Actually, I do not like those posts like “x reasons why you should do xy”. But this time it really fits. There are honestly 5 good reasons why you should visit the country of Kyrgyzstan:
Spending hours in an embassy to get a visa? Not necessary for Kyrgyzstan. You just fly there and when leaving the plane you will get a stamp in your passport and pass the border control.
Okay, my passport is German, and Germans are loved and welcome everywhere. To check if it is as easy for you than for me to enter Kyrgyzstan see this Wikipedia entry or the pages of the Kyrgyzsian embassy in Geneva.
Maybe it is not like during your last package holiday where a bus picked you up at the airport and carried you to the hotel and several sights. But actually, who wants to travel like this unless older than 90 years?
Everywhere in Kyrgyzstan (or at least everywhere I was in Kyrgyzstan) there are so called marshrutkas operating. Those are shared taxis that you just wave at and they will stop for you. If there is a seat available, you can go with them. The routes are fix, but sometimes the driver might agree to bring you to a certain place.
I know what you think right now: “What doy ou mean by ‘When a seat is available’????” Once, in the East of Kyrgyzstan, in the area of mountain lake Issyk-Kul, it happened to me that I stopped a marshrutka by waving at it. I told the driver I only wanted to go to the next village. He explained he was hoping on someone who would go the whole way till the terminal stop. It would mean more money for him. So he told me I should wait for the next marshrutka. It only took about 4 minutes and the next marshrutka arrived and picked me up.
As far as I know, marshrutkas do not run following a fixed schedule. There are more of them during peak times and less marshrutkas when less people want to go with them. There are some fixed stops although there are no signs in the streets marking those stops. On the other hand, you can stop a marshrutka basically everywhere. And as I said, the routes can be flexible, too.
But this is not the only excellent infrastructure in Kyrgyzstan. When I arrived at the airport of the capital Bishkek a woman at the exit gave a free SIM card to me. I was a bit mistrustful about this and ecpected some sort of scam. But it was not – in my hotel room I put the SIM card into my phone and it worked immediately. It was a prepaid card that even had some credit on it so you could configure the services.
Unfortunately all those SMS to configure my phone were in Russian which I couldn’t understand at all. So I went to one of the many small shops in the streets where you give cash money to charge your prepaid SIM card and book the services you need. From that moment on, I always had mobile internet access wherever I went in Kyrgyzstan. I call this a great infrastructure.
Everyone know that Switzerland is stunning beautiful. But Kyrgyzstan has the same sort of landscapes, just more beautiful!!! And much bigger. Because parts of the country are located in the Tian Shan mountains which are up to 7.000 meters high (while the Swiss ones are “only” around 4.000 meters).
Sometimes you will see Kyrgyzstan being called the “Switzerland of Central Asia”). I fully understand that: there are rough mountains, wild rivers, lots of mountain lakes (among them the world’s second biggest mountain lake) – you know what, just take a look at this picture:
Of course I did not get to know all the Kyrghiz people (2 of them were on a holiday during my stay). But those I got to know were truly very nice. The Kyrghiz language is related to Turkish so I guessed I could get along with my Turkish skills. That was not the case. Turkish and Kyrghiz have less in common than I expected and people rarely speak English. Russian is very common but I do not understand this at all. So I was lost so often.
No, I was not. The very hospitable people of Kyrgyzstan then took their mobile phones and called someone who knows to speak English and discussed all the issues. Very nice.
This should not be the main reason to travel somewhere, so I put it last. But it is a nice side effect to realize that everything in the place you visit is really cheap.
A small example:
I once took a taxi (yes, a taxi) from lake Yssyk-Kul to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. That was a drive of about 250 kilometers which took around 3 hours. The price: around 50 EUR (and I hadn’t even bargained else it would have been even less). Compare this to a cab ride from the train station in Bern to my place: for this 7 minutes ride I pay around 20 EUR. Maybe these prices are a side effect that the big neighbor is Kazakhstan with its lots of natural ressources. This seems to keep gas prices low.
Another example: 4 gigabytes of mobile internet access for one week cost the prize of about 1 Euro.
Do you get now why I want you to visit Kyrgyzstan? If not leave a comment.