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- Nov 8, 2022
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Kyrgyzstan. Most might not have heard of this quiet Central Asian country that was once part of the Soviet Union. It's a tiny little country above India’s crown, Kashmir, and the tinier Tajikistan, our northern neighbour. Its population, almost 66 lakh. For perspective, that’s two lakh less than all of Himachal Pradesh. Its capital is Bishkek, its currency is called Som, and the exchange rate between it and the Indian Rupee is one-is-to-one.
The reason why I am telling you all these is because Kyrgyzstan is a fantastic country to ride a motorcycle, and here is how you can do it too.
In another lifetime I led adventure moto-tours and treks. My travels have taken me across 17 countries across Asia, Africa and Europe. And as a series, I shall try and share my experiences and learning from over the years so that you too can undertake such road trips. I will share must-know facts, some useful tips, a few highlight experiences and important prep tips wherever necessary. So let’s begin!
Kyrgyzstan is an alpine country. The landscape changes quickly from lush green, snow-capped Himachali mountains to rocky and daunting Ladakhi style mountains. But unlike the Himalayas, these mountains tower over vast grasslands and meadows more than they do over deep valleys.
This country is home to some of the best sunsets in the world and is one of the safest to travel across!
Kyrgyzstan flights from india
Flights to Kyrgyzstan (from India) are limited, but cheap. The most convenient option is to fly out from Delhi and into Bishkek–a return ticket can be had for less than Rs 20,000 if planned in advance. You can enter with an Kyrgyz e-visa which too is simple to apply for on the official website. Only challenge is that locals do not accept the Indian Rupee over the counter, so get some US dollars. International credit cards do work, but it’s best to have some cash on hand to avoid the bank’s markup against routine transactions. ATMs in the countryside are few.
Bishkek as a city will surprise you. Mixed with ex-Soviet architecture and modern infrastructure, the cityscape is alive, active, vibrant and rich in history. Flanked by large gardens are well paved, wide strips of grey asphalt. If you find yourself sitting in a roadside cafe, you will hear people speak in mainly Russian and Kyrgyz, while a little English is also spoken. I’d suggest you learn a few basic words and phrases in Russian and you’re honestly good to set off on a road trip anywhere in the countryside.
Motorbike/Car rental in Kyrgyzstan
Use Bishkek as your base camp, because if you need something particular, this is possibly the best place to find it. The city also has a wide network of rental motorcycle and car providers. Cars are mostly old American imports (Ford Rangers, Toyota 4Runners, that type) and motorcycles – well anything from an Ural to a BMW F800GS can be found with ease. Be aware of daily rental charges and most importantly, insurance. By not getting comprehensive rental-vehicle insurance you can burn through a lot of money quickly if you damage the vehicle, which can happen. So don’t cheap out.
Kyrgyzstan travel guide
You can look up good riding routes on the internet easily. From one-day rides in and out of Bishkek to long multi-day routes covering 1500kms full of on- and off-road riding. As you leave Bishkek behind the hustle and bustle subsides until you begin to pass a car maybe every 10 minutes at most. It’s just you, your bike/car and this beautiful country.
Most times, the rental partner themselves will have defined circuits you can ride on and also help with roadside assistance on these routes for a fee. Hence, the fear of being stranded somewhere faraway isn’t a challenge. Request for a local SIM card, a few dollars of topup and you’re good. But deep in the mountains, finding network can be a challenge.
Places to stay in Kyrgyzstan
Finding accommodation in Kyrgyzstan is a lot like traveling through Leh and Ladakh or Spiti Valley. Cities like Bishkek will offer the finest hotels and as you go further away from them, the stay becomes more modest but also very unique if you know what to look for. The people of Kyrgyz are nomads and they used to and some of them still do, live in tall round leather tents called yurts. Catching a Yurt stay under the stars is a definite must-do in Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan food culture
Meeting members of the old Golden Eagle hunter community is another example. They serve horse meat with spaghetti accompanied by local bread (very popular there) and momos the size of a fist. Food is mostly bland for those with a heavy curry craving tongue, but tasty if you’re a bit open minded. The good thing is that even vegetarians will have enough options to choose from, but meat lovers will be in heaven.
Kyrgyzstan cost of travel
To round it all up, I would suggest you keep a budget of about Rs 1.5 lakh, all things included, for about 10-12 days of holidaying in Kyrgyzstan. Be smart about your stay and the bike/car you choose and everything else like food and fuel is pretty affordable. Get a Suzuki DRZ400, stay in sub-USD 50 per night rooms where breakfast is usually complementary, and spend your time on the road exploring this beautiful country.
Places to visit in Kyrgyzstan:
1. Tash-Rabat (15th century Silk Route ) UNESCO world heritage site
2. Ala Archa National Park
3. Issyk Kul Lake (One of the largest Alpine lakes in the world)
4. Song Kol Lake
6. Cholpon Ata
10. Jyrgalan Valley
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