Marshrutkas (minibuses) and shared taxis are pretty much the only way to get around in Kyrgyzstan. They leave when full (4 seats + 1 driver). If you want more comfort or leave earlier, pay for the other seats.
Prices for some routes fluctuate with petrol costs and seasonal variations: summer is more expensive from south to north, winter is the other way around, due to labour migration streams to and from Russia.
Trip costs and duration
All costs and duration are based on 1 seat in a marshrutka. Shared taxis cost a bit more per seat, while speed is a bit higher. Duration here is only the driving time, add in 30-60 minutes for the transport to fill up and leave.
- Bishkek – Karakol: 6$ – 5-7h
- Bishkek – Almaty: 6$ – 5h
- Bishkek – Osh: 12-25$ – 12-15h
- Bishkek – Naryn: 3-6$, 5h
- Bishkek – Kochkor: 5-7$, 6h
- Osh – Sary Tash: 8$ -3-6h
- Osh – Murghab: 30$ – 8-10h
- Osh – Irkeshtam Pass – Kashgar: 90$ – 10-18h
- Osh – Batken-Isfara (Tajik border): 15$ – 5h
There are 2 main bus stations in Bishkek. The smaller Eastern Bus Station is primarily the terminal for marshrutkas to various destinations within or just beyond the eastern suburbs, such as Kant, Tokmok, Kemin, Kegeti, Issyk Ata, or the Korday border crossing.
Long-distance regular bus and minibus services to all parts of the country, as well as to Almaty, Tashkent (runs until the border of Chernyavka, via Kazakhstan) and Kashgar, run from the newer Western Bus Station.
For Osh, you can try the western bus station or the bus stand south of Osh Bazaar to find marshrutkas and shared taxis going to Osh. Here you can also find 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.
Osh-Bishkek cargo vans
A third option outside of marshrutkas and shared taxis exists to travel between Osh and Bishkek. For around 10$ you can get a place in a cargo-passenger minivan. It’s actually much more comfortable than a shared taxi, because it has sleeping bunks. In Osh cargo vans start from Kara-Suu market, in Bishkek from Dordoi market. These vans take just 2-3 hours more than shared taxis and always run overnight, starting 3-6 pm. Unfortunately, you will miss the great view on the Bishkek-Osh road in this way.
To go to the Dustlyk/Dostyk border with Uzbekistan (10km), take minibus 107 or 113 from opposite the old bus station, or minibuses 136 and 137 from Hotel Alay or further north on Lenina. Taxis are 50 som.
Shared taxis for the same destinations also gather at the old bus station, or at nearby Kelechek Bazaar. Shared taxis also run to Toktogul, Tashkömür and Kerben when full. Another stand west of Hotel Alay has buses to Aravan and Nookat. Minibuses and taxis to Nookat run from just behind the Philharmonia.
Shared taxis for Bishkek, Murghab and Sary Tash as well as other destinations, gather on Zainabetdinova street. The Argomak 4WD stand just uphill from the old bus station has early morning 4WDs and minibuses to Sary Moghul and a slow-but-cheap Daroot-Korgon bus, both via Sary Tash.
To Tajikistan, Sary Tash and Irkeshtam (Kashgar)
Russian jeeps as well as normal jeeps (more comfortable) heading to Murghab collect on Zainabetdinova street with other taxis. Drivers like to overcharge tourists, but remember, they badly need passengers, and finally will agree to a regular price. You don’t have to pay extra for a reasonable-sized backpack or for a good seat (just be the first passenger to reserve one). But the driver might ask you extra money if you would like to stop on the way for taking photos. Few jeeps are available, some days you will find none at all. There is no fixed schedule, they leave when full. Best strategy is to come to the stand in the afternoon, exchange phone numbers with the drivers and later join the jeep leaving first.
To Sary Tash taxis also park somewhere on Zainabetdinova street. But they could wait for passengers quite a long time, so a better option is just to head to the highway (for example take a marshrutka to Karatai or Gulcha from the old bus station) and hitch marshrutkas or private cars passing by. Trucks could be very cheap (free-200 soms) but quite slow. Car makes it in 3 hours, trucks take 5-6 hours minimum. In Sary Tash usually there are a lot of trucks to Irkeshtam pass (daytime on working days, 100 som should be enough) but very, very few extra transport on the Pamir highway, and direct transport from Osh to Murghab is likely to be full.
If you are going to Irkeshtam, head to Sary Tash and make your way from there. If you are going to Murghab, get direct transport in Osh.
The bus to Kashgar comes out more expensive than doing it with taxis, funnily enough, at least definitely from China.
Karakol and Issyk-Kul
In Karakol, marshrutkas and taxis to Bishkek gather at the bus station. Most go along the northern shore. Taxis and marshrutkas also gather at the bazaar to locations such as the Kazakh border or Jeti Oghuz.
From/to Bishkek Regular marshrutka and taxi services leave Bishkek in the morning for the 5–6 hour drive to Karakol along the northern shore. If you are heading to Balykchy or somewhere on the lake’s northern shore, these services might take you for a reduced fare. A marshrutka or taxi back to Bishkek can be found all day at the bus station. A bus leaves in the evening around 8pm and arrives at 6am in Bishkek from the bazaar.
To Kazakhstan From Karakol it is possible to get a local minibus to the beginning of the final road to the border (roughly 5km) for 150 som. You can catch this from the west side of Ak-Tilek Bazaar, just ask around for Karkara, and they will kick you out near the border. On the Kazakh side, there is no public transport, but lots of people will be willing to give a lift. Camping or staying in a yurt with locals is an option if you get stuck near the border.
From Tamchy (Issyk Kul) Airport Tamchy is approximately 2½–3 hours away, and taxis can be arranged locally. Tamchy has limited air service on SCAT airways during the summer travel season.
Marshrutkas and shared taxis are available from Naryn to Bishkek, Kazarman and At-Bashy. They fill up quickest early in the morning.
To Song Kul
Its beauty is greatly praised, but it is rather inaccessible. The best approach seems to be the 85 km road from Sary-Bulak on the main north-south highway. Other routes require 4x4s. Tour Operators can arrange transport. With CBT, expect to pay $80-$100 per car for return transport from their offices in Kochkor.