This is an annual report produced
in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek.
OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Kyrgyzstan.
For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s country-specific page
for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some
of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Kyrgyzstan at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise
normal precautions. For more information, review OSAC’s report, Understanding
the Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Bishkek as being a MEDIUM-threat
location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Although relatively uncommon, there have been reports of muggings and assaults
on foreigners in downtown Bishkek at night. Many reports center on bars, clubs,
and other drinking establishments where inebriated patrons (regardless of
nationality) make for tempting targets; local criminals perceive foreigners to
have more money than local residents. Other non-violent crimes occur regularly.
In 2018, Kyrgyzstan reported 29,718 crimes. At the time of this report, 2019
crime statistics are pending public release.
Foreigners have reported having
their drinks drugged. Review OSAC’s report, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.
There is a high incidence of petty
theft and pickpocketing in local open-air markets, bazaars, and other crowded
places. There is particular need to pay close attention to one’s surroundings
and belongings while in crowded public places, walking on crowded streets and
underground crosswalks, and traveling on public transportation.
Criminals have impersonated police
officers, using fraudulent credentials to extort money from foreign tourists
Organized crime and
narco-trafficking are widespread in the south, particularly in Batken and Osh
provinces. While potentially dangerous, these criminal activities typically do
not target or affect foreigners.
Reports of credit card, internet,
and ATM fraud are rare but do occur. Review OSAC’s report, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.
Review OSAC’s reports, All
That You Should Leave Behind, Hotels:
The Inns and Outs, Considerations
for Hotel Security, and Taking
In the last few years, there have been significant incidents of
cyberattacks on host government websites, infecting servers with malware as a
result. Local media outlets occasionally report foreign government hacking
attacks. Exercise caution with your electronic devices; try to keep them in
your possession, keep firewalls and antivirus software active and updated, and
use virtual private networks (VPNs) to protect your devices from unauthorized
access. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity
Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling
with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite
Phones: Critical or Contraband?
Other Areas of
caution near the southern borders. The U.S. Embassy reviews travel of its
employees to Batken Oblast because ill-defined and porous borders allow for the
relatively free movement of people and illicit goods, rendering the region
vulnerable to transnational threats. Ambiguous borders, particularly around six
enclaves in the Batken Oblast, can give rise to skirmishes over water and
grazing rights. Some of these skirmishes can turn violent. While foreigners are
not the target of this violence, they should exercise caution around these
ambiguous borders so as not to become collateral victims. Rugged terrain and a
lack of resources prevent authorities from controlling the borders adequately.
Along the Batken Oblast border, there were 16 border conflicts and cases of
illegal border crossings in the first 10 months of 2019.
law restricts movements by foreigners in some border areas considered vital to
national security or otherwise sensitive. For example, foreign investors owning
or operating mineral mines must submit the names of foreign visitors to the
State Committee for National Security (GKNB) in order to visit their mines.
Border crossings for foreigners
who do not carry Central Asian passports are often difficult. Factor unexpected
border closures into travel plans. Many land borders crossings do not permit
non-Central Asians to cross.
It is illegal to take pictures of
certain buildings. Ask before taking pictures of anything of possible military
or security interest, including government buildings, people in police or
military uniforms, and food markets. Review OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.
Road Safety and Road
safety is the number one safety concern throughout Kyrgyzstan. Road conditions
often make driving difficult and dangerous. Insufficient street lighting,
dangerous driving habits, and free roaming livestock on rural roads make
intercity driving hazardous. The local habit of driving at night without
headlights adds to the already dangerous conditions at night. Guardrails and
other safety barriers are often absent from rural streets.
City roads are hazardous due to
potholes, uncovered manholes, poor lighting, and pedestrians ignoring oncoming
traffic. Exercise great care while walking, as vehicles often fail to yield to
pedestrians. There is no roadside assistance infrastructure.
Kyrgyzstan has invested in many
road improvement projects, including a massive citywide project in Bishkek in
2018. However, it still lacks adequate snow removal and road treatment
equipment to protect the roads from harsh winter conditions. Despite the
improvements, winter damage results in the formation of numerous potholes along
many streets, and especially side streets. Aggressive drivers routinely make
sudden unexpected lane changes without signaling or checking other lanes,
making collisions common.
