COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Kyrgyz Republic is a mountainous country of 5.5 million people. In April 2010, violence led to the collapse of the previous government and the subsequent formation of a provisional government. In June 2010, inter-ethnic violence killed hundreds of people and wounded thousands in the south of the country. The provisional government successfully held a constitutional referendum in June and parliamentary elections took place without violence in October 2010. A new government was formed on December 17, 2010. The country held competitive presidential elections in October 2011, and President Atambayev took office on December 1, 2011. Though the referendum and both elections took place without incident, unrest and ethnic tensions could flare up unexpectedly.
Despite recent economic growth and modest natural resources, the country grapples with substantial poverty, and the tourist industry is not highly developed. Air and land travel internally and to neighboring countries is limited and can be subject to delays due to infrastructure shortcomings and winter weather. Rural and urban areas are subject to power, natural gas, and water outages, leaving many homes without running water, heat, or electricity at times. Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Kyrgyzstan for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit the Kyrgyz Republic, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your plans. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
Embassy of the United States of America in the Kyrgyz Republic
171 Prospect Mira, Bishkek 720016
Telephone: (996-312) 551-241
Facsimile: (996-312) 551-264
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: You must have a valid U.S. passport to visit Kyrgyzstan. Your passport must be valid for a minimum period of three months from the date of entry into Kyrgyzstan and must have at least one full blank page if you are applying for a visa.
A visa-free regime for citizens of some states, including the United States of America, was introduced in July 2012. U.S.
citizens are permitted to enter the country for tourism for up to 60 days without a Kyrgyz visa.
US citizens present in the Kyrgyz Republic for more than 60 days mustobtain a Kyrgyz visa at the Department of Consular Services of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic located at 10A Togolok Moldo Street, Bishkek, telephone: 0(312) 663270, or at the Department of Visa and Passport Control under the Ministry of Internal Affairs located in the main building of GUVD (Bishkek City Police Department), intersection of Pravda & Toktogul Street, telephone 0(312) 431179.Individuals traveling to the Kyrgyz Republic to perform religious work or work in affiliation with any religious organization in any capacity are required by Kyrgyz law to declare so on their visa applications. Individuals engaging in any type of missionary activity must obtain a work visa and register with the Office of Religious Affairs after arrival. It is illegal to engage in religious activity on a tourist visa. Travelers should apply for the correct category of visa for their purpose of travel. The Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens traveling in the Kyrgyz Republic also obtain Kazakh visas, as commercial air travel out of the Kyrgyz Republic is limited and U.S. citizens may need to travel through Kazakhstan to return to the United States. Travelers intending to transit through Russia en route to a third country must have a Russian transit visa. Even travelers who are simply changing planes in Moscow or another international airport in Russia for an onward destination will be asked to present a transit visa issued by a Russian Embassy or Consulate. Russian authorities may refuse entry to travelers who do not have visas. For further information regarding entry/exit requirements, contact the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic at 2630 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone:(202) 338-5141, fax:(202) 742 6501.
Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors and foreign residents in the Kyrgyz Republic. The law states that visitors staying more than one month must present evidence that they are HIV negative. This restriction has not been actively enforced, but enforcement could begin without notice. Please verify the status of this requirement with the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic before you travel.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Bishkek is a large city of 1.1 million people. The greatest threats to tourists and travelers are traffic accidents and street crime. That said, the country continues to stabilize itself after the violence of 2010. Terrorism is an enduring threat, especially in the southern part of the country.
The Department of State suggests that U.S. citizens limit travel to the Batken Oblast where violence broke out several times in recent years. Ethnic, political, and socio-economic tensions continue to exist in southern Kyrgyzstan, including the cities of Osh and Jalalabad, the second and third largest cities in Kyrgyzstan, although there have been no widespread incidents of violence since 2010. As of December 2012, however, the immediate threat of violence appears to have subsided in the south, although ethnic, political, and socio-economic tensions continue to exist.
Travel of U.S. government employees to Batken is currently restricted. Land mines in Batken Oblast and near the Kyrgyz-Tajik border continue to be a concern. Areas along the Kyrgyz-Uzbek and Kyrgyz-Tajik borders continue to have small, but sometimes violent and deadly, skirmishes between border guards on both sides, and often include civilians. Organized crime and narcotics trafficking are widespread in southern Kyrgyzstan.
