Crime in Kyrgyzstan - What to avoid & staying safe

Petty crime & corrupt police can make travelling in Kyrgyzstan a challenge

In addition to its precarious political situation, Kyrgyzstan has some other risks that can make travel dangerous for foreigners. You should take caution as soon as you arrive, the petty crims are waiting to greet you.. literally!

Airport Scams

Taxi drivers waiting outside Manas International Airport are known to rip off foreign passengers, and there is speculation that airport staff tell them which passengers are tourists.

Some travellers have reported being greeted by people at airports who knew their names. You should pre-book transportation from the airport to your hotel with a reputable company or get in touch with your accommodation and ask them to organise an airport transfer.

Crime in the Capital

Downtown Bishkek can get sketchy after dark, during which violent muggings have occurred. Travelers should be very cautious at night and avoid taking public transport or walking outside. Be vigilant near bars, clubs, hotels and parks, as foreigners are often targeted for attacks in these spots. Travelers have reported being robbed by bands of young men as they walk back to their hotels from pubs or nightclubs. Drink spiking does also occur, so always keep an eye on your drink and never accept any drinks from any friendly strangers.

One British traveler was injured in a shooting at a Bishkek bar in mid 2009. Two nightclubs in Bishkek that pose particular risks for crime against travellers include the Fire and Ice Night Club and the Butterfly Nightclub. 

Serious crimes like rape, assaults, and kidnapping have involved tourists in the past. There have been reports in the past of foreign workers and tourists being held up and robbed. Thefts from uniformed police and criminal gangs are also possible.

Theft from cars and pickpocketing in open areas attracting travellers like public transport, markets and Internet cafes are also reported to occur.

One traveler recommends staying in international or more Western hotels, as he feels the staff at the Kyrgyz accommodation where he stayed might have tipped off local criminals that a foreigner was there and then provided another room key so they could break in. 

Pickpockets in Kyrgyzstan

Tourists posting on a popular travel forum repeated the warnings of pickpocketing over and over. They say locals wait at night for travellers or those who look like they are not from the area, to rob and assault. The same precautions should be taken here that you would take in urban areas anywhere in the world. Pickpockets can swiftly swoop in and swipe your stuff. Keep wallets zipped up and hidden, bags secured, backpacks at the front, you get the picture. 

Be especially wary of strangers offering help or being overly friendly, and don't let anyone follow you back to your accommodation. Be aware of your surroundings, especially when using ATM's, currency exchanges and banks. Also take caution when walking through a bazaar or market, especially the Osh Bazaar where pickpocketing is common.

Kyrgyz Police Trouble

Sadly, police officers are often criminals themselves, asking for bribes and picking on foreigners by demanding paperwork and questioning them. Osh Bazaar in Bishkek is a favourite spot of crooked cops looking to collect some tourist cash.

Most do not speak English. Some criminals also pose as police officers, further confusing the situation. The bottom line is that a police officer must, by law, show his identification.

If the officer demanding things of you does not produce the right paperwork, you should not listen to him. That means not going in a car or walking with anyone who claims to be an officer of the law but who does not produce a badge. You are required to have your passport on you to produce when asked by an actual police officer, and you can be arrested for not carrying identification. However don't hand over your passport unless you attend an official police station.

Travelers should also note that no victims’ assistance services exist anywhere in the country. It is best to get in touch with your country’s embassy if you encounter a problem.

Womens Safety in Krygyzstan

Solo female travelers should take caution when traveling through Kyrgyzstan, especially when visiting more rural areas of the country. While not common, bride kidnapping has occurred in the past. In 2007, two American women were bride kidnapped in Kyrgyzstan.

Sexual harassment rarely occurs however it is advised to dress conservatively particuarly in the rural parts.

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