Kyrgyzstan Travel Budget Report – Travel Expenditures on our Road Trip

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In this Kyrgyzstan Travel Budget Report we share what we spent during our overland journey in Kyrgyzstan and on what. We elaborate on those expenditures, detailing information on visas, car papers, gas stations and fuel, accommodation, public transport, and more.

Of course, we all have our own budgets and levels of comfort that we need on our road trip and this is meant to give a general idea of what you may expect on an overland journey through Kyrgyzstan. Some expenditures are fixed, such as visas, whereas travel expenditures on accommodation may be very different for you.

Don’t forget to check out the Kyrgyzstan Overland Travel Guide, which gives an elaborate overview of all things related to roads, roadmaps, navigation, traffic rules and traffic police, language, apps, SIM cards, WiFi, and more.

The purpose of our Kyrgyzstan Overland Travel Guides and Kyrgyzstan Travel Budget Reports is to share our personal overland-trip experience, which may be useful for planning your road trip. For all general information, please make use of guidebooks on the region.

Two guidebooks we used in Kyrgyzstan were Bradt Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide (best on where to visit what) and Lonely Planet’s Central Asia (stronger on practicalities like where to eat and sleep).

Read More: Books about Central Asia, Mongolia, and the Silk Road

Meeting locals in Kyrgyzstan (©Karin-Marijke Vis)

We spent a lot of time in Kyrgyzstan, close to 3 months. But because 2 months were dedicated to the Land Cruiser overhaul in Bishkek, only a few weeks remained to explore this gorgeous country.

Having said that, we did have the time to drive around Issyk Kul Lake, rough camp at Song Kul Lake, take up the challenge of driving the Tosor Pass, and follow a gorgeous route from Naryn to Osh. All these places and routes were shouting to us, “Stay longer, don’t go. There is so much more to see and explore!”

No worries, Kyrgyzstan. We will be back!

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–Karin-Marijke & Coen

Kyrgyzstan country stats:

  • International telephone code: 996
  • Time: GMT+5
  • Electrical voltage: 220v, 50Hz, standard two-pin round-prong plug.
Kyrgyzstan, Bradt Travel Guides

Harvest in Kyrgyzstan

Index for our Our Kyrgyzstan Travel Budget Report

 
Our Overland Travel Information Pages for Kyrgyzstan consists of two parts: The Kyrgyzstan Overland Travel Guide, and this is the Kyrgyzstan Travel Budget Report.

In this blog post we’ll discuss the following topics:

  1. Money Matters
  2. Our Kyrgyzstan Travel-budget Pie
  3. Travel Budget – Documentation (Visa & Temporary Import Document)
  4. Travel Budget – The Land Cruiser Repairs & Maintenance
  5. Travel Budget – Diesel & Gas Stations
  6. Travel Budget – Public Transport
  7. Travel Budget – Sightseeing
  8. Travel Budget – Accommodation & Camping
  9. Travel Budget – Other Expenditures

Read More: Ready to Explore Kyrgyzstan – A Little Bit, for Now

Ala Too Square in Bishkek (©Coen Wubbels)

1. Money Matters

 
The Kyrgyzstan currency is Som (KGS, or лв). In October 2019 the rate was 77 som to a euro (in 70 som to a US dollar).

Coming from Kazakhstan, there is an ATM on the border of Korday, inside a building where you can drink/eat something. If that doesn’t work, no worries because 20 kilometers down the road is Bishkek, the capital.

You will find many ATMs in Bishkek and Osh (we don’t know about other cities) but many are stand-alone machines, commercial machines that charge a fee. For us, Dutch, the Demir Bank worked particularly well, as did the AKB Bank.

Most of the time we pay with cash, so we have no info on the use of credit cards or bank cards other than to say that the one time we did use it in a supermarket, it worked fine.

Toilet sign in Kyrgyzstan (©Coen Wubbels)
Get used to it: paper goes in the bin!

2. Our Kyrgyzstan Travel Budget Report

 
Travel Stats:

  • Time spent in Kyrgyzstan: 114 days (January / June – August 2019)
  • Total days traveled in Kyrgyzstan (meaning not staying in an Airbnb due to the overhaul; see introduction above): 41
  • Average expenditure: € 31/day (2 persons). This includes our 2 months’ stay in an Airbnb, without it the expenditure would be €16/day.
  • Total distance driven: 2681 kilometers
  • Average distance (excluding the 2 months in an Airbnb): 65 kms/day.

Kyrgyzstan Travel Budget Report - budget pie

Not included: health insurance, electronics, the Land Cruiser overhaul

Notes on our Kyrgyzstan Travel Budget:

  • While the overhaul is not part of this travel budget report, the fact that we stayed in an Airbnb for 2 months where we cooked our own meals, does distort the travel budget pie. The percentages would have been very different had we traveled continuously.