In late 2010, Kyrgyz security forces carried out a series of operations against groups the government claims are Islamic extremists seeking to destabilize the country. These security operations resulted in the death or arrest of several suspects, and several members of the Kyrgyz security forces. These militants are blamed for carrying out a home invasion, planting a car bomb near a Bishkek police station, and detonating an improvised explosive device outside the venue of a large trial in downtown Bishkek resulting in some property damage and minor injuries.
In late November 2010, Kyrgyz Special Forces mounted an operation against suspected terrorists in Osh, resulting in the deaths of all four suspects and the wounding of two special-forces officers. In October 2012, the Kyrgyz government also arrested five individuals with alleged ties to terrorists and extremist groups. Additionally, Kyrgyz security officials found and confiscated large caches of weapons, including machine guns and explosive materials.
Though the situation is now relatively stable, demonstrations can break out without advance notice. During times of political unrest, demonstrators often gather in front of the Presidential Administration building (White House), the Parliament, and on Alatoo Square in Bishkek’s city center. The Embassy does not always have advance information regarding demonstrations. All U.S. citizens are reminded to avoid the vicinity of any protests, because even protests that are intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.
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CRIME: The U.S. Embassy advises U.S. citizens to exercise caution in urban areas of the Kyrgyz Republic due to the high rate of violent crime against foreigners. There have been reports of violent muggings of foreigners in downtown Bishkek at night. Other common crimes include auto theft and pick pocketing in crowded places such as markets, internet cafes, and on public transportation.
After dark, travelers should not take public transportation or walk outside and should be extremely cautious in or near hotels, bars, parks, and all places that attract an expatriate clientele. The U.S. Embassy advises its employees to avoid the use of unlicensed cabs and recommends using only radio dispatched taxis. Travelers arriving at Manas International Airport should arrange their transportation from the airport in advance. There have been reports of U.S. citizens who were robbed by groups of young men who had followed them back to their residences from hotels and bars. In addition, U.S. citizens have been victims of rape, assault, and kidnapping in the past in the Kyrgyz Republic. Police officers rarely speak English and there are no victims’ assistance programs available. Medical care and counseling services for victims are limited.
Harassment and extortion by people who purport to be Kyrgyz police officers take place occasionally. According to Kyrgyz law, any person claiming to be a police officer must show identifying documents on demand. U.S. citizens should not act upon requests by people, whether in civilian dress or in police uniform, if they have no official identification. U.S. citizens also should not get into cars with anyone they do not know, even if the person claims to be a police officer.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may be breaking local law. You could be prosecuted under U.S. law for pirated goods you purchased in the Kyrgyz Republic.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the Kyrgyz Republic is 101 in case of fire, 102 for police, and 103 for emergency ambulance service.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in the Kyrgyz Republic, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in the Kyrgyz Republic, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go. .
In the Kyrgyz Republic, you may be taken in by police for questioning if you do not have your passport with you. Driving under the influence of alcohol, no matter how little you consumed, is considered a serious offense.
Persons violating Kyrgyz Republic laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Kyrgyz Republic are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The borders between the Kyrgyz Republic and its neighbors are poorly delineated and often unmarked, and several areas are in dispute. Border guards on both sides have been known to apprehend travelers in disputed territories to check travel documents. There have been a number of cases along the Tajikistan and Uzbekistan borders where foreign travelers were detained by immigration officials of those countries because the visitor entered the country without a proper visa, even though the traveler had no intention of leaving the Kyrgyz Republic and entering another country. Anyone traveling in those border areas should be especially careful and it is advised that travelers have a valid visa for the neighboring country.
Kyrgyz customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from the Kyrgyz Republic of items such as antiquities or hunting trophies. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic at 2630 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., 20008, telephone:(202) 338-5141, fax:(202) 742-6501, for specific information regarding customs requirements.
The Kyrgyz Republic is a mostly cash-based economy, although credit cards can be used at major Western-style stores and some restaurants. ATMs are available, although you should use only those installed at bank branches or large, reputable hotels. A hotel or bank may, on occasion, accept traveler’s checks, but the fees can be as high as 20 percent.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport and Kyrgyz visa with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and citizenship are readily available.
