Crime in Kyrgyzstan: What You Need to Know

Petty crime and corrupt police can make traveling in Kyrgyzstan a challenge. Find out what types of crime to look out for with these tips from our travel safety expert.

An old lady working in the bazar making Lepioshka (bread) Photo © Photo by Irene Strong on Unsplash

Kyrgyz people are very welcoming and friendly, and this is a very family-friendly destination to explore.

Aside from a precarious political situation, there are a few other safety concerns for travelers in Kyrgyzstan. Here's everything you need to know.

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 foreign tourists.

Some travelers have reported being greeted by people outside Kyrgyzstan's international airport who knew their names. You should pre-book transfers from the airport to your accommodation with a reputable company, or get in touch with your accommodation and ask them to organize an airport transfer. This is always the safest way to get to your first location no matter where you are in the world.

Crime in the capital, Bishkek

Downtown Bishkek can get sketchy after dark, and violent muggings have occurred. Travelers should be very cautious at night and avoid taking public transport or walking outside alone in dark areas. Be vigilant near bars, clubs, hotels and parks, as foreigners can be targeted and attacked in these areas. Travelers have reported being robbed by bands of young men as they walk back to their hotels from pubs or nightclubs. Drink spiking does occur in Kyrgyzstan, 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. While this is a rare occurrence, get out of the location immediately if you sense trouble brewing.

Serious crimes including rape, assaults, robbery and kidnapping have involved tourists in the past. Thefts from uniformed police and criminal gangs are also possible.

Theft from cars and pickpocketing in open areas attracting travelers, such as public transport and markets are where you should be most careful with your belongings.

One traveler recommends staying in international-owned accommodation, as he felt the staff at the Kyrgyz accommodation where he stayed might have tipped off local criminals that a foreigner was there, and provided another room key so they could break in. Again, this is rare, however, you should always read reviews of accommodation options before booking. The more reliable, the better chance you have at finding safe accommodation. 

Pickpockets in Kyrgyzstan

Travel forums feature countless reports of pickpocketing in Kyrgyzstan. They say locals wait at night for travelers 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 ATMs, 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 favorite 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.

Women's safety in Krygyzstan

Solo women 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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