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Kyrgyzstan

Getting there & away

Land

Border crossings

One thing to note is that transport along Kyrgyzstan’s southern arm from Osh to Batken passes through the Uzbek enclave of Sokh so you’ll need to get an Uzbek visa or hire a taxi to take you on a dirt road detour around the enclave.

To/from China

Of the two land crossings from China the 3752m Torugart Pass is the more complicated and expensive, requiring pricey, pre-arranged Chinese transport.

The newer and easier border crossing is the Irkeshtam Pass linkingKashgar to Osh and the Fergana Valley. It has none of the restrictions of the Torugart and you can take taxis, hitch on trucks or even cycle.

See Passing the Pass for general tips on these borders.

To/from Kazakhstan

Minibuses go directly from Bishkek to Almaty (250som, 4½ hours) every hour or two, as do private cars (350som per seat). There is a passport check at the border by the Chuy River and you will need a Kazakh visa.

A back-door route into Kazakhstan is possible through the Karkara Valley. There’s no through transport so you’ll have to hire a taxi or hitch part of the way.

There is a new 96km 4WD road from near Cholpon-Ata over to Chong-Kemin Valley and beyond to Almaty but you need a 4WD for this rough route and as there’s no border control, you’ll have headaches getting a visa stamp.

Trains run four times a week from Bishkek to Almaty and on to Moscow (train 17, 4021som, Monday and Thursday; train 27, 3900som, Wednesday and Saturday).

To/from Tajikistan

The main crossing for travellers is at the Bor Döbo checkpoint on the Pamir Hwy, between Murgab district and Sary Tash. To travel on the Pamir Hwy a GBAO permit that says ‘Murgab district’ is required. Another remote crossing leads southwest from the Pamir Alay Valley into the Garm Valley and on to Dushanbe, although this is currently closed to foreigners.

From the Fergana Valley it’s possible to cross from Batken to Isfara (not Isfana) in Tajikistan.

To/from Uzbekistan

From Bishkek buses go from the west bus station to Tashkent three times a day between 6pm and 9pm for about 285som; however, at the time of research these were only going as far as the Kazakh–Uzbek border at Chernyaevka, from where you had to take a minibus a few kilometres into Tashkent. These buses run through Kazakhstan and require a Kazakh transit visa, which makes flying a competitive option.

From Jalal-Abad take a taxi or minibus (20som) to Khanabad (formerly Sovietabad) and cross by foot. Note that the Kara-Suu border crossing is not open.

From Osh take a taxi (50som) or minibus (Nos 107, 113, 136, 137 or 138, 5som) to Dustlyk/Dostyk and then get a seat in a shared taxi to Andijon. Osh Guesthouse in Osh can help arrange a car direct to Tashkent or Andijon.

It is also possible to travel to/from Tashkent by rail but all pass through Kazakhstan necessitating a Kazakh visa.

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Entering the destination

Entering Kyrgyzstan

Remote border posts, for example at Karkara and along the Pamir Hwy, from Tajikistan may not stamp your visa with an entry stamp but you should insist that this is done, otherwise you’ll have problems. Generally, entering the country presents no difficulties.

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Air

Bishkek’s Manas airport is the main international hub although there are also flights to Moscow, Ürümqi and Dushanbe from Osh. The national carrier, Air Company Kyrgyzstan (AC Kyrgyzstan) was formerly Altyn Air.

From Bishkek, Central Asian destinations include Tashkent (US$100, with Uzbekistan Airways, AC Kyrgyzstan), Ürümqi (US$210, Kyrgyzstan Air, China Southern, Esen Air) and Dushanbe (US$150, Tajik Air, ACKyrgyzstan).

One-way/return airfares for Russia include Yekaterinburg (US$230/460, AC Kyrgyzstan, twice weekly), Novosibirsk (US$200/400, AC Kyrgyzstan, thrice weekly) and Moscow (US$250/400, Aeroflot, AC Kyrgyzstan, Itek Air, daily).

Other international destinations reached directly from Bishkek are limited to Dubai (US$300/600, AC Kyrgyzstan, once weekly), İstanbul (US$428/560, Turkish Airlines, once weekly) and London (US$675/852, British Airways, four times weekly).

Between June and September AC Kyrgyzstan also has a weekly flight to Hanover and Frankfurt for US$450/900 one way/return.

Because flight choice is limited, many choose to fly to Tashkent, Almaty or Ürümqi (China) and connect from there. A transit visa will be required if you plan to leave these airports. Note that it’s only three hours by road between Almaty and Kyrgyzstan and KLM runs a free BishkekAlmaty ground shuttle service for their customers, leaving Bishkek in front of the Dostuk Hotel on the day of flights at 6pm (transit visarequired).

A similar Lufthansa bus departs at 7pm from Grand Hyatt. It’s free if you buy your ticket in Bishkek, otherwise it costs US$25. The bus leaves Almaty airport at 12.30am, arriving in Bishkek at 3.30am.

The US$10 international departure tax and 4% government tax is included in the ticket price.

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