Sunday 20 January 2019

KYRGYZSTAN: Bishkek, Avoid Leaving Belongings On Table While You Go Dancing,Forget Any Queuing Manners

Bishkek, 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, formerly Pishpek and Frunze, is the capital and largest city of Kyrgyzstan or Kyrgyz Republic. Bishkek is also the administrative centre of the Chuy Region. The province surrounds the city, although the city itself is not part of the province, but rather a province-level unit of Kyrgyzstan.

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 travelers 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 cafes.

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.

In 1991 the Kyrgyz parliament changed the capital's name to Bishkek.

Bishkek is situated at an altitude of about 800 meters (2,600 ft), just off the northern fringe of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too range, an extension of the Tian Shan mountain range. These mountains rise to a height of 4,855 meters (15,928 ft) and provide a backdrop to the city.

North of the city, a fertile and gently undulating steppe extends far north into neighboring Kazakhstan. The Chui River drains most of the area. Bishkek is connected to the Turkestan-Siberia Railway by a spur line.

Bishkek is a city of wide boulevards and marble-faced public buildings combined with numerous Soviet-style apartment blocks surrounding interior courtyards. There are also thousands of smaller privately built houses, mostly outside the city centre.

Streets follow a grid pattern, with most flanked on both sides by narrow irrigation channels, watering innumerable trees to provide shade in the hot summers.

Though the city is relatively young, the surrounding area has some sites of interest dating to prehistorical times. There are also sites from the Greco-Buddhist period, the period of Nestorian influence, the era of the Central Asian khanates, and the Soviet period.

The central part of the city is laid out on a rectangular grid plan. The city's main street is the east–west Chui Avenue or Chuy Prospekti, named after the region's main river. In the Soviet era, it was called Lenin Avenue.

Along or near it are many of the most important government buildings and universities. These include the Academy of Sciences compound. The westernmost section of the avenue is known as Deng Xiaoping Avenue.

The main north–south street is Yusup Abdrakhmanov Street, still commonly referred to by its old name, Sovietskaya Street. Its northern and southern sections are called, respectively, Yelebesov and Baityk Batyr Streets.

Several major shopping centers are located along it, and in the north it provides access to Dordoy Bazaar.

Erkindik or Freedom Boulevard runs from north to south, from the main railroad station - Bishkek II south of Chui Avenue to the museum quarter and sculpture park just north of Chui Avenue, and further north toward the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In the past it was called Dzerzhinsky Boulevard, named after a Communist revolutionary, Felix Dzerzhinsky, and its northern continuation is still called Dzerzhinsky Street.

An important east–west street is Jibek Jolu or Silk Road. It runs parallel to Chui Avenue about 2 km (1 mi) north of it, and is part of the main east–west road of Chui Province. Both the eastern and western bus terminals are located along Jibek Jolu.

There is a Roman Catholic church located at ul. Vasiljeva 197 near Rynok Bayat. It is the only Catholic cathedral in Kyrgyzstan.

Landmarks In The City Centre

- State Historical Museum, located in Ala-Too Square, the main city square

- State Museum of Applied Arts, containing examples of traditional Kyrgyz handicrafts

- Frunze House Museum

- Statue of Ivan Panfilov in the park near the White House.

- An equestrian statue of Mikhail Frunze stands in a large park Boulevard Erkindik across from the train station.

- The train station was built in 1946 by German prisoners of war and has survived since then without further renovation or repairs; most of those who built it perished and were buried in unmarked pits near the station.

- The main government building, the White House, is a huge, seven story marble block and the former headquarters of the Communist Party of the Kirghiz SSR

- At Ala-Too Square there is an independence monument where the changing of the guards may be watched.

- Osh bazaar, west of the city centre, is a large, picturesque produce market
Outer neighbourhoods
The Dordoy Bazaar, just inside the bypass highway on the north-eastern edge of the city, is a major retail and wholesale market.

Landmarks Outside Bishkek

The Kyrgyz Ala-Too mountain range, some 40 kilometres (25 mi) away, provides a spectacular backdrop to the city; the Ala Archa National Park is only a 30 to 45 minutes drive away.

Bishkek is the most populated city in Kyrgyzstan. Its population, estimated in 2015, was 937,400. From the foundation of the city to the mid-1990s, ethnic Russians and other peoples of European descent such as Ukrainians, Germans comprised the majority of the city's population.

