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Bishkek (Бишкек), with a population in 2012 of more than 900,000, is both the capital and the largest city of Kyrgyzstan.
Bishkek is the capital of what is called officially the Kyrgyz Republic and sits in the Tien Shan mountain range in the Chui Valley. It is a relatively new city and has limited historical sites, but it makes a great place to start your trips to the mountains and alpine lakes of the Tien Shans.
Bishkek is, however, an interesting example of a czarist planned city; laid on a grid with wide boulevards flanked by irrigation canals and large trees, buildings with marble façades, and Soviet apartment complexes. Many young travellers find Bishkek's nightlife a delight and the people are friendly and very hospitable. Bishkek is a city of many young people that hang out in Clubs and small cafés. Kyrgyzstan has the most liberal tourist visa regime in Central Asia, so Bishkek makes a great place to start a tour of the silk road and collect your visas to neighbouring countries.
Bishkek was founded when the Uzbek khan of Kokand built a small clay fort by a settlement on a tributary of the Chuy river in 1825, to connect up several stop-off points on the Tian Shan mountains. In 1862 it was captured and trashed by Russians, before they set up their own garrison. Russian peasants were soon lured here by land grants and the fertile soil of the Chuy Valley.
The renamed town of Frunze became capital of the new Kyrgyz ASSR in 1926, but it was renamed Bishkek (the Kyrgyz form of it's old Kazakh name, Pishpek) in 1991.
The following airlines operate to/from Bishkek:
- Aeroflot - Moscow-Sheremetyevo (5 hour flight, Airbus 320)
- Air Astana - Almaty
- Avia Traffic Company - Isfana, Jalal-Abad, Novosibirsk, Osh, Tashkent
- China Southern Airlines - Ürümqi
- Fly Dubai - Dubai
- Iran Air Tours - Mashhad
- Iran Aseman Airlines - Mashhad, Tehran-Imam Khomeini
- Itek Air - Moscow-Domodedovo, Ürümqi
- Kyrgyzstan Airlines - Kazarman, Kerben, Krasnoyarsk, Moscow-Domodedovo, Novosibirsk, Osh, Tashkent, Urumqi, Yekaterinburg
- Pegasus Airlines - Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen
- Rossiya - St Petersburg
- S7 Airlines - Novosibirsk
- Tajik Air - Dushanbe
- Turkish Airlines - Istanbul-Atatürk, Ulaanbaatar
- Uzbekistan Airways - Tashkent
- KYRGYZSTAN AIR New Delhi -Bishkek-New Delhi
While there are occasional reports of requests for bribes or hassling of passengers, it's rare. Airport personnel are generally formal and sometimes hospitable. There is an ATM in the basement of the airport, and several small cafés and convenience shops that are open around the clock.
Manas International is also home to a US Air Force Base that provides logistics support to forces in Afghanistan. You can see American fuel tankers and cargo jets sitting alongside old Soviet passenger jets on the tarmac.
Keep your baggage tag receipt with you as your receipt will be checked by airport security to make sure you have picked up the correct baggage.
There are many aggressive "unofficial" taxi drivers awaiting all incoming flights. The normal rate charged by the major taxi companies to the city centre is KGS350-400, so you should attempt to bargain for a similar rate if you choose to take one of these taxis.
There is a twice-weekly train service to and from Moscow, called the "Kirgizia" with two days operated by the Kyrgyz railways, and the other two by the Russian railways. The train has 2- and 4-berth sleepers and a restaurant car. Notice that all trains go through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
In addition, there is a service that goes to and from Balykchy on the western edge of the Issyk Kul lake. Although slow (6-8 hours) and with minimal accommodation, it is one of the most scenic rail trips in Eurasia, sneaking through a thin mountainous alpine pass to the lake. As of July 2012, this service is running again, on a seasonal (summer) basis. Note that the taxi/bus road trip is only 2.5-3h.
By car and bus
Bishkek is approximately a 3.5 hour drive from Almaty, Kazakhstan along a relatively good highway. There are also additional long distance road connections to Taraz, Kazakhstan (leading to Shymkent & Tashkent, Uzbekistan). A minibus from Almaty Sairan bus station costs about KZT1300 and will take at least 4 hours, depending on how long the border crossing takes. There is a rest stop at a gas station about an hour from the border.
At the Kazakh-Kyrgyz frontier you have to step out with all your luggage and make customs control by yourself. If the checks last too long, the bus can leave without you. Ignore the money-hungry taxi drivers waiting for you, at the left of the road is a parking place where local minibuses depart to Bishkek for KGS20.
The immigration control going to Kyrgyzstan involves, first, a chaotic crush of people trying to get through up to 8 booths manned by Kazakh immigration officers (forget any queuing manners you may have), followed by a walk over the border river bridge, and a smaller, less busy Kyrgyz immigration building. For non-Kazakh/Kyrgyz nationals, you'll need to walk into the Kyrgyz immigration building and knock on the mirrored window door on the left as you enter to get the attention of the officer to come and take your passports for processing. He will disappear for 5 minutes and re-emerge with your stamped passports, you then go on through to meet your minibus.
You can also share or rent an entire taxi from Almaty. Both KLM and Lufthansa offer bus service from the Almaty airport to Bishkek and back again so travellers can meet their early morning flights. The normal price for a seat in a shared taxi is approximately KGS500.
