What to Pack for Kyrgyzstan - Tenti's Ultimate Packing Checking List
Tenti’s Ultimate Packing Checking List
Our guide to everything you could possibly need during your adventure to Kyrgyzstan.
- Passport and 2 photocopies of the main page and visa page.
When you enter the country you’ll need your passport, but once you’re here it’s not necessary to carry the official version with you at all times, unless you are driving. Make sure your official copy is in a safe place and when you go out on your adventures bring the copy with you. Leave a second copy of your passport at home with someone you trust, just in case something happens to the original. We also recommend keeping a digital scan for easy access.
- Entry Visa and paperwork
Some countries require a visa to travel to Kyrgyzstan. If you’re not sure, if your country of naturalization is one of them, you can check out this handy list from the Kyrgyz Embassy to the US and Canada. https://www.kgembassy.org/en/consular-issues/applying-for-a-visa/general-visa-information/
If your country is not on the visa free travel list check (here) to see if you need any additional paperwork before you travel, for example letters of invitation, permission of parents for children to travel abroad, etc.
- Additional Photo ID
It’s always good to travel with an extra photo ID just in case you lose your passport. If you plan on driving while here, you’ll need both your driver’s license from your country of naturalization and an international driver’s license.
The currency is the Kyrgyz Som. Credit card machines are growing in popularity every day. You can pay for most hotels, restaurants, and outings in large cities (Bishkek, Karakol, Cholpon Ata, and Osh) with credit cards. Every city and large town center has an ATM if you need extra cash. Make sure to let your bank knows ahead of time that you are travelling internationally so they don’t restrict access to your card. Most places outside of the major cities don’t accept cards, so it’s really important to have cash available. When travelling to more rural areas it’s also a good idea to bring extra Som or money to exchange, dollars or euro are best, in case the ATMs are not working.
Exchanging money Tips and Tricks:
- When exchanging money in Kyrgyzstan people are very particular. They won’t accept any money that has been bent, torn, or has writing on it. Double check all your bills before you arrive, otherwise you’ll end up with a significantly lower exchange rate on your money than the one posted.
- Try to wait to exchange money until you get to Bishkek. There are exchange places quite literally everywhere so you won’t need to worry about hunting one down. If you desperately need local currency before you leave the airport, the bank in the departures hall on the second floor usually gives a much better rate than the exchange booths on the first floor in the arrivals hall.
- When you exchange money, make sure you have photo ID and that you keep your receipt in case customs officials at the airport ask for it
If you wrote an itinerary, bring a printed copy of it with you and leave additional copies with friends or family members, so they’ll know how to contact you. Include in your itinerary the contact information of the places you will be staying and important numbers from home. This way, if your phone battery dies you will still have access to the information.
Below is the contact information for the Tenti Office, in case you’ve booked a tour with us. This will give your friends and family one more channel to get in touch with you.
Whatsapp: +996 709 911 911
Skype: Tenti Group
When you are leaving the airport, you can grab a local sim card from one of the stands set up near the exit. We recommend either O! (black and pink) or Beeline (black and yellow). You have to register your card and set up your plan. You can do this at any company store but, the best place in our opinion is on the first floor of Tsum, on the corner of Chui and Chokopov streets. Some of the employees there speak English so it will make the process easier. A one week long unlimited data plan should cost about 120 com ($2). Remember, in more remote areas internet can be spotty or nonexistent.
Note: You can request registration free sim cards from your driver and enjoy complimentary wifi in your vehicle when you book with Tenti Transfer.
- Hotel Confirmation
In the less travelled areas of Kyrgyzstan many of the guest house owners speak limited English. If you’re worried about your ability to communicate with your host have a copy of the hotel confirmation to show them. If you get stuck you can always call us and we’ll do our best to help.
If you’ve got “staying in a yurt” on your to do list, but don’t know how to book one - you can reach out to us and we will help you arrange your stay.
