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. Car rental has come off the ground in this mountainous republic in the past few years. See the following page for all things concerning car rental in Central Asia.
Insurance, border payments, police checks
Since February 2016, car insurance is obligatory in Kyrgyzstan. The implementation in this early phase is very confused, and you won’t find many drivers who have insurance yet. Eurasianet has the details. Some people have been obliged to get it at the border for 1000 som. Others have not.
Rental cars come with insurance automatically. If you want to get one anyway and did not get it obligated at the border, it will cost you around 50$ for the time you are there. We cannot recommend companies yet (also, expect them to be busy signing up 1 million cars in a few months :-).
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. Anecdotal evidence points to a price of 740 – 1000 som for foreigners in 2016. In Russian the name is eko-sbor.
Police is a terrible nuisance. Especially in Bishkek, on the Osh-Bishkek road and the northern side of Issyk-Kul, there are checks everywhere. More tips to deal with police on the main driving page. If you have to pay, the price is 200 som for locals, perhaps a bit more for foreigners. Be sure to ask for a “kwitantsia” (check).
Road quality 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.
The Bishkek – Osh road has a toll booth near Sosnovka. Prices are 5-20$ for foreign vehicles, 45-300 som for Kyrgyz vehicles. There are no highways in Kyrgyzstan and roads pass through villages. Police (see more on them below) 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.
Otherwise you will find few (if any) signs telling you about speed limits. It’s 60 km/h in the city, 90 km/h outside of the city.
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.
Tunnels lack light and ventilation. With some of them measuring 1 or 2 km, this could be dangerous too.
The Tosor pass between Eki Naryn and Issyk Kul can only be attempted with a good, strong 4×4 or an off-road motorcycle with an extended range tank. The ride is stunning though. Plan to take 12 hours to get from Naryn to Issyk Kul, so leave early. Road is usually open from mid-June through the beginning of October.
Driving in Bishkek
You see people do some crazy moves in Bishkek. Don’t emulate them, there could be a guy with a baton standing around the corner. Most difficult thing about driving in Bishkek is the lack of lanes. You get used to it.
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
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.
Updates are collected at the motorcycle maintenance Q&A.
I 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.
Selling/leaving a vehicle in Kyrgyzstan
- Where and how to sell a car in Central Asia
- Leaving a car in Kyrgyzstan for a longer period of time
- Dumping a car
- Buying a car in Kyrgyzstan: reports and Q&A
- Driving a car to Kyrgyzstan and having someone else drive it back