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Travel Security Advice for Kyrgyzstan

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kyrgysztan_mapKyrgyzstan_Overview

 


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

The Kyrgyz Republic is a mountainous country of five million people.  It is a constitutional republic with a strong presidency and a market economy. Tourist facilities are not highly developed, and many of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries are not yet widely available. Air and land travel internally and to neighboring countries can be subject to delays due to infrastructure shortcomings and winter weather. Rural and urban areas have been subject to power, natural gas and water outages, leaving many homes without running water, heat or electricity at times.  Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on the Kyrgyz Republic for additional information.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in the Kyrgyz Republic are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.

Embassy of the United States of America in the Kyrgyz Republic


171 Prospect Mira, Bishkek 720016
Kyrgyz Republic
Telephone: (996-312) 551-241
Facsimile: (996-312) 551-264

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A passport and visa are required. American citizens can obtain a one-month single-entry, non-extendable tourist visa upon arrival at the Manas International Airport outside Bishkek for a fee of $80 without invitation or sponsorship. If purchasing a visa at the airport, at least one blank passport page is required. All foreigners present in the Kyrgyz Republic for more than sixty days must register at a local police office. Failure to do so may cause difficulties when exiting the country. Individuals traveling to the Kyrgyz Republic to perform religious work or work in affiliation with any religious organization in any capacity are required by Kyrgyz law to declare so on their visa applications. Individuals engaging in any type of missionary activity must obtain a work visa and register with the Office of Religious Affairs after arrival.  It is illegal to engage in religious activity on a tourist visa.  Travelers should apply for the correct category of visa for their purpose of travel. Travelers cannot obtain tourist visas at land borders or regional airports. The Embassy recommends that Americans traveling in the Kyrgyz Republic also obtain Kazakh visas, as commercial air travel out of the Kyrgyz Republic is limited and Americans may need to travel through Kazakhstan to return to the United States. Travelers intending to transit through Russia en route to a third country must have a Russian transit visa. Even travelers who are simply changing planes in Moscow or another international airport in Russia for an onward destination will be asked to present a transit visa issued by a Russian Embassy or Consulate. Russian authorities may refuse entry to travelers who do not have  visas.

For further information regarding entry/exit requirements, contact the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic at 2630 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone: (202) 338-5141, fax: (202) 742 6501. 

Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of the Kyrgyz Republic.  The law states that visitors staying more than one month must present evidence that they are HIV negative.  This restriction has not been actively enforced, but enforcement could begin without notice.  Please verify the status of this requirement with the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic before you travel.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

Visit the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic web site for the most current visa information.

THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Batken Oblast where violence has broken out several times in recent years.  The travel of U.S. Government employees to the area is currently restricted. Land mines in Batken Oblast and near the Kyrgyz-Tajik border continue to be a concern.

Supporters of extremist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), al-Qaeda, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement remain active in Central Asia. These groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. Government or private interests in the region, including in the Kyrgyz Republic.   In 2006, suspected militants attacked a border post on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, and ensuing skirmishes took place between the militants and Kyrgyz military forces throughout the southern Batken region. In June 2009, Kyrgyz government forces raided safehouses  of suspected Islamic Jihad Union - affiliated terrorist cells in Jala-abad and Osh regions.  One government soldier was killed along with at least eight militants in these incidents.  Last spring several gunfire exchanges occurred across the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border which were believed to involve Islamic militants. 

There are reports of attempted and actual  “bride-kidnappings” in some areas of Kyrgyzstan. While foreigners are not usually targeted, an American female was held against her will for several days in one reported incident in 2007.

In July, 2009, there were demonstrations in Bishkek and elsewhere protesting the results of the Presidential election. During 2005-2007, there were several large-scale demonstrations and protests as well. Demonstrations in Bishkek have occurred in front of the Presidential Administration building (White House) and on Alatoo Square in the city center. The Embassy does not always have advance information regarding demonstrations. Therefore, all Americans are reminded to avoid the vicinity of any protests, because even protests that are intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs' website, which contains current the Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States. and Canada or, by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.

CRIME:

The U.S. Embassy advises U.S. citizens to exercise caution in urban areas of the Kyrgyz Republic due to the high rate of violent crime against foreigners. Travelers arriving at Manas International Airport should arrange their transportation from the airport in advance. Foreign travelers have been the victims of extortion by airport taxi drivers, who appeared in some cases to be colluding with airport personnel to identify their victims. After dark, travelers should not take public transportation or walk outside and should be extremely cautious in or near hotels, bars, parks, and all places that attract an expatriate clientele. The U.S. Embassy advises its employees to avoid the use of “gypsy” cabs and use only radio dispatched taxis. Muggings occur, and other common crimes include auto theft and pick pocketing in crowded places such as markets, Internet cafes, and on public transportation. Due to security reasons, U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from visiting the following venues in Bishkek: Fire and Ice Night Club, and Butterfly Nightclub.  There have been reports of U.S. citizens who were robbed by groups of young men who had followed them back to their residences from hotels and bars. In addition, U.S. citizens have been victims of rape, assault and kidnapping in the past in the Kyrgyz Republic. Police officers rarely speak English and there are no victims’ assistance programs available. Medical and psychiatric care for victims is limited.

Harassment and extortion by people who purport to be Kyrgyz police officers are common. According to Kyrgyz law, any person claiming to be a police officer must show identifying documents on demand. U.S. citizens should not act upon requests by people, whether in civilian dress or in police uniform, if they have no official identification. U.S. citizens also should not get into cars with anyone they do not know, even if the person claims to be a police officer.

Counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. 

VICTIMS OF CRIME:

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the Kyrgyz Republic is 101 in case of fire, 102 for police, and 103 for emergency ambulance service.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Kyrgyz customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from the Kyrgyz Republic of items such as antiquities or hunting trophies. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic in Washington at 2630 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone: (202) 338-5141, fax: (202) 742-6501 for specific information regarding customs requirements.

The Kyrgyz Republic is a mostly cash-based economy. Credit cards can be used at major Western-style stores and some restaurants. The banking system is not well developed. ATMs are available, but the security of these machines remains untested. A hotel or bank may, on occasion, accept traveler’s checks, but the fees can be as high as 20 percent.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and citizenship are readily available. 

In accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and certain bilateral treaties, a consular officer from the U.S. Embassy must be given access to any U.S. citizen arrested in the Kyrgyz Republic. U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should ask that the U.S. Embassy be contacted immediately. This is generally recognized, though there can be a sizeable delay in notification times depending on the local authorities’ interpretation of the case’s legal status.

The Kyrgyz Republic is an earthquake-prone country. General information about natural disaster preparedness  is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Hunting and trekking are popular sports for locals and tourists in the Kyrgyz Republic; however, American citizens traveling to the Kyrgyz Republic should know that hunting in the Kyrgyz Republic without proper licenses is illegal. It is illegal to import or own firearms in the Kyrgyz Republic without a permit issued by the Kyrgyz government. Foreign hunters who do not have official permission to hunt or take trophies out of the country may face criminal and/or civil charges. Both hunting and trekking infrastructures are underdeveloped with limited services, especially in the high mountainous regions popular with trekkers and hunters. Avalanches and landslides are common in these mountainous regions, often cutting off villages for weeks at a time. These villages and hunting areas are in isolated, rugged, mountainous areas inaccessible by the limited rescue services available in the Kyrgyz Republic. Americans traveling to the Kyrgyz Republic to hunt or trek need to be aware of the risks involved. The Embassy recommends all Americans register with the Embassy in Bishkek for the duration of their stay in the country.

Please see our Customs Information sheet.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical services in the Kyrgyz Republic are extremely limited. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Medications such as insulin and pain medications that are commonly available elsewhere may not be available in the Kyrgyz Republic or may be restricted. The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that travelers to the Kyrgyz Republic carry medical evacuation insurance in case of emergency. The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek maintains a list of local clinics  who have agreed to give medical assistance to Americans.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in the Kyrgyz Republic.  For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Most of the Kyrgyz Republic’s road infrastructure consists of two-lane roads, many of which have fallen into disrepair and are poorly marked and lit. Many local drivers disobey fundamental traffic laws by not stopping at red lights, driving while intoxicated, or passing vehicles when it is dangerous or prohibited to do so.  Accidents involving severe injury and/or death are not uncommon. In the event of an accident where there is injury, emergency medical assistance may be very slow to respond. Even if medical assistance does arrive in a timely manner, treatment and facilities available at local clinics may not meet U.S. standards.

Drivers must exercise particular caution to avoid uneven pavement, potholes, open drains, and uncovered manholes. Night driving should be avoided, as roads are inadequately lit. In winter, roads are seldom plowed and ice and snow make the poor driving conditions even more hazardous. Pedestrians routinely walk in the road, often wearing dark clothes at night. Mountain roads in the Kyrgyz Republic are often narrow and treacherous, and may close without notice due to snow, ice, or rockslides. Guardrails and barriers preventing falling rocks are often missing. The Kyrgyz Republic does not have a roadside assistance infrastructure. Towing companies do not exist. Although mechanics are available in cities there is little organized oversight or certification of their practices or abilities. Rest areas are infrequent and basic. Service stations are generally available in and near cities, but the fuel they provide may be adulterated or of poor quality.

The road between Almaty, Kazakhstan and Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, is especially unsafe at night or during poor weather.  U.S. Embassy personnel are restricted from driving this route after dark.

The legal blood alcohol level for driving in the Kyrgyz Republic is zero.  Generally, speed limits are 60 km per hour in the cities and 90 km per hour in rural areas. Kyrgyz law mandates that all automobile passengers wear seat belts and that motorcycle riders wear helmets. International driving permits are recognized in the Kyrgyz Republic. 
Drivers may face harassment by traffic police, who have been known to demand payment of arbitrary "fines" for purported infractions. According to Kyrgyz law, payment of traffic fines must be made at local banks rather than directly to the traffic police.

Public transportation in the Kyrgyz Republic is limited to buses, taxis, and very few intercity trains. Travelers should be particularly careful when using public transportation. Buses tend to be very crowded and can be unsafe and unreliable. Taxis too can be dangerous. Due to the danger of theft or assault, travelers should avoid entering a cab that already contains passengers. Taxis are seldom metered, and travelers should negotiate a fare prior to entering a cab and be aware that cab drivers often try to charge foreigners a high fare. Drivers of vehicles that are not taxis are often willing to drive people for fares. However, U.S. citizens should avoid using any of these "private taxis" and unmarked taxis. 

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in the Kyrgyz Republic, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of the Kyrgyz Republic’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for the Kyrgyz Republic dated April 23, 2009, to update the sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Threats to Safety and Security, Crime, Special Circumstances, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to Kyrgyzstan HERE.....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)....... 

There is also a Malaria Warning for Kyrgyzstan HERE......

Regards

The SW Team......

 

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