There are no normal buses between Bishkek and Osh. Bishkek-Osh highway is a narrow mountainous road (though in a good condition) and big buses or public passenger minivans are not allowed to cross the Tor-Ashu and Ala-Bel passes. Most popular option is to take a shared taxi, from the taxi stand near the Osh Bazaar. You'd better start in the morning, not to miss a great view along the road. Try to reserve a front seat, even by paying a hundred soms more, because the driver will squeeze 3 passengers in the back seat. Fare in 2012 was KGS1,000-1,500. There are always many cars waiting there, departing when full, until about 21:00. Another, more comfortable overnight option, is to take a cargo-passenger minivan ('busik', ‘бусик’) from Dordoi Bazaar. Price was KGS500-700 in May 2012, they have comfortable sleeping bunks, but windows are small and you will pass all the most beautiful scenery in the night. They between 15:00 and 18:00, no need to reserve seats in advance, come there and choose a car and driver that you like. Ask for 'stoyanka (gruzovyh) busikov na Osh' ('стоянка (грузовых) бусиков на Ош' ,'(cargo) vans stand to Osh'). Actually they arrive to Kara-Su market, 30km from the centre of Osh. The shared vans or taxis from Kara-Su to Osh are frequent and cost KGS30-40 more.
In reverse direction its similar, take a shared taxi to Bishkek from taxi stand near the Bazaar in Osh, they leave as they fill up, all day long. Or go to Kara-Su market to catch a cargo-passenger minivan to Bishkek. It is also possible to buy a seat from a truck for about KGS500. The trucks leave the bazaar in Osh daily at 15:00.
Truly adventuresome travellers may want to attempt to get to Bishkek via the Chinese/Kyrgyz frontier crossing over the Torugart Pass. The pass connects Kashgar via an important route that runs along what was once the ancient Silk Road, linking Western China with the heart of Central Asia. The pass tops off at a height of 3,752m and is known as one of the most frustrating passes in Central Asia, as both sides can be closed for holidays, early snowfall, or just for seemingly random reasons. Only attempt this route if you have time and your patience can handle it. You will need a special permit to cross the border at Torugart. For an easier crossing from China, go first to Osh through the Irkeshtam Pass.
Taking bikes on public transport. Unfortunately the public transport in Kyrgyzstan consist mostly of minibus. However, it's usually possible to fit two bicycles inside the luggage compartment in the back of the bus if you remove the front wheel, pedals and turn the handlebar. You may have to pay an extra fee of KGS100 for each bicycle while transporting them by buses between Karakol and Bishkek, and travellers paying KGS500 for each are not unheard of. The night buses are usually big buses with enough space for bicycles.
Note that the tunnel at the Tör-ashuu pass on the highway between Bishkek and Osh isn't at 2500m as it is mentioned on most maps. The tunnel is at 3100m.
There are a few bike shops in town:
- Gergert Sport, (Горького 119 / Айдаралиева (Новосибирская)), ☎ +996 772 351508, . Newer growing shop, now one of the largest in the city. They have some English speakers working there as well. In the winter they do skiing and snowboarding. edit
- Velo Leader, O.Yuganov, Moskovska 226 (junction Moskovska/Kalyka Akiiva; geo coordinates: 42 52.234/74 34.607). 10:00-18:00. Perhaps the best bike shop in town. Note that the directions of Lonely Planet are wrong. edit
- Elite Sport/Drive Bikeshop, Tokrogula 170 (geo coordinates: 42 52.352/74 35.399). A giant bike shop. edit
- Free Bike, Kulatova 18 (near Redfox-Outdoorshop). This is mentioned in some guidebooks but it may have been closed down in the meantime. edit
Kyrgyzstan's capital, like many places in the former Soviet Union, has an extensive network of minibuses, known as Marshrutkas. There are hundreds of mini-buses (marshrutkas) that ply all parts of the city. They generally cost KGS10 (KGS12 at night). Go to the Bus.kg website to find out which mini-bus number you should take or download the free Android app to use offline on your mobile phone. Major stops are near the Tsum department store and Philharmonia. They typically have around 14 seats, with standing room for around ten extra people during busy periods. Marshrutkas are easily identifiable and display their number and basic route information (in Russian) on the front. To flag one down, simply hold out your right hand, parallel to the ground. Once you get on, pay the fare to the driver. When you want to get off say, "ah-stah-nah-VEE-tyeh" (Stop!). Note that although there are bus stops, and according to the law marshrutkas should be hailed at bus stop only, but it is not followed too much. So, in practice you can ask driver to stop anywhere and and he will drop you off at any point on their route.
By bus and trolleybus
Bishkek also has a bus and trolleybus system which is less extensive and generally slower. They only stop at designated bus stops and operate only till 22:00. The fare is KGS8 in buses and in trolleybuses. Travellers enter at the back door and leave at the front, where they have to pay on exit. Bus and trolleybus routes can also be found on the Bus.kg website or mobile app.
There are several private taxi firms in Bishkek that you can easily reach through their three digit numbers including: 150, 152, 154, 156, 166, and 188. Most daytime taxis throughout the city will agree a flat rate of KGS150, rising past 22:00. Alternatively many official taxi companies will have a meter that will be turned on on request. There are also numerous "gypsy cabs" situated at nearly every intersection. While most travellers and long-time expats report no problems, you are cautioned to be aware, especially at night and near nightclubs. Generally tourists use the local taxi services which can be reached through several numbers: 150 Euro (Evro) Taxi, 152 Super Taxi, 156 Express Taxi and 188 Salam Taxi.
