Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek, is not a particularly handsome or tourist-driven city, but the surrounding areas are full of natural wonders. The Kyrgyz Ala-Too mountain range is visible in clear weather and makes for a spectacular mountain backdrop.
Ala-Too Square comes alive every two hours, when soldiers slowly goose-step with the changing of the guard, next to the national flagpole, together with floral and musical fountain displays.
The State Historical Museum is an architectural reminder of the country's Soviet past, while the Al-Halal gallery is a good introduction to Bishkek's vibrant art scene. A lot of young people live in Bishkek, and there is a good social scene.
Water-based fun is common in Bishkek — Zhirgal Banya (baths) have a sauna and ice-cold pool for less than 5 USD. The Karven Club has an outdoor pool, plus fitness center, which costs less than 10 USD for a day pass.
Expats living in Bishkek are advised to bring their own medication to ensure availability and quality. Insulin is one notable type of medication that is not readily available in Bishkek.
The state healthcare system is of a poor standard. Expats would be advised to take out private medical insurance and use the city's private medical facilities, although these are still well below western standards. Under-the-counter payments (bribes) are a big part of life in Bishkek, and this includes payments to healthcare professionals.
Even in the capital, staff is unlikely to speak English. The usual route for more serious conditions would be to seek emergency attention locally and then be evacuated to a country with better facilities. For this reason, health insurance should be comprehensive and cover evacuation costs, which could be very large.
For Bishkek City Ambulance, dial 103.
For Commercial Ambulance Services:
1. Dial 139, 548666 or 549999
2. Dial 151 or 439151
The U.S Embassy has a good list of medical and dental facilities: Local Hospitals and Clinics
It includes the NeoMed-A Private Diagnostic and Consultative Medical Clinic, address: 46 Orozbekova St. Tel: +996 312906090. It has an English speaking staff member. Med Expert Clinic at 219 Tynystanova St. N1 also has English speaking staff and is aimed at foreigners. Tel: +996 555949911
Bishkek has a minibus taxi system, which is very inexpensive. They can usually be flagged down and asked to drop off anywhere. A website in English showing routes can be found at BUS. The city's bus and trolleybus system is generally slower.
Licensed taxi companies include: 150 EUR Taxi, 152 Super Taxi, 156 Express Taxi and 188 Salam Taxi. Again, taxis are very cheap. Unlicensed taxis should be avoided.
Given how inexpensive taxis and public transportation are, driving in Bishkek is not a good option, as rules are largely ignored and conditions are hazardous. Also bear in mind that vehicle insurance is not commonly used.