Kyrgyz people are generally welcoming toward foreigners and there is little to be concerned about when it comes to serious safety concerns in this Central Asian country. Many of the most obvious dangers can be avoided with a bit of common sense and a heightened awareness of the surrounding environment. It should also be noted that political and ethnic unrest within the past decade has not directly affected expats, and daily routines have always resumed within a few days.
Crime in Kyrgyzstan
Petty crimes, such as pick-pocketing, are the most common safety threat to foreigners, especially on public transportation or in crowded public areas and markets. Foreigners can also be targets for muggings, so it is important not to walk alone at night. Common-sense practices such as acting discreet (especially when speaking English), trying to blend in, and not carrying large sums of money can help expats avoid drawing unwanted attention.
Protests and unrest in Kyrgyzstan
During past episodes of political and ethnic unrest, Western expats have not been targeted or affected by violence (unless they put themselves directly in the protests) and the biggest concerns they faced were that major businesses closed for a few days. It is advisable to avoid joining protests and to lie low if a tense situation arises.
Driving safety in Kyrgyzstan
There is an organised chaos to driving in Kyrgyzstan. The default speed is fast and drivers are willing to swerve around anything in their way to get to their destination. Traffic laws are rarely enforced and it's not unusual for traffic police to try to solicit a bribe. Expats should drive defensively and be aware at all times.
The condition of the main road network throughout Kyrgyzstan is not perfect but has improved dramatically over the past few years. Outside of cities the roads become more speckled with potholes and are poorly lit, which is especially dangerous when travelling over mountain passes.
Emergency services in Kyrgyzstan
There are emergency services in Kyrgyzstan’s larger cities and resort towns, but call-centre employees and paramedics often do not speak English. Medical service is inexpensive, though Kyrgyz hospitals are best avoided due to underfunding and outdated equipment. There are private hospitals and clinics in Bishkek with better-trained staff and newer equipment, though their services cost more. For simple treatments, some Kyrgyz doctors make house calls.
Expats can dial the following in an emergency:
Expat Health Insurance
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