A taxi for a day can be negotiated. An hour drive to mountain or to a lunch and then back again later can be KGS800-1000. There are also by the hour car with driver services ranging from KGS400-1000/h. One company is IHN. When travelling by taxi out of Bishkek it is generally cheapest and easiest to try arrange a taxi from the Western Bus Station, the competition for service here will generally be higher and therefore allow you to arrange for a cheaper ride and/or better car.
Driving yourself around Bishkek is not for the faint of heart. Drivers are aggressive, road rules are more like 'suggestions' than rules, and police are corrupt so you may be pulled over whether or not you actually broke any rules. However, it is much faster and more convenient if you have a lot to get done. There are a handful of start-up rental companies if you want to drive yourself around or maybe get out of the city on your own. Most will not let you outside of Kyrgyzstan. Other rules vary such as kilometre limits, smoking, and deposits (deposits, 'zalog' in Russian, generally range from USD200-400). Car rental companies range from unlicensed individuals up to actual small corporations. Auto insurance is not common in Kyrgyzstan and not every rental company carries it, so it is best to check that your car is insured. Payment may be in som, but is more often in US dollars. Price per day ranges from USD40/day for plain cars up to around USD200 for luxury SUVs. A few people are also starting to rent out motorcycles. Rental Companies:
Bishkek is a pleasant city to wander with numerous leafy parks, tall trees, peppered by Soviet era statues and monuments. However there isn't a great deal to see beyond this, and the city can comfortably be 'done' in a day (or two if visiting the suburban markets). Most museums are closed on Mondays.
- Ala-Too Square - The main city square is a vast expanse of concrete that ceased to be called Lenin square in 1991, and is the site of frequent political demonstrations and regular festivals. A statue of Lenin was the focal point until 2003, before he was banished to a much less conspicuous location behind the museum and replaced by a statue of Erkidik (freedom). At night many vendors set up photograph and karaoke booths, and there's a synchronised sound and light show in time with the fountains, however travellers should avoid visiting the square after dark. There is also a military monument with an hourly changing of guards.
- State Historical Museum - This museum sits between Ala-Too Square and the Parliament building. On the south side is an enormous statue of Lenin that was moved from the north side of the building after the Soviet Era. The bottom story of this three floor museum displays seasonal exhibits, while the second highlights Soviet-era achievements during the Communist Era. The top floor showcases the history and culture of the Kyrgyz people. Entry costs KGS150. Closed Mondays.
- Panfilov Park - While this park may be in need upkeep and renovation, it's a great look into the past when Kyrgyzstan was a part of the Soviet Union. Beware that few of the rides have any safety mechanisms, and the safety mechanisms they may appear to have are probably not functional. The ferris wheel offers a great view of the greater city.
- Osh Bazaar - If you're looking for a fresh sheep's head, locally made Korean picked salad, shashlik or any other type of Kyrgyz snack, this is the city's best known food bazaar. Although it's certainly not Central Asia's most colourful bazaar, there are hundreds of products to choose from, especially in the spring and summer months when produce is fresh from farms in the outskirts of town. There is a separate clothes market south of the main produce bazaar. To get there you can take trolleybus 14 on Chuy, bus 20 or 24 on Kiev or 42 from Soviet. Like any crowded space, be wary of pick-pockets; however visiting the Osh Bazaar is a rewarding trip. There are also smaller markets including Alamedin Bazaar and Ortosay Bazaar, which are open daily but are at their largest and most interesting at weekends. Dordoy Bazaar is Central Asia largest market of imports, mostly from China.
- M Frunze Museum, 364 Ul. Frunze (NE of Parliament (Look for cottage enclosed in government building)). This museum houses the home of General Mikhail Frunze, the World War I and civil war general born in Bishkek (of Moldovan parents) whose name Bishkek bore until the city was renamed after independence. There are many photos and displays of early Bishkek days from an era when it was mostly a Slavic city and few vehicles existed. edit
- You can buy tickets (KGS80) for the Zhirgal Banya (baths) from the ticket office around the side. There's a sauna, ice-cold pool, and for an extra KGS200 an attendant will lather you up, scrub you and then hose you down. For those into a little bit of self-flogging, birch branches are available free.
- If you want to swim, the Karven Club has an outdoor pool which is perfect for a blistering summer's day, and there's a also a modern gym and fitness centre. For one hour it's KGS400 but it's much better value to pay KGS500 for a whole day of use and hang around for as long as you like.
- A trip to Green City spa & resort can be a great way to experience local culture and customs, enjoy some serious relaxation at Turkish hamam, finish sauna, Russian banya and remove the grime that accumulates while you travel.
Bishkek is a cheap place to learn Russian (or Kyrgyz). A private 1h30 lesson with a native Russian speaker should cost between $5-7. Courses are also available at the American University of Central Asia  and the Kyrgyz-Russian-Slavic University .
There is also a private school that caters to individual learning: The London School in Bishkek . This school offers Russian and Kyrgyz to anyone at any time of the year for as little as KGS120/h. During the warmer months they are often full so book in advance.
A number of international organizations have offices in Bishkek, however most employees are recruited from abroad. If you speak Russian, there might be occasional opportunities to find temporary or long-term work. There are also a number of English language schools that will employ native English speakers.
If you want to fit in with the locals, be sure to get one of the stylish Kyrgyz felt hats (kalpaks) worn mainly by men. You can also get textiles such as traditional patterned carpets (shyrdaks), which are well-made but can be expensive. For cheap souvenirs, avoid the Tsum department store and head directly for the Osh Bazaar. You may have to dig around the stalls as there isn't as much variety or quality as in Tsum, but the prices can be far cheaper if you put your bargaining skills to the test.
