Kyrgyzstan

6 M
Population
Som
Currency
Safety and security

Political situation

Demonstrations on political and socio-economic themes occur both in central Bishkek and in other parts of the country. You should avoid all demonstrations.

Independent Kyrgyzstan’s first two Presidents were deposed: Akaev in the 2005 Tulip Revolution and his successor Bakiev in a bloody coup in April 2010. In June 2010 inter-ethnic violence erupted in southern Kyrgyzstan, leaving more than 400 dead and over 100,000 displaced. Interim President Roza Otunbayeva oversaw a constitutional referendum and parliamentary and presidential elections before handing over power following open elections to President Almazbek Atambaev in December 2011

Crime

Muggings (sometimes violent) and theft occur regularly. There have been incidents involving criminals, mostly after dark. Take care if you go out after dark.

Large amounts of money should not be on show and be wary of strangers offering help or being over-friendly. Be particularly aware of your surroundings when using currency exchange offices and visiting the bazaars in Bishkek, particularly Osh Bazaar, where tourists are regularly targeted by pickpockets.

Local travel

Take care if you travel to the Oblasts (Provinces) of Osh, Batken and Jalal-Abad. While there has been no widespread violence since 2010, underlying tensions continue to exist.

Tensions exist over recognition of the Kyrgyz/Uzbek borders. There have been a number of security incidents in this region and several gunfire exchanges. You should only use officially recognised border crossings in this area; there is a risk that uncontrolled Kyrgyz/Uzbek border areas may be land-mined. Check in advance which border posts are open.

The Kyrgyz-Tajik border has not been agreed along its entirety. Localised violence erupts occasionally and the border can be closed at short notice, particularly near the Tajik Vorukh enclave. Tajik and Kyrgyz security forces clashed in this area in January 2014 leaving 8 wounded, and a Tajik civilian was killed in an exchange of gunfire in July 2014. There’s a risk of further localised violence and border closures at any time.

There are frequent power cuts throughout the country.

Road travel

You can drive in Kyrgyzstan using a UK driving licence or an international driving permit. Petrol stations are limited in rural areas and diesel is often unavailable. Make sure you take all you need for your journey. Take extra care when driving, particularly over long distances. You should avoid giving lifts to hitchhikers given incidents when drivers have been robbed by people they picked up. Many roads are poorly lit and poorly maintained with road works or damaged roads often not clearly signposted. Roads outside the capital are often blocked by snow in winter. There is currently no MOT and no legal requirement for vehicles to be insured. Pedestrians often have a low awareness of road safety

You should avoid flagging down taxis. Use telephone, SMS, or taxi services, which are more reputable and have English-speaking dispatchers. Wherever possible use main roads when travelling in and around Bishkek and avoid large crowds even if in a vehicle.

Avoid using local buses and mini-buses as they are not always properly maintained and are notorious for pick-pockets.

Air travel

All Kyrgyz airlines are banned from operating services to the EU because they don’t meet international safety standards.

Where there’s a clear business need to travel internally within Kyrgyzstan, British government staff may use Air Manas flights (formerly known as Pegasus Asia).

You can see a list of recent incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety Network.

The International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

In 2009 the International Civil Aviation Organisation conducted an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Kyrgyzstan.

Trekking

Trekking in Kyrgyzstan often involves travelling to very remote areas. There is a high risk of avalanches, landslides and rock falls. Adequate insurance, including for any activity at high altitude, is essential. If you’re trekking or mountaineering, be vigilant and be prepared to adapt your plans to reflect local conditions and advice. Use a reputable trekking agency, let someone know your estimated return time and don’t trek alone. In remote areas, mobile phone coverage is extremely limited, and any medical facilities basic.

Terrorism

There is an underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. There has been some terrorist activity and armed violence, particularly south and west of Osh. Security forces conducted several anti-terrorism operations in Bishkek in 2015. A suicide bomb attack was carried out on the Chinese Embassy on the outskirts of Bishkek on 30 August 2016.

You should maintain a high level of vigilance in public spaces and near to public buildings, and pay attention to any security announcements by the Kyrgyz authorities.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

Kyrgyzstan has a secular constitution. Most Kyrgyz people are Muslims. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. Lack of cultural sensitivity has caused trouble for some unaware foreign nationals.

In 2017, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 27 May and finish on 25 June. See Travelling during Ramadan

Possession and use of drugs is illegal. If you are found guilty, you could face a lengthy prison sentence in basic conditions.

Homosexuality is legal, but not often discussed or recognised publicly. You should take care over public displays of affection.

Taking photos of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with the authorities.

You must carry your passport, or a notarised copy of it, at all times. The police can arrest you if you do not carry ID.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

British nationals don’t need a visa to enter and stay for up to 60 days. If you stay in Kyrgyzstan for over 60 days without a valid visa, you’ll be liable for a fine. It’s not possible to get a visa in Kyrgyzstan if you originally entered the country without a visa. If you think you may spend more than 60 days in Kyrgyzstan, you should get a visa from a Kyrgyz Embassy before you travel or on arrival at the airport in Bishkek. The visa can be extended at a Kyrgyz Government office at 66, Razzakova Street in Bishkek.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 3 months from the date of entry into Kyrgyzstan and must have at least 1 full blank page if you are applying for a visa.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Kyrgyzstan. If using one to leave Kyrgyzstan, you must obtain an exit visa from OVIR (the Department for Visa and Registration under the Ministry of Internal Affairs). This takes at least 5 working days.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

Registration

On 19 December 2016, the government of Kyrgyzstan approved a decree removing the requirement for British nationals staying in Kyrgyzstan for longer than 5 days to register with the local authorities. You now only need to register your stay with the State Registration Service if you’re visiting for more than 60 days.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

The reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and Kyrgyzstan terminated on 1 January 2016.

Medical facilities in Kyrgyzstan are not as developed as those in the UK. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

There have been several cases of anthrax in Kyrgyzstan, mainly in the south of the country, due to insufficient measures to vaccinate animals.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 103 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Natural disasters

There is a high risk of earthquakes. Tremors are frequent. You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake and follow any advice given by local authorities. In the mountains, avalanches and landslides frequently block roads.
The US Federal Emergency Management Agencyhas information about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

Avalanches and landslides frequently block roads and are a particular hazard in the spring.