The number of cars exceeds Bishkek
road capacity, resulting in an artificial restriction of traffic speed. Drivers
tend to be impatient, and will drive through oncoming traffic to get to the
front of the line during a red light, creating more congestion and encouraging
Kyrgyzstan continues to improve
intercity roads outside of Bishkek, to include the addition of illumination in
certain areas. However, local aggressive driving habits cause drivers simply to
drive faster on these new surfaces. Speeding is rampant and presents its own
hazards. On the open road, vehicles often pass slower automobiles at high rates
of speed regardless of oncoming traffic, resulting in numerous fatal accidents.
Despite the strides Kyrgyzstan is making in road improvements, the facelift
operations typically involve intermittent funding and Chinese companies whose
quality of materials is inconsistent. This may lead to uneven wear, potholes,
and when there is no contract funding, a hazardous and sudden transfer from
improved to unimproved road in areas where vehicles travel at a high rate of
There are many right-side drive
vehicles (with steering wheel and pedals on the right side of the car), even
though traffic drives on the right side of the road. This affords drivers
limited visibility on two-lane roads, and causes many accidents. In 2019,
Kyrgyzstan passed legislation to block the import of right-side drive vehicles.
However, vehicles imported into Kyrgyzstan before 2019 remain legal to own and
Plowing and sanding of city
streets is limited. Severe winter weather (October-April) makes driving in
mountain passes treacherous. Some mountain passes are impassable in winter.
Avalanches and mudslides in the winter and spring make driving in high mountain
passes a challenge. Mountain roads are often narrow and treacherous, and may
close without notice due to snow, ice, or rockslides.
Aggressive driving is very common in Kyrgyzstan, especially the
over congested streets of Bishkek. Accidents may lead to violence. There are
many hit-and-run accidents, resulting in multiple pedestrian deaths. In 2018, 198
people died in car-related accidents, with 5,995 traffic accidents reported
throughout the country, a decrease from 2017. Minimize most aggressive driving
incidents by not escalating the situation (do not yell, curse, or give rude
hand signals) and by avoiding vehicles that are driving recklessly. The Embassy
strongly recommends that drivers purchase and use dashboard cameras. Avoid
excessive speed and, when possible, do not drive at night outside of major
cities. Prepare for sudden stops or lane changes without a signal. For more
information on self-driving, review OSAC’s reports, Road
Safety Abroad, Driving
Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive
Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Drivers will sometimes target other drivers in an effort to cause
an accident to extort money. There have been reports of traffic police
targeting out-of-town drivers to extort fines. The police and other
anti-corruption departments are trying to tamp down bribery and corruption,
with limited success. Roadside checkpoints are commonplace. Traffic police
often use personal vehicles without police identification or special signals to
set up checkpoints to extract cash bribes in the form of “fines.” Pay any
traffic fines at local banks. Some police vehicles offer terminals for
individuals with bankcards to pay fines immediately.
Due to heavy traffic and local
driving habits, vehicle accidents are common. Fender benders routinely tie up
traffic. Local law requires that vehicles involved in an accident remain in
place until police arrive. Motorists involved in vehicle accidents may not move
the vehicles unless there is a clear safety concern. Authorities may find a
driver moving a vehicle at fault for the collision, regardless of any
contributing factors. Prepare to wait until the police arrive and complete a
The legal blood alcohol level for
driving in the Kyrgyz Republic is 0.03. Driving under the influence may land
you immediately in jail, no matter how little alcohol you consumed.
After dark, exercise caution when
taking public transportation. The Embassy prohibits its employees from using unmarked
taxis; use radio-dispatched taxis instead, and sit in the back seat. Buckle up
when possible, although not all taxicabs have functional seatbelts. Arrange to
use a reputable, registered taxi service through your hotel. Within Bishkek,
companies such as Namba and Jorgo feature meters and online interactive apps to
secure a ride. When getting a taxi on the street, agree on the price with the
driver before getting in, or insist they use the meter; otherwise, the price
may be significantly higher. It is customary to negotiate a price with a taxi
driver; they often quote double the metered tariff. Avoid getting into taxis
that already have a passenger.
