The Kyrgyz Republic (formerly known as Kyrgyzstan) is a newly independent nation in Central Asia undergoing profound political and economic change. Tourist facilities are not highly developed, and many of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries are not yet available.
A passport and visa as well as an invitation are required. For further information regarding entry requirements, contact the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic at 1732 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007, telephone (202)338-5141. Transiting travelers holding visas for Russia or other neighboring New Independent States, except Georgia and Tajikistan, are allowed to stay in the Kyrgyz Republic for up to three days.
Americans are required to register their passports with the Office of Visas and Registration, of the Kyrgyz Internal Affairs Ministry, within three business days after arrival in the Kyrgyz Republic. There are fines for failure to register and fines for late registration. This requirement does not apply to official delegation members and bearers of diplomatic passports.
Due to military and insurgent activity throughout most of southwestern Kyrgz Republic and the Kyrgyz-Tajik border areas, the Department of State cautions U.S. citizens to avoid all travel west and south of the southern provincial capital Osh. United States Government personnel are prohibited from traveling to southwestern Kyrgyz Republic and the Kyrgyz-Tajik border areas. In August 1999, Islamic militants launched an armed offensive from Tajikistan into southern Kyrgyz Republic. The militants have kidnapped foreigners and Kyrgyz citizens in an effort to win recognition of their demands, including the formation of an Islamic state. The Kyrgyz government has launched counter-attacks against the insurgents, and fighting in southwestern Kyrgyz Republic continues. Close contacts with the local population do not provide a guarantee of safety.
The Kyrgyz Republic has a high rate of violent crime due to unemployment and an increase in the number of organized gangs. Violent crimes, such as burglaries, target a growing expatriate community. Common crimes include pickpocketing in the markets and on public transportation, robbery by men in police uniforms, and theft of mirrors and radios from vehicles. Some incidents of muggings have occurred near hotels that cater to tourists. Travelers should not walk or take public transportation alone, especially after dark. Travelers should be extremely cautious in and around hotels, bars, and parks. Police assistance, in most cases, is minimal. The government is taking steps to reduce the crime level, and has initiated walking militia patrols throughout the city.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad, which provides useful information on guarding valuables and ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek maintains a list of foreign and local physicians who have agreed to give medical assistance to Americans. Basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics, are in short supply in the Kyrzgyz Republic. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Kyrgyz Republic is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
The Kyrgyz Republic's infrastructure consists of two-lane roads, which are poorly maintained and deteriorating. Some of them are unlighted. Caution should be taken to prevent collisions with vehicles at night and in the winter. Local drivers sometimes drive at high speeds and regularly fail to stop at lights. For specific information concerning Kyrgyz Republic driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Kyrgyz Ministry of Transportation through the Kyrgyz Embassy.
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to the country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the Kyrgyz Republic's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Kyrgyz Republic are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
The Kyrgyz Republic is a cash-only economy. Credit cards are not accepted. One or two hotels or banks may, on occasion, accept travelers checks but the fee is quite high, as much as 20 percent.
There are no public telephones in the Kyrgyz Republic. International calls can be made from hotels, but they are very expensive. The local postal system is slow but can be used for ordinary correspondence. Express mailing services such as DHL and UPS are available in Bishkek. Prices are expensive, and shipments arrive to and from the U.S. within 3-5 business days.
Americans living in or visiting the Kyrgyz Republic are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek and obtain updated information on travel and security within the Kyrgyz Republic. The U.S. Embassy publishes a newsletter for the international community of Bishkek, which also contains useful information. The U.S.Embassy in Bishkek is located at 171 Prospect Mira, telephone (996)(312)55-12-41, after-hours cell telephone (996)(517)72-00-51, fax No. (996)(312)22-32-10. Additional information on the region can be found in the Department of State's brochure Tips for Travelers to Russia and the Newly Independent States.
As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and the Kyrgyz Republic, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Kyrgyz Republic's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of the Kyrgz Republic's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at 1-618-256-4810.
Air travel in the Kyrgyz Republic is often unreliable. Travelers must often cope with difficult schedules and difficult conditions including deterioration of quality of service and overloading. International air travelers frequently fly to Almaty, Kazakhstan and then travel by land (some three hours) to Bishkek. Train travel in Central Asia is irregular and arduous.