Bishkek-Osh: An impressive 600-kilometer road trip

Gulzat Matisakova | Live the World

November 23, 2022

The two capital cities of Ky[rgyzstan]( Bishkek and Os[h ]( in the north and south of the country. Between them is a 600-kilometer long road that goes through the Tian Shan mountains, valleys, dozens of towns and villages. You can travel between these two cities either by car or by plane. Although the plane ticket is just slightly more expensive but much faster, and a taxi ride might seem extreme and dangerous for some of you, I highly recommend experiencing a Bishkek-Osh road trip by car at least once. This impressive road trip is great not only to see all the diversity of the rich Kyrgyz land but also to have a taste of interaction with locals, that will be your companions on the way. 

Photo © credits to iStock/Mathias Rhode

Starting point: Osh bazaar in Bishkek

There are no official transportation companies that handle Bishkek-Osh trips. Only private taxi drivers, who have a little bit rough way of dealing with their customers, are doing it. In order to find a taxi driver, you have to come to the Osh Bazaar (located in Bishkek) and pass through a bit stressful process of choosing the driver. There is a huge competition of drivers who travel to Osh by car every day, so each of them will try to convince you to use their service by dragging you by the hand, taking away your bags, promising to leave immediately, and not leaving you alone until you choose the taxi driver. Even though this kind of strange treatment might seem a little bit shocking, it is also a way of learning about the people of Kyrgyzstan. So, my tip would - just show them that you are not in a hurry and that you want to choose the driver carefully. Check that the driver has an LHD car and that he already has a car full of passengers. Otherwise, you might have to wait a couple of hours until the driver gets enough passengers. 

Photo © credits to iStock/Mathias Rhode

Reckless drivers and nosy passengers

The trip will cost you only 1500 soms (20 Euro). It takes from 10 to 12 hours, with a stop somewhere for lunch, to reach Osh. One thing to know is - Kyrgyz drivers might be reckless and have no regards to the traffic laws, but they know the road well, and surprisingly, I always reached my destination safe and sound. It is a long road, so passengers like to chat. It is a great way for a foreigner to get to know how local people live, what they do, what they value and what kind of struggles they have. However, be aware that Kyrgyz people might want to get really intimate and ask very personal questions. So before taking this trip, make sure that you are ready for this kind of roller coaster. 

Photo © credits to iStock/karenfoleyphotography

Fascinating views

The road is long and tiring, but the rewarding thing about it are the beautiful views that will accompany you all the way long. I recommend taking a trip very early in the morning so that you can travel during the daylight. Another interesting thing of the trip is how fast the landscapes can change from a flat valley to the rocky boulders, or how within a few hours you can reach a snowy mountain top from a sunny valley. All these changes can occur within just a few hours or less. In this trip, you will see the majestic Tian Shan mountains, stunning Suusamyr Valley, lots of picturesque villages and rivers. The end of your trip is going to be Osh city. Usually, if you already know where you need to go in Osh, you ask the driver to take you to the adsress you need within the city. Otherwise, all the taxi drivers are going to drop you at the Osh Central Bazaar.

Photo © credits to iStock/Lukas Bischoff

If you have only 24 hours in Kyrgyzstan and want to see as diverse Kyrgyzstan as possible and also get to know people, then an impressive 600-kilometer road trip Bishkek-Osh would be an express way to do it. When I had this trip for the first time at the age of 16, I was fascinated by how the north and south of Kyrgyzstan are different, and how easy it was to access beautiful nature. Many people take this trip only for practical reasons, but I recommend all of you to take it even if you don't need to go to Osh. Simply, the enriching experience is totally worth it. 

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