- Dor Doi Bazaar (Dordoy), (10 mins outside the city towards noth east.). Open air market with hundreds of double stack shipping containers. It's divided into multiple sections based on the types and origins of goods. (42° 56′ 0″ N,74° 37′ 15″ E) edit
- Geoid, Kiev 107 (entrance on the left side, coordinates: 42 52.524/74 35.629). Geoid sells maps for trekking 1:200'000 and overview maps 1:1'000'000. 150-300som. edit
- DVDs & Software @ Tsum, Chuy 155. Cheap DVDs and Software at the 3.floor edit
- Zum Department Store. Cellphones, clothing, wine, souvenirs, tobacco, make-up, electronics, yep, Zum Department store has it all! This shopping mall, located in the center of town off of Chui street, offers both foreigners and locals alike an array of products for their choosing. Complete with Mastercard and Visa ATM's, Zum also displays a great selection of food stands, just outside. Like anywhere in Bishkek, don't be afraid to haggle, and be careful with that wallet! edit
A typical Kyrgyz meal will feature starchy foods like bread, rice, and potatoes, usually centred around some sort of meat, usually lamb, mutton or beef or even sometimes horse meat. Some of the more popular staples are plov, a Central Asian dish consisting of a bed of rice cooked in oil, topped with lamb or mutton, shredded carrots, and occasionally whole garlic cloves. Shashlyk, a marinated and grilled lamb, mutton or beef kebab, is popular all over the former Soviet Union and is typically eaten with bread, raw onion slices, a voluminous amount of vodka. Samsas, much like the Indian samosa, are available at roadside stands across the city. Usually these are cooked in a tandoor oven as a puff-baked pastry and filled with onions, mutton and mutton fat.
The national dish of Kyrgyzstan is called besh barmak (literally: five fingers, because the dish is eaten with one's hands). It usually consists of horse meat, although sometimes mutton or beef is substituted in, that has been boiled and served mixed with home made noodles. A sheep's head is usually served along side it. If you can land an invitation to a wedding in Bishkek, you'll most likely get a chance to eat besh barmak, although you can also find it are traditional restaurants.
Russian dishes are also fairly ubiquitous in Bishkek because of the large number of ethnic Russians who still live in the city. There are a also growing number of restaurants and cafes catering to more varied tastes.
Uyghur food is popular and fits the taste of many westerners as well as locals. Eg, the chain Arzu has a few restaurants.
- Bishkek Park, Kievska and manas. A brand new shopping center which makes you feel in an European capital. Bowling tracks and a nice skating ring available plus all sorts of mainstream brends and products. A popular hang out of internationals and local high class edit
There are hundreds of stands that sell gamburgers, a local adaptation to the American hamburger but really share little in common. They are sliced döner kebab-style meat served on a bun with cole-slaw, cucumber, mayonnaise, ketchup, and some fries. They usually cost around KGS60. One of the most popular gamburger stands in Bishkek is at the corner of Sovietskaya and Kievskaya, across the street from the main post office. It's a popular area for local students to pick up a cheap meal and they even serve the rare chicken hamburger.
Throughout the city are a lot of street-side vendors selling samsis, which is a staple of most locals' lunch. The green kiosks opposite the Philharmonic Hall ticket office sell some of the freshest, cheapest and best prepared in Bishkek and they are popular with students from the nearby universities. You can usually find a row of shashlyk grills inside any bazaar or just outside any chaykhana (teahouse).
For some pre-independence nostalgia, try the cafeterias of government ministries and universities. For about a dollar you can experience what it was (and still is) like to eat Soviet-style cafeteria food.
- Fakir - (Behind Bishkek City shopping mall) Provides authentic and safe traditional Kyrgyz food and is very popular with locals. Good sized portions and excellent prices. Open for lunch and dinner. Beer and non-smoking areas available. (KGS80-160)
- Faiza - (Jibek Jolu) Excellent local food frequented by locals. Great samsas and laghman (noodles). Dirt cheap. (KGS80-160)
- Alabama Steak House - (on Baitik Baatyr (formerly Sovietskaya) - opposite Fizpribori) The only steak house in Bishkek, it offers a wide range of steaks (c. KGS200-600), as well as an extensive menu of Georgian and European cuisine (c. KGS150-250). The bar has a good selection of whiskey and wines and is well stocked with other elite drinks. TV-Sports on a 98 inch screen. Their website has an English version where the menu and the bar list are available, as well as the schedule of sport events. 
- Cafe Stari Edgar - Located behind the Russian Drama Theatre; this is one of the most popular places with the expat crowd. In the summer, there is ample outdoor seating and in the winter, the bomb-shelter style building (decorated in a unique nautical motif, interesting considering the landlocked location of Kyrgyzstan!) presents Bishkek's most original dining venue. The food tends to be average, but the house band has entertained generations of visitors.
- Aria - One block south of Vefa Center, this Iranian-owned restaurant serves good Iranian and Turkish dishes while also offering Russian fare. The multi-flavored kalyan-hookahs attract a varied, hipster-like crowd.