- International Insurance Card and Personal Health Documents
It’s always better to be safe than sorry when travelling internationally. Purchase travel insurance before you leave and bring a copy of your insurance card with you. Make sure to check with your doctor prior to departure if you need any vaccinations or boosters before travelling to Kyrgyzstan. Some medications require documentation when you travel. If you take medication that is considered a controlled substance, ask your doctor for a letter before you leave.
PACKS and LUGGAGE
- Travel Pack
Travel packs are by far the easiest luggage to travel with in Kyrgyzstan, they fit a lot and are easy to transport by foot and on horseback. Make sure to bring the rain cover though, weather in the mountains is hard to predict and you don’t want to end up with soggy gear.
- Duffle Bag
If you don’t have a travel pack the next best alternative is a duffle bag. Like travel packs they are relatively easy transport. We wouldn’t recommend traditional suitcases because they are difficult to transport when walking on rough terrain or riding on horseback.
- Day Pack
You obviously don’t want to carry all your gear all the time. For the days when you’re out exploring, it’s best to bring a day pack where you can carry your personal items. Try to keep the pack small. It will make navigating crowded areas and public transportation much easier.
Please be aware, gear and products sold in Kyrgyzstan are imported mostly from Europe and US. Prices will be considerably higher than when you purchase them at home. There's also far less selection available. Therefore, we recommend bringing your gear with you.
Here are links to online outdoor gear shops in case you forgot to pack some of the essentials on the list or didn’t manage to go shopping before your departure.
Sport Expert - Outdoor clothing and equipment. Open from 09:00 AM to 07:00 PM
Red Fox - Outdoor equipment. Open from 09:00 AM to 08:00 PM
Base Choices on trip length and weather extremes
If you’re going to be out hiking moisture wicking T-shirts are a must.
- Wicking Underwear
You want to be comfortable while you’re exploring. Moisture wicking underwear is great for long hikes and sitting on a long minibus ride.
- Quick drying pants or shorts
- Long Sleeve Shirts (for sun and bugs)
A lot of the more beautiful and interesting places to visit in Kyrgyzstan are at higher altitudes increasing your sun exposure. It’s a good idea to cover up as much as possible, especially if you plan on being outside for an extended period of time.
- Sun Shielding Hat or Cap
- Bandana or Buff
Keep the sun and sweat off your neck and head while you’re out hiking, cycling, or horseback riding
- Fleece or Wool Hat
Winters in Kyrgyzstan can get extremely cold. If you plan on visiting for some of our amazing ski resorts make sure you pack a good hat that will keep your head dry and your ears warm.
Kyrgyzstan’s most famous destination is Lake Issyk-Kul. There are plenty of resorts and beaches where you can enjoy a swim. There are also quite a few hot springs and smaller lakes throughout the country you can take a dip in.
- Rain gear (jacket and pants)
As previously mentioned, rain in the mountains can be sudden, so to avoid getting wet it’s a good idea to pack some rain gear in an easily accessible area of your pack.
- Insulating Vest/Jacket/Pants
For winter its best to pack layers like this to protect against the cold. In the summer if you plan to travel into mountains for a hiking or horseback trek we also recommend you bring at least one of these items along since it is much colder in the higher altitudes.
- Gloves or Mittens
Again, if you’re travelling to the mountains this is a must pack all year. It’s difficult to find them in the bazaar during the summer but if you pack them you’ll thank yourself during your trek.
- Clothes and shoes for going out
Many travelers to Kyrgyzstan think that adventuring in the mountains is all that the country has to offer, but this isn’t true. All of the major cities have clubs, bars, and restaurants, many of which have a strict dress code. They may be more relaxed because you’re visiting, but if you’re wearing your hiking clothes and shoes it’s unlikely you’ll be let in.
- Good hiking and walking shoes
Before you leave make sure the shoes you bring are in good repair. If you’re worried about you shoes holding up on some of the terrain here you can get good repairs done cheaply in Osh bazaar.
