For general tips on driving the Silk Road, see the driving overview page. Here we discuss the state of the roads, where to find parts, dealing with the police, repair shops, and the business of import/export, customs, storing and selling a car.
Insurance and border payments
Since February 2016, car insurance is apparently obligatory in Kyrgyzstan, but no one seems to pay much heed.
Rental cars come with insurance automatically, but do not expect your fellow road users to have insurance cover. Insurance at the border is not always available, but you can find companies in Osh and Bishkek.
Expect to pay between 15-30 euro for a month. ATN Polis has come recommended. Your tips, comments and questions are welcome here.
Eco tax and import tax
Since 2015, foreign vehicles need to pay an eco tax when entering Kyrgyzstan. This should be 1000 som for a car and 2500 som for a minibus. You do not need to pay it when you come in from Kazakhstan (because customs union). You do when coming from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan or China.
There is no import tax or other payment required at the border.
Road rules and police checks
Inside towns and villages, you are allowed to drive 60 km/h. Between villages, 90 km/h is the maximum speed. Police are usually found at the start of villages, marked by a white sign with the name of the village in black lettering, or at the end, marked by the same sign with an extra red diagonal line. There are no signs that advertise speed limits.
Keep in mind that it is obligated to have your lights on at all times while driving outside of towns and villages.
There are 2 ways of dealing with the road rules. First is to follow them to the letter. Second is to break them continuously and look for signs of police checks (oncoming traffic will flash their headlights to warn you). If you follow the first strategy, be prepared for a lot of frustration.
The biggest issue is that all roads are single carriageway and often have long stretches of solid white line (which is illegal to cross, unlike in some countries, where it is only discouraged to cross). Couple this with a lot of slow-moving trucks and old Ladas stuffed with watermelons, and it becomes almost impossible not to overtake.
Police checks concentrate in and around Bishkek, on the Osh-Bishkek road and on the northern shore of Issyk-Kul. If you feel you will have to pay, the price hovers around 200 som for locals, perhaps a bit more for foreigners. Be sure to ask for a “kwitantsia” (check).
More tips to deal with police on the main driving page.
Car and motorbike rental
Rentals have come off the ground in this mountainous republic in the past few years, and we now have a number of partners offering car and motorbike rental in Kyrgyzstan.
Roads in Kyrgyzstan
- Batken – Osh – Bishkek: in a good state.
- Bishkek – Karakol: not bad. Road works on northern side in 2016. Southern side ok.
- Kochkor – Naryn – Irkeshtam: perfect Chinese tarmac.
- Tajik border – Sary Tash: tarmac in bad condition.
- Sary tash – Osh: tarmac in brilliant condition.
The road network in the rest of the country is poor; expect your suspension to suffer. The 2 main roads that are inaccessible in winter are the road to Song Kol and the Naryn – Jalalabad road.
There are no highways in Kyrgyzstan. Tunnels lack light and ventilation; some are quite long. Keep your speed low.
The Bishkek – Osh road is a toll road. The price is 350 som.
In winter, there is avalanche danger between Toktogul and Karabalta, and several other places. This is no joke, people die every year! Roads might be blocked because of snowfall or avalanches, and it is obviously very slippery in winter. Nonetheless, the main roads in the country are cleared as soon as snow hits.
Naryn range roads
Except for the main A365 road, the Tosor pass between Eki Naryn and Tamga is the only way to cross the main range from Naryn to Issyk Kul (thanks to Lovetheworld and mazeno for the info).
The Tosor Pass can only be attempted with a strong 4×4 with high clearance or an off-road motorcycle with an extended range tank. The ride is stunning though. Plan 12 hours to get from Naryn to Issyk Kul, so leave early or camp. Road is usually open from mid-June through the beginning of October, but YMMV.
The A364 road, marked on many maps as a loop from Barskoon to Karakol across Karasay and Inylchek does not exist in the part between Akshirak and Inylchek.
The main Naryn river valley (straight to the east) is passable only for about first 45km from Naryn, then the road turns north to the Kichi Naryn river valley across a bridge (there is a gate, a barrier, to the canyon, closed in winter). Eki naryn river flows from the east, its valley is not passable at all.
There is another road marked on some maps (e.g. googlemaps) across Toch pass from Jiluu Suu hot springs heading north to Bokonbayevo, but it is only a steep and narrow footpath.
Alay range roads
The Murdash – Kojokelen road is a nice alternative to the main Osh – Sary Tash stretch.
Car parts and repair
For car parts, try
- EVI Autocenter (42.865440,74.567480) at the corner of Lev Tolstoy St. and Asanaliev St.
- Dordoi avtobazaar (new and used parts for almost every car, more than 100 container-shops): https://goo.gl/maps/mAtyf9fvZrw
- Gyealogya scrapbazar (mostly used parts including big ones – engines, gearcases, axles, suspensions etc.):
“Alexei Biker” (and Constantine, have yard, tools, and mechanical skill)
212 Saratovskaya St.
Samat speaks fluent English and has all the gear to identify the problem. Look for the sign ‘Manul’ on the main road and drive down the side alley. 40°30′32.29″N 72°47′13.52″E
‘Vladimir’s Workshop’ is well-known and comes recommended. Location: 40.511775, 72.802316 – drive through the gates into what looks like a junk yard with a warehouse.
A good shop for motorcycle repairs is located in Kudajbergen Avto Bazaar. It’s container shop 29E. The man is called Dima and you can call him on +996 312 543 91 58 19 (only Russian spoken). Almost every motorcyclist in the city (there are not many!) knows him as “Dima biker”. GPS: N 42o 52′ 55.4″ E 74o 31′ 24.7″.
Another option for bikers is located at N 42o 54′ 36.4″ E 74o 33′ 58.8″. It is in the village of Maevka. Travel north from Chuj Prospect on Mahatma Ghandi Bulavard until you get to the Maevka sign (it may be hidden by a bus). Turn left immediately at this sign and continue to No.22.
Zorromoto is the place to be in Osh.
Updates are collected at the motorcycle maintenance Q&A.
We suggest to fill up your tank at Gazprom when possible. Other suppliers do not have the same quality standards. Gazprom is a bit more expensive, but your engine will thank you. You can check prices at the sites of Gazprom and Red Petrol. Prices are a bit lower in the North versus the south, and cities are cheaper than villages.