The most-common languages in Kyrgyzstan are Russian, spoken mainly in urban areas, and Kyrgyz, used in the rural regions. English-speakers are rarely found, although those working in the tourism industry usually have a basic grasp of the language. The Cyrillic alphabet is used across the land.
Kyrgyzstan’s economy is mainly cash, with the official currency the som. In major cities, currency exchange is straightforward at banks, with all major money accepted, although at many currency exchange booths only US dollars, British pounds, roubles, and euros will be dealt with and all notes must be in pristine condition. Payment by credit card is rarely accepted, but cash is easily obtained in Bishkek at a number of ATMs, although Visa cards are strongly preferred. A few other cities and large towns have ATMs, but MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro cards are virtually useless.
Kyrgyzstan Standard Time is five hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +5).
Electricity in Kyrgyzstan comes at 220-240V/50Hz, with sockets using the common Europlug and Schuko plugs. Visitors from the US and Canada whose electronic appliances are set to 120V will need a step-down transformer, while visitors from the UK will require a plug adaptor.
The country code for Kyrgyzstan is +996, followed by an area code and the phone number. GSM cell phone networks are provided by Bitel GSM, Katel, Fonex, and Megacom, with coverage in Bishkek and major cities decent, but spotty or non-existent in remote, rural areas. Visitors will need to unlock their mobile device before it can be used via a pre-paid SIM card.
Travelers to Kyrgyzstan may bring in: 1,000 cigarettes, 1.5 liters of spirits, two liters of wine, and perfume and cosmetics for personal use. Duty-free stores can be found at Bishtek’s airport upon departure, and passengers heading back to the US may take home: 200 cigarettes, one liter of alcohol and gifts up to a value of US $400.
Kyrgyzstan has no government tourist office.
Consulates in Kyrgyzstan
US Embassy, Bishkek: +996-312-551-241
Australian Embassy, Moscow: +7-495-956-6070
Canadian Consulate, Bishkek: +996-312-650-506
British Embassy, Bishkek: +996-312-690-232
Medical emergencies: 103