Seeing the Ala-Too mountains is one of the top things to do in Bishkek.

Top 22 Things To Do In Bishkek | The Switzerland Of Central Asia

Learn the top things to see and do in Bishkek, the capital and largest city in under-the-radar, breathtakingly beautiful Kyrgyzstan, a former key trade route on the ancient Silk Road.

Bishkek is located in northern Kyrgyzstan at the base of the Kyrgyz Range of the Ala-Too Mountains, which will amaze you from many locations. This region is full of snow-capped mountains, awe-inspiring glaciers, and stunning, turquoise-hued alpine lakes.

It’s the perfect city to use a base to explore top sites, full of many cafes and restaurants, friendly locals, and a variety of places to stay. Plus it’s great place to get to experience the local culture.

Seeing the Ala-Too mountains is one of the top things to do in Bishkek.
Kyrgyz Ala-Too Mountains

And although this bustling city may look a bit gritty, with it’s crumbling Soviet era architecture, it offers wide boulevards with well-maintained floral gardens, an impressive cafe culture, lively markets, art that reflects the beauty of its landscape, and a fascinating history. It’s also inhabited by the extremely kind and warm-hearted Kyrgyz people, which will make you fall in love with Bishkek.

Visiting gardens is one of the top things to do in Bishkek

Adventures outside the city include sightseeing and hiking in the amazing snow-capped Tian Shan mountain range, trekking to or horseback riding around multiple alpine lakes, exploring captivating canyons, gorges, valleys, and more.

This former Soviet republic truly offers a lot. Especially travelers that prefer nature and off-the-beaten-path type locations. It’s also a great place to meet other travelers to share rides and adventure with (as tourist infrastructure is not great), so no need to worry about traveling solo.

This post covers the top things to do in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Top Things To Do In Bishkek

Ala-Too Square

Visiting Ala-Too Square is one of the first places most people visit in Bishkek. This is Bishkek’s main square, where state events and celebrations are held. Ala-Too square was once known as Lenin Square, complete with a statue of Lenin, until Kyrgyzstan gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

There are a variety of shops and restaurants in the square, and it is usually full of both locals and tourists enjoying the area and taking photos near the gardens and fountains, especially as the light softens close to sunset.

It’s located just across from the State National Museum and down the street from the Parliament Building, or White House (both below).

The State National Museum of History

Originally built as a tribute to Lenin (in Kyrgyzstan’s Soviet era), the State National Museum of History houses cultural artifacts and historical information on Kyrgyzstan. This museum was closed for many years, but recently reopened in 2022. It’s open from 10 AM to 6 PM daily, excluding Mondays and select holidays.

Visiting the history museum is one of the top things to do in Bishkek
State National Museum

The statue in front of the museum is a statue of Manas, the hero of Kyrgyzstan (above). The legend of 10th century Manas is that although he was born a commoner, he became a national hero after taking back land lost to the Chinese and re-united the Kyrgyz people.

The White House

The White House, or Parliament building of Kyrgyzstan, was originally planned as the communist party’s central headquarters in its Soviet days. Built in 1985, in Stalinist modern style, this building is covered with marble.

You cannot enter the grounds, but being so close to Ala-Too Square, it’s worth walking by and learning a bit of its history.

Strolling by the White House is one of the top things to do in Bishkek
White House

An interesting fact about the White House is that there are supposedly hidden tunnels between the White House and Ala-Too Square down the street.

It has also seen its share of turmoil with President Askar Ayarev overthrown in the 2005 Tulip Revolution, turmoil with riots before Kurmanbek Bakyiev was overthrown in 2010, and ex-president Almazbek Atambayev arrested on corruption charges in 2019. Most recently, in 2020, protestors stormed and lit parts of the building on fire.

Oak Park

There are many lovely parks in Bishkek, part of the beauty of its former Soviet days, but Oak Park is one of its most beautiful. It’s also filled with sculptures and lovely flower gardens, making it an open-air museum.