The Embassy prohibits employees
from using marshrutka (route) buses,
which make a profit by taking in as many passengers as can fit. Additionally, marshrutka drivers drive aggressively
and rarely abide by traffic rules. Pickpockets are active on public
transportation, and are adept at slicing through purses, backpacks, and
clothing. Incidents of sexual harassment and groping while riding marshrutkas occur routinely. Review
OSAC’s report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and
As there is no
direct commercial air service to the U.S. by carriers registered in Kyrgyzstan,
the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government
of Kyrgyzstan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International
Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
Travelers arriving at Manas
International Airport (FRU) should arrange transportation in advance. Foreign
travelers have been the victims of extortion by airport taxi drivers who
appeared to be colluding with airport personnel to identify victims.
Air travel within Kyrgyzstan can
be problematic in the winter, as dense fog and inclement weather can cause
significant delays and cancellations. Many local airports outside of Manas lack
radar sophistication; as a result, if fog or inclement weather is present,
airlines may not land. In 2017, a Turkish-owned CAT Airlines aircraft crashed
on approach to the airport, killing four crew and 35 village residents. The
reason for the crash is unclear, although weather (thick fog) and pilot error
may have played a role. In a 2018 incident, a TezJet flight from Bishkek to
Batken had to return to Bishkek only 13 minutes into the flight, after the left
engine exploded. The pilot landed the plane safely with no injuries.
Authorities opened a criminal case for negligence, which remains open.
Consider obtaining visas for
Russia, as commercial air travel out of Kyrgyzstan is limited. Kyrgyzstan
requires all visitors staying longer than 60 days to register with the State
Registration Service. Additional information on the registration process is
available on the website
for the Kyrgyz State Registration Service.
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Bishkek as being a MEDIUM-threat
location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government
in the country remain rare, but a 2016 suicide bombing against the Chinese
Embassy in Bishkek and continued reports of terrorism-related arrests in 2019
underscore the potential threat facing the country. Reports of returning ISIS
fighters continue to permeate the press; however, the government claims an
active role in capturing these individuals upon their arrival to Kyrgyzstan.
Actual numbers of Kyrgyz who have traveled to Iraq and Syria vary depending on
the source and time of reporting. According to government statistics,
approximately 850 Kyrgyz citizens have left the country to join ISIS or other
extremist groups. Most experts believe the true number is higher. The outflow
of Kyrgyz citizens going to fight in foreign conflict zones has decreased
significantly in recent years, according to government officials. According to
available information in 2019, Kyrgyzstan’s Anti-Terrorism Center reported that
law enforcement agencies initiated 516 criminal cases in connection with
extremism. The Center added that police arrested 316 for membership in extremist
groups. There were no reported terrorist attacks in Kyrgyzstan in 2019.
conducted several special operations against unspecified international
terrorist organizations in 2018, capturing individuals who were allegedly
planning attacks or recruiting locals to fight for terrorist organizations in
Syria and Afghanistan. Porous, mountainous borders, particularly in the south,
make Kyrgyzstan a potential transit route for terrorists.
In October 2018, authorities reportedly uncovered
a sleeper cell consisting of five foreigners and four Kyrgyz citizens
recruiting locals to fight in Syria and Afghanistan, and reportedly planning to
carry out attacks in the Kyrgyz Republic.
In March 2018, authorities detained a Kyrgyz
citizen who reportedly had trained in a terrorist camp in Syria. Authorities
claimed the detainee returned to the Kyrgyz Republic to carry out a terror
attack using an improvised explosive device.
Extremist groups express anti-U.S.
sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. government or private interests in
the region, including in Kyrgyzstan.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Bishkek as being a LOW-threat
location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S.
2018, there were 552 protests through Kyrgyzstan. There is a propensity for
small, local, violent and nonviolent events to occur spontaneously. The 2018
failure of Bishkek’s central heating plant resulted in outrage over perceived
corruption. Several protests occurred, but all were peaceful. Expression of
outrage over social media is becoming more prevalent; the platform often serves
as the tool for organizing rallies and demonstrations.
The end of 2018 saw a rise of
anti-Chinese sentiment fueled by the plight of ethnic Kyrgyz in China. Authorities
are following the activities of ultra-national groups to protect Kyrgyzstan’s
economic ties to China. Travelers of Chinese ethnicity to Kyrgyzstan should
maintain a keen awareness of their surroundings.