- Hiking Socks
It is critical to wear proper hiking socks with extra cushioning if you are planning on going on long hikes. If chosen properly according to weather and hiking conditions hiking socks can help prevent blisters and keep your feet warm.
- Water bottle with filtration system and Water purification tablets
In every town village and city you can buy bottled water, however if you’re out in the mountains, or like Tenti trying to cut down on plastics, this is the way to go. If you’re planning to stick to the villages and cities for your Kyrgyz adventures most of the tap water should be safe to drink but if you’re worried you can always ask your hosts.
- GPS receiver
If you’re going to spend a lot of time hiking in the mountains, bring a GPS with you.
- Headlamp or Flashlight
Bring a headlamp or a small hand held flashlight. Headlamps and flashlights are useful if you need to ride or hike after dark. They’re also great for making a run to the outhouse in the middle of the night.
- Binoculars (optional)
If you like bird watching, or you want to spot an ibex, or an elusive snow leopard while you’re trekking bring along a pair of binoculars.
- Battery Charger/Battery Pack
Travel between different destinations is long, and in the mountains you’ll have limited or no access to places to charge your tech. (some mountain yurt camps have solar power). Cold weather is also known to drain your camera batteries faster, so make sure you have backups with you.
- Extra Batteries
If you have anything with you that uses batteries, make sure you pack extras. If you chose not to pack them in your luggage, you can get AA- and AAA- batteries at any bazaar at relatively low costs however C- and D- batteries are almost impossible to find outside of Bishkek.
- Electrical adapters/Convertor
In Kyrgyzstan, the standard voltage is 220 V with a frequency of 50 Hz. If you live in Europe, the UK, Australia, Africa, and most of Asia you won’t need an adapter. However, if you’re travelling from the Americas you will. If you’re going to bring anything like a hair dryer, electric shaver, straightener, etc. we recommend bringing a converter to protect your appliance. Most electronic devices have converters built into their chargers. You can google your devices power information to double check. If you just need an adapter or you forget yours at home, you can buy them cheaply in the bazaars.
Knife or Multi-tool
These are super handy to have while camping and picnicing and you never think you need one till you dont have it. Just make sure you pack it in your checked bag so it doesn’t get confiscated by officials at the airport.
Camera and Extra Memory Cards
Kyrgyzstan is an absolutely stunning country. Bring your camera to get some amazing pictures of your adventures. Also, bring extra memory cards so you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re going to run out of space.
Kyrgyzstan is incredibly laid back. After a day of exploring put your feet and read a book at any of the cafes or on the beach of any of the lakes. If you’re taking a shared taxi or mini-bus, reading a book is a great way to kill time as your waiting for it to fill up.
Field Guide/ Maps
If you’re travelling without a guide make sure you bring maps with you on your trek. You can find the new trekking maps developed by USAID on Amazon or you can purchase them at the Kyrgyzstan Trekking Union when you arrive.
Music or Podcast Player
Like we said before, drives between destinations can be incredibly long and if you’re taking shared transportation you may have some long wait times.
Journal or Sketch book
If you’re blogging your journey or like to draw, bring along a sketch book or journal to take advantage of some of the down time during your travels.
Quick Dry Travel Towel
Most guesthouses and hotels will provide you with a towel during your stay, but if you’re overnighting at yurt camps, camping, or heading to the beach you’re going to need to have your own.
If you plan on camping on your own you should bring a sleeping pad with you. If you don’t want to worry about flying with one, you can rent them at a few places in Bishkek and Karakol.
- Sleeping Bag
In the mountains it can get very cold at night. Guest houses and yurt camps provide blankets but if you get cold easily you may want to bring a sleeping bag with you. Again, if you don’t want to worry about travelling with your gear, sleeping bags are available for rent in Bishkek and Karakol.