Located just east of the State National Museum of History, it’s not only a lovely place for a walk, you also get exposed to some local culture through its art and the locals and families going about their everyday life here.

Visiting Oak Park is one of the top things to do in Bishkek
Oak Park

This well-maintained park is an ideal stop on a hot day as the large trees provide ample shade.

Gapar Aitiev Museum of Fine Arts

The Gapar Aitiev Museum of Fine Arts features both Russian and Kyrgyz art. Paintings range from Kyrgyzstan’s stunning landscapes to paintings of locals and fascinating traditional crafts, like felting.

Gapar Aitiev Museum

The museum is open daily from 11 AM to 6 PM, excepts Mondays and holidays. This is a relatively large museum with many works, so expect to spend an hour or two here.

Kyrgyz National Opera And Theater

Built in 1930, this center for opera and theater was named after Abdylas Maldybaev, a famous Soviet and Kyrgzy performer and operatic singer.

Visit the Kyrgyz National Opera website for performance schedules.

Both the art museum and opera house are located relatively close to each other, a short walk east of Oak Park, making them great to pair together.

Victory Monument

This monument, at Victory Square, commemorates the defeat of fascism. An eternal flame burns here in memory of those that lost their lives in WWII.

Visiting victory monument is one of the top things to do in Bishkek
Eternal Flame at Victory Monument

This monument and park is about a 10-minute walk east of Oak Park.

The New Central Mosque

This Bishkek Central Mosque, which opened in 2017, was designed after similar mosques in Istanbul Türkiye with the goal of serving as the main mosque in Bishkek. Holding up to 20,000 worshipers, it’s located about a 10-minute walk northeast of Victory Monument and about a 15-minute walk southwest of the Eastern Bus Station.

It’s best to come on a day other than Friday as it will likely be full for service.

Osh Bazaar

Osh Bazaar is almost a small city in itself. Located on the western side of Bishkek, about a 20-minute walk south of the Western Bus Station, it’s a great place to people watch and purchase any items you may need inexpensively. You’ll find fresh produce, spices, local specialties, household supplies, electronics, and more at super prices.

As with any crowded space, keep an eye on your valuables here. I didn’t sense or experience any issues personally, but there’s always a chance there could be a pickpocketlurking in the crowd.

Spilling out onto the sidewalks near the market, you’ll find people selling all kinds of little necessities, like a variety of fruits and vegetables, electronic accessories, and oddly, this is a great place to stock up on socks. There are even ladies with everyday bathroom scales there, so you can weigh yourself for a few SOM (almost nothing).

Bishkek’s Cafe Culture

Bishkek has a vibrant cafe culture, with many nice cafes and restaurants around the city. Most menus have a wide range of appetizers, salads, soups, pastas, sandwiches, and main dishes from around the world.

One of my favorite casual cafes was Sierra Coffee, which I found myself returning to over and over. They offer great, healthy food choices (including options for vegetarians) at a great price. The staff is also very friendly and you’ll find other travelers to talk to, plus there’s free wifi.

Most Kyrgyzstani food, however, is very meat centric. A lot of chicken, beef, lamb, and Turkish doner. Horse meat is considered a delicacy here, but is expensive due to demand. Because of this, it’s often only served at special events, like weddings. 

Paloo is a very traditional dish of meat, carrots, garlic, and spices over locally grown rice. You’ll find it at more traditional establishments. It’s even sold on the street near Osh Bazaar, cooked in giant 4’ pots. For about $1, you can get a bowl.

I tried it one night after a long day outside the city. Not having the time or energy to find a sit down cafe, I ate it on the curb of the street, loving every bite. It was also served for breakfast at my hotel one morning. Honestly, I preferred the street version, but it’s probably because it’s a bit heavy for my palate as a breakfast item.

A Traditional Russian Banya

Another relic from Kyrgyzstan’s soviet days are its banyas, or bathhouses. Russian bathhouses differ from Turkish bathhouses in several ways. Generally, Banyas are about sweating in high humidity (about 60%) and high temperatures while hitting yourself (or being hit) by bundles of birch twigs.

