Public Transit Options to Get to Bishkek from Manas Airport
If you want to rough it and take public transit into the city, once you walk out of the glass doors leading outside, turn to the right and 20-30 meters away there will be a place to grab a minibus called a marshrutka into the city. It is extremely cheap, but also very hectic. Make sure you are diligent about hanging onto your purses and wallets. Again, people that pickpocket and steal in Kyrgyzstan are pretty rare, but not unheard of so just take basic precautions to keep track of your stuff. One other thing to be aware of is that these marshrutka as do not run all the time, only during daytime hours.
Taxi Options to Get to Bishkek from Manas Airport
There are a lot of taxis that will sit outside the airport waiting for a fare. To use one of these guys, just walk up to them and negotiate a price into the city. The going rate these days (March 2015) is around 500-700 som ($8-12), but be aware that these prices can fluctuate a little as the som fluctuates. If someone tells you it will cost $40 to get into the city though, feel free to scoff and walk away.
Manas Airport actually has their own taxi service called ManasTaxi Service amazingly enough. If you use one of these taxis, they will meter your trip into the city. Their official logo is a checkered symbol in the shape of a plane and they will be easy to find once you step out of the airport.
Private Pick-Up at Manas Airport
If you do not want to deal with the hassle of negotiating with taxi drivers, you can contact a travel agency in Kyrgyzstan ahead of time and they can arrange an airport pick-up for you through a local travel company. Going this route will be more expensive (anywhere from $25-50), but also gives you some nice benefits. For example, many of these companies employ English speaking drivers that will not only get you to the city, but even help you take care of some necessary errands such as buying a sim card for your phone, driving you to a good place to exchange money, showing you where decent grocery stores are, etc.
GETTING FROM BISHKEK BACK TO MANAS AIRPORT
If you are staying at a hotel in Bishkek, the most stress-free way to get to the airport is to have your hotel arrange a taxi for you. However, if you do this, make sure to confirm the price of the taxi with the hotel desk before actually getting in the taxi to make sure your driver does not jack up the price on you.
If you are not staying at a hotel and need to arrange your own taxi, there are several taxi services you can call:
1) Manas Taxi Service: they currently have a flat rate of 400 soms to get you from Bishkek to Manas Airport. Manas Taxi’s phone number in Bishkek: +996 312 693 000.
2) Namba Taxi: this is one of the largest taxi services in Bishkek. You can ask for your ride to be metered. Namba Taxi’s phone number in Bishkek: +996 559 976 000.
3) Ydacha Taxi: this is another one of the largest taxi services in Bishkek. You can ask for your ride to be metered. Ydacha Taxi’s phone number in Bishkek: +996 312 443 344.
Bus and shared taxi in Kyrgyzstan
Marshrutkas (minibuses) and shared taxis are pretty much the only way to get around in Kyrgyzstan. They leave when full (4 seats + 1 driver). If you want more comfort or leave earlier, pay for the other seats.
Prices for some routes fluctuate with petrol costs and seasonal variations: summer is more expensive from south to north, winter is the other way around, due to labour migration streams to and from Russia.
Trip costs and duration
All costs and duration are based on 1 seat in a marshrutka. Shared taxis cost a bit more per seat, while speed is a bit higher. Duration here is only the driving time, add in 30-60 minutes for the transport to fill up and leave.
Bishkek – Karakol: 6$ – 5-7h
Bishkek – Almaty: 6$ – 5h
Bishkek – Osh: 12-25$ – 15-18h
Bishkek – Naryn: 3-6$, 5h
Bishkek – Kochkor: 5-7$, 6h
Osh – Sary Tash: 8$ -3-6h
Osh – Murghab: 30$ – 8-10h
Osh – Irkeshtam Pass – Kashgar: 90$ – 10-18h
Osh – Batken-Isfara (Tajik border): 15$ – 5h
There are 2 main bus stations in Bishkek. The smaller Eastern Bus Station is primarily the terminal for marshrutkas to various destinations within or just beyond the eastern suburbs, such as Kant, Tokmok, Kemin, Kegeti, Issyk Ata, or the Korday border crossing.
Long-distance regular bus and minibus services to all parts of the country, as well as to Almaty, Tashkent (runs until the border of Chernyavka, via Kazakhstan) and Kashgar, run from the newer Western Bus Station.
For Osh, you can try the western bus station or the bus stand south of Osh Bazaar to find marshrutkas and shared taxis going to Osh. Here you can also find minibuses to destinations west such as Sokuluk, Tash-Bulak, Kashka-Suu and Chong-Tash. Buses 160, 169 and 177 go several times a day to Kashka-Suu, close to the entry for Ala-Archa National Park.
From/to Bishkek Regular marshrutka and taxi services leave Bishkek in the morning for the 5–6 hour drive to Karakol along the northern shore. If you are heading to Balykchy or somewhere on the lake’s northern shore, these services might take you for a reduced fare. A marshrutka or taxi back to Bishkek can be found all day at the bus station. A bus leaves in the evening around 8pm and arrives at 6am in Bishkek from the bazaar.
