Kyrgyzstan - The Shepherd's Way
Getting there and away
The tour starts in Bishkek on Sunday. We appreciate that people join redspokes tours from all over the world; no matter what time you arrive at the airport on the tour start date you and your luggage will be transferred to the joining hotel. Please bear in mind that if you arrive before midday you may have to wait for your room to be made available. If you decide to arrive early or stay on after the tour, redspokes can assist you in booking your accommodation and airport transfers at additional cost. Due to high demand for rooms there is a possibility you may be in a different hotel to the start / end hotel of your trip.
Our holiday price does not include your international flight.
The tour ends 14 days later in Bishkek on Saturday. Please feel free to book your flight for any time on Saturday. If you are flying home on Saturday your transfer to the airport is included in the price with redspokes.
Passport and Visa
You must be in possession of a valid passport. Passport must be valid for at least 6 months after date of arrival or 1 month after expiration of visa. Since late 2012 Kyrgyzstan has allowed most nationalities to visit for tourist or business reasons without having to obtain a visa. Depending on nationality, no official invitation letter is now needed. Please note Visa requirements frequently change and as such we advise that you check with the relevant embassies.
Insurance and vaccinations
It is a condition of joining our trips that you must be adequately insured. All persons are expected to arrange their own insurance. Polices should cover any potential risks involved in a mountain cycling holiday. We ask for copy of your policy to be sent in with your completed booking form.
Snowcard Insurance Services specialize in all mountain sports holidays including mountain biking. Their policies include emergency medical and repatriation expenses as well as mountain rescue. They are also able to insure personal belongings including equipment as well as travel cover for cancellation, delay and missed departure. Follow the link below to obtain full information and a quote: www.snowcard.co.uk
Plan ahead for your vaccinations, some of them require more than one injection you should seek medical advice at least six weeks before travel. No vaccinations are currently required for the tour, but the following are recommended: Malaria, Tetanus-diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Hepatitis B, and MMR.
Cycle support and grading
All the time you will have the security of a back-up vehicle, either a jeep or truck. The vehicles will carry our entire luggage and you when needed. Our leaders carry a good tool kit and will help to fix any bike problems. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be equipped for all repairs, so you must ensure that your bike is in good working order before the tour. If in doubt, have it fully serviced by a bike shop before you travel.
This trip is designed for the experienced cyclist. The distances and gradient each day are not extreme, but the altitude and terrain make this a tough trip. Although you do not need to be an athlete, it pays to spend some time before the trip getting into the best shape possible. This will ensure you get the most from your holiday. We can send you specific training tips on request.
All our tour guides carry a medical kit. In addition to this we recommend that you bring the following first aid supplies: antiseptic cream, throat lozenges, a cold medication, diarrhoea treatment, pain killers, plasters, insect repellent and re-hydration salts.
Equipment and bike stuff
Mountain bikes with knobbly or semi-slick tyres are essential for the Kyrgyzstan tour. Also ensure that your bike is in good working order before you leave for the trip. If you are not the most mechanically minded we suggest that you get your bike looked at by a professional bike mechanic. In particularly we would suggest looking and adjusting all wheel spokes, greasing all your bearings, checking your brakes/gears cable, tighten all nuts and bolts, check chain, quick release clamps, tires and put in new inner tubes and check wheel rims are not worn. In addition make sure the bike is well serviced and ride it with as much care and attention as possible. If you have flat bars, fitting bar ends will give you a different hand position and help with the climbs.
We would advise the following: multi tool, tyre levers, pump, 2 spare inner tube, spare spokes of the correct length to fit your wheels - check with a bike shop, disc/brake pads, a few spare links for your chain, spares for any unique or high-tech items on your bike, e.g. fluid and bleed kit for hydraulic brakes.
Here's our recommended kit list. It's not rigid - feel free to vary it at as necessary to your specific needs:
Good quality waterproof jacket, Waterproof trousers, Warm hat (thick fleece), Sun hat, Cycle mitts, Warm gloves -- mountaineering gloves (waterproof outer, fleece inner) are good, Mid-weight fleece top, 2 pairs cycling tights (looser, "trackster" fit rather skin-tight Lycra), Shorts, Long sleeved shirt, Travel trousers, 2 wicking tee-shirts (synthetic or merino wool), Cotton tee-shirt for around town, Long sleeved thermal top, Thermal long johns, 2-3 pairs underwear, 2-3 pairs of standard socks, 1 pair warm sock, Cycling shoes, e.g. SPD's, if applicable (bring spare cleats), trekking shoes, 3-season sleeping bag, flip-flops, crocs or sandals to wear around camp.
