Central Asia is a region which may be very different to anything you have experienced before. The mixture of Soviet heritage and Islam, summer heat and winter cold, religious conservatism, traffic and crowds can result in initial culture shock but should be seen as an exciting new challenge.
2. DRESS CODE
Though you can see lots of people in traditional clothes, Central Asia has adopted western style clothing as well. Don’t hesitate to pack your usual travel clothes: in summer it can be shorts and t-shirts, sandals etc. We recommend not to bring tank tops/singlets and any types of clothes with bare shoulders and backs – it is unacceptable in most areas, even in bigger cities. Our tour takes us to many religious sights, where dress code is very strict. We recommend women to have a headscarf in their day bags to cover up when going inside mosques (it’s also a great help in the heat in summer). Best things to pack for the hot Central Asian climate is loose, long clothing – long trousers and sarongs or long skirts for women. In colder months (from the end of October through the end of April) it can rain and snow – bring warm clothes, jackets and comfortable warm shoes for walking.
3. ALTITUDE CONSIDERATIONS
This trip operates at altitudes over 800m (max altitude around 4500 meters). Whilst we travel slowly allowing plenty of time to acclimatize you may experience headaches, nausea, lethargy, especially when visiting Song Kul & Iskanderkul. It is important to be aware of the affects of altitude on one’s tolerance especially on long driving days.
Due to the restrictions on changing money in Central Asia region, only notes/bills printed after 1996 and in good condition will be accepted for exchange. Usually 50 and 100 USD/EUR notes get better exchange rate. We recommend to bring smaller denominations as well – many vendors accept them if you don’t have local currency.
According to the lunar cycle, Ramadan will fall between May 5th and June 4th, 2019. Please note that Ramadan is a month of fasting observed by Muslims throughout the world, during which time the followers of Islam should not eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. There may be some limitations to services and disruptions to schedules during Ramadan, but generally our tours still operate effectively during this period and food is available to non-Muslims throughout the day. It is very important to display increased cultural sensitivity during Ramadan. Please wear loose fitting clothes, that cover knees and shoulders, and try to avoid eating, drinking or smoking in public out of respect for those who can’t at that time.
6. INTERNAL FLIGHT TIMES
Please be aware that domestic flight delays can occur.
7. VISA and ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
***PLEASE READ THE ENTIRETY OF THE TEXT BELOW AS THIS IS IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR YOUR ENTRY INTO KYRGYZSTAN***
Please note that visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change. It is important that you check for yourself with the Embassy of Kyrgyzstan. Please, keep in mind that all countries require passports valid for at least 6 months from the moment of departure from the country.
Citizens of the following countries can enter Kyrgyzstan without visa for a stay up to 60 days:
Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Vatican, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America.
Citizens of the following countries do not need an LOI, and can obtain a visa at any Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic or upon arrival at the Bishkek airport:
Albania, Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Cyprus, Indonesia, Israel, Macedonia, Mexico, Montenegro, Oman, Philippines, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, Venezuela.
IMPORTANT NOTE FOR TRAVELERS WHOSE ARE NOT LISTED ABOVE:
Once your trip is confirmed, at 90 days prior to your entry into Kyrgyzstan, you must submit an application for your Letter of Invitation. A link will be emailed to you in your confirmation email. The details will be forwarded to our local agent in Kyrgyzstan and you will be emailed your Kyrgyzstan Invitation Letter about 60 days before the trip start date. Kyrgyzstan LOI’s cannot be rushed.
Kyrgyzstan visas can be used up to 3 months from the date the visa is issued, and once you have entered Kyrgyzstan, the visa is valid for a maximum of 30 days. Therefore, please time your application accordingly and do not apply for the visa more than 3 months in advance of your trip.
Input your name the same way it is in your passport. The information on the application form must match your passport (if you have 2 or more names – all of them have to be listed under “first name”). If you have an umlaut or other character not recognized in the english alphabet in your name (ie. ü), please enter it in the longer form (ie. ue).
If your country has an official Kyrgyzstan Consulate/Embassy, you must choose this as as your ‘Visa pickup Embassy’. If you do not see a local Consulate/Embassy on this list or you are unable to go there due to prior travel arrangements, please contact us for further assistance. Certain nationalities may be able to obtain a visa upon arrival at the Bishkek Airport, but you must make sure to check with your Embassy if this applies for your nationality before choosing this option.
At time of writing, the below documents will be needed to obtain your visa (however, we do advise you confirm this with your nearest Embassy):
1. A standard visa application form from the Embassy or Consulate where you will collect your visa
2. 1 colour, passport sized photo, taken within 14 days
3. Payment for the visa (this will be dependent on nationality and will sometimes need to be made at a local nearby bank – check with your Embassy to confirm details)
4. Passport with empty pages and at least 6 months validity
5. Kyrgyzstan Letter of Invitation/reference number
6. Flight tickets providing entrance and proof of onward travel
7. Copy of travel insurance in a hard copy
8. We also recommend bringing your vouchers and a copy of the itinerary, printable from our website. While this may not be needed, we recommend having a copy on hand if needed.
***Please carefully check all the information below prior to submitting***
Once you have received your LOI you can apply for your visa by going to the Kyrgyzstan Embassy you listed in the online application. Please remember that it is your responsibility to check whether passport details, name spelling and dates on the LOI are correct.
Information accurate as of September 12th, 2018
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
The preferred currency for local transactions is the som, and local establishments rarely accept credit cards so keep cash on hand. There are many of ATMs accessible in Bishkek and other larger cities such as Cholpon Ata and Karakol. Larger cities will also have money exchange locations that will trade EUR, USD, Roubles; some locations will trade GBP, and Chinese yuan.
In Central Asia It is not customary to tip service providers such as waiters, but it is very appreciated, depending on the service we recommend 3-5%. Tipping shows an expression of satisfaction with the people who have assisted you on your tour. Although it may not be customary to you, it is of considerable significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels. There are several times during the trip where there is opportunity to tip the local guides or drivers we use. You may do this individually, or your we will offer to collect the money and tip as a group. Recommendations for tipping drivers and local guides would range from $2-$3 USD per person per day depending on the quality and length of the service; ask us for specific recommendations based on the circumstances and culture. Also at the end of each trip if you felt this was an outstanding job, tipping is appreciated. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline $20-25 USD per person, per week can be used.
Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is compulsory in order to participate on any of our trips. When travelling on a group trip, you will not be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance, which we will take note of your insurance details. When selecting a travel insurance policy please bear in mind that all clients must have medical coverage and that we require a minimum coverage of USD 200,000 for repatriation and emergency rescue. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. If you have credit card insurance we require proof of purchase of the trip (a receipt of credit card statement) with a credit card in your name. Contact your bank for details of their participating insurer, the level of coverage and emergency contact telephone number.
It’s important to stay comfortable and bring the correct items, without overloading your backpack. At Wildfire we want to keep you prepared as well as comfortable on the trail. Central Asian dress is quite conservative (as mentioned above). Plan to pack loose-fitting light clothing appropriate for hot weather and plan to cover knees, shoulders and chest. For women, a hair scarf is recommended, though they are easy to buy in country.