawyers and translators available on our website. There are also a number of business associations in Kyrgyzstan that may be able to offer you advice. If you get into difficulties due to the actions of state bodies you can also contact the office of the Business Ombudsman.
Terrorist attacks in Kyrgyzstan cannot be ruled out.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. There has been some terrorist activity and armed violence, particularly south and west of Osh. A suicide bomb attack against the Chinese Embassy on the outskirts of Bishkek on 30 August 2016 was reportedly carried out by the Turkestan Islamic Party.
You should maintain a high level of vigilance in public spaces and near to public buildings, and pay attention to any security announcements by the Kyrgyz authorities.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Kyrgyzstan has a secular constitution. Most Kyrgyz people are Muslims. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. Lack of cultural sensitivity has caused trouble for some unaware foreign nationals.
Possession and use of drugs are illegal. If you’re found guilty, you could face a lengthy prison sentence in basic conditions.
Homosexuality is legal, but not often discussed or recognised publicly. You should take care over public displays of affection. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Taking photos of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with the authorities.
You must carry your passport, or a notarised copy of it, at all times. The police can arrest you if you do not carry ID.
This page has information on travelling to Kyrgyzstan.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Kyrgyzstan set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Kyrgyzstan’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.
You do not need a visa to enter Kyrgyzstan if staying in Kyrgyzstan for 60 days or less.
If a visa is required, visas for Kyrgyzstan are issued electronically through the portal “e-visa”. If you need further information about entry requirements or visa issues, visit the MFA visa website or contact the local immigration authorities.
You can contact the Kyrgyz visa service at email@example.com or +996 312 66 30 70 and +996 703 42 88 65 (WhatsApp).
If you’re fully vaccinated
If you’re fully vaccinated, you can enter Kyrgyzstan without needing to test or quarantine. You do not need to show any proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test.
If you’re not fully vaccinated
You do not need to show any proof of vaccination, or proof of a negative test, or proof of recovery and there are no post-arrival testing or quarantine requirements.
Children and young people
If you are travelling to Kyrgyzstan you do not need to show any proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test and there are no post-arrival testing or quarantine requirements.
If you’re transiting through Kyrgyzstan.
Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination.
Transiting through Kyrgyzstan is permitted for travellers who meet the requirements of their final destination.
If you are transiting through Kyrgyzstan on your way to another country and will be passing through immigration (sometimes known as a layover), for example to stay in a hotel for a flight the next day, you need to follow normal entry requirements.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
If you are visiting Kyrgyzstan, your passport should be valid for six months from the date you arrive.
If you are a resident in Kyrgyzstan, your passport must be valid for six months from the date you arrive.
Check with your travel provider to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Kyrgyzstan. If using one to leave Kyrgyzstan, you must obtain an exit visa from OVIR (the Department for Visa and Registration under the Ministry of Internal Affairs). This takes at least 5 working days.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
On 19 December 2016, the government of Kyrgyzstan approved a decree removing the requirement for British nationals staying in Kyrgyzstan for longer than 5 days to register with the local authorities. You now only need to register your stay with the State Registration Service if you’re visiting for more than 60 calendar days. If you’re staying for more than 60 calendar days you must register within 5 days of entry into Kyrgyzstan and you must register for the period of validity of your visa.
Foreigners can now register through the electronic services portal (available in Russian and Kyrgyz only). Foreign citizens can act as a host and register visitors staying in their homes. The registration coupon with QR-code on the forms can be obtained online and printed on a regular printer.
If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.
See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries. Most UK prescriptions are accepted in Kyrgyzstan but you should check in advance with individual pharmacies. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Other health risks
There have been several cases of anthrax in Kyrgyzstan, mainly in the south of the country, due to insufficient measures to vaccinate animals.
Some travellers in mountainous areas have experienced problems with altitude sickness. Sunstroke and severe sunburn can also cause problems, especially in the mountains, where cooler temperatures can hide the intensity of the sun.
Local medical care
The reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and Kyrgyzstan terminated on 1 January 2016.
Medical facilities in Kyrgyzstan are not as developed as those in the UK. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 103 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Pharmacies and chemists are very widely available in Kyrgyzstan. They are often marked by a green cross. You may need to pay for medicine in cash. Basic medications (aspirin etc.) are available without a prescription. For prescription medication you will need to present a valid prescription either from a local doctor or your doctor in the UK. You should check with your pharmacy in Kyrgyzstan if they will accept a prescription from the UK. You may need to get your UK prescription translated into Russian or Kyrgyz.
Some prescription medicines used in the UK are not widely available in Kyrgyzstan. Your local Kyrgyz doctor or pharmacy is best placed to advise on availability of specific medications. Medications are often supplied under different brand names in Kyrgyzstan so it is important to ask for the generic name of the relevant drug. If your prescription medication is not available in Kyrgyzstan it may be possible to get supplies couriered from Russia and Turkey though this could take some time.
Foreign nationals may be able to buy into the Compulsory Medical Insurance Fund (CMIF) of Kyrgyzstan. Your nearest Family Medicine Centre or the territorial office of the CMIF can provide further information on this. All applicants will need to present a valid passport or ID card, complete an application and make a payment through a Quick Pay terminal. The CMIF policy entitles you to a basic package of medical services including certain types of blood tests and urine analysis, discount on medicines on an outpatient basis, and co-payment on some types of inpatient care. For additional information you can contact the CMIF hotline on 113.
There is a high risk of earthquakes. Tremors are frequent. You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake and follow any advice given by local authorities. In the mountains, avalanches and landslides frequently block roads.
The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has information about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
Avalanches and landslides frequently block roads and are a particular hazard in the spring.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can not provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can not offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can not find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.