Other suggested items are: bike helmet, dark glasses (the sun is very strong), small day sack or pannier (assuming you have a rack to attach it to) to carry clothing, camera and valuables, a couple of spare passport photos, photocopies of key documents. e.g., passport (data and visa pages), travel insurance policy, airline tickets, camera, photos of your family and postcards of your town to show the locals.
Baggage allowances and your bike
Your bike must be carried as a part of your luggage allowance and, to this end, we do ask you to make every effort to keep your total check-in baggage to an absolute minimum. The baggage allowance for most airlines for an economy-class ticket is 20kg per person; although a degree of flexibility is usually extended to groups and the check in staff may accept up to 26kg per person without imposing excess baggage charges.
Your bike (in its cardboard box) will weigh 15 to 18kg. So, that means you will have a small allowance for clothing, etc. You should carry small heavy items in your day pack / pannier which you can take onto the plane as hand luggage.
What's included and what's not included
Inclusive in your trip cost is all transportation and local guides. All accommodation will be in hotels, guest houses, yurts and camping. We choose accommodation on the basis of comfort rather than luxury. Our prices are based on sharing a twin room; single rooms are available at extra cost in Bishkek
Meals - Apart from in Bishkek and the rest day all meals are included on this tour. Some typical meals in Kyrgyzstan include Manti similar looking to large ravioli, Kuurdak, fried pieces of meat with potatoes, Lagman, mildly spicy noodle soup, Guro Lagman, a dry noodle dish with vegetables, and Plov, rice with meat and small pieces of vegetables.
International flights and insurance are not included in the tour costs along with the meals mentioned above. Soft drinks, alcohol and tips are also not included. You can expect to pay around £5 - 12 for a meal in a simple but nice restaurant in Bishkek. Entrance fees to optional sights are an additional cost. Spending money depends on your taste for souvenirs, drinks etc. We estimate that £200 will be more than enough to cover the tour.
Away from the major cities Kyrgyzstan is relatively undeveloped with a basic infrastructure. During this journey the group will spend time in remote areas without home comforts or easy access to medical facilities. Travellers should be comfortable with the realities of a wilderness adventure and be prepared for very basic conditions in the countryside.
Kyrgyzstan's climate is extremely diverse because of the mountainous terrain. Most of the country is temperate and sunny with little rainfall. Generally the lowlands average 21-24°F (-6°C to -4°C) in January and 61-75°F (16-24°C) in July, while the highland mountainous areas range from 46-54°F (8-12°C) in summer and 7°F to -4°F (-14°C to -20°C) in winter. Snowfall in winter is heavy.
There is a risk of malaria in Kyrgyzstan, mainly in the areas bordering Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, but cases have also been reported from Bishkek. Visitors are recommended to drink bottled water only. Medical care and medical supplies are limited and it may be difficult to find someone who speaks English. Comprehensive medical insurance is advised, which should include air evacuation.
Visitors are often a target for muggings and theft, mainly in the cities, but also occurring in the rural areas. It is therefore not advisable to display wealth, take unofficial taxis or public transport, or walk in unlit areas at night. While major cities such as Bishkek and the Issyk-Kul region are fairly stable, it is advised that the situation could deteriorate rapidly in any area of the country. Avalanches and mudslides in mountainous areas are common in the spring with the snow melt, and this leads to frequent road closures and disruption to transport.
Identification should be carried by travellers at all time while visiting Kyrgyzstan. Although Kyrgyzstan is a secular state, most Kyrgyz people are Muslim and visitors should respect local customs, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan. Dress is conservative. It is bad etiquette to take photos of people, particularly women, without their permission. Shoes must be removed when entering a yurt (nomad's tent), and refusing an offer of kumys (fermented horse milk) might cause offence. Homosexuality is frowned upon.
The international dialling code for Kyrgyzstan is +996. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). City codes for Bishkek and Osh are (0)312 and (0)322 respectively. Mobile coverage is limited. Emergencies: 103 (Ambulance).
The official currency is the Som (KGS), which is divided into 100 tyiyn. US dollars are the easiest foreign currency to exchange at banks and official exchange offices. ATMs are available in Bishkek, Mastercard, Visa, visa electron, plus systems are all accepted.
Further quick facts:
Currency Kyrgyz som (KGS)
Area 198,500 km2
Population 5,213,898 (July 2006 est.)
Language Kyrgyz, Russian
Religion Muslim 75%, Russian Orthodox 20%, other 5%
Electricity 220V/50Hz, European plug
Calling Code +996
Internet TLD .kg
Time Zone GMT +5