Violent protests surrounding the
arrest of former president Almazbek Atambaev occurred in Bishkek during August
2019; one police officer died as a result of the violence, and several others incurred
During the winter of 2019, Bishkek
saw several peaceful anti-corruption and free speech protests downtown. The likelihood of more anti-corruption
protests in Bishkek in 2020 remains high.
Authorities strive to maintain
control over possible civil unrest by granting protest permits to control the
time and location of protests and dedicate additional resources to keep the
peace. Authorities sometimes close large public squares to traffic in order to
accommodate protestors and focus security resources. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving
There have been no recent
large-scale inter-ethnic clashes. However, the potential for ethnic clashes,
especially in the south, remains. The government has yet to investigate ethnic
clashes from 2010.
While there is a longstanding
dispute concerning sections of the Kyrgyz border with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan
that sometimes results in skirmishes in Batken Oblast (resulting in a few
deaths and casualties over the last few years), improved relations between
Kyrgyzstan and its neighbors have relieved tensions along the border. In 2018,
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan initiated a land swap that resulted in the closure of
a Kyrgyz exclave located within Uzbekistan near the border of Osh Oblast.
Kyrgyzstan is located in an active
seismic zone and is subject to frequent tremors and occasional strong
earthquakes. In 2017, Kyrgyzstan recorded 66 earthquakes. Buildings and homes
generally do not meet U.S. seismic standards. Store water, food, and medical
supplies to last you at least three days. For more information, review OSAC’s
Asia Earthquake Preparedness.
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
The Ministry of Emergency
Situations notes uranium mine tailings are scattered throughout Kyrgyzstan. The
uranium mine at Kara Balta (about 50 kilometers west of Bishkek) is active.
Local security services watch
foreign visitors and may place foreigners under surveillance. Authorities may
monitor hotel rooms (including meeting rooms), offices, cars, taxis,
telephones, internet use, and fax machines onsite or remotely, and search
personal possessions without consent or knowledge. Business travelers should be
particularly mindful that trade secrets, negotiating positions, and other
business sensitive information might be vulnerable to sharing with competitors,
counterparts, or regulatory and legal entities. Weigh these risks against your
desire to stay connected, and take precautions to protect personal information.
Ensure local providers for
banking, security, and medical treatment are reputable organizations. Be
cautious with the information that you make available. It is not uncommon for
employees of these organizations to pass sensitive personal medical, financial,
and banking information to criminal or intelligence elements.
Discrimination against ethnic
groups, especially ethnic Uzbeks, remains a problem.
The Kyrgyz Republic does not
recognize sexual orientation as a protected category within the context of
discrimination. There are no laws that define hate crimes in the Kyrgyz
Republic to include LGBTI individuals. LGBTI individuals may be subject to
discrimination in the application of current laws; many report regular threats
and harassment at the hands of law enforcement officials. Review the State
Department’s webpage on security for female
travelers and for LGBTI+
Public transportation, sidewalks
and road crossings, hotels, and restaurants are rarely wheelchair accessible. Review
the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers
It is illegal to practice a
religion in groups or to proselytize without first registering with the State
Commission of Religious Affairs. Review OSAC’s report, Freedom
to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based
While the use of narcotics and
illegal drugs is relatively low, drug trafficking is a problem. Because of
porous borders and close proximity to Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan is a transit
country for illegal drugs, which are smuggled to Russia, Europe, and
occasionally North America. In 2018, there were 24 reported drug related
Corruption and lack of training
and equipment for law enforcement agencies hamper efforts to control the flow
of drugs. In 2016, while conducting law enforcement reform, authorities
disbanded the State Drug Control Service and passed its duties to three
agencies: the Health Ministry, the Ministry of Interior, and the State Service
for Fighting Economic Crimes. A 2018 drug raid at a local club called “Garage
312” saw the arrest of more than 50 people related to drug use at the venue.
of foreigners is very rare.
practice of bridal kidnapping is common in rural areas, although it is
sometimes staged based on a pre-agreement with the bride or her family. There
was a report of an attempted bridal kidnapping/sexual assault of a Polish
national in 2017.
kidnapping for ransom does occur, with a reported incident in Bishkek in 2017
involving four taxi drivers and a local resident. The government cautions
foreigners against traveling close to the border with Tajikistan, as
kidnappings for ransom have taken place there. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
Police and security forces lack
proper salaries and equipment. Officials have solicited bribes to supplement
their insufficient incomes. The quality of police service may vary
significantly. Police officers rarely speak English; one must usually speak
Russian or Kyrgyz to converse with local authorities. Vehicle and pedestrian
stops of local nationals and foreigners are frequent.
