Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Report of what it's like to live there - 09/21/17
Personal Experiences from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Fifth overseas tour, all at high differential but pretty good family posts.
2. How long have you lived here?
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Overall good, nice apartments downtown, and even for some families. Houses spread out in south between downtown and the embassy. From downtown during rush to embassy can be 30-40 minutes, but usually less. Lots of people have a 10-minute commute.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Cheap for produce, slightly cheaper for meats, a bit hard to find a few things, but almost everything available at good grocery stores.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Not much, did not even take advantage of our 2500 pound consumables allotment.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Lots of pretty good choices, little American fast food, just Nathans and KFC.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Diplomatic pouch - 2 weeks.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
OK and not too expensive. The U.S. embassy has small but good gym.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
ATMs probably ok to use. I cash checks.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Not much, but basic Russian helps.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, quite hard, no great sidewalks.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis, cheap and reasonably safe, one company offers internet-based call up, most of the time fare is 1-3 dollars for 5-20 minute ride in town.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
I'd bring at least a small SUV or 4WD like a Subaru, there are both left- and right-hand drive cars available for purchase, but rumors that importation of right-hand drive will not be allowed in future - plus they are quite dangerous to drive. Bring left-hand drive for sure. Serious opportunity for hard core off roading if ones into that.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Some people pay $25-20 and say home internet is OK. We started at $80 a month and with that can almost always stream Netflix.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
OK vets, there is also well known dog trainer who also boards for something like $7 a day.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Only teaching or embassy jobs, not too easy to find other local positions.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Lots, but takes some effort, Russian language skills would be very useful in this regard.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Fairly formal for work.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Overall quite a safe city, people walk the parks in the dark early evening hours, little kids walk to school, its really very safe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical is not great and its quite remote for medical evacuations, etc. The U.S. embassy health unit has a medical practitioner and is well-equipped.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Great, a bit of smoke in fall, but it clears out, crystal-clear air 30 minutes from town in the mountains.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Moderate, not too hot, not too cold, beautiful springs and falls.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
QSI has really come down in overall quality, teachers for the most part are great, however the senior administration is unresponsive, with leadership unable to connect to the parent community. The school does not value parent input and acts as if they are a monopoly provider here, and is unresponsive to the customer, in my opinion.
There are however some good options, particularly for up to about age 13 - ESCA is really emerging as a great school and community. HOPE is pretty good as well, and their religious push is not excessive.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I heard ESCA put in an elevator for one or two students!
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Some, but mostly through the school, piano instructor at your home for $7 an hour, mall, games, laser tag, a marginally safe ropes course.
There are tons of hikes to do outside town, absolutely amazing and several ski resorts within an hour drive that have 10-dollar lift tickets and are excellent for learning, if one is OK with not quite as safe operation as in the U.S.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
I would say morale is quite high, particularly for people who love the outdoors, though it is also a lovely downtown for walking and going to cafes. It is our best post so far.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Lots of get-togethers, hikes, skiing, camping, going to restaurants together.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for all, especially for families with kids up to age 13 or so, best to have a love for the outdoors and pretty parks.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Work has been great with good embassy leadership and good morale despite a somewhat strained bilateral relationship.
The outdoors are amazing.
Really good families and people here.
7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Very easy city to live in, clean, parks, monuments, really a nice place, and mountains are 30-60 minute drive away, awesome nomadic culture, tourism is really taking off - adventure tourism, off the beaten path type especially.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely, it is a fantastic place to work and live.
2. Do you have any other comments?
A real gem of a post!