According to the 1970 census, the ethnic Kyrgyz were only 12.3%, while Europeans comprised more than 80% of Frunze population. Now Bishkek is a predominantly Kyrgyz city, with around 66% of its residents Kyrgyz, while European people make up less than 20% of the population.

Despite this fact, Russian is the main language while Kyrgyz continues losing ground especially among the younger generations

Emissions of air pollutants in Bishkek amounted to 14,400 tons in 2010. Among all cities in Kyrgyzstan, the level of air pollution in Bishkek is the highest, occasionally exceeding maximum allowable concentrations by several times, especially in the city centre.

For example, concentrations of formaldehyde occasionally exceed maximum allowable limits by a factor of four.

Responsibility for ambient air quality monitoring in Bishkek lies with the Kyrgyz State Agency of Hydrometeorology. There are seven air quality monitoring stations in Bishkek, measuring levels of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, formaldehyde and ammonia

Bishkek uses the Kyrgyzstan currency, the som. The som's value fluctuates regularly, but averaged around 61 som per U.S. dollar as of February 2015. The economy in Bishkek is primarily agricultural, and agricultural products are sometimes bartered in the outlying regions.

The streets of Bishkek are regularly lined with produce vendors in a market style venue. In most of the downtown area there is a more urban cityscape with banks, stores, markets and malls. Sought after goods include hand-crafted artisan pieces, such as statues, carvings, paintings and many nature-based sculptures.

As with many cities in Post-Soviet states, housing in Bishkek has undergone extensive changes since the collapse of the Soviet Union. While housing was formerly distributed to citizens in the Soviet-era, housing in Bishkek has since become privatized.

Though single family houses are slowly becoming more popular, the majority of the residents live in Soviet-era apartments. Despite the Kyrgyz economy experiencing growth, increases in available housing has been slow with very little new construction.

As a result of this growing prosperity and the lack of new formal housing, prices have been rising significantly – doubling from 2001 to 2002.

Those unable to afford the high price of housing within Bishkek, notably internal migrants from rural villages and small provincial towns often have to resort to informal squatter settlements on the outskirts of the city.

These settlements are estimated to house 400,000 people or about 30 percent of Bishkek’s population. While many of the settlements have lacked basic necessities such as electricity and running water, recently there has been a push by the local government to provide these services.

Public transportation includes buses, electric trolley buses, and public vans known in Russian as marshrutka. The first bus and trolley bus services in Bishkek were introduced in 1934 and 1951, respectively.

Taxi cabs can be found throughout the city.

The city is considering designing and building a light rail system.

There are two main bus stations in Bishkek. The smaller old Eastern Bus Station is primarily the terminal for minibuses to various destinations within or just beyond the eastern suburbs, such as Kant, Tokmok, Kemin, Issyk Ata, or the Korday border crossing.

Long-distance regular bus and minibus services to all parts of the country, as well as to Almaty the largest city in neighboring Kazakhstan, and Kashgar, China, run mostly from the newer grand Western Bus Station; only a smaller number run from the Eastern Station.

The Dordoy Bazaar on the north-eastern outskirts of the city also contains makeshift terminals for frequent minibuses to suburban towns in all directions from Sokuluk in the west to Tokmak in the east and to some buses taking traders to Kazakhstan and Siberia.

Bishkek railway station sees only a few trains a day. It offers a popular three-day train service from Bishkek to Moscow.

There are also long distance trains that leave for Siberia Novosibirsk and Novokuznetsk, via Almaty, over the Turksib route, and to Yekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk) in the Urals, via Astana.

These services are remarkably slow over 48 hours to Yekaterinburg, due to long stops at the border and the indirect route the trains first have to go west for more than a 100 kilometres (62 mi) before they enter the main Turksib line and can continue to the east or north.

For example, as of the fall of 2008, train No. 305 Bishkek-Yekaterinburg was scheduled to take 11 hours to reach the Shu junction—a distance of some 269 kilometres (167 mi) by rail, and less than half of that by road.

The city is served by Manas International Airport, located approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) northwest of the city centre, and readily reachable by taxi.

In 2002, the United States obtained the right to use Manas International Airport as an air base for its military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Russia subsequently in 2003 established an air base of its own the Kant Air Base near Kant, some 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of Bishkek.