Steam is created by throwing water on hot stones and benches are available at different heights allowing you sit where its cooler (lower) or warmer (higher).

There are several spas offering this across the city, with one of the most popular one being Afrodita. It offers a variety of options including traditional banya services, baths, saunas, spa services, massages, and more. Unfortunately, their website is not in English, so you need to convert it to read the details.

The Circus

This strange, UFO-looking Soviet structure actually still functions as a circus (although not as much as in its Soviet days). I think animal rights movements may have more to do with this than the fact that Kyrgyzstan is no longer a Soviet republic (Tragically, I read that a performing bear did kill a human performer here and was shot because of it).

This circus is located north of the Bishkek Opera House and Victory Monument.

Day Trip To Burana Tower 

A day trip Burana Tower is a must-do in Bishkek. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the oldest architectural constructions of Central Asia and all that remains of the an ancient city on the Silk Road that once accepted thousands of caravans. At the time it was called Balasagun, and it was the capital of the great Karakhanid Empire.

Admittedly, there’s not much here now but the damaged tower, some balbals strewn about (below), and a museum, but it’s well worth it to climb the tower for the spectacular view and imagine what this city was once like.

17th century Arabic travelers wrote that Balasagun had “a wide fortress around the city, 40 cathedrals, and 200 ordinary mosques; 20 institutions for the poor and ten madrassas or religious schools.”

Hiking to Ratsek Hut is one of the top things to do in Bishkek
Burana Tower

The balbals strewn about the grounds here are gravesites from nomadic Turkics from the 6th-19th century.

Balbals by Burana Tower in Kyrgyzstan

Burana Tower is located about an hour drive east of Bishkek and about 15-minutes south of Tokmok. Read my post on about Visiting Burana Tower to learn more about it and how to get here.

Hike In Ala-Archa National Park

The magnificent alpine park of Ala Archa is a very popular destination for locals, tourists, and serious hikers and another one of the top things to do in Bishkek. In fact, this is one of the most visited sites in Kyrgyzstan.

The park, named after the Ala Archa river that flows through it, contain serious mountains that are seriously stunning.With the park entrance at 4,921’ (1,500 m) and the highest peak at 16, 000’ (4,895 m), this area was once a soviet camp for climbers in military training. Yet, you can find a variety of different trails from easy to very challenging, all about 40-minutes southwest of Bishkek

Starting to get a beautiful view in Ala Archa National park
Ala Archa Trail

You can take an easy walk down to the Ala Archa River, hike up to Ak-Say waterfall, hike to Ratsek Hut for the view of Ak-Say Glacier, or stay at Ratsek, using it as a base camp for hiking the peaks around Ak-Say Glacier and more.

I hiked to Ratsek Hut, which was a challenging hike up over 3.7 miles (6 km) with 4,399’ (1341 m) elevation gain. If I hadn’t been hiking with a 19-year old from my hostel, I may have given up before we reached it, but I’m glad I pushed on (actually, we both pushed on).

The hike to the waterfall is relatively easy, but the terrain becomes very, very steep after that. At one point gaining 2,132’ (650 m) in 1.24 miles (2 km).

Getting From Bishkek To Ala Archa Park. Ratsek Hut.
Ratsek Hut

Read my post Ala Archa National Park to learn more about this park and how to get here.

Admire Alamedin Valley

I read about the beauty of the Alamedin Valley, so wanted to add that to my itinerary. I also read about a radon thermal pool here called Teplie Klyuchi, which is popular with locals (to read the link you need to translate to English, sorry). Thinking that sounded cool, I hired a taxi for the round trip ride through my accomodation. It’s located about 40-minutes directly south of Bishkek (and east of Ala Archa Park).

The radon thermal pool was a little crumbly and not very exciting, probably with no updates since the collapse of the Soviet Union, although I enjoyed my inexpensive swim in its ’healing waters’.