3. Travel Budget – Documentation (Visa & Temporary Import Document)

3a- Visa for Kyrgyzstan

Caravanistan is an up-to-date website to check whether you need a visa or not. Or check with the embassy. Europeans don’t need a visa and get 60-day free entry at the border.

You can’t extend your Kyrgyzstan visa, but a visa run across the border is easy. We took the one just north of Bishkek (Korday), walked across, drank coffee on the Kazakhstan side of the border and returned. The whole procedure, including coffee, took about 1,5 half hours.

Border Crossing Kyrgyzstan - Kazakhstan (©Coen Wubbels)
visa run to Kazakhstan

3b- Carnet de Passage / Temporary Import Document for Kyrgyzstan

You don’t need a Carnet de Passage for Kyrgyzstan. You are issued with a Temporary Import Document (TID) for your vehicle at the border. It is free of charge and valid for 1 year for the Eurasian Customs Unions which includes Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

3c- Leaving Kyrgyzstan without the Land Cruiser

Winters are long in this part of the year. So we organized a long-term parking spot for the Land Cruiser and flew out for a long-distance hike in Turkey.

Iron Horse Nomad was helpful to organize this. Ryan, the owner, charged 50 dollars per month. Note that the vehicle is outside, either in the parking lot behind his shop or at another place. Because our Land Cruiser has leakage issues we found another place, inside a warehouse. Expensive, 70 dollars per month, but dry and the batteries were kept in a room above freezing temps.

We didn’t organize any paperwork to leave the country without our Land Cruiser and no questions were asked.

Border Crossing Kyrgyzstan - Tajikistan (©Coen Wubbels)
Leaving Kyrgyzstan and going to Tajikistan

4. Travel Budget – The Land Cruiser

 
We spent money on the Land Cruiser alright but it isn’t part of this travel budget. The big overhauls, every 3-4 years, have their own budget. Ryan (Iron Horse Nomads) and Alex (Nomadsland.kg) helped us with contacts to find mechanics who might want to do the overhaul (all rust-related issues).

Land Cruiser overhaul (©Coen Wubbels)

The Land Cruiser Overhaul in a Nut Shell

This was not an easy search, which we did in January, hoping that on our return in June work could start right away. What we encountered was:

  • Some took the job way too seriously,  wanting to do a massive restoration job that would take 6 months. That was not our idea. We just needed patching up but they were not in for this.
  • One shop simply refused, finding it too big of a job. No problem, clear answer.
  • One guy was willing to do the overhaul for 900 dollars. A LOT of money for local standards, but we weren’t getting anywhere and so agreed. On our return, however, he was in the hospital and couldn’t do the job.

Thanks to Stephanie & Leigh we met Nicolai, who works by himself and is often contracted via the official ARB dealer in Bishkek who speaks English.

Nicolai had his own opinion about the Land Cruiser.

Land Cruiser overhaul (©Coen Wubbels)

He pointed out some structural problems of metal fatigue, causing the whole bodywork to sag. The story is for a separate article/blog post. It suffices to say that he worked slow but super deliberate and did excellent work. In the end we paid about 1000 US dollars for one month of work.

We asked for a budget beforehand, which he couldn’t give. Afterward, he said he charged $10 an hour, which was something he could have told beforehand and which was the only thing that bothered us a bit (amply compensated by the job done, though).

Regular Car Maintenance

Outside the overhaul were some regular maintenance and repairs, like the change of oil, new king-pin bearings.

Expect to have vehicle repairs due to the large number of unpaved roads in Kyrgyzstan, some of which are car killers.

Polymax (©Coen Wubbels)
To fix the Land Cruiser, we regularly use Polymax, or Sikaflex, to glue and fix leakages.

5. Travel Budget – Diesel & Gas Stations in Kyrgyzstan

 
We had no problem finding gas stations and all had diesel. The (low) quality of diesel works just fine for our old Land Cruiser, however, people with newer cars may want to stick to big-branded stations such as GazProm and the likes to be sure to get a decent quality fuel for their vehicles’ sensitive engines. We just bought whatever came at hand whenever we needed filling up.

Fun fact: You will come across old German gas station equipment, with prices still stated in Deutsche Mark or even Euro.

Gas station in Kyrgyzstan (©Coen Wubbels)

6. Travel Budget – Public Transport in Kyrgyzstan

 
Within Bishkek you have buses (trolley and normal), taxis, and marshrutkas (the latter mostly old Mercedes Sprinters that are filled to the brim and ply a fixed route). Remember that marshrutkas are 10 som as you board, while buses are 8 som as you exit.

