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Practical Travel Information

Covering visas, money, internet, and more.

Along the South Shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, travelers encounter invigorating outdoor adventures and a wide range of fascinating cultural activities that explore the country's living nomadic heritage. They also encounter a destination with a unique layout that presents both challenges and opportunities. The South Shore is not confined to a single city. Instead, the region's wide array of compelling activities are spread along the entire southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.

Bokonbaevo is the transit and logistical hub for the region, and travelers may pass through here on organized tours or treks, or to catch public transport to other areas. The natural attractions, yurt camps, and villages extend from Bokonbaevo toward Karakol — some along the shoreline, and some into the jailoo (summer pasture).

Map of Bokonbaevo town center. Click for full size and to download.

Use our detailed transportation page to navigate the region — this page explains how to use marshrutka, buses, and taxis to make your way to the yurt camps, canyons, and all the other activities and sights throughout the region. Use the information below as your starting point for assembling the practical details — from money to SIM cards to health care — that you need to best enjoy your time in South Shore. If there's anything that we can help with as you plan your travels, please know that the Destination South Shore team is here to facilitate any aspect of your independent travel or group tour experience.

Visa Information

Kyrgyzstan's visa-waiver program is among the most liberal and inclusive visa policies in Central Asia. Depending on the nationality, citizens from more than 60 countries (many North American, European, and CIS countries) are allowed visa-free entry for between 30 and 90 days. If your nationality is not included in the visa-waiver program, check your eligibility to determine if you qualify for visa-on-arrival.

The government offers a handy and easy e-visa website to serve citizens from countries not included in the visa-waiver or visa-on-arrival programs. Important note: E-visa holders are only allowed to enter the country at specific airports and land borders. Use the e-visa website to find an up-to-date list of qualifying entry points. Also, all Kyrgyz visas are issued for specific dates; this means you must provide precise entry and exit dates during your application process.

All foreign nationals must enter the country with a valid passport. You should thoroughly research the visa requirements for your personal situation before booking your travels in Kyrgyzstan.

Money

South Shore is a destination where you must travel with the cash you will need to pay for most of your accommodation and activities. The Kyrgyzstani Som is the official currency in Kyrgyzstan (check the current exchange rate) and you can easily withdraw local currency from ATMs located around Bokonbaevo — most ATMs support international bank cards. Credit cards are not widely accepted anywhere, and especially outside of Bokonbaevo. So you need enough cash to pay for big ticket items (accommodation and tours) as well as daily life (street food, markets, taxis, and more). If you use Bokonbaevo as a hub for your travels in the region, you can easily top-up funds at the local ATMs. Kyzyl-Suu also has a few ATM machines, but it's best to make sure you enter the region with enough cash if you are not stopping in Bokonbaevo first.

Language

English is not very common in Bokonbaevo. You may even find some touristy places that only speak Russian and/or Kyrgyz, or only offer menus in Cyrillic. Carry a Russian-English phrasebook or install a translation app on your phone to make your communication flow a little easier. You can also stop by the Destination South Shore office if you need information in English or assistance booking tours and activities. Also, we use English-speaking guides on all tours and guided treks booked through Destination South Shore.

Staying Connected/Wifi/SIM

Bokonbaevo has WiFi available at most guesthouses in town. Outside of Bokonbaevo, guesthouses and hotels may offer limited WiFi. Most yurt camps throughout the region offer travelers the opportunity to reconnect to nature and as such do not have WiFi or even a mobile data signal. To have the best chance for internet coverage, buy a mobile data plan from one of the three telecom operators operating in Kyrgyzstan:  O!, Beeline, or MegaCom. Krygyzstan data plans are easy and inexpensive and all three providers sell short- and long-term data and voice plans. O! (office located near Cafe Argymak in the center of Bokonbaevo) offers the fastest speeds and the best coverage in the South Shore specifically — you won't have coverage in all places, but you'll have the best chance for it. Other providers may offer better general coverage across Kyrgyzstan. You must bring your passport to the office of the telecom provider in order to secure your SIM card. 

Health Care

Bokonbaevo has a municipal hospital (see location) and a pharmacy if you fall ill during your visit. If you are located in the eastern section of the region, the hospitals, treatment facilities, and pharmacies in Karakol city may be closer. Because English is not guaranteed, always carry a printed card translated into Cyrillic listing any special conditions or life-threatening allergies you may have.

Travel Insurance

Before visiting Kyrgyzstan, travelers (and particularly trekkers) should obtain comprehensive travel insurance that covers all overseas medical costs, including: medical evacuation, repatriation of remains, and legal costs. Check your policy for any exclusions and, in particular, make sure that your policy covers the activities you will enjoy while in the region.

Safety and Security

South Shore is a safe region of Kyrgyzstan and travelers rarely face any issues. That said, some areas are very rural so it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings. Petty theft is not common, but you should always keep an eye on your belongings and bags in towns, while at the beach or at any restaurants, and maintain awareness of your wallet and purse when shopping at busy markets or transferring making transportation transfers.

If you encounter issues, you can file a police report for theft at the local police station (located here), you must file a written report to receive a receipt of the theft, should you need proof for an insurance claim. Note: There is no English speaking person at the police office, so you should ask your guesthouse for assistance, or contact Destination South Shore.

Use a local SIM to call for these local emergency services:
- 101 for fire
- 102 for police
- 103 for ambulance

If you encounter any issues while in town, do not hesitate to contact us at Destination South Shore to provide assistance however possible (located at Toichubekov Culture House, 37 B.Mambetov Street, open from 9:00am each day).

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