Kyrgyz Republic

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Tuesday, 14 January 2014.   It has been reviewed and reissued with new information under Civil unrest/political tensions (the border between Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan has been closed until further notice; take care in period surrounding local elections in Bishkek and Osh on 15 January). We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in the Kyrgyz Republic because of the potential for civil unrest, risk of terrorism and high levels of crime.

Kyrgyz Republic overall

Kyrgyz-Uzbek and Kyrgyz-Tajik border areas and the Ferghana Valley

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the Kyrgyz Republic because of the potential for civil unrest, risk of terrorism and high levels of crime.
  • Pay close attention to your security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • You should avoid demonstrations, street rallies and public gatherings as they may turn violent.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the Kyrgyz-Uzbek and Kyrgyz-Tajik border areas (in the south and south-west) and the Ferghana Valley. The security situation in these areas is particularly volatile and there are frequent incidents of violent crime, varying levels of civil unrest and reports of terrorist activity. The affected area includes the cities of Osh, Jalalabad and Batken. Landmines are also a risk in uncontrolled border areas.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in the Kyrgyz Republic. The Australian Embassy in Russia provides consular assistance to Australians in the Kyrgyz Republic.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic for the most up-to-date information.

Australian tourists do not require a visa to the Kyrgyz Republic for a short stay of up to 60 days and are no longer required to register with the Department for Visa and Registration of the Ministry of Interior.

All other categories of visitors should contact their nearest Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic for information on visa requirements.

Routine and strict border controls apply on the road between Bishkek and Almaty (Kazakhstan).

Restrictions at border crossings and airports can change at very short notice. We encourage you to have your own contingency plan for independent departure if the situation warrants. You should ensure that your documentation remains up-to-date. Valid passports and visas are essential should there be a need to depart Kyrgyz Republic.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the Kyrgyz Republic because of the potential for civil unrest, risk of terrorism and high levels of crime.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Terrorism is a risk throughout the Kyrgyz Republic. Pay close attention to your security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

The security environment is particularly volatile in the south and south-west, including in the cities of Osh, Jalalabad and Batken, where there have been clashes between security forces and militant and criminal groups. If you are considering travel to the south, you are advised to read this advice in conjunction with the travel advice for Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Civil unrest/Political tension

In April 2010, civil unrest in parts of the country caused a number of deaths and led to a change in government. You should take care in period surrounding local elections in Bishkek and Osh on 15 January 2014.

Australians could be caught up in violence directed at others. You should avoid demonstrations, street rallies and public gatherings as such events may turn violent.

Australians remaining in the Kyrgyz Republic should be particularly vigilant, monitor the media and other local sources of information about possible new safety or security risks and avoid unnecessary movement.

Border regions with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and the Ferghana Valley: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the Kyrgyz-Uzbek and Kyrgyz-Tajik border areas (in the south and south-west) and the Ferghana Valley due to the volatile and unpredictable security situation.
Following clashes, the border between the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan has been closed until further notice.

If you are considering travel to the border regions with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and the Ferghana Valley, you are advised to read this advice in conjunction with the travel advice for Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Security forces from all three countries monitor the border region. They randomly but frequently conduct operations in the border regions.

Crime

Crime, including violent crime, is high and foreigners are particularly at risk. Kidnapping, robbery, mugging and pickpocketing have occurred, including near hotels, public transport and in other crowded places, especially where expatriates are known to gather. The risk of crime increases at night.

There is potential for foreigners to get caught up in violent clashes between criminal groups.

Thieves posing as off duty police, uniformed police or unsolicited 'meet and greet' drivers at airports have robbed travellers.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work in the Kyrgyz Republic. The Kyrgyz economy is primarily cash-based and US dollars are widely used. Travellers' cheques and credit cards are accepted only in some major hotels.

Import and export of currency up to the same amount is allowed, but customs declarations must be completed on arrival and departure.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Road conditions and driving standards are poor. Roads can be particularly hazardous in winter and at night. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Access to service stations can be limited in rural areas. The road between Bishkek and Almaty (Kazakhstan) is especially treacherous due to heavy traffic loads and a dangerous mountain pass. A significant number of traffic accidents have been reported on this road. Local buses, mini-buses and taxis are often poorly maintained.

Landmines are a risk in the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border areas, as well as Kyrgyz-Tajik border areas. Landmines have also been found in the Batken Oblast near the Kyrgyz-Tajik border.

Airline safety

Airline and air charter safety and maintenance standards vary throughout the world. It is not known whether maintenance procedures and safety standards on aircraft used on internal flights are always properly observed or whether passengers are covered by airline insurance.

For further information, please refer to our air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in the Kyrgyz Republic, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

You are required to carry your passport, or a copy, at all times. Identification checks by police are common.

Possession and use of drugs is illegal and severe penalties apply, including long jail sentences and heavy fines.

There is a policy of zero tolerance for drink driving (i.e. driving with a blood alcohol level greater than zero is an offence).

Homosexuality between adults is not illegal, but is not widely accepted in Kyrgyz society. You should take care over public displays of affection. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Taking photographs of or near military and security establishments could result in problems with authorities. If in doubt, you should check with local authorities.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriages, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims.

Standards of dress and behaviour are conservative in the Kyrgyz Republic. You should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Information for dual nationals

The Kyrgyz Republic does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian/Kyrgyz dual nationals who are arrested or detained. We strongly recommend you travel on your Australian passport at all times.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities in the capital Bishkek are limited and medical equipment and pharmaceuticals are in short supply. In remote areas the standard of medical services is very basic. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with the appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation costs could be considerable.

Malaria is endemic in the southern and western parts of the country bordering Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, particularly in Batken, Osh and Zhele-Abdskaya provinces. Other insect-borne diseases occur (including tick-borne encephalitis and leishmaniasis). Travel in forested areas brings the risk of exposure to tick-borne encephalitis. Ticks are very common from spring to autumn. We recommend you take prophylaxis against malaria where necessary, take precautions against being bitten by insects and use insect repellent at all times.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including typhoid, hepatitis, meningitis, tuberculosis, brucellosis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water. Avoid ice cubes, unpasteurised dairy products, and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in the Kyrgyz Republic. You can obtain consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Russia:

Australian Embassy, Moscow

Podkolokolny Pereulok 10a/2
Moscow RUSSIA
Telephone: +7 (495) 956-6070
Facsimile: +7 (495) 956-6170
Website: www.russia.embassy.gov.au

If you are travelling to the Kyrgyz Republic, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register on-line or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural Disasters, Severe Weather and Climate

The Kyrgyz Republic is subject to earthquakes. On 27 April 2009, an earthquake measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale occurred in Osh City.

Avalanches and landslides are common in mountainous areas. On 16 April 2009, a landslide in Roykomol village in South Krygyz Republic killed 16 people.

During the winter months a number of people have been killed in snow-related accidents in recent years including motor vehicles accidents, avalanches, snow falling from roofs and prolonged exposure to extreme cold.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, you should monitor the local information sources and follow the advice of local authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.