Where do I even begin with the stories from this wild land of mountains? When we started telling people about our trip we were often met with "how-the-where-whatnow-stan?" I guess that was to be expected since it is still fairly unknown in the broad "tourist" community, despite offering rustic beauty, rawness and a sense of insane remoteness. Let me introduce you to the exquisite beauty that is Kyrgyzstan!!
Five countries together form Central Asia - Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. These countries have always been on my radar. They all offer something different for outdoor lovers and are still very much off the beaten path.
90% of this country is covered with mountains. Since this country is so close for us to fly to, I kept putting it off for a later time. Not this time though. The timing was perfect. The weather even more so. Not many people knew the country was open for tourism - result? We had every single mountain, lake and stream to ourselves. Oooh mama!
As I started putting together our itinerary, I quickly realized that the country is geographically diverse. How do I choose between towering peaks, the colorful deserts, lakes as big as oceans and alpine forests? We could spend a lifetime here. I found it overwhelming narrowing it all down to a week - we managed to do most of what I had planned. Consider this itinerary to only be a fast-track touristy guide to Kyrgyzstan.
Go here to live your wildest adventure dreams!
1. You will need a negative COVID test taken 72 hours prior to your arrival in Bishkek.
2. You will also need a negative COVID test to exit the country (the duration of the test will depend on the requirement for the country you are flying back to). We did ours on the last night.
3. There is no quarantine in place.
We got our tests done at AQUA LABS in Bishkek - open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for tests every day of the week. There are four labs in the capital, all within a few miles of each other but if you are using a guide, be sure to ask him to check about timings. We were told these private labs work their own times and sometimes even close before 4 p.m. The tests cost $20 per person; results back within 24 hours (we got our results in just a few hours but I would recommend getting it done as early as possible )!
Flights, Visa and Vaccines
Direct flights with Fly Dubai from Dubai and all of 3 and half hours. Hello happiness!
E-Visa. Many countries are eligible for on arrival but best if you apply ahead of time. You can easily apply here. Costs $50 per person and is no headache at all. Make sure you have the right travel dates for the trip before applying (these cannot be changed later). Our single entry visa took 9 working days to process. Got it via email.
Safety and hygiene
Is Kyrgyzstan safe to travel to during the pandemic? That is a matter of personal opinion. The country has been reporting 300-400 cases (mostly in the capital).
Having been to a fair few cities over the years, I did not expect the capital city of Bishkek to be as neat as it was. The traffic was not very chaotic, but not many people were wearing masks. You should absolutely wear yours every time you step out of your car and in all public spaces. Carry your own sanitizers as well. As you go further into the remote villages and stay with locals, you will not find anyone wearing a mask or practicing any form of social distancing. If this irks you, perhaps this isn't the place for you to go to right now. We are fully vaccinated, we wore our masks indoors and in restaurants, except for when we were eating.
Toilets - there are none!
If you have done any sort of research on the stans, you already know about the famous "pit toilets" - a small wooden closet covering a pit for you to do your business. We have experienced this in many countries over the years, so it was not a deal breaker. I prefer to go wild than use pit toilets (just be sure to cover up after). Always carry your own paper towels and plenty of deodorant (trust me, you will need it)!
Language and People
The people are really affable - even random strangers on the road don't hesitate to help you as best as they can. Though no one - not even in the city - spoke a word of English. Given we were only there for a week, we would have struggled to get by without a guide. Try to pick up a few local words as soon as possible!
It is important for me to stay connected with family in remote countries for emergencies. I recommend picking up a sim card in the capital city. You can easily pick it up at any of the malls. It only costs