Options for train travel in Kyrgyzstan are limited due to the mountainous terrain of the country, the political difficulties with Uzbekistan and the limited funds of the national train company Kyrgyz Temir Joly. There is no railway network extending into Tajikistan or China.
The Kyrgyz railroad network is divided in a northern and a southern part, which are unconnected. In the north, the line extends from Bishkek to Balykchy on lake Issyk-Kyl. In the south, it connects Andijon in Uzbekistan with Osh and Jalal-Abad in Kyrgyzstan.
Timetable info can be found on the railway website, but best is to check with the Bishkek train station. Trains are definitely not the fastest way to get around, they are often more comfortable though, and tend to cost less than other forms of transport.
For more on what to expect while traveling by train in Central Asia, check out the overview page on the Silk Road by train, which includes more info on seats, route planning and timetables.
Balykchy – Tashkent train: For 2018, a train will run between Tashkent and Balykchy for the summer season. The train will pass through Kazakhstan, so make sure you have a valid visa if you need one. We are not clear on the details yet, but it seems this train runs directly to Balykchy, not stopping in Bishkek.
Another possibility is the Moscow – Bishkek service, which runs through Kazakhstan, where you can get off at Shymkent or Turkistan and then take a bus or taxi to get to Uzbekistan. You can also take a train, but this takes more time than the bus. From Tashkent you can continue your journey to Samarkand, Bukhara, …
Moscow – Bishkek train: This train transits Kazakhstan, but not Uzbekistan. It also doesn’t pass Almaty, but goes directly to Taraz – Shymkent – Arys – Kyzyl Orda and then up to Aqtobe – Orenburg – Samara to arrive at Moscow Kazanski station around 3 days (74 hours) later.
For current prices and timetables, check with the ticket office. Timetable info on the website gives an indication. Note that the train runs on Moscow time in Kyrgyzstan and Russia, but on Astana time in Kazakhstan!
Jalal-Abad – Andijon – Osh train: The southern branch of the Kyrgyz rail network that connects with Uzbekistan is not operational since the bloody revolution of 2010.
Bishkek – Balykchy (Issyk-kul) train: A very scenic train ride through a mountain pass that ends up at the western shore of Issyk-Kyl lake. It is slow, taking 5-6 hours, but it costs around 1$, around 10 times less than a marshrutka or taxi.
It runs daily in summer, not at all in winter – check at the train station for current timetables. In 2016, the train departed from Bishkek-I station on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 6.25 a.m, from mid-June to mid-September.
A lovely report from the ride can be found at Global Voices. The train station is outside of the town centre of Balykchy, from where you will still need to take a marshrutka or taxi to a more pleasant place along Issyk-Kul.Comments have closed. If you have questions or remarks, head to our forum’s transport section.