- Cyclone Italian Restaurants - (136 Chui) Less expensive than the more upscale Adriatico, it features an extensive menu. It specializes in dishes featuring fresh veal, which is not in short supply in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. (c. KGS250-350)
- Dolce Vita Pizza - (on Akhunbaeva, to the east of Manas, about one block) Possibly the best pizza available in Bishkek. Its thin crust is baked in an open-fire oven; there is also a whole range of Italian dishes and pastas. (c. KGS250-380)
- Buddha Bar - (corner of Akhunbaeva and Sovietskaya) Possibly the most popular restaurant in Bishkek. Regular entertainment and a menu featuring other dishes than pizza and sushi; shashlyk is also good here. You don't need to brush up on your Russian or Kyrgyz language skills as there is a menu in English. (c. KGS210-300)
- Mexican Cantina, 158 Prospekt Chu/Isanova (Between Beta Stores and UN House), ☎ (312) 610823, . 11:30-22:00. Mexican restaurant in Bishkek. Real chips and salsa served when you sit down. Burritos, tacos, enchiladas, carnitas, gazpacho are served. This is the place to go for margaritas and the best happy hour in town! KGS150-300. edit
- Metro Pub - (Chui and Turizbekova) This is where international aid workers, embassy staff, mining personnel, and Manas Airport contractors from all come together to down a pint and grab a decent meal. The staff are also quite popular and used to back and forth flirting between themselves and the expat patrons. Especially crowded on St. Patrick's Day and Halloween. (~210-300 som) -- Aussie Butcher is now located in back of Metro pub.
- Pirogoff-Vodkin Restaurant - (Kievskaya St 107, near intersection with Toglok Moldo) Authentic Russian high cuisine served in a tsarist-era setting. And as expected a full vodka list. Telephone: 312-61-28-75
- Shao Lin - (Jibek Jolu and Isanova) One of the best known Chinese restaurants in Bishkek. The quality is up to most western standards, but tends to still be a little oily. The soups are especially large - better to be shared. (~210-300 som)
- Vis a Vis Cafe/Aussie Butcher, 26a Logvinenko Street (opposite 'The White House'), ☎ +996 775 58 23 69. 07:30-11:00?. British-owned & run cafe serving the only Western-style steaks, bacon, ham, sausages etc in Kyrgyzstan( prepared by their British butcher and sold retail in the attached Aussie Butcher Shop), full all-day British & American breakfasts, free Wi-Fi, dart board,no smoking, no service charge, satellite sports inc live premier league football, rugby, cricket, etc. KGS100-700. edit -- This location has shut down and butcher operates out of Metro pub
- Four Seasons Restuarant - Delicious food with a large selection of European and Asian cuisine. Outside dining is available in the summer. Live music year-round, baby-sitting for the kids, and popular with foreign dignitaries. While it's not to be confused with the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City, it's a great dining experience nonetheless. Be careful not to break anything, they will add large amounts to your bill.
There are a few coffee shops in Bishkek that even feature wi-fi.
- Kafe Coffee - two locations- 9 Manas Ave/South of Moskovskaya & 40/1 Togolok Moldo, which is south of the City Sports Hall towards Chui. Both locations serve a variety of non-alcoholic, heavily caffeinated drinks and feature free Wi-fi. The Togolok Moldo site also has outdoor seating. As of May 2010, The Kafe Coffee located on Manas uses the SAIMA CARD - a pay system of Wi-Fi.
- Sierra Coffee - Opened in Spring of 2012-57/1 Manas, next to the Russian Embassy, between Kiev and Toktogula, has brought a near "Starbucks" experience to Bishkek. Excellent coffee and coffee specialist drinks. Good breakfasts, sandwiches and wraps. Free Wi-Fi. Counter service by English speaking staff. A place to network and to meet other English speakers. Sierra also roasts their own coffee, offering fresh roasted coffee for sale in a variety of origins and roasts.
- Kafeman - (Isanava/Chui, south of Beta Stores) This recently renovated cafe used to be Bar 2x2 but as of July 2012 is an upmarket cafe also selling alcoholic drinks and also has an outdoor seating area.
For young and single people, Bishkek's nightlife is impressive. Foreigners are welcomed at most venues with open arms, and many times they do not need to pay a cover charge. See the "Stay Safe" section for more on how be aware while you're having fun in Bishkek.
- 12 Bar (Razakova Str. 32)  - set atop one of higher buildings this makes a great place for a rooftop drink. A plush place where Bishkek's young and wealthy go to see and be seen - hence good idea to dress up at least a little. Drinks around $2-4 a pop.
- Fire and Ice - (Chui and Erkindik) This popular, Pakistani-owned disco near the Bishkek city centre is located right above a bowling alley.
- Retro Metro - You'll find the DJ spinning from inside a the front section of a tube train engine (hence the name). The 80s kitsch is a popular spot for really late night partying.
- Promzona - A trendy Russian rock establishment with a mostly Russian clientèle. Jazz musicians play on Tuesdays with rock and blues acts on the weekends. Check out their extensive drink menu. 600 soms entry fee.
- Sweet 60s - (Molodaya Gvardia and Kievskaya; near cinema Oktyabr) Live music everyday, with jazz evenings on Wednesday and Sunday.
- Golden Bull - (On Chuy, next to the White House. Enter from the back yard of another building.) KGS300 for entrance. Beers cost KGS200. the new staff are not that friendly as it used to. Do not go alone in any condition.
- GQ Exclusive night club -(Location: пр. Чуй, Phone (551) 44 44 11) Located by Sonaba not far from the Sports complex and movie theater. Upscale night club with dancing girls on the stages. Opaque floors that light up for ambience with the music. There's also a show at the bar where they light the bar on fire. Generally 500 soms entry unless you make connections.
