Kyrgyzstan Driving Advice and Car Hire Info
Driving In Kyrgyzstan
You’ll need an international driving permit to drive in the Kyrgyz Republic Road standards are poor with general driving skill to match. You’re likely to encounter potholes, open drains, and uncovered manholes. Night driving should be avoided, as roads are inadequately lit. In winter, roads are rarely cleared and ice and snow make the poor driving conditions even more hazardous. Mountain roads in the Kyrgyz Republic are often narrow and treacherous, and in Winter will close without notice due to snow, ice, or rockslides. Guardrails and barriers preventing falling rocks are often missing. The road between Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Bishkek is especially unsafe at night or during poor weather. The legal blood alcohol level for driving in the Kyrgyz Republic is zero but many drivers ignore this so drinking and driving is a common problem. The police may try and extract a ‘fine’ from you. All traffic fines in Kyrgyzstan should be paid at a bank not to the police so you should resist paying if asked. Try the age old trick of not understanding until they get bored or insist they take you to the police station and write out a ticket. They’ll hopefully back down at that point.
One of the worlds classic roads runs through the region. Running through the Pamir Mountains, the M41, more commonly known as the Pamir Highway runs through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan . The road was part of ancient Silk Route and the section which passes through the 4,655-meter high Ak-Baital pass in Tajikistan is the second highest main road in the world . There is some disagreement on where the road begins with varies sources stating Mazari Sharif, Afghanistan; Termiz, Uzbekistan; Dushanbe, Tajikistan; and Khorog, Tajikistan .The highway ends in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. Assuming the road begins in Afghanistan,it passes northward through Termiz , then turns east after Denau, then crossing into Tajikistan. It then continues east through Dushanbe, to Khorog, crossing the Kafirnigan, Vakhsh, and Bartang Rivers, and running close to the Pakistan Border area. From there, it continues to Murghab, where it crosses the Murghab River and begins to head North. The highway then passes through the Ak-Baital pass and past Lake Karaqul at 3900 metres before crossing into Kyrgyzstan and on to Osh – around 420 Km from Murghab. The 700 Km stretch of road between Khorog and Osh is widely acclaimed as having some of the most stunning mountain scenery in Asia if not the World. The road is unpaved for long stretches and is also prone to lengthy periods of construction to repair landslides and weather damage. I have heard of travellers covering this stretch in a day but have also seen accounts of 60 hour journeys in bad weather.
For more information on driving part of the Silk Road through Kyrgyzstan see my Classic Roadtrips page.
Kyrgyzstan Car Rental
Despite about 10 google pages of dead ends from all the usual hundreds of brokers advertising car rental in Bishkek, without fail I ended up with the usual ‘No cars available at this location on this date…or any date as far as I could see!’. None of the big companies have an outlet in Kyrgyzstan but I have managed to find a couple of local options.
Evi offer self drive with minimum 3 days rental and limited to 250km per day.
The travel companies below may also be able to help arrange car hire-
All those above mention car rental but all seem to be with a driver. I emailed them all to ask whether I could rent a self drive car but only Silk Road Tour replied. They said it is possible to self drive but they don’t arrange this themselves. It may be that they can offer further advice if you email them on –firstname.lastname@example.org