Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, is a convenient hub for planning your trip around Kyrgyzstan. Most people spend a day or even less here, but nonetheless have to pass through en route to the various spectacular spots in Kyrgyzstan. Having already made it this far to Central Asia, here’s how you might want to spend a day Bishkek.
Edit: Thanks to my friend Bola from Bishkek whom I met in Almaty for helping with details on items at Osh Bazaar! My 2 week adventure in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan began at Bishkek, and was glad I did not miss it. One day is about enough to see the main sights within Bishkek, which are located within walking distance of one another. The State History Museum was closed when I visited and so I was done in about half. I arrived at Almaty International Airport from Singapore (via Hong Kong) in the afternoon, and had a smooth process through immigration. Dropped by the tourist information booth conveniently located in the arrivals hall to get directions to Bishkek. Last thing to check out, tourist SIM cards, which I decided to give a miss in the end since packages were by the week and I was only going to be in Almaty/Kazakhstan for a couple of hours before crossing over to Kyrgyzstan, and was only coming back to Almaty over a week later.
Here’s where downloading the free 2GIS app beforehand would come really handy for its offline map. I didn’t had an offline map with me, and Google Maps didn’t work well. Desperately tried to ask a fellow bus passenger for indication of the bus station. It was difficult as I did not speak Russian or Kazakh, but she was very patient in trying to explain where we were. Without an offline map, the reservoir appearing on the left side of the bus after about 2 hours is the sign to reach for the door.
With visa free entries available for many countries now things are pretty convenient. The border crossing took awhile, guards were strict, but the process was otherwise smooth. There is a short bridge between the 2 customs to be crossed on foot. Remember to keep any pieces of paper that is passed to you at the customs as they will be required later on.
It is recommended to remember the number plate of the marshrutka you’re on (taking a picture) to be able to find your ride after the customs. I didn’t really know where to wait and blindly followed other passengers from the same marshrutka to find it. Depending on conditions you may have to wait for awhile before your marshrutka clears the customs.
I think it’ll be a good idea to be mentally prepared that you may not be able to find back your same marshrutka (though likely to be able to) and ensure that all your belongings are with you whenever you get off the marshrutka. Bishkek is about an hour after the border and hopping on another passing marshrutka to get you to Bishkek shouldn’t cost too much.