There are many national drinks which are very healthy. Kymyz is a fermented dairy product traditionally made from mare's milk. Kymyz is a dairy product similar to kefir, but is produced from a liquid starter culture, in contrast to the solid kefir "grains". So, it is advised to taste Kymyz, during spring and summer seasons. Also, try the slightly fizzy wheat drink called "shoro," sold at stands around the city. It is reportedly a hangover cure.
- Bishkek Guesthouse, Apartment 26, Molodaya Gvardia (10 min. walk from main bus stand and Osh Bazaar. Walk along the main road with the park in the middle. Look to your right or left and you will see apartment blocks. There is a 24 Hour Supermarket with a red sign and an underpass to the left of it. Go under and as you exit look to your left for a doorway that is sheltered by vines. Press 26B to call the guesthouse to let you in the complex. 7th floor to your right.), ☎ +996 0552 152 207 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: 11AM; checkout: 2PM. Little 3 bedroom apartment that has been converted into dorm rooms. It's very clean and pleasant, but can get crowded when full. Bathroom offers a hot shower and clean western style toilet. The single beds are the comfiest, but the bunk-beds are hard as a rocks. Zakir, Farah and Abdullah are very welcoming and will help you with whatever you need. Zakir and Farah both speak very good English. There is free Wi-Fi that has very good speeds and a kitchen that you can use and cook in. KGS390 Dorm, KGS440 Triple, KGS490 Double, KGS890 Single. All prices per person. edit
- Maria Guesthouse, # 223 Pobeda str. (5 min. walking from Arzu restaurant), ☎ +996 778 320532 (email@example.com), . checkout: 12:00. The guesthouse is very clear and pleasant, it has single and double rooms (10),WC + hot shower in each room. Guest kitchen, big hall, free Wi-Fi, free laundry. Pick up from International Airport Manas available. Parking inside. KGS500/1000s. edit
- Nomad's Home, Drevesnaya 10 (right behind the eastern bus station, coordinates: 42 53.300/74 37.755), ☎ +996 312 299955 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Two Kyrgyz women, Raisa and Gulnara, run this friendly homestay. Dormitories, double rooms, and tent camping are available (with one of the double rooms inside a yurt!) Breakfast served sometimes. Pick-up from and drop-off to Manas International is available as well as visa assistance. Can be very crowded, with only one bathroom for all the guests. Has a yard which you can park your bicycle/motorcycle. Per person: tent 250, dorm 350, double, Yurt for 3 people. edit
- Sabyrbek's Guest House, 21 Razzakova (just south of Moskovskaya) (Opposite German embassy. The buzzer is broken, but banging loudly on the large metal door should attract their attention (or call).), ☎ +996 552 292721 or +996 312 300710 (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org). The home of the famous Kyrgyz author T. Sydykbekov, is now managed by his son the amiable Sabyrbek. It is very centrally located. Guests are welcome to use the kitchen facilities. Internet is available and the showers are now hot. dm/dbl/yurt 450/600/350 som. edit
- Sakura Guesthouse, Michurina 38 (Walk north from the crossing of Soviet and Jibek Jolu for 100m. Turn right on the small alley between two shops and keep walking for 50m, then turn right and you'll see the guesthouse, coordinates: 42 53.183/74 36.842), ☎ Phone:+996-312-380209 Mobile:0777-324024 (email@example.com). checkout: 11:00am. This nice guesthouse, run by a very friendly Kyrgyz-Japanese couple, has two 6 bed dorms and a collection of single and double rooms. Bathrooms are plentiful and spotless, with Western-style toilets. There is also a small pool, a kitchen where you can do some cooking, and an area for hanging out and chatting. Free laundry. Free wifi. Bikes and motorcycles are welcome to park inside. The Japanese half of the owners might join you to the nightlife of the city if his wife is out of town. The alleys around the guesthouse are not lit and can feel a bit scary at night but are safe to go around. dm/dbl 400/1000 som. (220.127.116.11,074.36.50.2) edit
- South Guest House, ☎ + 996 312 572623 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . A great bargain with a nice view of the mountains outside Bishkek. The young Kyrgyz host, Nanchan, can help accommodate to your needs with traveling suggestions, sightseeing tours, before you arrive. Pick-up from Manas International is available. edit
- Vasiliy Guest House, ☎ +996 772 956410 (email@example.com). A Kyrgyz family living in a Russian apartment block, run this friendly homestay. it can be easily reached by buses from centre. Breakfast with fresh bread and home made jams is delicious. The mother does handicrafts and have a good collection of traditional work for sale. Vasiliy is a guide who can give useful information on trekking and other out door activities. Pick-up from and drop-off to Manas International is done in father's old Lada. edit
- Alpinist, Panfilov 113, ☎ +996 312 595647 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . A great value in the center of Bishkek; the Alpinist has single, double, and triple occupancy rooms available with satellite TV and internet ports, a full service cafe, a conference room, and - being true to its name - a climbing wall! edit
- Touristan Guesthouse, 6 Koenkozova Street (Diagonally opposite Togolok Moldo Park), ☎ +996 312 315102, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 13:00. Solid mid-range option in a newly renovated building in one of the nicer parts of central Bishkek. Large rooms, free wifi, international TV, decent breakfast, powerful showers, Nespresso machine in reception. from $60. edit
- Crocus Guest House, Komsomolskaya 5, ☎ +996 312 367164 (email@example.com), . Guest house is a new hotel. Guest house, which has a cozy family atmosphere, offers an accommodation in 6 double rooms with shower, the satellite television, fridge, and Wi-Fi connection. Guesthouse also offers a garden with a summerhouse and sauna with the swimming pool. Guest house is located in the quite east-northern part of city Bishkek, not far from the main street “The Silk Way”. edit