The drive drive down the the valley, however, was simply stunning. Both my taxi driver and I were mesmerized taking photos of the spectacular scenery along the way.

Not far from the thermal pool, there is a waterfall, although a guide is recommended to find it. If you look on, however, there are a couple waterfalls south of Teplie Klyuchi you can trek to, like this link to Alamedin Waterfalls.

Visiting Alamedin Valley is one of the top things to do in Bishkek
Alamedin Valley

On the drive back to Bishkek, the taxi driver noticed me eyeing a horse on the side of the road. I was shocked when he stopped and asked the owner if I could ride his horse for a bit. The kindness and generosity of the Kyrgyz people will really touch your heart!

Visiting Alamedin Valley is one of the top things to do in Bishkek

Explore Issyk-Kul Lake

Impressive, high-altitude Issyk Kul Lake, 2-5 hours east of Bishkek (depending on what part of the lake you visit), is 113 miles long x 37 miles wide (181 km x 59 km). Fringed by the snow-capped Ala-Too mountains, it’s exceptionally beautiful.

Issyk Kul means ”warm lake”, as although it sits at an elevation of about a mile, the lake never freezes. With a surface area of 2,408 sq miles, it’s about 5 times the size of Hong Kong! It’s the second biggest saline lake in the world, after the Caspian Sea.

Kazakh nomads of Mongolia ger

There are many things to see and do around Issyk Kul Lake, other than just admiring it or taking a sunset cruise on it. You can visit Fairy Tale Canyon, Konorchek Canyon, the Seven Bulls of Jeti-Ögüz, and Grigorievka, as well as Karakol, a city on its southeastern end which functions as a base for year round trekking, mountaineering, skiing, and more. There are several opportunities to stay in a traditional yurt here. See where to stay below.

Day Trip To Fairy Tale, or Skazka, Canyon

Skazka means ‘fairy tale’ in Russian and Fairy Tale Canyon does not disappoint. It gets its name from the fantasy-like shapes carved by centuries of wind and water into the red sandstone canyon (to give you a sense of scale, the white spec in the photo below is a person).

Fairy Tale Canyon is one of the top things to do in Bishkek
Fairy Tale (Skazka) Canyon

This is a small, but must-see canyon on the southern side of Issyk-Kul Lake (about mid-point east to west). It’s about a 5-hour drive from the center of Bishkek. Once here, plan to spend 3-4 hours here exploring the unique shapes of the terrain. There’s also a mini painted desert here.

I arrived via a combination of a marshrutka (a Soviet mini bus) from Bishkek, a little hitchhiking in Issyk Kul, and walking to the entrance. It was not easy, but the canyon, and the expeirence getting here was with it. See my post on Fairy Tale Canyon to learn more about this fabulous day trip, how to get here, and options for an overnight stay (including staying in a traditional yurt).

Trek In Konorchek Canyon, or Suluu-Terek

Konorchek Canyon is sometimes called a mini Grand Canyon for its stunning red rock formations. Much of it is from the remains of an ancient volcano named Seghizhan-Shokny (volcanos are rare in this area). Also in the Tian Shan mountain range, it’s tucked near along the highway on the way to Issyk Kul Lake from Bishkek.

Adding to its beauty is the fact that almost no one else is usually here! Especially during the week. I ran into a few people, but mostly clambered over rocks, along a mostly dry river bed, and into the canyon.

This area is about 90 miles east of central Bishkek. See my post on Konorchek Canyon to learn more about this unique canyon, how to get here, and options for an overnight stay.

Konorchek canyon is one of the top things to do in Bishkek
Konorchek Canyon

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See The Seven Bulls of Jeti-Ögüz

This massive red rock formation is called the Seven Bulls due to the 114’ (35 m) walls with seven, stunning red sandstone cliffs.

It’s located about 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Karakol, on the eastern side of Issyk Kul lake. It’s about a 6 hour drive from central Bishkek.

