Is Kyrgyzstan safe? That’s the question I asked before departing on our most recent trip to Central Asia. The short answer? Yes, Kyrgyzstan is very safe. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
In this post, we outline more than 19 essential tips that you need to know to make your trip to Kyrgyzstan as safe and successful as possible.
Is Kyrgyzstan Safe? 19 Most Common Safety Questions
Kyrgyzstan is relatively new to the tourism scene, so the question still remains, is it safe to visit? Let’s dive into the most common questions that travelers have about this Central Asian nation:
1. Is Kyrgyzstan Safe For Travelers?
I think many people are turned off by the idea of traveling to Kyrgyzstan simply because of its name and location. Not only does it have the word ‘stan’ in its name, but it is located relatively close to other nations that have a bad rap (Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.).
But the truth is, Kyrgyzstan is a safe place for travelers to visit in 2021. Not only is national tourism rapidly increasing, but local Kyrgyz people are some of the friendliest and most accepting people we’ve met.
Traveling to Kyrgyzstan is as safe as traveling to any other peaceful nation in the world. In fact, I felt safer in Kyrgyzstan than I did in Paris, France (or the US, for that matter..).
2. Is Kyrgyzstan Safe For Solo Female Travelers?
Yes, Kyrgyzstan is entirely safe for solo female travelers. During our time in Kyrgyzstan, we met many women that were traveling throughout Central Asia by themselves. All of the women we talked to felt completely safe traveling here by themselves.
One woman, in particular, told us she didn’t even rent a hotel room and just decided to walk around the city at night to save money. I’m not sure I’d recommend this, but I wanted to share this story to give you a sense of what you can expect during your trip.
And I would be surprised if, during your time in Kyrgyzstan, you didn’t meet solo female travelers as well.
3. Is Kyrgyzstan Safe For Traveling Families?
Yes, Kyrgyzstan is an extremely family-friendly nation. There are plenty of outdoor activities for families to enjoy during their time in Kyrgyzstan, so we highly recommend adding this country to your upcoming travel plans.
One thing I will mention about traveling in Kyrgyzstan for families:
🔴 Car Seats: Driving in Kyrgyzstan is a bit different than other countries you may have visited. Car seats are kind of obsolete, or at least that’s how it appeared. We noticed a lot of young children and babies sitting on a parent’s lap in moving cars.
If you’re traveling with young children, you may want to bring your own car seat.
Note: You may also struggle to find highchairs at restaurants for babies as well.
4. Is Kyrgyzstan A Good Place For Students?
Yes, Kyrgyzstan is an excellent place to travel if you are a student.
There’s no shortage of educational experiences for students in this country. You can expect everything from learning about the Kyrgyz culture to historical museums and landmarks.
In addition, there are many universities throughout Kyrgyzstan if you’re a student looking to enroll in a good institution.
5. Should I Rent A Car And Drive In Kyrgyzstan?
No, we do not recommend renting a car and driving in Kyrgyzstan.
Driving standards can be pretty different than other countries you may have driven in before, and it’s not uncommon to be stopped by police (for apparently no reason at all). Not to mention, many of the roads around Kyrgyzstan are unmaintained, especially outside of the big cities.
Instead, we highly suggest sticking to public transit or hiring transportation services, if possible.
Do I Need An International Driving Permit To Drive In Kyrgyzstan?
If you do decide to drive while visiting Kyrgyzstan, you will need to present an International Driving Permit (IDP). I also recommend understanding street signs and typical traffic patterns before jumping behind the wheel.
6. Should I Take Taxis In Kyrgyzstan?
Taxis in Kyrgyzstan are completely safe and we recommend using them to help you get around your destinations. But, there is one thing that you need to do before you get in any taxi. AGREE ON A PRICE.
While there are many honest and hardworking taxi drivers in Kyrgyzstan, there are also taxi drivers that will try to take advantage of you because you’re a foreigner and you might not know better.
So, before setting off on your journey, be sure that you know how much you’re going to pay for your ride.
Taxis At The Airport
One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to traveling is finding taxis at the airport. Taxi drivers at any airport tend to be very pushy and it’s no different in Kyrgyzstan.
The best thing you can do to avoid this is to set up an airport transfer ahead of time. Contact the hotel you will be staying at before you arrive and ask if they can set up a taxi for you.
Note: If your hotel will not set up an airport transfer for you, book a driver here (Bishkek).
7. Are There Many Expats In Kyrgyzstan?
Compared to other nations worldwide, Kyrgyzstan doesn’t have a large expat population, although this statistic grows each year.
With that said, there are still plenty of foreigners who have settled in Kyrgyzstan, especially in the capital city, Bishkek. If you’re looking to meet other travelers or expats, I recommend joining a Facebook group dedicated to expats in Kyrgyzstan. Here are a few you can join right now:
8. Is Kyrgyzstan A Good Place To Live?
If you’re looking to move abroad, Kyrgyzstan is an excellent place to live.