If you are looking to restock on your toilertires and personal items you can visit one of the supermarkets pinned on the map down below. "Globus" and "Frunze" are the Kyrgyz equivalent of Walmart in the States, ASDA in UK, and Globus in Germany. Though these supermarkets lack the charm of the bazaars, they provide convenient and quick shopping for general merchandise and have better, more customer oriented return policies.
Посмотреть на карте Бишкека
Bring sunglasses that will protect your eyes from UV rays and, if you’re travelling here in winter, snow glare. During the summer you can find cheap sunglasses for sale all over the big cities.
Any season you’re travelling you should bring sunscreen with you. If you plan on spending a lot of time in the mountains, try to bring a higher SPF suncreen than you would normally use. You can buy good quality sunscreen at most pharmacies around the country in the summer.
- Lip Balm
Bring good quality SPF lip balm with you. This is also available at some pharmacies.
- Hand Sanitizer
Out in the mountains, and sometimes in public restrooms there isn’t any soap. Hand sanitizer is a great alternative to help you stay healthy and clean. You can buy hand sanitizer in some pharmacies and larger grocery stores in Bishkek.
- Bug Spray
Pack a good bug spray for your lower altitude hiking adventures.
- Eyeglasses or Contact lenses
If you wear glasses make sure you bring an extra pair with you. Outside of Bishkek it’s hard to find a place to replace or repair them if something happens to your original pair. If you wear contacts make sure to bring extra pairs, as well as extra contact solution. Keep in mind, Kyrgyzstan is very dusty so if your eyes get irritated easily you may want to switch to your glasses for your time here.
- Small First Aid Kit (antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, Band-Aids, anti-itch medication(for bug bites), sun burn relief gel, Ibuprofin or other pain relief medication, oral rehydration salts, Pepto Bismol, antacids)
Even if you’re with a tour group, it’s good to have these items with you and easily accessible just in case you need them. If you pack them, you won’t have to wait to be near a pharmacy to pick them up. However if you do run into a situation where you need something, most of these items can be found there.
- Prescription Medications
Please make sure you remember to pack your prescription medications when travelling.
Some prescriptions are not available at pharmacies here, so if you’re travelling for an extended time, it’s also important to make sure you have enough medication for the entire duration of your trip. Additionally, if your medication is a controlled substance, you may need a doctor’s note before you fly with it. Make sure to check before you leave for your trip.
- Altitude Sickness Medication
If you’re planning to spend a lot of time in the mountains and you’re prone to altitude sickness, or haven’t spent a lot of time in high elevations, ask your doctor for a prescription for altitude sickness medication. This is not available in Kyrgyzstan so you will need to get it before you leave for your trip.
- Toiletry Kit
Bring your soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, shaving cream, deodorant, etc. If you forget something in your toiletry kit, you can get a replacement in almost every town, village or city in the country. Larger stores carry some popular American and European brands.
- Tooth Brush
If you forget your tooth brush, you can also find a replacement almost anywhere.
- Toilet Paper
You don’t need to pack toilet paper from home but it’s a good idea to grab some while in Bishkek, especially if you plan on doing any hiking. It’s also good to have some in your pack if you stop at a road side outhouse.
If you wear cosmetics bring them, make sure they’re in your checked bag or under 100ml if you’re flying with them in your carry on. If you forget anything make-up is big business in Bishkek so you can find a temporary replacement for anything you need. Just remember the selection of shades is limited
- Sleep Aid (Eye mask, Ear Plugs)
If you have trouble getting to sleep in new environments bring these along with you. Earplugs are also great if you’re planning to spend the evening in hostels.
- Feminine Hygiene Products
If you’re female bring tampons and pads with you. If you’re caught by surprise, you can easily get pads anywhere, but the ones I’ve found are bulky and uncomfortable. Tampons are also available in the large cities but they don’t sell brands with applicators, so if that’s something that makes you uncomfortable prepare for that ahead of time. If you use a diva cup, keep in mind that it is going to be difficult to properly clean it. You may want to use another product during your time here.