Bishkek is Kyrgyzstan’s main flight hub, and the capital is connected by minibus or shared taxi to all regions of the country in long overland journeys. Inside the city, marshrutkas are a scourge, but it’s difficult to avoid them altogether unless you take taxis everywhere (they are cheap, it’s an option).
Transport to/from Bishkek
2 trains run from and to Bishkek:
- Bishkek – Moscow
- Tashkent – Bishkek – Balykchy (only in summer)
Clearly, trains are not much of an option in Kyrgyzstan. For more details, see trains in Kyrgyzstan.
Long-distance bus & (shared) taxi
There are 2 bus stations in Bishkek, plus an important taxi stand.
The Western Bus Station is the main one (Jibek Joly – Kulieva) (OSM / Gmaps): it has regular long-distance bus and minibus services to all parts of the country, as well as to Almaty and Tashkent. Taxi drivers gather here as well to pick up passengers – all destinations. They are more expensive, less comfortable, more dangerous, and a bit faster than minibuses.
The Eastern Bus Station (Jibek Joly – Osmonkula) (OSM / Gmaps) is the terminal for marshrutkas to destinations within or just beyond the eastern suburbs, such as Kant, Tokmok, Kemin, Kegeti, Issyk Ata, or the Korday border crossing.
The bus stand south of Osh Bazaar (OSM / Gmaps) used to be the taxi stand to find shared taxis to Osh, but you should now (get someone to) arrange this trip in advance through a Telegram taxi group. The taxi group also works for other destinations closer by.
Still running: minibuses to destinations west such as Sokuluk, Tash-Bulak, Kashka-Suu and Chong-Tash. Buses 160, 169 and 177 go several times a day to Kashka-Suu, close to the entry for Ala-Archa National Park.
Onward travel destinations
Frequent minibus departures to Almaty from 6am to 10pm from the main bus station (4$, 5 hr) or by plane (~70$, 50 min, several flights per day).
No marshrutkas or big buses run between Bishkek and Osh so your only option is to take a shared taxi (10-12 hr) or a flight (45 min, ~40$).
Osh to Bishkek shared cars are now almost entirely arranged through a Telegram group. Get someone to arrange a spot for you the evening before. You get picked up and dropped off at a spot that you decide.
Karakol & Issyk-Kul
Only by minivan or shared taxi (5hr). Drivers take the faster, northern route if heading straight to Karakol. For destinations on the southern shore, ask for Bokonbaevo.
Kochkor & Naryn
Only possible by minivan or shared taxi, Kochkor takes about 4 hr, Naryn around 7 hr.
The Bishkek-Moscow train passes by Shymkent (15 hr). Buses and shared taxis gather at the main bus station.
Flights between Tashkent and Bishkek go 2 times a week. Overland, the quickest way is via Kazakhstan.
A direct bus to Tashkent via Kazakhstan exists (13 h, 2000 som – Q&A), but if you don’t buy your ticket at least a day in advance, the bus might be full. If that is the case, make your way to Shymkent and cross the border there.
In summer, a train from Balykchy to Tashkent stops over in Bishkek. All details on the Uzbek train page.
Getting around Bishkek
There is no metro. Instead, Bishkek is served by a dense network of speeding minibuses called marshrutkas. These roam town and stop at designated bus stops, but it is also possible to hail them in between stops (just wave your arm). A few bigger buses also drive around.
To find out which bus to take, ask a local or use bus.kg, a handy website and smartphone app in English. Prices are minimal. Payment happens on entry for marshrutkas (usually), on exit for bigger city buses.
Marshrutkas are often very crowded, and it will be hard to make out where exactly you are as you often have no decent window view. Long-term residents of Bishkek are experts at recognizing different kinds of pavement. A gps-enabled smartphone can work wonders. To get off, shout astanavitsa, pazhalusta (stop, please – stress is on the bold syllables).
The problem of crowded marshrutkas presents the traveler with another conundrum: who should get the seat? A complicated hierarchy exists in Kyrgyzstan; keep this flowchart at hand in case of need.
Taxi, self-drive and car rental
An unskilled workforce and high unemployment rates means there are a lot of taxis driving around Bishkek. You can use ride-hailing apps like Namba Taxi, Yandex or Uber, call, sms or just flag one down in the street. In the end, though, you just have to be lucky with the driver. Keep your eye on the price and a hand on the door handle.
Bishkek is not exactly a bicycle friendly place, but cycle tourists are hardy creatures and the majority survives. More tips at cycling in Kyrgyzstan.