I did not get a chance to visit this site, but they say that for the best view, you should go farther into the the valley and admire it from the nearby hilltop. If you have more time in this area, there are also several short hiking trails here going to, and along, the river.

Trek Kegety Gorge To Kol-Tor Lake

I also did not visit Kol-Tor Lake, but wish I had as it looks stunning. Beautiful, alpine Kol-Tor lake is in the Kegety Valley, about 90-minutes southeast of Bishkek and 40-minutes south of Tokmok. The hike up to the lake, which is 9,000’ (2,752 m) above sea level, is about 3-4 hours, depending on your fitness level and the weather.

Reunited as the most beautiful alpine lake near Bishkek, it’s said to have a turquoise hue, from glacial sediment, which changes color based on the angle of the sun. There are also waterfalls along the trail up to the lake.

If you search for Kol-Tor on AllTrails, there is a trail shown to this lake, but it’s steep and a long walk, so best to do this with a guide. I suggest using this Hike to Kol-Tor Lake, from Tours By Locals, which picks you up from your hotel in Bishkek (this is not a sponsored link).

To get here on your own, take a marshrutka (old soviet mini bus) from the East Bus Station in Bishkek towards Kegety Village. Ask the driver in advance if he can drop you at Kegety waterfall, or explain that you want to hike to Kol-Tor Lake. If you do not know Russian, try to get this translated in advance or use a translating system on your phone. Alternatively, take a marshrutka to Tokmok and take a taxi down to Kegety.

If driving, I’ve read to park next to Kegeti Guest House (which has great reviews as a place to stay while hiking). From there it’s about an 8 mile hike (14 km), taking about 3-4 hours to get to the lake.

Grigorievka Village And Grigorievka Gorge

Grigorievka is a pretty village on the northern side of Issyk-Kul Lake about a 4 hour drive from central Bishkek. Grigoriev Gorge is a long, picturesque Gorge near Grigorievka Village. There are many treks available in this area, including lakes, as well as horseback riding.

I learned about this from my taxi driver at Issyk Kul. It was so important for him to tell me about this area, that he pulled off on the side of the highway to explain. Keep in mind, he only spoke Russian, so the process took about 20 minutes! I finally realized he wanted me to pull up my map of Kyrgyzstan on my phone, where he showed me, still chatting away. I really couldn’t understand anything but his enthusiasm.

Then he went on, gesturing emphatically that it was much more beautiful than where we were. It really is known to be a stunning area, but unfortunately, I do not have more information on it right now.

Stay At Song-Kul Lake

This is another alpine lake accentuated by snow-capped mountains, although smaller than Issyk-Kul. It looks amazingly beautiful, so I’m very sorry I did not get to visit. My hotel offered a 3 day horseback riding trip here, which would have been incredible, but I couldn’t justify spending a 3 full days here. In addition, it’s at a higher elevation, so a bit cold for my tastes in September (I also did not have the right gear).

This lake is a several hour drive south of Bishkek, although you need a 4 x 4 or other off-road vehicle to get here. You can stay in a traditional yurt, ride horses, trek, spot wildlife, or just wander in amazement and take photos.

Song Kul | Peretz Partensky

Where To Stay in Bishkek

The place where I stayed is no longer in business, so I’ve researched some centrally located places for you at a variety of price points that are highly rated.


  • Izzzi Hostel gets stellar reviews and is centrally located. There are lockers in the dorms and privacy panels on the beds.
  • Nomad Inn is located about a 40-minute walk south of Ala Too Square. This inexpensive Inn is a little farther away. It offers twin beds and a shared kitchen.


