Traveling in Kyrgyzstan when you’re a woman
Kyrgyzstan, with its endless mountains, its clear lakes and its nomadic culture, is a place many travelers and adventure-seekers dream about. Crossing a country where over half of the territory is above 3000m. Wandering around lakes and remains of a lost ocean. Horseback riding across the Altyn Arashan Valley. Visiting Osh, one of the oldest cities of Central Asia. Stepping in the Silk Road in the Tash Rabat Caravanserai. Watching eagles at the south of Issyk Kul Lake. Spending a night under a yurt and enjoying nomadic traditions…. Yes, Kyrgyzstan is definitely an amazing place to visit. But is it safe to travel to Kyrgyzstan when you’re a woman?
Women in Kyrgyzstan
In this little Central Asian country, there are many initiatives to reach gender equality. The Kyrgyz practice a moderate Islam and by tradition, women have a very different role than in Europe. They are required to cook, clean their home, take care of children etc. But it doesn’t mean that women are submissive. Many live independently, study and work. Kyrgyzstan is the only country of the region to have had a woman president, Rosa Otunbaeva, in 2010. If you study Kyrgyz history, you’ll learn about the beloved figure of Kurmanjan Datka, a strong woman leader who saved the Kyrgyz people from bloodbath.
There are cases of bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, but the government and the society are fighting against this. It only concerns local women in small villages. Travelers can be in danger like in any other country, especially in isolated areas. But there is no bigger risk in Kyrgyzstan for women travelers than in other countries, including European countries. On the contrary, you’ll be greeted by extremely friendly, welcoming and helpful people.
The biggest danger is in the mountains, both for women and men traveling alone. When going on a hike it’s always recommended to be in a group.
Organizing your trip
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things to pack before your trip in Kyrgyzstan:
Light and warm clothes: there can be huge differences in temperatures according to the evaluation
A wind-stopper and a fleece, raincoat
Comfortable pants for trekking and horseback riding
Thermo-pants or leggings, a hat, gloves and a scarf, in case in gets cold
Comfortable hiking shoes, they should be waterproof and adapted to high mountain treks. You might also want to take lighter shoes for the city
Sun glasses, sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun
A first aid kit with your medication
A Russian-French or Kyrgyz-French dictionary
In Kyrgyzstan, you can easily buy a prepaid SIM card to be able to call or use the Internet.
Useful information about Kyrgyzstan
Here are a few tips to help you plan your trip in Kyrgyzstan:
Documents: Kyrgyzstan has a visa-free regime for most Western countries. You can stay in the country without a visa for up to 60 days. Your passport must be valid for at least six months. If you are staying longer, you’ll have to get a visa, at the Embassy or at the airport.
Vaccination: It’s recommended to renew your vaccinations and to get vaccinated for Hepatitis A, like for any other trip. If you’re coming for a long time and in isolated places, you might want to consider getting vaccinated for typhoid, rage, hepatitis B and tick-borne encephalitis.
Climate: The best time to visit Kyrgyzstan is in summer, from June until the end of September. This is when nomads bring their yurts to summer pastures, when you can easily hike in the mountains and travel to any place in Kyrgyzstan. If you’re planning high altitude treks or summits, then you’ll have to come in July or August. The rest of the year, snow might make some places hard to access, although it’s also a great experience.
Flight: From France, there are no direct flights to Kyrgyzstan. It takes between 10 and 15 hours to reach Kyrgyzstan, depending on the time of transit.
Time difference: There is a four or five hour time difference between France and Kyrgyzstan, depending on the season.
Traveling alone in Kyrgyzstan when you’re a woman
Many testimonials show that it’s very rare for travelers, men or women, to encounter problems in Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz people are very welcoming and always ready to help foreigners. Like for any trip though, there are some safety advice to follow:
· Make sure someone knows about your travel plans and itinerary
· Don’t go near drunk people
· Don’t wear provocative clothes
· Avoid being alone in isolated areas
· Make sure you can lock the door (of your room or yurt) at nights
In conclusion, it’s perfectly fine to travel to Kyrgyzstan if you’re a woman and alone. But it’s always better to stay on the safe side and hire a guide or travel in groups, especially if you want to go on a hike. Our agency is more than happy to help you plan your trip and give you advice, so feel free to reach out!