|Still current at: 07 January 2011
Updated: 02 December 2010
This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Travel Summary, the Safety and Security - Political Situation section and Contact Details (update on security situation and addition of Honorary Consulate details). The overall level of the advice has not changed; we advise against all but essential travel to the Oblasts (Provinces) of Osh and Jalal-Abad.
(see travel advice legal disclaimer)
Safety and Security - Terrorism
There is a general threat from terrorism in Kyrgyzstan. Attacks cannot be ruled out and could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. There has been a history of some terrorist activity and armed violence, particularly south and west of Osh.
See our Terrorism abroad page.
You should pay attention to any security announcements by the Kyrgyz authorities.
Safety and Security - Crime
As with other countries, muggings (sometimes violent) and theft occur regularly in both cities and rural areas and foreigners can be a particular target. Following the unrest earlier in the year there continue to be small incidents involving individual and groups of criminals invariably after dark. Due to this criminal threat we advise all British nationals to stay indoors after dark.
On 2 June 2009 a British national was injured in a shooting incident in a Bishkek bar.
In March 2009 a British national was held at knife-point in his office during an attempted robbery in Bishkek.
These crimes highlight the necessity to be vigilant and to be aware of security issues.
Keep large amounts of money hidden at all times and be wary of any strangers offering assistance or being over-friendly. Be particularly aware of your surroundings when making use of currency exchange offices.
There have been reports of thefts committed by uniformed police officers and gangs. Avoid walking alone at night and travelling in unofficial taxis. Always try to use a licensed taxi operator. Passenger lists on aircraft are not always kept confidential.
There have been cases of people being met by name from an aircraft and subsequently robbed.
See our Victims of crime abroad page.
Safety and Security - Local Travel
We advise against all but essential travel to the Oblasts (Provinces) of Osh and Jalal-Abad. British nationals already in Osh and Jalal-Abad Oblasts should exercise extreme caution.
Tensions exist over recognition of the Kyrgyz/Uzbek borders. There have been a number of security incidents in this region and there have been several gunfire exchanges across the Kyrgyz/Uzbek border, the most recent of which was on 30 March in the Jalal-Abad Oblast. You should only use officially recognised border crossings in this area, as there is a risk that uncontrolled Kyrgyz/Uzbek border areas may be land-mined. The Kyrgyz/Uzbek and Kyrgyz/Tajik borders are subject to closures without notice and we understand that security has been increased in border areas.You should check in advance which border posts are open. See FCO Travel Advice for Uzbekistan before planning any visits into the Ferghana Valley within Uzbekistan.
There are currently regular electrical power cuts taking place across the country. Some areas can be without electrical power for up to six hours per day. Kyrgyz authorities predict that regular electrical power cuts will continue.
Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel
Due to the recent violent unrest in Kyrgyzstan, British nationals in Kyrgyzstan should avoid flagging down taxis and instead use the telephone taxi services which are more reputable and have English-speaking dispatchers. Wherever possible you should use main roads when travelling in and around Bishkek and continue to avoid large crowds even if in a vehicle.
You can drive in Kyrgyzstan on a UK Driving Licence or an International Driving Permit.
Service stations and petrol/water access can be limited outside the cities of Bishkek and Osh. Make sure you take all you need for your journey. You should take extra care when driving in Kyrgyzstan as many cars are not safely maintained and do not have rear seatbelts. You should avoid using local buses and/or mini-buses as these vehicles are not always properly maintained and are notorious for pick-pockets.
Many roads are poorly maintained with roadworks or damaged roads often not clearly signposted. Roads outside the capital are often blocked by snow during the winter months.See our Driving abroad page.
Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air Travel
All Kyrgyz airlines are currently banned from operating services to the EU because they do not meet international safety standards. You should avoid travelling with any Kyrgyz airline. If you have a flight booked with a Kyrgyz airline and it is part of a journey which commenced in the EU you should consult your travel agent.
In August 2008 a Boeing 737 belonging to ITEK Air crashed in Kyrgyzstan shortly after take-off killing 68 passengers and crew.
Safety and Security - Political Situation
Kyrgyzstan country profile
Large-scale demonstrations took place across Kyrgyzstan, including in the capital Bishkek, on 6 and 7 April. Following armed clashes between protestors and security forces, the President left Bishkek and the Prime Minister resigned. A Provisional Government was established and a constitutional referendum in June established the move to a parliamentary democracy. Parliamentary elections are due to be held on 10 October 2010.
Violent clashes broke out in Osh Oblast on 10 June. The violence subsequently escalated, primarily on inter-ethnic lines, leading to shooting, car-burning, and looting of shops. As many as 400,000 were displaced by the violence. On 5 August security forces used tear gas and blank rounds to disperse crowds of around 2-3,000 in Bishkek. British nationals should avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings while in Kyrgyzstan.
Please note that small-scale demonstrations are frequent in Bishkek at present.
Kyrgyzstan has a secular constitution. Most Kyrgyz people are Muslims. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. See our Travelling during Ramadan page.