Despite these hurdles, senior
leadership within the police are developing and implementing programs aimed at
curbing corruption. One such initiative was the procurement of handheld speed
cameras with video recording capabilities. If police stop a driver, the
operator of the vehicle has the right to review the footage of the violation
prior to paying a fine.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs
(MVD) has recruited more than 60 officers to form a new Tourist Police unit in
Bishkek. The unit consists of officers with knowledge of numerous foreign
languages, including English, receiving training to specifically deal with
issues faced by visiting foreigners, such as assistance when lost, recovering lost
or stolen items, and filling out police reports. The program focuses on
Bishkek, and rolls out in other tourist destinations later. Tourist police will
patrol around the airport, in hotel and shopping districts, and at local
Many transactions and situations
require passports (e.g. hotel check-in, police inquiries). Carry the proper
identity documents or a certified copy of your passport and visa with you, and
cooperate with authorities if they stop you for questioning. The U.S. Embassy
may assist you with making a certified copy (the fee for this service is
US$50). Carry at least two photocopies of your passport’s photo page: one on
your person and another placed in a safe location.
If police detain or harass you,
contact the American Citizen Services unit (ACS) at the U.S. Embassy. Do not
act upon police requests, whether in civilian dress or in uniform, if they have
no official identification. Do not get into cars with anyone you do not know,
even if the person claims to be a police officer.
The local emergency number is 102.
However, operators are likely to speak only Russian or Kyrgyz. Download the
State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
The MVD is the central law
enforcement body. The Traffic Police (GAI) is the MVD entity responsible for
the regulation of traffic and investigating traffic accidents. The MVD is
essentially a national police agency in charge of investigation of all types of
crimes, to include drug control function and combating violent extremism.
The State Committee for National
Security (GKNB) is Kyrgyzstan’s main federal security agency with broad
functions akin to those of an intelligence gathering and a law enforcement
agency, specializing in counterintelligence and counterterrorism activities.
The GKNB combines functions and powers similar to those exercised by the U.S.
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, and National
Find contact information for
available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy
Medical care is often inadequate.
There is a shortage of basic medical supplies. Health care resources are
limited and often below U.S. standards. Doctors and medical industry staff
rarely speak English, and prices for treatment are not fixed. Use a translator
or Russian/Kyrgyz speaking friend or family member to assist with medical
treatment. U.S. citizens often travel outside of Kyrgyzstan for medical
treatment, including most routine procedures.
Call 103 for
the Bishkek City Ambulance or 151 for commercial
ambulance service. Operators have limited to no English language ability, and
will likely only understand Russian or Kyrgyz.
Access a list of ambulance
services, clinics, hospitals, dentists and pharmacies on the Embassy website.
Doctors and hospitals often expect
cash payment for health
services prior to dispensing medication or providing treatment. Check what your health insurance plan covers when you
are outside of the U.S. Purchase medical evacuation (medevac) insurance
before traveling to Kyrgyzstan. The U.S. Department of State strongly
recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling
internationally. Review the State Departments webpage on insurance
The level of air
pollution in Bishkek is very high, occasionally exceeding maximum allowable
concentrations several times over, especially in the city center.
Food sanitation can be a problem.
Travelers in the countryside should drink bottled water and avoid tap water. Refer
to OSAC’s report, I’m Drinking What in My Water?
The CDC offers additional
information on vaccines and health guidance for Kyrgyzstan.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Bishkek Country Council meets quarterly. Interested
private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s South &
Central Asia team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy Contact Information
U.S. Embassy Bishkek: 171 Prospect
Mira, Bishkek 720016
Hours of Operation: 0830-1700
Emergency After-Hours: +996-312-597-733
Before you travel, consider the
Department Traveler’s Checklist
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
State Department Kyrgyzstan
Country Information Sheet