January 15, 2015

Kyrgyzstan Car Rentals: Helpful Hints to Prepare for Your Trip

Do you enjoy the freedom of driving when and where you want when you travel? Do you like being able to make spur-of-the-moment decisions about where you’d like to go and places you’d like to explore? If so, then renting a car in Kyrgyzstan is a great option for you to see the country at a pace that’s most comfortable for you. If you decide to go this route, here is some general information about Kyrgyzstan’s car rental process, traffic laws, and other useful tips that are sure to make your trip easier.  

Picture by Sergey Kalachev


Before you start your trip in Central Asia, whether you’re just visiting Kyrgyzstan or plan to travel from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan for example, you’ll need to acquire an international driver’s license. This is the easiest way to make sure you can drive legally. There is another option that the Kyrgyz government accepts, which is a locally produced notarized translation of your current driver’s license, but it’s much more of a headache to obtain. Better to just get an international driver’s license before arriving.


Picture by Daniel Korzhonov

Before you decide which vehicle to rent, make sure you’ve got a solid idea of where you’d like to travel around Kyrgyzstan. Roads around Osh, Bishkek, and Lake Issyk Kul are fairly easy to drive and don’t require you to rent a rugged vehicle in order to get around. However, if you want to check out some of the backcountry, remote villages, high passes, or hard-to-reach travel destinations, you’ll need an off-road capable vehicle is order to drive around safely.

Make sure you rent the appropriate car for the places you want to explore. Also make sure that the company you rent from insures their cars. Some general information about Kyrgyzstan you may not know is that insurance is not mandatory in Kyrgyzstan; it’s purely optional. Not every car rental company insures their cars, so make sure to ask about it beforehand. Lastly, not all car rental companies in Kyrgyzstan allow you to drive their cars into neighboring countries. If you plan to travel from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, or other neighboring Stans, there are some car rental companies that let you drive their cars there, but not all of them. As far as travelling from Kyrgyzstan to China, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone that can rent you a vehicle for that route. At that point, it’s best to assume you’ll have to make other arrangements once in China.


Picture by Vladimir Trofimov

Driving yourself around Kyrgyzstan is a lot of fun, especially for people that like to get off the beaten path. As you plan your itinerary, realize that 70% of Kyrgyzstan roads are not paved. Since you’ll most likely travel around Kyrgyzstan on lots of dirt and gravel roads, don’t plan to cover more than 400 km in a day. Make sure to load your GPS or phone with maps of Kyrgyzstan to help you get around. Signs aren’t abundant in Kyrgyzstan, so a GPS will prove to be immensely helpful. As far as planning for lodging and food during your trip, you’ll most likely be staying in guest houses and either eating some meals there or at local cafés as you travel around Kyrgyzstan. A guest house is usually a small establishment run by a local family that can have between 3 to 10 rooms. It depends on the guest house. You’ll pay per person to stay in a guest house, not by the room. Often times breakfast will be included as part of the price and if you want, you can pay extra for them to provide a home-cooked dinner.   The guest house may or may not have running water or private bathrooms. Again, each guest house is different. Larger cities can offer you hotels for more plush accommodations, but once outside the cities, guest houses are the norm.


Picture by Andrei Osianin

There are a few basic rules of the road to be aware of in Kyrgyzstan before you start driving yourself around the country. First of all, speed limits. For school zones, the speed limit is 40 km/h. For villages, towns, and cities, 60 km/hr.   For highways, 90 km/h. This knowledge is assumed in some areas and may not be posted. Secondly, roundabouts are treated differently in Kyrgyzstan than you may be used to from your home country. In Kyrgyzstan, the person entering the roundabout has the right-of-way, not the person already driving in the roundabout. Thirdly, it is illegal to make a right on red in Kyrgyzstan. You always have to wait for your light to turn green in order to pass through the intersection. Lastly, it’s always a good rule of thumb to keep your headlights on at all times when driving in Kyrgyzstan. There a special, detailed rules about which areas you are allowed to have your lights turned off, but there’s no convenient way for travelers to obtain this information on Kyrgyzstan’s traffic laws, so it’s just best to be safe and keep them on at all times.


Once you’ve chosen your route and car, book a vehicle as soon as possible. Summertime is an especially popular time for car rentals and cars often need to be reserved several months in advance, so don’t wait! Book the car that’s perfect for you and the trip you have planned and you’re guaranteed to have smooth travels.

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