There are several apps that can help you with pubic transport:

  • 2Gis gives you all the options in one go. Find your destination and choose your mode of transport.
  • Inobi gives you the bus and marshrutka options and a live view of where the busses are. Tap where you are, tap where you want to go, and it’ll show you the marshrutka routes or buses that will get you there.
  • Yandex gives you the taxi option similar to Uber. How does it work:
    • You need to register with a telephone number. This you need to do only once, so if you did this in another Yandex-using country, you won’t have to do it again. (Of course they can’t call you back then if you have switched telephone numbers).
    • The Yandex app is in Russian and is very slow. Fortunately the Yandex app is connected with Maps me. So, in Mapsme you can see the prices and can order a Yandex from there.
    • Whether you use the app or Mapsme, you need to be online to order a Yandex.

Outside Bishkek run buses, but getting to remote places is not the most evident.

Natural hot bath in Kyrgyzstan (©Coen Wubbels)
Make use of the fantastic natural hot baths throughout the country.

7. Travel Budget – Sightseeing in Kyrgyzstan

 

A visit to Kyrgyzstan is as adventurous as you would like it to be, which can mean everything from lazing on a beach at Lake Issyk-Kul to glacier walking in the Central Tien Shan.

Kyrgyzstan, Bradt Travel Guides

We haven’t done a whole lot of sightseeing in Kyrgyzstan, at least to places that require entrance fees but among these places we enjoyed:

  • Burana Tower
  • Petroglyphs of Cholpon Ata
  • Przhevalsky museum near Karakol
Burana Tower, Kyrgyzstan (©Coen Wubbels)
Burana Tower
Marco Polo Sheep, Przhevalsky museum near Karakol, Kyrgyzstan (©Coen Wubbels)
Marco Polo Sheep, Przhevalsky museum near Karakol

The best places in Kyrgyzstan, however, are for free! A Scenery of rough mountains, glaciers, cascading rivers, forests and so much more. Everywhere you will find lots of opportunities to wild camp.

We haven’t done much hiking yet but will return next year to do a lot of hiking in Kyrgyzstan. Journal of Nomads has written a lot about it, and their website gives great information on hiking in Kyrgyzstan.

Read More: Wild Camps in Kyrgyzstan – Overlanders Share their Favorite Camp Spots

Hiking in Kyrgyzstan (©Coen Wubbels)
Many hiking opportunities in Kyrgyzstan.

Rock climbing in Kyrgyzstan (©Coen Wubbels)

8. Travel Budget – Accommodation & Camping

 
Wild camping is possible everywhere, and often amidst fantastic scenery. As mentioned before, with fellow overlanders we put together a page highlighting our favorite wild camps.

River camp near the Burana Tower, Kyrgyzstan (©Coen Wubbels)
River camp near the Burana Tower
Wild camping along Song Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan (©Coen Wubbels)
Wild camping along Song Kul Lake

In Bishkek we stayed:

  • At an Airbnb for our overhaul.
  • At the Apple Hostel in Bishkek, in January. Parking space for a few cars. Situated next to the West/New bus station, with supermarket around the corner and Osh Bazaar on walking distance. I didn’t find the staff particularly friendly. Small kitchen and a living room without any window.
  • At the Tunduk Hostel in Bishkek, in August. Parking space for a few cars, a beautiful garden with a swimming pool, a small restaurant where they serve good breakfast (not included in the fee), and a super kind and professional hostess. Az speaks fluent French and good English. With her husband and parents, they run the place. Across the hostel runs the Yunusaliev Street – dubbed ‘K-street’ – with lots of Korean restaurants (check out ‘Korean restaurant Seoul’, as well as the nearby big bazaar (cleaner and better than Osh Bazaar, I’d argue) which is surrounded by places to eat fast-food and sushi.

In Osh many overlanders stay at the Tes Hostel in Osh, which has a big, pleasant garden and offers an extensive breakfast buffet.

Whether wild camping or staying in hotels, iOverlander is the best overlanding resource to find places to stay. It’s a non-profit project, started and maintained by fellow overlanders. To keep this great resource for overlanders going, you can contribute in (at least) two important ways:

  • Donate (you will find the donate button on the iOverlander website)
  • Share your own experiences of camping that add value to other overlanders (camping spots or otherwise useful points).

Thanks!

Tunduk Hostel, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Tunduk Hostel
Yurt camp, Kyrgyzstan (©Coen Wubbels)
Yurt camp along Song Kul Lake

9- Travel Budget – Other Expenditures

 
I keep a journal with the above-mentioned travel-budget expenditures. All money spent minus these registered expenditures is Other Expenditures. This basically comes to money spent on groceries and eating out.

Tips, Suggestions, Feedback?

We hope you find this Kyrgyzstan Travel Budget Guide useful. Do you have questions or your own experiences to add? Feel free to do so in the comment section below. Thanks!

Don’t forget to check out the Kyrgyzstan Overland Travel Guide, which gives an elaborate overview of all things related to roads, roadmaps, navigation, traffic rules and traffic police, language, apps, SIM cards, WiFi, and more.

Song Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan (©Coen Wubbels)
Camping at Song Kul Lake

 

Check out: The Landcruising Adventure Notebook Collection

 

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