  • AURA on Kievskaya, 168 is a basic, but highly rated apartment that’s centrally located about a 20-minute walk west of Ala Too Square. There’s a full sized bed and kitchen. Also near Sierra Coffee, my favorite cafe here.
  • Bishkek Promenade is a centrally located apartment with 1 bedroom (full sized bed) and a kitchen. It gets great reviews and is a 10-minute walk west of Ala Too Square.
  • Logvinenko Apartment is a 1 bedroom apartment with a terrace with city views, and a kitchen. It gets great reviews and is located about a 10-minute walk north of Ala Too Square.
  • Brand New One Bedroom Apartment With Amazing View is a cozy 1 bedroom apartment with kitchen and balcony with amazing view. This one does not have many reviews yet, but the few it does have are very positive. It’s located about 10 to 15-minute walk east of Ala Too Square.


  • If you want something more grand, but still affordable, Orion Hotel is a 5-star hotel located about a 15 to 20-minute walk south of Ala Too Square. 

Where To Stay By Ala Archa

Although you can visit Ala Archa as a day trip, it’s not easy to get to. This means it may be worth staying in the area a day or two. Especially if you pair it with Alamedin, below.

Some places relatively close to Ala Archa National park include the places below. Keep in mind, however, that they all still require a taxi (or car) as the trails start about 7.5 miles (12 km) from the main gate.


  • Guest House NAUKA#81 – about 1 mile (1.6 km) from the Ala Archa main gate. Each room at this inexpensive guesthouse comes with a patio with a garden view and a shared bathroom with a mountain view. 


  • Olive Ala Archa Hotel – about 1.3 miles (2 km) from the main gate, this 3-star hotel offers terraces and mountain views.
  • Happy Flower Guest House – about 4.8 miles (7.7 km) from the main gate, this guesthouse is located in Verkhnyaya Alaarcha. It has a shared dining and lounge space with a large woodburning fireplace and big-theater style TV.

Where To Stay In Alamedin

If you want to stay in the gorgeous Alamedin area for a night, I recommend the two options below. Also, Guest House NAUKA#81 and Olive Ala Archa Hotel from above are 6 miles from Alamedin, while Happy Flower Guest House is 7 miles from Alamedin. Staying here is a great way to combine trips to Ala Archa and Almadin (although you will need a car or to hire a taxi).


  • RAHMAT Yurts are in Vorontsovskoye, 2.7 miles from Alamedin. This modern yurt is a great place to stay and enjoy traditional yurt living with a private bath and mountain views. It gets excellent reviews. One part of the yurt even has heated floors for warmth. Breakfast is included.

Affordable to Splurge (depending on room)

  • If you want all the comforts of a fine resort, Jannat Resort offers a restaurant, swimming pool, fitness center, spa, and a sauna. The rooms have mountain views and breakfast is included. Admittedly though, reviews on this resort are mixed. Possibly due to high expectations…make sure to read all the reviews before booking.

Where To Stay Near Konorchek Canyon

Balykchy is a small town on the western tip of Issyk-Kul lake and a great place to stay if you want to explore more of Konorchek Canyon, which is only about 30 miles west of Balykchy. Especially if you want to explore more of the area around Issyk Kul Lake. These options are both at the shoestring level.

  • I stayed in Tian-Shan Guesthouse, which has a shared lounge, garden, and BBQ area. All rooms feature a kitchen and a shared bathroom. A continental breakfast is available daily at the guesthouse.
  • Guesthouse Oimo is another option. It also features a shared lounge, a terrace, a garden, and a continental breakfast.

Where to Stay Near Fairy Tale Canyon

Skazka, or Fairy Tale Canyon is in the center of the southern side of Issyk Kul lake. There are a few places I recommend for staying here, although most require a taxi, hitchhiking, or a car. I did this as a day trip, so did not stay overnight.


  • Bel Tam Yurt Camp is located in the city of Tong, which is about 10 miles (16 km) west of Fairy Tale Canyon. These budget friendly yurts are managed by locals and sit on the beach of Issyk Kul Lake. This is a little farther away, but one of the original yurt camps here.
  • Yurt Camp Skazka is a budget yurt camp in Tosor, not too far from Fairy Tale Canyon, about a 30-minute walk, making it somewhat convenient. This yurt camp looks good, with views of the lake and mountains here, but the few reviews it has are only ‘good’. Make sure to read all reviews before booking.


