Travel, Currency and Money saving tips for Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgystan: Central Asia, west of China and south of Kazakhstan. Dominated by the Tian Shan (Heavenly Cloud) mountainous range with verdant green gorges, tall peaks and high altitude lakes. Add to this a well-developed network of homestays and visa-free travel, and it's easy to see why Kyrgyzstan (officially the Kyrgyz Republic), is the gateway of choice for many travellers in Central Asia.
Kyrgyzstan has the most liberal visa regime in Central Asia. Travelers from North America, Europe and the Australian continent can all travel visa free, for varying amounts of time. If you want to stay for longer than your allotted visa free time, you’ll have to apply for a visa. Visas are usually valid for three months.
What currency can I use in Kyrgyzstan?
It’s a cash economy – soms, the local currency, is only available in Kyrgyzstan and it’s best to take US dollars. ATM’s are common in Bishkek, though available less in other towns and credit cards are rarely accepted anywhere. Bishkek is tree-lined town of parks and gardens, handsome houses and TsUM Department Store is your place to buy Kygyrz souvenirs.
Getting around in Kyrgyzstan?
The only train route of note to travellers is the five-hour link between Bishkek and Balykchy, but most travellers will prefer the two-hour bus ride joining the towns (or bypassing the town completely for other points in Issyk-Köl). You can find schedules on the Kyrgyz Rail website (in Russian), or at the train station.
Only a handful of routes employ full-size buses, but shared taxis and minibuses – some timetabled but more often departing when full – wait for passengers at most bus stations.Minibuses, called marshrutka, are the preferred mode of transport for most people in the region. They’re not the fastest or most comfortable mode of transport, but they are a cultural experience and get the job done.
If time is of the essence, or if there are no marshrutky, there will always be a shared taxi to your destination. Drivers hang around the bus stations, and at designated points in a city or town. Shared taxis leave when full, and are about twice as expensive as marshrutky.
Travel hints for Kyrgyzstan.As can be expected in a country where the vast majority of attractions are rural and high altitude, the timing of your visit is crucial. Summer is ideal with hikes and roads generally accessible. Midsummer also sees Kazakh and Russian tourists converge on the beaches of never-freezing Lake Issyk-Köl. From October to May, much rural accommodation closes down and the yurts that add such character to the Alpine vistas are stashed away – think twice about a winter visit unless you've come to ski or snowboard.
Yurts are the traditional dwellings of the Kyrgyz people, made of boiled wool, or felt, and tarpaulins strapped on a round frame. Hidden in a small valley and protected from the elements you’ll find Tash Rabat, a beautifully preserved 15th-century caravanserai. You can rent a horse and a guide from yurt owner and by nightfall view a cornucopia of stars in the great outdoors.
Although the majority of Kyrgyz people are Muslim, Islam doesn’t have a profound influence on daily life. Alcohol is omnipresent, and outside of small villages in the south, women can dress however they like.
Sending money to Kyrgyzstan
When searching around for information on how to get a good exchange rate when sending money to Kyrgyzstan you need to start with finding out the latest Kyrgystani Som exchange rate for foreign-transfers, which can be very different to the wholesale rate.
Then compare your bank's exchange rates to several licensed FX providers exchange rate and fees to see how much
you can save - we make that calculation easy in the below table.
Get a better deal for foreign transfers to Kyrgyzstan
When sending money to Kyrgyzstan it’s important to compare your bank’s rates & fees with those we have negotiated with our partner money transfer providers.
To get a better deal you should follow these 4 simple steps :
- Open an account with a BER reviewed FX provider (id docs may be required)
- You specify the local or Kyrgystani Som amount you want to transfer
- Make a local currency domestic transfer for the requested amount to the provider's bank account in your country
- Once your funds are received by the provider the converted KGS amount will be transfered to the recipient account you specify in Kyrgyzstan.
Use the above Send to Kyrgystani Som calculator to compare the exchange rates of FX specialist providers rates versus your bank's standard rates you can hopefully save around 5% and maybe more -
end result is more Kyrgystani Som deposited into the recipient bank account and less margins and fees kept by the banks!