It is based at a facility that used to be home to a major Soviet military pilot training school; one of its students, Hosni Mubarak, later became president of Egypt.

Bishkek's Manas International Airport IATA: FRU is a 25 minute drive from the city centre. Most of the international flights depart and arrive at very early hours of the morning. Marshrutka route 380 departs from outside the airport terminal and goes to central Bishkek, interscetion Chuy ave/Jash Gvardiya Blvd fare is 50 som.

The following airlines operate to and from Bishkek:

- Aeroflot - Moscow-Sheremetyevo (5 hour flight, Airbus 320)

- Air Astana - Almaty

- Avia Traffic Company - Almaty, Dushanbe, Isfana, Jalal-Abad, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Osh, Tashkent

- China Southern Airlines - Urumqi

- Fly Dubai - Dubai

- Iran Air Tours - Mashhad

- Iran Aseman Airlines - Mashhad, Tehran-Imam Khomeini

- Itek Air - Moscow-Domodedovo, Urumqi

- Kyrgyzstan Airlines - Batken, Delhi, Dubai, Dushanbe, Islamabad, Jalal-Abad, Kazarman, Kerben, Krasnoyarsk, Moscow-Domodedovo, Novosibirsk, Osh, Tashkent, Urumqi, Yekaterinburg

- Pegasus Airlines - Istanbul Sabiha Gokçen

- Rossiya - St Petersburg

- S7 Airlines - Novosibirsk

- Tajik Air - Dushanbe

- Turkish Airlines - Istanbul-Ataturk, Ulaanbaatar

- Uzbekistan Airways - Tashkent

- Ural Airlines - Moscow,Yekaterinburg

- KYRGYZSTAN AIR New Delhi -Bishkek-New Delhi

- Glorious Aviation India - Delhi-Bishkek-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 several ATMs in the arrival hall of the airport, and several small cafés and convenience shops that are open around the clock.

Manas International used to be home to a US Air Force Base that, in the past, provided logistics support to forces in Afghanistan.

Keep your baggage tag receipt with you as your receipt may 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 KGS600, so you should attempt to bargain for a similar rate if you choose to take one of these taxis.

You can catch a driver on second floor of the road, when he drops off passengers for departure for cheaper price 300-350KGS.

From West - bus terminal west, Taxi Drivers take 500 som and pre-booked Taxi will be 600 som.

While more expensive you can pre-book a private transfer with English speaking driver from Iron Horse Nomads for around $25 if you want to avoid the hassle with a taxi. $25.

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.

This service is running again, on a seasonal summer basis. Note that the taxi/bus road trip is only 2.5-3h.

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.

Hourly minibuses from Almaty Sairan bus station costs KZT1500 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 KGS30.

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.

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. As of 2018 there is no need to secret knock on a mirrored door, just wait in line.

If the official in your line doesn't speak English, he will hand your passport to one who does, and you will be ushered to the front of that line. You will be asked a few perfunctory questions e.g. how long in Kyrgyzstan, purpose of visit, etc and you will be waved through.

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.

Private cars are available from travel companies as well. The prices will be higher, typically around $150-200, but will allow you to have an English speaking driver and more personalized service. $175.

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 or busik, from Dordoi Bazaar.

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.

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 Tor-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:

Sport Expert, Mira 73/1 Ak-keme hotel area. 09.00 - 19.00. The shop deals with different kinds of mountain sport activities, with mountain bikes as well. They are specialized on the Kona bikes, but always are ready to help with small-scale repair of your bike.

During winter time they are dealing with skiing/snowboarding equipment. Almost all the staff speaks English. One of the biggest shops in the city.

K2, Mira 93 Mira avenue/Aeropotrinskaya Ak-Keme hotel area. 09.00 - 19.00. The shop is specialized on the K2 bikes and skies. Even though people are not really good in English, they are always ready to help you with your bike, if you have problems with it.

Gergert Sport. 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.

Velo Leader, O.Yuganov, Moskovska 226. 10:00-18:00. Perhaps the best bike shop in town. Note that the directions of Lonely Planet are wrong.

Elite Sport/Drive Bikeshop, Tokrogula 170 geo coordinates: 42 52.352/74 35.399. A giant bike shop.

