Burana Tower close to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

There’s a few things you’ll need to know before you go to Kyrgyzstan, so here we’ve answered all your questions on currency, cuisine, time zone and much more to help you prepare for your trip.

What vaccinations do I need for Kyrgyzstan?

We recommend seeking medical advice from your local health practitioner about six to eight weeks before travelling to Kyrgyzstan. Ensure you’re up to date with routine vaccinations such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), Diphtheria, Polio and Tetanus. Other vaccines to consider include Radies, Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.

Note that a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission and for those who have transited for more than 12 hours through the airport of a country with risk of transmission. Visit the NHS Fit for Travel page or the CDC Traveler’s Health page for more information.

Is it safe to drink tap water in Kyrgyzstan?

It’s best to buy bottled water or boil the tap water in Kyrgyzstan before drinking. On multi-day treks, the water is boiled spring water as it’s not possible to carry huge quantities of bottled water. Perhaps consider taking a reusable bottle with a built-in filter to reduce your use of single use plastics.

Besh barmak,typical Kyrgyz cuisine

What's the food like in Kyrgyzstan?

Kyrgyzstan’s cuisine is strongly linked to its nomadic traditions and, as much of the population is involved in raising livestock, meat features in most Kyrgyz dishes. Mutton, beef and horsemeat are the most common and fresh black tea is served with each meal.

Beshbarkmak is considered the most traditional dish in Kyrgyzstan, consisting of lamb on top of a broth of noodles and onion. Its name means ‘five fingers’ as it's traditionally eaten with your hands. Other typical dishes include Borsok, a regional variation of fried dough which is served on special occasions such as weddings and holidays.

Kyrgyzstan’s cuisine has also been influenced by neighbouring countries in Central Asia, as well as Russia and Turkey. As a result, the country has adopted several dishes such as Manti, which consists of steamed dumplings filled with meat, and a spicy noodle and meat dish known as lagman.

When it comes to drinks, fresh black tea is typically served with each meal. In the capital Bishkek, you’ll find countless cafes and traditional teahouses known as chaikhanas, as well as restaurants serving Russian, Chinese and European dishes.

Safe eating while travelling in Kyrgyzstan

It’s important to follow basic food safety precautions and ensure that food is cooked thoroughly and served hot. This is especially important as most Kyrgyz dishes feature meat. Avoid anything that looks unclean or under cooked and make sure that fruit and vegetables are washed with treated water.

Is it standard to tip in Kyrgyzstan?

Tipping is generally not expected in Kyrgyzstan, although western-style tipping is the norm in larger international hotels in Bishkek. For guides or drivers, it’s also a great way of showing appreciation for their services.

Oriental carpets in bazaar

What souvenirs are good to shop for in Kyrgyzstan?

Top souvenirs to shop for in Kyrgyzstan include traditional felt rugs known as shirdaks. These are used by Kyrgyz nomads to carpet the floor of their yurts and come in a variety of colours, shapes and traditional designs. These rugs are quintessentially Kyrgyz and make for a great gift or reminder of your trip.

Kyrgyz are big tea drinkers and it can sometimes be served in a bowl rather than a cup. Therefore, tea bowls make for another great souvenir and you’ll be able to find plenty of these for sale across the country. Jewellery, handmade pottery, local spices and oils are also great options.

What is the duty free allowance for Kyrgyzstan?

The following goods may be imported into Kyrgyzstan by travellers without incurring customs duty:

  • 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250kg tobacco
  • 3L of alcoholic beverages
  • Goods to the value of €1,500 weighing no more than 50kg in total

On entering the country, you must complete a customs declaration form which you need to retain until departure and then hand over on the international flight. This allows the import of articles intended for personal use, including currency and valuables which you must register on the declaration form. Customs inspection can be long and detailed.

What is the currency in Kyrgyzstan?

The currency of Kyrgyzstan is the Som, however it's near impossible to obtain Kyrgyz money outside of the country. Credit cards can be used in major hotels and dollars can be more useful for purchases in hotels or shops. ATMs are increasingly common, but if you’re travelling on a tour, it’s often best to seek advice from your guide on the best places to change your money.

What do things cost in Kyrgyzstan?

Generally, you can expect to spend between $40 to $80 a day when travelling Kyrgyzstan. A room in a mid-range hotel costs between $30–50 and a good restaurant meal would set you back 400-1200 som (approximately $6 to $17).

When it comes to activities, a full day of horse riding with a guide costs between 1800-3000 som (approximately $25 to $43). Transport comes in cheaper, at between 300-1000 som for a seat in a long-distance share-taxi.

What sort of plugs do I need for Kyrgyzstan and what is the voltage?

The voltage in Kyrgyzstan is 220V, with a standard frequency of 50 Hz. European-style two pin plugs are used and sockets are type C and type F.

Is WiFi widely available in Kyrgyzstan?

WiFi is available in hotels and plenty of coffee shops in the capital city Bishkek. Mobile 3G and 4G internet is also becoming increasingly widespread. There are few restrictions on the internet in Kyrgyzstan and only a few political websites are blocked.

What time zone is Kyrgyzstan on?

Kyrgyzstan is 6 hours ahead of Greenwich Meantime (GMT). This is observed throughout the year, with no Daylight Savings changes.

See Also

For more information on visiting Kyrgyzstan, check out our other travel resources:

Best places to visit – the top destinations in Kyrgyzstan
Best time to visit – seasons and weather in Kyrgyzstan
Tourist Visas - what you need to know to enter Kyrgyzstan