Possession and use of drugs is illegal and, if found guilty, you could face a lengthy prison sentence in basic conditions. Homosexuality is legal, but not often discussed or recognised publicly. You should take care over public displays of affection.
Taking photos of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with the authorities. See our Your trip page.
Entry Requirements - Visas
Although it is possible to obtain one-month entry visas on arrival at Manas Airport, you should for ease of entry get a visa before travelling to Kyrgyzstan. Contact the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic in London. It is normally possible to have one-month visas extended for up to an additional two months whilst in country. You should check carefully the validity of your visa before travelling.
There is no longer an agreement allowing visas issued in another Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) country to be used to transit Kyrgyzstan. If you intend to visit two or more CIS countries you should contact the relevant countries' Embassies in London for advice before travelling.
British nationals staying for less than 60 days no longer need to register with OVIR (The Department for Visa and Registration under the Ministry of Internal Affairs).
Entry Requirements - Staying Longer than Two Months
British nationals intending to stay in the country for more than 60 days must register at their regional OVIR office. For those staying in hotels, this should be done by the hotel, but it is up to every individual to check. Failure to do so could result in a fine and delay in departure.
Entry Requirements - Travelling with Children
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.
Medical facilities in Kyrgyzstan are not as developed as those in the UK. You should ensure that your medical insurance includes evacuation by air ambulance.
Malaria, tuberculosis, Hepatitis A, meningitis and brucellosis are common to Kyrgyzstan.
In 2008, 10 people (eight children and two adults) died of rabies in southern Kyrgyzstan.
You should seek medical advice before travelling to Kyrgyzstan and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
See our Travel health page.
Health - Anthrax
There have been several cases of anthrax in Kyrgyzstan, mainly in the south of the country, due to insufficient measures to vaccinate animals.
Kyrgyzstan is located in an active seismic zone. On 5 October 2008 an earthquake measuring 6.6 magnitude on the Richter scale hit Alai region (in Osh Oblast) destroying the village of Nura. More than 60 people were killed, and over 100 were injured. Avalanches and landslides frequently block roads and are a particular hazard in the spring. On 16 April 2009 a landslide in the village of Raykomol, southern Kyrgyzstan killed 16 people.
General - Insurance
You should get comprehensive travel and medical insurance, including evacuation by air ambulance, before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. See Travel insurance.
See our When things go wrong page.
General - Money
Kyrgyzstan is a cash-only economy. You should only change money at officially authorised currency exchanges. However, there are reports that many exchange points have been closed during the recent unrest. Very few establishments accept credit cards and travellers' cheques. There are only a handful of ATM machines, and none in rural areas. US dollars (larger denominations) or Euros are the most widely accepted foreign currency; others may be difficult to exchange.
General - Consular Assistance - British Representation
British interests in Kyrgyzstan are represented overall by the British Embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan. However, consular or emergency cover for Kyrgyzstan will be provided by the British Embassy Office in Almaty, Kazakhstan. For consular advice or emergency assistance, please contact the British Honorary Consul in Bishkek, who works closely with the British Embassy Office in Almaty.
The German Embassy in Bishkek can also provide emergency consular assistance to British nationals in Kyrgyzstan (tel 00996 312 90 50 00, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Ul. Razzakowa 28, Bishkek).
General - Consular Assistance - Registration
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.
General - Consular Assistance - Passport
You must carry your passport, or a notarised copy of it, at all times. The police can arrest you if you do not carry ID.
The British Embassy Office in Almaty does not issue passports and, before setting off, you should ensure that your passport has sufficient validity and unused pages. However, the Embassy Office is able to accept applications for new passports, which will be forwarded to the British Embassy in Moscow for processing. Please note that this may take up to four weeks. Temporary passports, valid for one year, are available in Almaty and can usually be produced within 24 hours.
British Embassy Astana 62, Kosmonavtov Street Renco Building 6 Floor Astana 010000; Telephone (77172) 556200; Facsimile (77172) 556211; Office Hours (GMT) Mon-Thurs 03:00-11:30; Fri 03:00-10:00; Office Hours (Local) Mon-Thurs 09:00-17:30; Fri 09:00-16:00; Website
British Embassy Office Almaty - Consular & Visa Section Microdistrict Samal – 297 Zholdasbekova Street Samal Towers 9th Floor Block A2 Almaty 050051; Telephone +7 7272 506 191; Facsimile +7 727 2507112 / +7 7272 507962; e-mail email@example.com; Office Hours (Local time GMT+6hrs) Mon-Thurs 08:30-17:00; Fri 08:30-15:30; Out of office Emergency Number +7701 711 2301.
Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, British Honorary Consulate
British Honorary Consul Michael Atsoparthis
(Located in the basement under Fatboy's Cafe)
Mobile telephone: +996 (0) 555 584245
Office telephone: +996 (0) 312 627686
Facsimile: +996 (0) 312 622825
Out of hours Emergency Number: +7701 711 2301