Free Bike, 91 Shukurova str near Ahunbaev and Junusaliev streets intersection. Mountain bikes rent in Kyrgyzstan. Mountain bikes are completely prepared for a long distance cycling.

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 that ply all parts of the city. They generally cost KGS10, KGS12 at night.

Go to the 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 meaning 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.

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 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:

OcOO Iron Horse Nomads (IHN). Cars allowed to travel in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan USD40-100.

Attractions in Bishkek
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 or 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 pickled 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.

Beware of the policemen in Osh Bazaar they will invite you to their station to check your paper then proceed to steal your belongings, do not make eyes contact if you look like a foreigner, do not ask for directions.

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.

American University of Central Asia (AUCA), 205 Abdumomunov near to Ala Too Square. 9.00-17.00. Founded in 1993, AUCA develops future leaders for the democratic transformation of Central Asia. American University of Central Asia is an international, multi-disciplinary learning community in the American liberal arts tradition.

Its curriculum includes the Preparatory Program (New Generation Academy), twelve undergraduate majors and three graduate programs. In addition to its top-flight academic programs, AUCA is committed to freedom of expression, critical inquiry and academic honesty.

AUCA is the first university in Central Asia to offer US accredited degrees in liberal arts through a partnership with Bard College in the United States. In addition to Bard, AUCA maintains partnerships with a number of universities and organizations worldwide.

You can buy tickets (KGS200) 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.

One of the best Spa in Bishkek is Mystic Spa Bishkek offering authentic Indian Ayurvedic Massages for relaxation as well as rejuvination and therapies Shirodhara, Podikizhi, Kati Vasti etc. and Thai, Swedish Balinese massages by expert masseur girls from India and Thailand.

It is a great value for money Spa and is popular for not just massages of all kinds but for high quality facial care, pedicure, manicure etc. as well. Prices are unbelievably low, Manicure just 5$, Pedicure a mere 7.5$ and Spa therapists and awesome interiors are simply top class.

Prospekt Chui 219 at crossroad Toglokmoldo, they have great discounts on package deals and Health packages also.

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.

Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan, Kievskaya 168 crossroad Turuspekova. 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.

Experience Nomadic Lifestyle. 09:00-18:00. TravelHub organizes one day or longer cultural tours in Kyrgyzstan. Usually, their tours include horse riding, eagle hunting demonstration and historical and nomad people sites and private yurts.

For a relatively acceptable fees transportation, guide and lunch are included. They usually post their upcoming events on Facebook page.

A number of international organisations 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 or kalpaks worn mainly by men. You can also get textiles such as traditional patterned carpets or 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 or Dordoy, 10 mins outside the city towards north 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.

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.

DVDs & Software @ Tsum, Chuy 155. Cheap DVDs and Software at the 3.floor

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!
Besh barmak
A typical Kyrgyz meal will feature starchy foods like bread, rice, and potatoes, usually centered 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 or 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 brands and products. A popular hang out of internationals and local high class.

There are hundreds of stands that sell gamburgers, a local adaptation to the American hamburger but really share little in common. They are sliced doner 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 or 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 or noodles. Dirt cheap. (KGS80-160)

Steinbrau Brewery - on Gerzen Str. 5 near central moscue - the only german style brewery with best bier in Kyrgyzstan and german food. Establishes in 1997 it is also one of the oldest restaurants in Bishkek. Large beer garden is opened from May to October and is an oasis of calm in the city.

Alabama Steak House - on Baitik Baatyr formerly Sovietskaya - opposite Fizpribori. The only steak house in Bishkek, it offers a wide range of steaks KGS200-600), as well as an extensive menu of Georgian and European cuisine 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.

Sugar & Spice - 146 Toktogul St., slightly east of the intersection with Isanova This Indian-owned restaurant serves good Indian food, including a lunch buffet on weekdays for KGS 250.

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. KGS250-350.

Dolce Vita Pizza - on Akhunbaeva, to the east of Manas, about one block. One of the good pizza spots in Bishkek. Its thin crust is baked in an open-fire oven; there is also a whole range of Italian dishes and pastas. KGS250-380.

Mac Burger & Pizza - on the corner of Sovietskaya and Toktugul st. 137 Sovietskaya st. One of the oldest pizza serving restaurants, as a matter of fact the first to serve pizza in Bishkek. For you Pizza Hut lovers out there- its like pizza hut but with more flavor, not to mention way cheaper.

