It’s a long, scenic route between Bishkek and Osh, with many interesting sights along the way. We cover this itinerary and sidetrips in “Road trip: Bishkek – Osh“, some more pictures can be found at “Landscapes of the M41“. Doing it overland in 1 day is tiring, so if you have the chance, break the journey.
Here we focus on the practical details of traveling by shared taxi, minibus, airplane, cycling and self-drive.
There are no buses or regular minibuses between Bishkek and Osh. The Bishkek-Osh highway is a narrow mountainous road (though in a good condition) and big buses and public passenger minivans are not allowed to cross the Tor-Ashu and Ala-Bel passes.
This means shared taxis are the preferred way of getting there overland. An early start is recommended, as it will be a 12-14 hour ride. Cars leave constantly from 6am to 9pm both in Bishkek and Osh. The scenery is terrific, so a night taxi will miss out on that. It’s also recommended to pay a little bit more for a front seat, as the back seat will contain 3 passengers who can expertly increase their own leg room.
In Osh, taxis to Bishkek park on Zainabetdinova street. In Bishkek, they gather south of Osh bazaar (map).
Prices fluctuate. In spring, seasonal workers travel north from Osh to Bishkek and onwards to Russia, and Osh – Bishkek prices are lower. In autumn they return, and Bishkek – Osh becomes a bargain. Expect to pay 1000-1500 som per person.
Cargo minibus or truck
Another, more comfortable overnight option, is to take a cargo-passenger minivan (‘busik’, ‘бусик’). 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 decent sleeping bunks. 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.
They don’t leave from the center, though. In Bishkek, cargo buses leave from Dordoi bazaar. In Osh, they leave from Kara-Su bazaar, 30 km outside of Osh, From Kara-Su or Dordoi, you can take a minibus to the city center for 40 som. Ask for stoyanka gruzovyh busikov na Osh/Bishkek (стоянка грузовых бусиков на Ош).
You can also buy a passenger seat in a truck for about 500 som. The trucks leave the bazaar in Osh daily at 15:00 and arrive in Bishkek in the morning. In Bishkek they leave from Dordoi.
It’s not very exciting, of course, but for comfort, it beats 12-14 hours in a battered taxi, and the price is not that much higher. Starting from 35$, several airplanes per day fly between Osh and Bishkek, operated by Air Kyrgyzstan, Avia Traffic, Air Bishkek and Tez Jet. Aviakassas in town sell tickets in case online booking is not available.
You can rent a car through Caravanistan. If you have your own vehicle, check out driving in Kyrgyzstan for a primer on road rules and road conditions.
It’s a wonderful ride with some killer hills and passes of 3500m+. The scariest part are the tunnels, though. It is not a bad idea to hitch a ride through and throw your bicycle in the back of a truck: the lack of lightning and ventilation makes for a dangerous trip.