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Passport and/or Visa Requirements: A passport and visa as well as an invitation are required. For information regarding entry requirements, contact the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic at 1732 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007, tel. (202) 338- 5141. Visas from Russia and neighboring newly independent states, except Georgia and Tajikistan, allow for temporary stays in the Kyrgyz Republic for up to three days, if the traveler is in transit.
Americans are required to register their passports with the Office of Visas and Registration, Kyrgyz Internal Affairs Ministry, within three business days after arrival in the Kyrgyz Republic. There are fines for failure to register and fines for late registration. This requirement does not apply to official delegation members and bearers of diplomatic passports.
Medical Facilities: The U.S. Consular Section maintains a list of foreign and local physicians who have agreed to give medical assistance to Americans in Bishkek. There is a severe shortage of basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Travelers have found that in some cases, supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for air evacuation, has proved useful. Further information on health matters can be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline, tel. (404) 332-4559 or by visiting the CDC's internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.
Air and Train Travel: Air travel in the Kyrgyz Republic is often unreliable. Travelers must often cope with difficult schedules and difficult conditions, including deterioration of quality of service and overloading. At present, Turkish and Russian airlines provide regular international air service into Bishkek. International air travelers frequently fly to Almaty, Kazakstan and then travel by land (some three hours) to Bishkek.
Train travel in Central Asia is irregular and arduous.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: The Kyrgyz Republic's infrastructure consists of two-lane roads, which are poorly maintained and deteriorating. Some of them are unlighted. Caution should be taken to prevent collisions with vehicles at night and in the winter. Local drivers sometimes engage in high speed driving and regularly fail to stop at lights. Further information on road conditions and traffic safety can be acquired from the Kyrgyz Ministry of Transportation.
Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: The Kyrgyz Republic has a moderate, but rising rate of violent crime due to high unemployment and an increase in the number of organized gangs. Violent crimes, such as burglaries, target a growing expatriate community. Common crimes include pickpocketing in the markets and on public transportation, robbery by men in police uniforms, and theft of mirrors and radios from vehicles. Some incidents of muggings have occurred outside hotels that cater to tourists. Travelers should not walk or take public transportation alone, especially during the evening hours. Travelers should be extremely cautious in and around hotels, bars, and parks. Police assistance, in most cases, is minimal.
The government is taking steps to reduce the crime level, and has initiated walking militia patrols throughout the city. More specific information is available at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The Department of State's pamphlet "A Safe Trip Abroad" provides useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad. Additional information on the region can be found in the Department of State's brochure "Tips for Travelers to Russia and The Newly Independent States." Both are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.
Currency Regulations: The Kyrgyz Republic is a cash-only economy. Credit cards are not accepted. One or two hotels or banks may, on occasion, accept travelers checks but the fee is quite high, as much as 20 percent.
Telephone and Postal Service: There are no public telephones in the Kyrgyz Republic. International calls can be made from hotels, but they are very expensive. The local mailing system is slow, but can be used for ordinary correspondence. Express mailing services such as DHL and UPS are available in Bishkek. Prices are expensive, and shipments arrive to and from the U.S. within 3-5 business days.
Drug Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.
Registration/Embassy Location: Americans are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek and obtain updated information on travel and security within the Kyrgyz Republic. The U.S. Embassy publishes a newsletter for the international community of Bishkek which also contains useful information. The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek is located at Erkindik Prospect No. 66, tel. (7) (3312) 22-32-89, after hours phone (7) (3312) 22-32-89.
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