- MBA Business Center Hotel, Panfilov 237, ☎ +996 312 623120. Lots of space, a friendly staff, but questionable comfort and some broken appliances at this hotel located inside an actual business center on the 4th floor. One thing worth noting is the absence of stairs that may bring you to safety in case of a fire: the elevator is the only way in (and out), since the staircase is blocked by a door at the 3rd floor. Anyway, the staff assures that "there will be no fire"... edit
- Radison Guesthouse in Kyrgyzstan!, Abdymomunova 259, ☎ +996 312 32 31 81 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +996 312 32 31 81), . A guesthouse in the centre with a garden, air-con, private baths (24/7 hr hot water) and toilet in each room, satellite TV, with breakfast, Wi-Fi and full concierge services. Guest house provides transfer service from/to airport. edit
- Ak Keme, Prospekt Mira 93, ☎ +996 312 540143/44/45/52 (email@example.com), . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 12PM. Upscale hotel about 8km from city centre, offers a conference center, a health club, indoor and outdoor pools with bar access, and spa services. edit
- Hotel Holiday, Abdrahmanova 204, ☎ +996 312 97 61 61 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +996 312 97 61 61), . checkin: 2PM. Popular and central hotel. Feel the modern hospitality. edit
- Hyatt Regency Bishkek, Sovietskaya 191, ☎ +996 312 661234 (email@example.com), . checkin: 12PM; checkout: 3PM. 5-star hotel in business district, largest in the country. Popular with foreign dignitaries and businessmen. edit
- Jannat, Micro Rayon 7, ☎ +996 312 911210 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 12PM. This new hotel is located about 20 minutes outside the city center and is home to the Monte Carlo casino. Silk and felt textiles add a bit more of a Kyrgyz feel to the hotel. edit
- Club Hotel Bishkek, Frunze 425-B, ☎ +996 312 683888 (email@example.com), . checkin: 12PM; checkout: 3PM. This upscale luxury hotel is located on the 5th floor of the Dostuk Hotel. edit
- Park Hotel Bishkek, Orozbekova 87, ☎ +996 312 665518 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +996 312 622497), . checkin: 1PM. Modern, new hotel in the business district. edit
While relatively safe compared to many major Asian cities, one should use caution after hours in Bishkek. It is highly recommended against taking an unaccompanied stroll after dusk and you definitely avoid parks at night.
Pickpockets are a major problem in and around markets, especially at Osh Bazaar. Look out for young men with large plastic bags "bumping" into you! Keep your valuables at your accommodation if you plan to visit the markets, and if you bring a purse, camera, backpack etc. keep it in front of you.
Nightclubs and their surrounding areas can be a hotbed for crime in the form of theft, prostitution, or even assault by people waiting to take advantage of an unsuspecting traveler or expat. Ask locals or hotel staff which areas are safer than other and take precautions if you plan on club hopping. Do NOT walk from nightclub to nightclub at night; instead spend the KGS100 (USD2.50) on a taxi. Potential muggers have been known to wait outside bars and clubs (especially the ones frequented by ex-pats), follow drunk ex-pats, and then rob them.
Keep a cool head and be aware of your surroundings when hanging out inside and outside of nightclubs. Most clubs have numerous buff, semi-professional security guards, but you should be vigilant nonetheless. Do not leave any belongings on the table while you go to dance. Be careful around the taxi area outside the club; occasionally, unsavoury characters pick this location to mug drunk foreigners as they leave the club late at night. You might not get much help from club security when it comes to theft.
Bishkek has a large number of prostitutes and sexually-transmitted diseases are on the rise in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. Always take proper precautions if you plan on being sexually active.
If you are a victim of a crime, you are probably best served by reporting the incident to your embassy, rather than to the militsya (police). Sometimes militsya will approach foreigners and ask them for documents, such as your passport. It's best to keep a photocopy of your passport and leave the original at your hotel if you can. On the rare occasion they try to fine you for having "the wrong visa", you are most likely just being set up for a shake down. Be polite, but firm, in your refusal and insist that you be put in touch with your embassy first.
Sometimes policeman approach you on the street, especially if you look like a traveller (carrying a big backpack, etc), and ask to check the belongings. Often, their aim is to steal your valuables, money during this check. They can do it very professionally, and you only will notice later, that something disappeared. The best way, is to pretend you dont understand them, trying to call your embassy, or just walk away asap. Also keep your valuables in a safe place and dont expose them to others all the time in Kyrgyzstan. Even sometimes normal local people, who invite you to have a tea at their home, if they see that you left some valuables unattended, have too big temptation for stealing it.
Irrigation ditches and other holes in the ground can seriously injure the unaware person - especially when walking at night. Many streets are poorly lit or not lit at all, and it is easy to fall into them. Avoid manhole covers, grates, and similar fixtures - they are frequently loose and may also cause you to fall (or they may be missing altogether)!
Bishkek is the Eastern Europe of 30 years ago, except with mobile phones and internet access. It is more or less a museum relic of the former Soviet Union Bloc. Despite Kyrgyzstan's poverty and the decay of its infrastructure, Bishkek remains a relatively safe, clean, functional city. Bishkek is not an old city and possesses no ancient landmarks, but it nonetheless has its own kind of charm, which often arouses nostalgia in people who knew the old Soviet Union. For most travelers, Bishkek is merely a stop on the Silk Road to refresh supplies before returning to the mountains. However, expatriates who call Bishkek home generally consider themselves lucky to benefit from its easygoing lifestyle, open-minded spirit, party culture and low cost of living. If you come with the right expectations you might find yourself pleasantly surprised!