The Kyrgyz Republic is an earthquake-prone country. Flooding is also common at some times of the year and in some locations. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Hunting and trekking are popular sports for locals and tourists in the Kyrgyz Republic; however, U.S. citizens traveling to the Kyrgyz Republic should be aware that hunting in the Kyrgyz Republic without proper licenses is illegal. It is also illegal to import or own firearms in the Kyrgyz Republic without a permit issued by the Kyrgyz government. Foreign hunters who do not have official permission to hunt or take trophies out of the country may face criminal and/or civil charges. Both hunting and trekking infrastructures are underdeveloped with limited services, especially in the high mountainous regions. Avalanches and landslides are common in these mountainous regions, often cutting offvillages for weeks at a time. These villages and hunting areas are in isolated, rugged, mountainous areas inaccessible by the limited rescue services available in the Kyrgyz Republic. U.S. citizens traveling to the Kyrgyz Republic to hunt or trek need to be aware of the risks involved.
Accessibility: While in the Kyrgyz Republic, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. The law in the Kyrgyz Republic mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities and requires access to public transportation and parking. It also authorizes subsidies to make mass media available to persons with hearing or visual disabilities. However, the government generally does not ensure that these provisions of the law are implemented. Public transportation, sidewalks and road crossings, hotels, and restaurants are in practice rarely made accessible. As a result, it is very unusual to see people in wheelchairs independently traveling around Bishkek.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical services in the Kyrgyz Republic are extremely limited. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Medications such as insulin and pain medications that are commonly available elsewhere may not be available in the Kyrgyz Republic or may be restricted. The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that travelers to the Kyrgyz Republic carry medical evacuation insurance in case of emergency. The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek maintains a list of local clinics that have agreed to provide medical care to U.S. citizens.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in the Kyrgyz Republic. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in the Kyrgyz Republic, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Accidents involving severe injury and/or death are not uncommon. Drunk driving and hit-and-run accidents are significant problems and drivers should exercise particular caution and use defensive driving techniques, especially at night and on holidays. In the event of an accident where there is an injury, emergency medical assistance may be very slow to respond. Even if medical assistance does arrive in a timely manner, treatment and facilities available at local clinics may not meet U.S. standards.
Most of the Kyrgyz Republic’s road infrastructure consists of two-lane roads, many of which have fallen into disrepair and are poorly marked and lit. Many local drivers disobey fundamental traffic laws by not stopping at red lights, driving while intoxicated, passing vehicles when it is dangerous or prohibited to do so, or not stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks and intersections.
Drivers must exercise particular caution to avoid uneven pavement, potholes, open drains, and uncovered manholes. Night driving should be avoided, as roads are inadequately lit. In winter, roads are seldom plowed and ice and snow make the poor driving conditions even more hazardous. Pedestrians routinely walk in the road, often wearing dark clothes at night. Mountain roads in the Kyrgyz Republic are often narrow and treacherous, and may close without notice due to snow, ice, or rockslides. Guardrails and barriers preventing falling rocks are often missing. Driving through mountain passes in the winter can be very dangerous. The Kyrgyz Republic does not have a roadside assistance infrastructure. Towing companies do not exist. Although mechanics are available in cities there is little organized oversight or certification of their practices or abilities. Rest areas are infrequent and basic. Service stations are generally available in and near cities, but the fuel they provide may be adulterated or of poor quality.
The road between Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, is especially unsafe at night or during poor weather. Travel on this route after dark by U.S. Embassy personnel is restricted.
The legal blood alcohol level for driving in the Kyrgyz Republic is zero. Generally, speed limits are 60 km per hour in the cities and 90 km per hour in rural areas. Kyrgyz law mandates that all automobile passengers wear seat belts and that motorcycle riders wear helmets. International driving permits are recognized in the Kyrgyz Republic.
Drivers may face harassment by traffic police, who have been known to demand payment of arbitrary "fines" for purported infractions. According to Kyrgyz law, payment of traffic fines must be made at local banks rather than directly to the traffic police.
Public transportation in the Kyrgyz Republic is limited to buses, taxis, and very few intercity trains. Travelers should be particularly careful when using public transportation. Buses tend to be very crowded and can be unsafe and unreliable. Taxis too can be dangerous. Due to the danger of theft or assault, travelers should avoid entering a cab that already contains passengers. Taxis are seldom metered, and travelers should negotiate a fare prior to entering a cab and be aware that cab drivers often try to charge foreigners a high fare. Drivers of vehicles that are not taxis are often willing to drive people for fares. However, U.S. citizens should avoid using these "private taxis" and unmarked taxis.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in the Kyrgyz Republic, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of the Kyrgyz Republic’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for the Kyrgyz Republic dated December 5, 2011 to update the sections on Entry/Exit Requirements for U.S. Citizens, Threats to Safety and Security and Victims of Crime.