Shopping in Kyrgyzstan is as unique as the country itself and is based on the nomadic way of life with its handicrafts. It’s possible to find Western goods at the usual prices, but the alternatives are a much more fascinating purchase. Souvenirs of your visit will likely be a reminder of the traditional, embroidered costumes, leather goods, pottery, jewelry, rugs, carpets, wall-hangings, and other decorative items you’ve encountered on your travel through the country.
Bishkek features two shopping must-sees, including the state-run department store, TsUM, leftover from the Soviet era, but surprisingly well-stocked with postcards and souvenirs, as well as an entire floor devoted to pirated CDs and DVDs (which could get you in trouble with customs if you try to bring them home). The closest thing to a US-style mall is the Vefa Canter, air-conditioned and packed with expensive Western designers, as well as a movie theater showing Hollywood hits dubbed in Russian.
Bishkek and other Kyrgyzstan cities are a haven for shopaholics who are mad about markets, with dozens of bazaars selling fresh produce and other goodies. Bishkek staples of interest include the Tolchok Clothes Bazaar for its winter leather coats, shoes and fashion, and the Osh Bazaar, with more clothes, traditional rugs and handicrafts. Orto-Sai Bazaar is another interesting flea-market and Mossoviet Bazaar is open 24 hours if you get a late night craving. The Drink Bazaar sells everything except wine, and the Livestock Bazaar is a unique experience. Bargaining isn’t as common as it once was, and many stalls now display fixed prices.