The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including evacuation by air ambulance, before travelling to Kyrgystan. You should check any exclusions and ensure that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.
Travellers should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains or for expenses incurred by Irish citizens as a result of a personal emergency while travelling.
Safety and Security
The Department of Foreign Affairs advises all Irish citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to Kyrgyzstan. We advise against all travel to the Oblasts (provinces) of Osh and Jalal-Abad. We advise all Irish citizens currently in Kyrgyzstan to avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.
In the southern Kyrgyz regions of Osh and Jalal-Abad, violent clashes broke out on 10 June 2010. Official reports refer to over 100 fatalities and 1500 injured.
Security was increased in border areas. We advise Irish citizens to exercise extreme caution in travelling overland from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, to only use officially recognised border crossings and only travel in the border areas if absolutely necessary.
You should be aware of the continuing threat from terrorism, which Kyrgyzstan shares with other countries in Central Asia. There is a history of terrorist activity and armed violence, particularly south and west of Osh, where there have been several terrorist attacks and hostage-takings in the past. An explosion in Bishek on 30 November 2010 resulted in six people being injured.
All recent political incidents are related to internal issues and have not been directed against foreign visitors. Following clashes in June 2010 between protestors and security forces, the establishment of a parliamentary democracy was approved by referendum. Parliamentary elections were held in October 2010, resulting in the establishment of a coalition government. Following the resignation of the government on 22 August 2012, a new coalition government is expected to be formed in the near future. Travellers should exercise caution and avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, particularly while in the capital.
Tensions exist over recognition of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek borders. A number of gunfire exchanges have been reported, most recently from the Jalal-Abad Oblast. You should only use officially recognised border crossings, as there is a risk that uncontrolled Kyrgyz-Uzbek border areas may be land-mined. The Kyrgyz/Uzbek and Kyrgyz/Tajik borders are subject to closure without notice. Travellers should check in advance which officially recognised border crossings are open.
Travellers must always carry their passports or notarised copies. The police can arrest those found without a form of identification. Under Kyrgyz law, anyone claiming to be a police officer must present their credentials on demand. Travellers should not get into cars with anyone they do not know, even if the person seems to be a police officer.
Taking photos of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with the authorities.
Travellers should avoid travelling in unofficial taxis, particularly at night and alone, or if there is another passenger already in the car. The Embassy does not encourage the hiring of private gypsy cabs instead of licensed taxicabs in Kyrgystan. In addition, taxis are not always metered and travellers should negotiate the fare in advance of entering the taxi.
It is not known whether maintenance procedures on aircraft used on internal flights are always properly observed or whether passengers are covered by insurance. You are advised where possible to fly directly to your destination on an international flight originating outside Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and to avoid in-country and regional travel using domestic carriers.
Those intending to travel to and from Kyrgyzstan should avoid flying on airlines listed under the EU operating ban. Further information about this ban is available on the European Commission website at http://ec.europa.eu/transport/air-ban/list_en.htm
Service stations and petrol/water access can be limited outside the cities of Bishkek and Osh. Make sure you take all you need for your journey. A significant proportion of cars are not safely maintained. The roads are poorly maintained with roadworks or damaged roads often not clearly signposted. Roads outside the capital are often blocked by snow during the winter months. Extra care should be taken when driving in Kyrgyzstan. Night-driving should be avoided.
We advise against using local buses and/or mini-buses as vehicles often lack seatbelts and are not well maintained. Theft is also a risk. Avalanches and landslides frequently block roads in the spring.
International Driving Permits are recognised in Kyrgystan. Travellers should use main roads when travelling in or around Bishkek and avoid large crowds.
Tuberculosis is widespread throughout the country and there are regular outbreaks of Hepatitis A, meningitis and brucellosis. Cases of AIDS and malaria have also been registered. You should seek medical advice before travelling to Kyrgyzstan and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. Medical facilities are not as developed as those in Ireland. Medication easily available in Ireland may not be as easily available in Kyrgystan or may be restricted.
Mugging and theft regularly occur in both cities and rural areas and foreigners are a particular target. Keep large amounts of money hidden at all times and be wary of any strangers offering assistance or being over-friendly. There have been reports of thefts committed by uniformed police officers and gangs. Avoid walking alone at night and travelling in unofficial taxis. Passenger lists on aircraft are not always kept confidential. There have been cases of people being met by name from an aircraft and subsequently robbed. Travellers arriving at Manas International Airport should arrange their onward transportation from the airport in advance.
Local regulations require you to carry photo ID at all times. You should ensure that you have entered your next of kin details into the back of your passport. If you lose your passport you must report this immediately to the police and get confirmation of the loss in writing. This report will be necessary when applying for an emergency passport from the Irish Embassy in Moscow.
Please note that the Embassy is able to accept applications for new passports, which may take between four and six weeks to be processed in Dublin, but is not able to issue new full passports in Moscow.
The possession and use of drugs is illegal and prison sentences can be lengthy.
Driving under the influence of alcohol, however little consumed, is regarded as a serious offence in Kyrgystan. Seat-belts and motorcycle helmets are mandatory.
The local equivalent to the 999 helpline number is 101 (fire), 102 (police) and 103 (emergency ambulance service).
Local Laws and Customs
As of July 2012, a visa-free travel regime was introduced for citizens of certain states, including Ireland. As a result, Irish travellers to Kyrgyzstan do not need a visa if travelling in the country for a period of up to 60 days. The visa-free regime program is intended to run until the end of 2020.
If you intend to travel for a period in excess of 60 days in Kyrgyzstan, or if you intend to visit for any other reason than travel, or if you require any additional information on entry requirements and immigration please contact the nearest Kyrgyz Embassy, which is located in London. Details are as follows:
•Embassy of Kyrgyzstan
•Address: Ascot House, 119 Crawford Street, London W1U 6BJ, United Kingdom
•Telephone: 0044 207 935 1462
Travellers to Kyrgyzstan are required to have a form of photographic identification with them at all times. It is advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport and (where necessary) your visa with you.
Homosexuality was legalised on 1 January 1998. However, homosexuality is not often discussed or recognised publicly. Care should be taken over public displays of affection.
Natural Disasters and Climate
Kyrgystan is located in an active seismic zone. An earthquake measuring 5.7 on the Richter Scale struck 205 miles from Bishkek on 31 May 2012. There have been no reports of any injuries or casualties to date.
An earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter Scale struck the south western region on 20 July 2011.
Additional Country Information
Kyrgyzstan is a cash-only economy. You should only change money at officially authorised currency exchanges. Very few establishments accept credit cards and travellers’ cheques. There are only a handful of ATM machines, and none in rural areas. US dollars are the most widely accepted foreign currency; others may be difficult to exchange.
The Embassy of Ireland accredited to Kyrgystan is located in Moscow, in the Russian Federation. Its contact details are available here.