A popular local source of information for tourists is the regularly published ex-pat run Spektator magazine which features tourism and culture articles focusing on Kyrgyzstan and the wider Central Asian region.
- China, Prospekt Mira 299/7, ☎ +996 312 597-481 (email@example.com), . The embassy was recently moved, the old address at Toktogula street is no longer valid. For obtaining a tourist visa a inviting letter is required. Travel agencies, which can provide it, are Kyrgyz Concept , Chui 126 and Mrs Liu, Chui 142. The price including consular fees is $120–150, But the lower price you can find in the "GS-tour" company. the price is 80$ and higher. (☎English: +996555 51 52 52, +996708 51 52 52, ☎Russian: +996773 75 10 00) Address: Shopokava 29, 3. (42.823304,) edit
- Germany, Rassakova 28, ☎ +996 312 905-000, . Germany offers the Schengen Visa in Kyrgyzstan. edit
- Kazakhstan, Tynychtyk Avenue (old name: Mira), 95 A, ☎ Consulate: +996 (312) 69-20-95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . The Wikimapia entry. Phone number of the embassy: +996 (312) 69-20-98. Payments for the visas must be made in Kazkommertsbank, the closest office is the Zhibek Zholy branch. edit
- Tajikistan, Karadarinskaya 36 (Take the trolley bus 17 to south and get off the bus at the Duplex Lounge Bar. The embassy is at the end of the road that goes to the left after Duplex. By bicycle head south on Soviet, turn left/east into Gorky, then south/right into Karl-Marx. Turn left/east at the 2.trafficlight. The embassy is at the end of the road. Nock at the door on your left) coordinates: 42 50.866/74 37.756), ☎ +996 312 512-343. 10am-1pm, 2pm-4pm. Tajiks visas are issued on spot. 30day 60$ + 50som, 45day 70$ +50som ,GBAO Permit is free!. edit
- United States of America, Prospekt Mira 171, ☎ +996 312 551-241 (email@example.com, fax: +996 312 551-264), . It is recommended that you visit the website for the embassy's hours and the process for arranging an appointment. edit
- Uzbekistan, Tynystanov 213 (coordinates: 42 52.390/74 36.536), ☎ +996 312 663-078, . They won't even let you in unless you have an appointment. Call after 2pm and get one, most likely for the next but one working day. Openinghours Tue-Fri 10am-noon. Download the applicationform at http://evisa.mfa.uz. Note that many nationals (including Finnish and Dutch) need a letter of invitaion. Processingtime is 12 days, urgent 4-8 days. With a LOI you get it on the spot, even if you don't need one. They just need your passportcopy and don’t take your passport. Price 30days 75$, urgent 105$. edit
Free Wi-Fi is now widespread. Most "foreinercafes" have free wifi (Coffee, Foyer, Obama, Cyclone, Pirogoff-Vodkin, Vostok Zapad, Tubeteika, Movie City Bar, Buddha Bar, etc). There is also free wifi at the vefa shoppingcenter on the corner of Gorkiy and Soviet.
Getting mobile phone service or even internet service is rather straight forward and a good idea, even if you're here for only a few days. You can purchase a SIM card (for GSM phones) at literally hundreds of retailers from: Beeline, Megacom, and Fonex. Also, Nexi-com and Beeline have offer 3G internet services. A SIM card is approximately 100 soms (~$2.25) and you can also now re-charge it at numerous automated machines in the city, many of which feature an English language program. If you do not have a compatible phone, you can purchase a new no-frills model for as little as 1200 soms (~$27).
The 4,000m (13,000 ft) "foothills" of the Tian Shan range (Celestial Mountains) begin just thirty minutes outside of Bishkek.
- Ala-archa canyon - This park goes the length of a beautiful valley where you can hike in several kilometers to a glacier. Inside the park is a hotel and couple of small cafes. Taxi services can take you and wait a few hours for about 1000 som ($25). From the newly renovated lodge you can trek to the stone house located at 3300m and it takes about 4-5 hours. The stone house charges KGS500 per night for bunk beds or you can camp. From there you can climb Corona Peak or Uchitel peak 4585m or head to glacier.
- Burana Tower, (Just outside the close-by town of Tokmok, which can be reached with a frequent minibus departing from the east bus station of Bishkek. From Tokmok take a taxi or a bus, departing around 12 and 15, to Burana. The buses return to Tokmok around 14 and 16). A nice tower/minaret surrounded by some beautiful countryside. At the same site, there are also a small museum, some petroglyphs, burial mounds and remains of walls. 30 som to climb the tower and about KGS15 to enter the museum. edit
- Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan, Kievskaya 168 (crossroad Turuspekova), ☎ +996 312 909115 (firstname.lastname@example.org). This trekking club organizes one day or longer public treks or hikes in the mountains around Bishkek, for just few hundreds soms a day, including transport to/from the start of the trek and guide. Food and equipment you should bring with you, though probably you could rent some equipment from them. Usually size of the group is 10+ people, both locals and expats. Booking few days in advance is better, since group size is limited by number of the seats in the bus. They mostly have treks on weekends or holidays. Sometimes they have other outdoor activities like rafting etc... Their website have events schedule in English.  edit