Customs Regulations

Exporting antiques is heavily restricted. If you’ve bought anything that looks remotely old and didn’t get a certificate saying it’s not, you can get one from the 1st floor of the Foreign Department of the Ministry of Education, Science & Culture.

Visas

At least 60 nationalities can visit Kyrgyzstan without visas, including citizens of Korea, Japan, most major Western countries and former Soviet countries. Many visitors who do need a visa can arrange for one online (www.evisa.e-gov.kg), though these visas are valid for entry at a limited number of border points.

Border Permits

Many frontier areas and virtually any place within 50km of the Chinese border require military border permits. Peak Lenin base camp and the whole Khan Tengri area fall into such zones, as do large parts of Naryn oblast. For around US$30, CBT or trekking agencies can usually get one for you. Applications can take anywhere from two days to a month depending on the agent. If you're travelling to/from an open border crossing with a valid onward visa, you are generally exempt from the permit requirement, but special (easy to get, if pricey) permission is required for the Torugart Pass crossing.

Registration

If you're one of the unlucky nationalities to need a visa you might also need to register within three days of arriving in Kyrgyzstan. Ask your hotel or at OVIR.

Visas for Onward Travel

Some visa applications require a letter of Invitation (LOI), usually an expensive formality organised through a travel agency or online fixer.

Afghanistan

Visa costs vary by nationality, starting from US$30/60 transit/tourist and going to US$160 or more. Issuance takes only a day or two, but seems to depend on your discussion with the consul about your ability to demonstrate you understand the security situation where you're planning to head, and sometimes requires a letter of invitation or a statement from your country's embassy indicating that they give permission for your travel to Afghanistan. Travellers planning to visit the Afghan Wakhan may have better luck applying in Khorog, Tajikistan.

China

Until late 2013 it was possible to get a Chinese visa through agents in Kyrgyzstan. However, for several years now China has been increasingly less willing to issue visas to any non-resident foreigners. Get this one from your home country.

Iran

Once you have a visa clearance code from Tehran the visa application takes two days and costs €50 for most nationals. Americans and Brits can only visit by organised tour. The sensible way to be sure of getting visa clearance is by applying online through a reputable travel agency like www.key2persia.com or www.persianvoyages.com, ideally allowing several weeks for the procedure; you can start from anywhere – you simply need to know which embassy you plan to collect it from. In principle such clearance can be arranged much more cheaply (US$10) in Bishkek through Persia Agency, but we have not tested the theory ourselves. Some nationalities report getting a five-day transit visa without supporting documents in around one week.

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is visa-free for a growing number of passports, including all EU countries, USA, UK, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and many more.

For those that do require a visa, one-month tourist visas are available from the Kazakhstan embassy, usually ready in five working days. Single/double transit visas cost US$20/40 and are generally available the next working day.

Russia

Applications at the Russian embassy in Bishkek and Russian consulate in Osh are only accepted for resident foreigners. If possible, arrange from your home country.

Tajikistan

Providing that the consul is in town, 30-day visas (or 45-day visas on request) are painlessly available for US$55 to US$75, plus a 100som processing fee. A full GBAO permit is stamped in on request at no extra cost. One photograph; no need for a LOI. The process usually takes one day, but can last only 15 minutes if there's no queue. If the consul's away there's no visa issuance at all.

Uzbekistan

Call for an appointment before visiting – though at the time of research all appointments seem to be scheduled for 10am on the next working day. Fill in the online application form at http://evisa.mfa.uz, then turn up at the appointed hour with a 3 x 4cm photo and a copy of your passport including every page with any kind of stamp. Most nationalities pay US$90/100 to receive a single-/double-entry visa, but Americans and Japanese pay more and things can take considerably longer if the embassy is busy. Fortunately they usually allow you to keep your passport during processing so you can apply then head off to the hills. Alternatively, visas can be issued the same day if you have a pre-arranged agency LOI, but that requires advanced planning and more money.