International Bishkek Manas Airport
International airport "Manas" is about 20 km from Bishkek. The airport is small, has been recently renovated, there are cafes and small shops. If you come with a reserve, then you do there will be nothing.
How to get the airport
You can reach it from the city on a comfortable and clean minibus number 380 for 0,59 USD = 40. KGS Coordinates of the bus stop: 42.877647, 74.575208. Minibus is 40 minutes as stops along the way in the villages.
Public transport of Bishkek
In Bishkek, there are buses, trolley buses and taxis. Fare 0,12 USD = 8 KGS for trolleybus and bus, and 0,15 USD = 10 KGS for a minibus. Minibuses go more often, the covering area much wider. Payment on exit
The main way to travel around the country is a bus. The quality and purity of minibuses differ. They can put a cargo to passenger salon, no air conditioning.
- The price is fixed and you can ask the driver, accepted the Kyrgyz Som.
- The fare from Karakol to Kaji-Sai was 0,88 USD = 60 KGS and a half an hour on the road
- From the Kaji-Sai to Bishkek 3,7 USD = 250 KGS for 6 hours.
- Direct bus from Karakol to Bishkek (400 km) costs 4,4 USD = 300 KGS and takes less time for a good road through the north of Cholpon-Ata.
Rail transport in Kyrgyzstan
There are branches from Bishkek towards Issyk-Kul in Balykchy (but it works only in summer and takes 7 hours, on a bus over the same distance - 4 hours) and north to the border of Kazakhstan - Tokmok, Merke.
Sometimes a passing car is only way to get remote parts of the country. It is necessary to bargain
The cost of gasoline in Kyrgyzstan
- 95th 0,57 USD = 42 KGS
- 92nd 0,55 USD = 39 KGS
- Diesel 0,47 USD = 32 KGS
Issyk-Kul is the world’s second largest alpine lake, lying at 1609 m (5,279 feet) above sea level. Even though it is surrounded by mountains, Issyk-Kul never freezes, thus its name means “hot lake” in Kyrgyz. The lake itself is surrounded by protected marshlands, two mountain ranges, and many popular resorts and destinations, including Karakol and Cholpon-Ata.
There are many archaeological remains around Issyk-Kul, from the petroglyphs in Cholpon-Ata to remains of buildings and cities that lie under the waters (the depth and shape of the lake has changed over history because of earthquakes). The shores of Issyk-Kul were well populated, and were famous among travelers and merchants. Though Issyk-Kul was not well known in the western world until the arrival of Russian explorers in the 1800s, several Chinese travelers had written accounts of visiting Issyk-Kul as far back as the 1st century BCE. Issyk-Kul was a popular stop on the Silk Road too, and Barskhan (near Barskoon, on the south shore), was famous because of its position near the Bedel Pass from China.
After the decline of the Silk Road, starting in the 1400s, Issyk-Kul lost much of its prominence. In 1856, Pyotr Semeyonov-Tian-Shansky started off on a two-year expedition that would take him to the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul and made him famous in his native Russia. Issyk-Kul regained some of its popularity in Soviet Times, when the eastern end was used as a military base, and many resorts were opened on the shores.
Issyk-Kul Sights and Resorts
Issyk-Kul is well known for its many resorts, spas, and sights, all of which combine to make the region one of the most popular in Kyrgyzstan.
To the north of the lake are the Kungey (“sunny”) Ala-Too Mountains, and to the south are the Terskey (“shady”) Ala-Too Mountains. There are several famous gorges around the lake, including Boom Gorge, which the highway from Bishkek winds through. To the north of the lake are Grigorevka Gorge and Kyrchyn Gorge, and to the south are Barskoon and Fairytale (Skazka) Canyon. Near Karakol, at the eastern end of the lake, is Jeti Oguz, a famous red sandstone formation. Altyn Arashan is a perfect combination of trek plus a visit to hot springs to relax your tired muscles. Many treks leave out of Karakol into the surrounding mountains, some reaching as far as Khan Tengri and Pobeda Peak, the two highest mountains in Kyrgyzstan.
Many parts of the shoreline are sandy beaches, which is why many people flock to Lake Issyk-Kul in the summer (the region tends to be a little cooler than Bishkek, providing relief from the summer heat). Some parts are also marshland, which is why Lake Issyk-Kul is a protected marshland and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. There are also hot springs and a saline lake near the shores, which are popular among those who seek health and spa treatments. Salty Lake, on the south shore, is well-known for its very salty waters (like the Dead Sea), and people come to float and to use the water for medicinal purposes.
Tourism has been actively promoted since Soviet times, with resorts and hotels built along the shores. Today, there are a wide variety of options of places to stay, from yurt camps to luxury resorts and cottages. Cholpon-Ata is filled with vacationers in the summer, and boasts an open-air petroglyph museum. Both Cholpon-Ata and Karakol have museums displaying artifacts that tell the history of Issyk-Kul. In the winter, Karakol is famous for its ski resorts. The wooden church and Dungan mosque in Karakol are essential places to visit for those interested in the rich history of Issyk-Kul.