In general, the kyrgyz people are relatively friendly, but hard to really get a grasp of.
Bishkek is connected to Kashi in Western China via a pass that was an important link on the ancient Silk Road. You can also come from China/Kashgar over the Toragut pass, if you have the time and patience. Known as one of the most frustrating passes in Central Asia, both sides can be closed for holidays or seeming randomness.
Bishkek's Manas Airport is a thirty minute drive from the city center. Most of the international flights depart and arrive at very early hours of the morning. Bishkek Manas Airport (English)
Aeroflot flies daily to Moscow's Sheremyetvo where you can connect to the rest of Asia and Europre. They no longer fly the uncomfortable Tu-154, but the newer Airbus 320, making the five hour flight much more comfortable. In the summer a second daytime flight is operated four days a week.
British Airways (operated by British Med) flies four days a week to London Heathrow with a fuel stop in Yerevan, Armenia. It is nearly an 11 hour flight and you are not allowed to leave the plane during the fuel stop.
Turkish Airlines flies four days a week to Istanbul, Turkey.
There are additional flights on local carriers to the following cities:
There are also occasional charter flights to Seoul, New Delhi, Sharjah, and Kabul.
There are also flights to the following domestic locations:
Residents of the US and most European countries can purchase a 30 day visa at the airport for $30 on arrival.
While there are occasional reports of requests for bribes or hassling of passengers, it is very rare. Airport personnel are generally formal and sometimes hospitable.
There is an ATM is the basement of the airport and several small cafes open around the clock.
Manas Airport is also home to a US Air Force Base that provides logistics support to the forces in Afghanistan. You will see American fuel tankers and cargo jets sitting along side old soviet passenger jets.
Beware: There are many aggressive taxi drivers awaiting all flights. The normal rate charged by the major taxi companies to the city center is 350 soms (~$9-10). You should attempt to get a similar rate when arriving.
There is a 4 day a week service to Moscow. Two days are operated by the Kyrgyz Railways and two days by the Russian Railways.
In addition, there is also a service that goes to Balikchy on the Western Edge of Lake Issyk-Kul. While slow and accomodation is minimal, it is one of the most scenic railtrips in Eurasia sneeking through the thin mountainous alpine pass to the lake.
Bishkek is approximately a 3 1/2 hour drive from Almaty, Kazakhstan. There are also additional long distance road connections to Taraz, Kazakhstan (leading to Shymkent & Tashket, Uz).
You can also share or rent an entire taxi to Almaty. Both KLM and Lufthansa offer bus service to Almaty airport to meet their early morning flights.
City taxi is 100 Som to go anywhere in the city. Any restaurant or bar will call them for you. Don't pay any taxi more than 100 Som.
Bishkek is a cheap place to learn Russian.
A private 1 1/2 hour lesson with a native Russian speaker should cost between $5-7US. Courses are also available at the American University and Kyrgyz-Slavonic University.
There is also a private school to cater to each student individually, The London School in Bishkek. This school is run by professionals and offer Russian and Kyrgyz to anyone at anytime of the year for as little as $3/hourUS.
There are many international organizations in Bishkek. There are occasional opportunities for persons who speak russian to find temporary or long-term work. Most internationals are recruited from abroad.
There are a number of English language schools that will employ native English speakers.
You must get one of the stylish Kyrgyz felt hats.
Traditional pattern on carpets is other souvenir from Kyrgyzstan. Usually, not cheap.
A typical kyrgyz meal will feature many starches including bread, rice, and potatoes. Most meals are centered around lamb or beef. Some of the more popular staples are "plov" a central aisan dish of lamb, rice, and carrots. Shashlyk, marinated and grilled lamb or beef, is popular all over the former soviet union and typically eatin with a voluminous amount of vodka.
There are hundreds of "Gamburger" stands which are a local adaptation to the American hamburger but share little in common. They are sliced gyro style meat served on a bun with cole-slaw, cucumber, mayonnaise, ketchup, and a couple of fries. They usually cost around 20 som (~$.50)
The most popular gamburger stand in Bishkek is at the corner of Sovietskaya and Kievskaya, across the street from the main post office. It is a popular area for local students to pick up a cheap meal and they even serve the rare chicken gamburger.
In addition, throughout the citys are numerous vendors selling "samsi", which are a puff baked pastry with beef or chicken and onions cooked inside. These are the staple of most local's lunch meal.
For a truly Soviet experience try the cafeterias of government ministries and universities. For under $1 USD you can experience true Soviet cafeteria food.
For young and single people, Bishkek's nightlife is impressive. Foreigners are welcomed at most venues with open arms and many times do not pay a cover charge. Please note: Nightclubs can be very dangerous and you should be aware of your surroundings. Like anywhere else, keep a cool head and be especially careful of hanging outside of nightclubs. Most clubs have numerous buff and semi-professional security guards.
The south guest house is great. It's in a nice neighborhood away from the pollution and crime in the center. The owner is helpful and friendly. If it's crowded and you want some privacy, he'll put you up at his sister's house for about the same price.
Bishkek is not a particularly safe city at night. It is highly recommended against taking an unaccompanied stroll at night.
Come with little expectations and you will be pleasantly surprised!
They stock a large array of English language movies and used books and are located near the infamous Metro Pub. They will buy your used books. Open every day from 10-21:00 and until 22:00 on Friday/Saturdays. www.bishkekvideo.com
Only thirty minutes away are 4,000 meter peaks of the Tien Shan (Celestial Mountains).