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Living in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a country with unspoiled natural landscapes, nomadic traditions, and a rich cultural heritage. Find out what expat life in Kyrgyzstan has in store for you, from leisure options to the education and healthcare systems.

Education in Kyrgyzstan

There are only limited options for private and international education for overseas individuals living in Kyrgyzstan and most are found in the capital city, Bishkek. One popular choice is the QSI International School of Bishkek, which is a private non-profit establishment that opened in September 1994. It aims to offer international quality education from elementary to secondary level, and the language of instruction is English. The curriculum adheres to the American system, in line with the QSI.

Another option is the Silk Road International School in Bishkek. Teaching goes from kindergarten through to high school. The language of instruction is English and the school follows the British key stage curriculum. 

In general, education is compulsory in Kyrgyzstan between the ages of 7 and 15.The education sector has recently been suffering from budget cuts, which have affected teacher salaries and led to reduced resources. The attendance rate for schools was reported at just under 90% in 2001, but that figure is widely believed to have declined.

Healthcare in Kyrgyzstan

Getting international health insurance cover is absolutely crucial if you are planning on living in Kyrgyzstan. If you opt for an insurance package, then it is fundamental to make sure that it has a solid medical emergency component. Insurance providers to choose from include Cigna Global Health, Bupa, and Expat Financial. 

The emergency services in Kyrgyzstan are largely limited to the cities and bigger towns, but it is important to bear in mind that the emergency service workers generally do not speak English. Although medical service is cheap by Western standards, Kyrgyz hospitals are not of a standard comparable with Western hospitals. As a result, it is advisable to invest in a good private health insurance plan and seek care at one of the private hospitals or clinics in Bishkek if necessary. The emergency services number for medical assistance is 103 (the number for fire is 101, with police operating through 102).

Culture and Leisure in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a country rich in culture and history, making it a rewarding place for foreigners to live. Kyrgyzstan’s position at the Central Asian crossroads goes some way in explaining its rich and diverse cultural heritage. The country is also blessed with several beauty spots, which are a real draw for visitors. 

The latter include Ala Archa National Park. This is an alpine national park located within the Tian Shan mountain range. The park is just 40 km south of Bishkek. It is popular with horse treks, skiers and picnickers as well as mountaineers. Another popular spots is Issyk-Kul Lake. This is an endorheic lake which can also be found in the Tian Shan mountains, but it is in eastern Kyrgyzstan. The lake is special for two main reasons: It hosts globally significant biodiversity and is also the site of an ancient city, the origins of which can be traced back 2,500 years. Archaeological excavations continue to take place on the site.

The shopping experience in Kyrgyzstan can be pretty interesting, too. It is a good place to buy unique handicrafts, which reflect the nomadic way of life. They include traditional local felt, leather items, jewelry, rugs, pottery, and embroidered costumes. The bazaars are good places to pick up such items. The biggest of these include the Osh Bazaar and Alamedin Bazaar in Bishkek. Additionally, Chui and Manas Avenu both host a number of small craft shops and galleries.

The Kyrgyzstan’s Community Based Tourism initiative runs their own handicrafts outfit, which is located in the capital’s biggest department store, TsUM. TsUM is itself worthy of a visit, however it does differ somewhat from the average western mall, with an entire floor dedicated to pirated DVDs and CDs. Vefa Canter is closer to the Western mall concept, It is the place to go for Western designer goods and also has a cinema showing mainly Hollywood movies. However, they are typically dubbed in Russian. 

Kyrgyzstan also offers plenty of sporting opportunities for more active expatriates, particularly skiing and horse riding. The most popular resort in the country is Karakol Ski Base. It is located on the eastern side of Lake Issyk Kul and has developed into a small tourist hub with hotels, restaurants and cafes. Orlovka is another ski resort located at just a 90 minutes-drive from Manas Airport, offering slopes of varying difficulties. The country hosts a number of popular horse riding trails as well.

Francois Carpentier

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