Also serves excellent Indian style plov which is spicy rice which has to be asked for since its not on the menu and burgers, fries, wings etc. Excellent for those Pizza cravings KGS250-400.

Buddha Bar - at the 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. KGS210-300.

Mexican Cantina, 158 Prospekt Chu/Isanova. Between Beta Stores and UN House. 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.

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 are 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.

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. 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. This location has shut down and butcher operates out of Metro pub

Four Seasons Restaurant - 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. 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. Second large location opened in 2014 in the Tash Rabat center on Gorky. Several small location around the city as well.

Kafeman - Isanava/Chui, south of Beta Stores. This recently renovated cafe used to be Bar 2x2 is an upmarket cafe also selling alcoholic drinks and also has an outdoor seating area.

Coffee Relax, Toktogula Street 140. 08:00-24:00. Great quality in everything. Professional and polite service. Coffee varieties to the taste. Menu including European and Turkish Cuisine. 200som-500som.

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.

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. The 80s kitsch is a popular spot for really late night partying.

Promzona - A trendy Russian rock establishment with a mostly Russian clientele. 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 - 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 maksym sold at stands of Shoro company around the city. It is reportedly a hangover cure.

Apple Hostel Bishkek, Chymkentskaya 1B, intersection of Rostovskaya/Kurenkeeva, by the west bus station. If you are coming from Fuchika/Jibek Jolu and walk towards the west bus station. Right before reaching the station there is a turn to the left on Rostovskaya street.

Make a turn and walk for 5 minutes until you get to the intersection of Kurenkeeva. On the intersection look right, and you will see a two-floor yellow building with the sign apple hostel. There is also a page on facebook, Apple Hostel Bishkek, which is quite responsive.

You can get a bed starting from $6, which is a great value for hot showers, wifi and breakfast. There are private rooms in addition to dormitory rooms the price of which ranges between $16-$24 per room. You can email them in advance and they can arrange an airport pick up starting from $6.

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 the door will be the first on the left. Press 26B to call the guesthouse to let you in the complex. 7th floor to your right. checkin: 11AM; checkout: 2PM. Little 3 bedroom apartment that has been converted into a 6 person male dorm, 4 person female dorm and private twin room.

Since changing ownership the apartment has gone through some renovations and feels very relaxed and homey, especially when a warm summer breeze rolls through the place. There are a male and female toilet with a hot shower and clean western style toilet.

Jarvis and Tim are very welcoming and will help you with whatever you need, as well they both speak very good English. There is free Wi-Fi that has very good speeds and a small kitchen that you can use and cook in.

This is a Muslim-run place and no pork or alcohol is allowed to be consumed or stored on the premises - if you want to have a quiet beer with your dinner, you will be asked to leave.

This is not always pointed out at check-in and it is not great to learn of the rule two bites into your meal, when you have already opened the beer. KGS400 per person for dorm, KGS1000 for twin private room.

Maria Guesthouse, # 223 Pobeda str. 5 min. walking from Arzu restaurant. checkout: 12:00. The guesthouse is very clean 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. KGS1500.

Nomad's Home, Drevesnaya 10, right behind the eastern bus station, coordinates: 42 53.300/74 37.755. 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.

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. The eclectic 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, the little garden house, and hot showers. Wifi is free for guests and car/bicycle parking is available. dm/dbl/yurt 8/10/7 euro.

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. 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, but there have been reports of suspect activities between him and vulnerable female guests.
Plenty of single females staying there and nobody had any problems. The alleys around the guesthouse are not lit and can feel a bit scary at night but are safe to go around. dm/single/dbl 550/850/1000 som. Closed in winter from December.

South Guest House. 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. Located in a Russian apartment block in the south of the city, near the US and Chinese embassies.

Vasiliy Guest House. 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 has 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.

HI Bishkek Hostel, 163 Moskovskaya Str. Apt.10 crosses Manas Avenue, in front of Narodnyi store and ABC internet cafe is building #163. Entrance from the back side, second brown electronic door. Press 10K. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Two sisters run this cosy hostel.