The cost of living in Kyrgyzstan is affordable and your salary will go a lot further in this country (compared to western countries).
Not only that but the natural views here are some of the best we’ve ever seen. If you’re an avid outdoorsman or hiker, you’re going to love the day trips you can take from Osh and Bishkek. Whether you’re trekking in the Alay Mountains along the southern border of Kyrgyzstan or downhill skiing in Karakol for a weekend, you’ll have endless adventures at your fingertips.
You’ll also appreciate that Kyrgyz people are very kind and accepting. We never felt out of place or looked down upon because we are foreigners.
9. Is The Food In Kyrgyzstan Safe?
After living in Bangkok and visiting the hospital many times because of food poisoning, I’m always worried about the food in any given travel destination. So, is the food in Kyrgyzstan safe for travelers to eat?
Yes, Kyrgyz food is generally safe for travelers to eat.
However, I recommend practicing basic food safety tips: only eat meat and vegetables that have been cooked or are served hot. If food appears to have been sitting out for an extended time, opt for something else.
10. Is It Safe To Drink The Water In Kyrgyzstan?
Drinking tap water in Kyrgyzstan is safe, depending on where you are in the country. In big cities, you may be safe drinking the water straight from the faucet.
But, we always recommend taking extra precautions when consuming water in different locations around the world. Getting sick during your trip to Kyrgyzstan would not be fun.
Keeping that in mind, we suggest buying bottled water during your trip. Or even better, help save the environment and bring a filtered water bottle like this LifeStraw Go Water Bottle that removes harmful bacteria.
11. Is Bishkek A Safe City?
Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan and is a very safe city. It has a meager crime rate compared to other capital cities around the world.
However, there are a few things you can remember while traveling in Bishkek. As with any destination, don’t flash your valuables or carry large wads of cash around. Doing that will put an obvious target on your back.
Osh Bazaar In Bishkek
One of the most popular places to visit and the largest market in Bishkek is the Osh Bazaar. Unlike other places around the city, the Osh Bazaar can become very busy and crowded. Because of this, there’s more opportunity for pickpockets to prey on tourists.
Keep your bags and purses close to your body. If you’re in store for an anti-theft purse, I personally use this Baggalini purse that has a lock on each zipper. It is perfect for travel.
12. Is Osh Safe?
Osh is the second-largest city in Kyrgyzstan and it’s located near the border of Uzbekistan.
In prior years, there have been border disputes between Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Although this conflict was resolved, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of the current political situation between these nations.
Overall, Osh, Kyrgyzstan is a very safe city and you shouldn’t have any issues while exploring this area.
Hiring A Tour Guide
If you decide to take any tours from Osh, I strongly suggest using a tour company. A tour guide will help you navigate the southern region of Kyrgyzstan, keep you safe in the high mountains, and relieve a lot of your trip planning stress.
Our favorite tour company is Visit Alay. Talant, Azi, and the entire team at Visit Alay will make sure you are well cared for, and I can assure you you will have the most incredible time adventuring with them.
13. Are There Terror Attacks In Kyrgyzstan?
Unfortunately, terrorism is a global issue and Kyrgyzstan isn’t immune to attacks. But, terror attacks in Kyrgyzstan are rare occurrences; a tiny handful of attacks have happened over the past ten years.
As with any location around the world, we recommend keeping up with breaking news to be aware of the current security situation and remain safe in Kyrgyzstan.
14. Should I Avoid Any Places In Kyrgyzstan?
Although Kyrgyzstan is safe, there are places that you should avoid just as you should in any other country.
Disputed Border Areas
Since there have been disputes in the past at some land borders between Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, you may want to avoid these areas. Be sure to speak with locals in Kyrgyzstan to get the most updated advice.
You might be surprised to see the Osh Bazaar on my list of places to avoid in Kyrgyzstan. After all, it is one of the places I recommend adding to your two-week Kyrgyzstan itinerary.
The Osh Bazaar is a place you should experience while visiting Bishkek, but there’s no reason to spend a lot of time there. Pickpockets are common, so be aware of your surroundings.
15. Is Trekking Safe In Kyrgyzstan?
Trekking is safe in Kyrgyzstan if you use common sense and follow proper safety precautions. Here are some things you should consider:
The mountains in Kyrgyzstan are a heck of a lot taller than mountains in the United States. This means that reaching 14,000+ feet during your trek is common.
As an avid hiker, I want to warn you about the dangers of high-altitude trekking. At any elevation above 8,000 feet, acute mountain sickness (AMS) can occur. The lack of oxygen at these high altitudes can cause an assortment of issues, including headache, nausea, vomiting, and in very severe cases, death.
Be sure that you consume plenty of water during your treks and bring enough snacks to keep your energy levels up. This will help fend off AMS. But, if you start to experience dizziness, a headache, or nausea, descend to a lower altitude immediately.