  • Glamping Skazka These luxury tents (not yurts), which look like geodomes, are also on Issyk Kul Lake, but in Tosor, close to the entrance of Fairy Tale Canyon. The tent includes an internal, private bathroom with shower as well as a lake and mountain views at an affordable price.

Getting Around Kyrgyzstan

Since tourism here is not fully developed, getting around is one of the biggest challenges in Bishkek, but it’s also part of the adventure.

Flying Into Bishkek

Airport To Bishkek Bishkek is located 25-minutes south of Manas airport with several options for transportation.

Private Driver

The easiest way to get to Bishkek from the airport is to arrange a driver to pick you up (your accommodation will help you arrange this). Although this will likely be the most expensive option, it should still be reasonable.


Taxi offices are in the arrival hall to book an official taxi, although they are not always open. Avoid the taxi drivers all vying for your attention in the arrival hall or be prepared to negotiate with them as they will try to overcharge you.

There are ride hailing apps (see below), and there is wifi in the airport, so if can can, book a taxi on your phone. This way you can also eliminate rogue, or unofficial taxis, which can be a costly mistake. At the very least, use it to get a cost to negotiate and hail a cab dropping someone off.

Mini Bus, or Marshrutka

Mini bus is the least expensive way to get to Bishkek. Use marshrutka 380, which takes you to the corner of Chuy and Gvardiya Boulevard. The cost is around 60 SOM. It runs from 6:30 AM to 9 PM.

To see the drop-off location on, type in Marshrutka 380 after downloading the map of Bishkek. Ask at the airport where to find marshrutka 380. If your hotel is not nearby the drop off point, you can hail a taxi.

Getting Around Bishkek


Taxis can be used to get around within Bishkek, as well as to cities nearby. There are several ride hailing apps that you can use in Bishkek. The most popular is Yandex Taxi, although being a Russian company, there is sometimes talk of sanctions against them. As of this writing in August 2023, they still are operating. Just download the app and use it like the Uber app. Bi-Taxi is another option. Navi Taxi is yet another option, but their app is not in English.

You can also flag down taxis on the street or hire them near bus stations or tourist sites. It’s best, however to be prepared to negotiate. You can always try to use one of the apps above to get an estimate or ask at your hotel. Taxi costs are fairly inexpensive, but if you have a long distance to go, taxis can get pricey.


Marshrutkas are old Soviet mini busses that leave from the East and West side bus stations, as well as a few other spots in Bishkek. These are best used to get to cities outside of Bishkek for sightseeing and will be your least expensive option, as the ride is shared.

The issue is that they don’t operate on a set schedule, only leaving when seats are full. This means you can get to the station and still need to wait an hour or so. Seats are cheap, however, so you can always buy multiple seats if you want to expedite the process. 

Look for the mini bus to your destination at the station (it will be in Russian, so translate your destination before arriving.

Getting back can also be challenging as it may mean flagging a marshrutka down on the road. This can be challenging since they don’t have set schedules, and, of course, because they usually only run when full.

Locals Acting As Taxi Drivers

When I planned to come here, I read US government warnings not to get into cars not marked as official taxis, but if you want independent travel and don’t want to rent a car, frankly, it’s unavoidable. In fact it’s actually common for locals to pick up travelers on the road and charge them like a taxi would. Maybe I got lucky, but I did this a few times and found the drivers to be great. Of course, you need to make your own decision on the risks and rewards of doing this.

Even though my drivers couldn’t speak English, we always found ways to communicate. One of my rides was a 4-5 hour drive from Issyk-Kul Lake to Bishkek. Although I was the first person in his van, it wasn’t long before there were 7 adults, 2 babies, and a TV in the vehicle and I felt safe the entire ride.

If you’ve visited Kyrgyzstan and have a comment, please add a note below. I’d love to hear from you.

Safe Travels!


Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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