Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Report of what it's like to live there - 06/30/22

Personal Experiences from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan 06/30/22


1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Fourth posting after tours in Europe and Latin America.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington based. No matter the routing, this is a long trip.

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3. What years did you live here?


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4. How long have you lived here?

Three years

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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Good, large housing in general. Many people live in gated communities near the U.S. Embassy. Unfortunately, close to the embassy means far from everything else.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Most things are available, although sometimes sporadically. If you see something you like, just buy all of it because it might never return. Fresh fruits and vegetable much better in the markets than the stores. Everything is fairly cheap.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Ship good toilet paper, paper towel, garbage bags, dryer sheets, odorless detergents.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Almost every decent restaurant is on the Namba app.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?


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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO/pouch at the embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Good help can be had at $25 a day, although most pay more than that. Drivers also available.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards accepted widely, ATMs generally safe using common sense.

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4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A surprising amount of English is spoken, sometimes when you least expect it, but Russian is needed.

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5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?


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1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

I would not recommend buses and martshrutkas. Use a taxi app like Bi Taxi.

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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?

Something with four wheel drive for the winters and a bit of clearance for driving in the hills. Roads aren't great, especially in neighborhoods and outside the city.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Relatively fast and cheap, but not so reliable.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Beeline is cheap.

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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?

Several jobs at the embassy but you would need fluent Russian on the local market, with the exception of teaching.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Relatively safe

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is pretty bad. Everything pretty much requires a medevac.

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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?

Terrible air in the winter. Often the worst in the world. If you have bad lungs, don't come here.

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4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Winter is pretty dark and depressing, especially given the bad air quality. Most people head up into the mountains periodically just to get fresh air.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Cold winters, hot summers.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are a few international schools. Most embassy kids go to Bishkek International School (BIS). We chose it because of that reason and really wish we had shopped around a little more. In addition to so-so academics, we found the school's director to be a problem. He is more or less a COVID denier and did everything he could, including violating school and government rules, to have in-person schooling even when the virus was at its peak. He discouraged vaccinations for students and staff, discouraged masks, covered up outbreaks in the school, and openly encouraged parents to not test their kids so they would not have to report to the government. We basically fought with the school on so many issues over the last three years, it was just exhausting.

We know of one teacher who bullied kids in his class and the school brushed it off until they finally had to fire him after he taped a student's mouth shut and to his chair. Check out QSI or other options before committing to BIS.

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2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

BIS had afterschool activities, including sports. Local coaches are available at reasonable prices. We paid about $10 per lesson with a basketball coach.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Not a huge expat community, but big enough to make friends outside the embassy.

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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?

Many spouses join the International Women's Club, although it seemed rife with drama to me.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Probably a better city for families than singles, but singles seem to do ok. Like most places, easier for men than women.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

People say the Kyrgyz are pretty friendly, and I guess that's largely correct but it is also seems like a pretty prejudiced society.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I don't think this would be a good posting for LGBT expats as the local culture is pretty hostile.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

See above. Gender-based violence is widespread and usually goes unpunished. Bride kidnappings still happen.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The mountains and waterfalls are beautiful, as is the lake Issyk Kul.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

See above. Outside the city is the Kara Bulak resort with a "nomad bath" that is pretty enjoyable.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Felt, felt, and more felt. Gold jewelry is pretty common here too.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Cost of living.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I had paid more attention to claims of bad air before I extended to a third year.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?


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3. But don't forget your:

Winter gear.

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