Book With A Trekking Company
Whether you choose a multi-day trek or a day hike, I recommend hiring a tour company to take you through the mountains.
As mentioned above, the best trekking and tour company in Kyrgyzstan is Visit Alay. They have tons of tour options and are happy to customize a tour based on your preference
16. Are Horse Treks Safe In Kyrgyzstan?
Horse treks are very safe in Kyrgyzstan and we recommend them to all travelers.
The horses used during these treks are very accustomed to walking through mountain passes and on uneven terrain. Standard safety precautions should be taken when exploring Kyrgyzstan by horseback (i.e. don’t walk behind the horse).
The best way to experience Kyrgyzstan on horseback is by booking a tour through a local guiding company. Again, the best of the best is Visit Alay. Here’s a link to their best horse trekking tour.
17. Are People Nice In Kyrgyzstan?
People in Kyrgyzstan are very nice and welcoming, which will help you feel safe during your trip.
The best way to get to know locals is by staying at homestays and visiting small villages. Keep in mind, Kyrgyz people tend to be a bit more reserved; there were times when I would smile at people and wouldn’t get a smile back. But that doesn’t mean they are rude or unfriendly. It just isn’t as common to exchange smiles as it is in the US.
18. Are There Natural Disasters In Kyrgyzstan?
Kyrgyzstan is a safe country, especially regarding natural disasters. Since Kyrgyzstan is landlocked, there aren’t any oceanic dangers threatening the country. With that said, here are a few things to be aware of:
Earthquakes In Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan does experience earthquakes, but they are minor compared to those that happen elsewhere in the world. In fact, there hasn’t been an earthquake with a magnitude of over six on the Richter scale since 2011.
Avalanches In Kyrgyzstan
Any location that has tall mountains and snow is susceptible to avalanches. The easiest way to avoid avalanches in Kyrgyzstan is to refrain from any backcountry activity during winter (or at least any excursions without a well-trained backcountry guide).
Floods In Kyrgyzstan
Floods can also occur in Kyrgyzstan. This happens mainly due to high mountains, heavy rainfall, and melting glaciers.
The best way to avoid being affected by flooding is to monitor weather reports and educate yourself on important local safety tips.
19. Is Pickpocketing Common In Kyrgyzstan?
The truth is, you can find pickpockets in any country around the world. And this is especially true for crowded areas in big cities. Bishkek and Osh are no different.
Before traveling anywhere in the world, including Kyrgyzstan, we recommend getting an anti-theft purse or money belt so that you can keep your cash and passport secure while exploring.
Additional Kyrgyzstan Safety Tips
Even though I believe you’ll be completely safe while visiting Kyrgyzstan, there are a few additional precautions I wanted to outline:
Police corruption is a concern when traveling in Kyrgyzstan, which can make tourists feel uncomfortable and uneasy.
To avoid any issues with the police, I recommend avoiding interactions with them; follow local laws and consider hiring a driver or taking public transportation instead of driving yourself around the country.
How To Dress
Approximately 85% of the population in Kyrgyzstan practices Islam, which has a lot of travelers wondering, “is there a dress code I need to follow while traveling here?”
And while there aren’t any written rules about what you can and can’t wear in Kyrgyzstan, I always recommend being as respectful as possible. I never had a problem with the way I dressed while visiting Kyrgyzstan, but I also tend to dress a bit more conservatively.
My suggestion? I wouldn’t wear the same clothes you would wear on the beaches of Bali in Kyrgyzstan.. if you know what I mean.
Prices In Kyrgyzstan
I realize this post is dedicated to answering the question, “is Kyrgyzstan safe?” But, I think to stay safe in any country, you should be well-informed about typical prices and local standards.
Is Kyrgyzstan expensive?
In general, Kyrgyzstan is a very affordable country. Eating out at a restaurant can cost anywhere from $1-10 USD and hotels can range from $5-75 USD per night, depending on your preferences.
With that in mind, if you feel you are being overcharged for something, you probably are. This is especially true with taxi cabs. To avoid this, set up taxi rides beforehand and agree on a price before leaving.
Whether you’re summiting mountains in Patagonia, roaming the streets of Paris, or taking a horse trek through the most incredible landscape in Kyrgyzstan, you need travel insurance.
Before departing on any trip abroad, we purchase travel insurance in the event that something goes wrong (i.e. getting sick, losing our luggage, etc). Our go-to travel insurance is SafetyWing because it is ridiculously affordable and their customer support is fantastic.
You can get your travel insurance quote from SafetyWing by clicking here.
The Wrap-Up: Is Kyrgyzstan Safe?
When people think about Kyrgyzstan, they often have a negative view because it’s located in Central Asia. However, Kyrgyzstan is no more dangerous than any other country you have on your travel list.
In fact, Kyrgyzstan is a very safe country for travelers and you should have no problems if you follow these safety guidelines and practice common sense. As one of the most beautiful regions in the world, it would be a shame to miss out on a chance to explore this country.