We ended up spending far more time in Bishkek than we anticipated, which was actually a blessing in disguise as it gave us time to chill out and relax for a few days. Most travellers doing Central Asia overland seem to end up spending a few days here as they wait for visas – Kyrgyzstan is visa free for 90 days for most nationalities so it’s a handy visa stop.
There aren’t heaps of tourist attractions in the city, but there is plenty of good food and coffee to keep you occupied for a few days! Here are a few of our favourites.
Wander down to Ala-Too Square, where you can check out the outside of the Parliament and head to the nearby State History Museum. It’s also worth visiting the corner of Manas and Chuy Streets, where you can see some lovely flower gardens in front of the Philharmonic Hall and see the Bishkek City Hall. If you’re in need of some greenery, head to Panfilov Park or further afield for a day trek in Ala-Archa Gorge.
There’s quite a large expat population in Bishkek so if you’re in need of a break from Central Asia food, this is the place! Some places are pretty pricey, but after 2 months of mutton we thought it was worthwhile. Here are our top picks:
- Furusato – 132 Bokonbayev St – amazing Japanese food with good value lunch specials
- Vinoteka – 140A Chuy Ave – a relaxed wine bar serving good Italian food and cheese platters
- Coffee Relax – 140 Toktogul Street – fresh salads, sandwiches, pastas and desserts that are a bit pricey but very tasty
- Sierra Cafe – 57 Manas St – there are a few branches of this cafe but this was our favourite. Great coffee and milkshakes.
- Vanilla Sky Cafe – 147 Moskovskaya Street – fantastic coffee and desserts.
- Raritet book store near the corner of Chuy and Razzakov Streets doesn’t have a huge range but it is the only English bookstore we could find in Bishkek
- Supermarket at the corner of Chuy and Manas has a great range if you are self-catering
- If you’re a fan of wandering through Central Asian markets, head to Osh Bazaar.
- Get your passport photos done at ProFoto across from Ala-Too Square on Chuy Ave.
Hostels in Bishkek are heinously overpriced. There is an active Couchsurfing community so it is worth seeing if you can find a host. If not, we highly recommend Friends Guesthouse. While it’s not the most central hostel in Bishkek, it is definitely the best value.
If you are heading onwards to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan or Iran, you will need to stockpile US dollars. You can withdraw US dollars from a number of ATMs in Bishkek. We used Demir Bank, which lets you take out US$300 per transaction.
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