They speak fluent English and are always ready to offer a cup of tea. The location is great to get acquainted with Bishkek's day & night life., and also to have a rest in comfortable beds with curtains, free lockers, free laundry, free parking. $13.

iHome Guest House, 24 Zhurnalnaya, Walk 5 min from Zhibek Zholy by Zhurnalnaya str. Look for 2-floor brick house behind the green gates on your left side.

Located in the quiet area, 10min walk from new bus station, 20 min from Osh bazaar. It is a private house with garden. Only 2 double rooms and one 4 person dorm, all share one bathroom. Guests can cook their own food in the kitchen. Very clean and cosy. Call in advance, often full $15/double.

Capsule Hotel, the corner of 2 Razzakova and Tugelbai Ata street Lineynaya. It is a 3-minute walk to the west from railway station Bishkek-2. checkin: 13AM; checkout: 12PM. Welcome to Capsule Hotel, a first modern capsule hotel in Bishkek. Guest room is a high quality modular wooden block or capsule.

The size of the capsule is 1.2 m (width) x 2 m (length) x 1.5 m (height). The open end of the capsule can be closed providing total privacy. The size of the capsule allows our guests to have a good sleep as well as watch TV or read.

Each capsule is equipped with a very comfortable single bed, a folding table, 2 storage compartments, a big flat screen cable TV and a ventilation system. Every room in our hotel is air conditioned. There are 20 capsules set in 2 levels along 2 corridors. The capsules are located within a considerable dictance from the main hall. Rates: 10.3$ per night.

Alpinist, Panfilov 113. 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.

Southside Guesthouse, 6 Suhomlinova Street Heading south towards the mountains along Manas St, turn left into Suhomlinova, one street before and parallel to Ahunbaeva, Southside is on the third corner on the right. Southside is a small family run guesthouse with an easy going atmosphere.

It's a cosy historic home in a safe, quiet part of Bishkek city center. Wooden interior with Central Asian textiles. No televisions! They have pine, walnut and cherry trees and a beautiful green garden and hammocks to hang out in. They support local products and producers.

They offer a good free breakfast, free wi-fi, free laundry, free tea/coffee 24/7 and free parking for cars and bikes. Airport transfers. The owners speak good English, and also own Iron Horse Nomads rental and tour company so they can help organise trips and expeditions around Kyrgyzstan - and are always happy help make arrangements for you around Kyrgyzstan.

Touristan Guesthouse, 6 Koenkozova Street, Diagonally opposite Togolok Moldo Park. 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.

Crocus Guest House, Komsomolskaya 5. 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.

MBA Business Center Hotel, Panfilov 237. 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.

Radison Guesthouse in Kyrgyzstan!, Abdymomunova 259. 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.

Ak Keme, Prospekt Mira 93. 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.

Hotel Holiday, Abdrahmanova 204. checkin: 2PM; checkout: "12PM. Popular and central hotel. Feel the modern hospitality.

Hyatt Regency Bishkek, Sovietskaya 191. checkin: 12PM; checkout: 3PM. 5-star hotel in business district, largest in the country. Popular with foreign dignitaries and businessmen.

Jannat, Micro Rayon 7. 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.

Club Hotel Bishkek, Frunze 425-B. checkin: 12PM; checkout: 3PM. This upscale luxury hotel is located on the 5th floor of the Dostuk Hotel. edit
Park Hotel Bishkek, Orozbekova 87. checkin: 1PM; checkout: "12PM. Modern, new hotel in the business district.

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 should 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 and/or 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 don't understand them, trying to call your embassy, or just walk away ASAP. Also keep your valuables in a safe place and don't 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.

If you want to take a look at the second highest mountainous lake in the world - Issyk Kul, which translated from kyrgyz means: Hot lake as it never freezes, visit Cholpon Ata. It is 3 hour or 4hrs due to roadworks, drive from Bishkek west bus station where you can get a marshrutka for 250 som.

In Cholpon Ata besides walking by the beach and enjoying the scenery you can visit the ancient open museum Petroglyphs, and a nice tranquility park Ruh Ordo. There is a nice hostel - Apple hostel, right in the center, staff is super.

The manager, Aigul is super nice and can get you all the information you need for travelling in and around Issyk Kul and Kyrgyzstan in general. They usually always have space so you can show up without a reservation, and get a much cheaper price than the price listed on

Free Wi-Fi is now widespread. Most foreigner cafes 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 shopping center 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 the 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.

Tourism Observer

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