Konyaaltı Beach at Antalya, Turkiye.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Antalya, Turkiye.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Paris, France on May 1st.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Welcome to Kyrgyzstan, country #64 for us!

Wednesday was a travel day for us as we made our way across the border from Fergana, Uzbekistan to the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan.

Border crossings are always interesting, and you never know how it's going to go. This one was definitely interesting!

We had used Yandex (similar to Uber) to check the price of a private car for the 108 km (67 mile) trip. It was going to take about two hours and the cost was 225,000 SOM.

I contacted our host and asked if he knew someone who wanted to drive us for the same price. He did, and even better than that, he would do it for 200,000 SOM ($22 CAD, $16 USD). 

The driver arrived at 10:30am, and we were on our way. Not a very exciting drive. This part of Uzbekistan is all flat agricultural land. I didn't take any photos. 

Here is a map of our route...


A very busy, congested crossing. Lots of people on foot, and line ups of vehicles, with a lot of heavy truck traffic. And things didn't appear to be moving very quickly.

We followed the people on foot. There were three or four open desks to get checked out of passport control on the Uzbekistan side, with a lineup of eight or ten people at each one. But it's not very organized, and the locals like to crowd and cheat their way to the front. It's all very haphazard. 

We didn't see any other tourists. Not a very popular area for tourists, and of course we stand out like a sore thumb. All of a sudden, this border guard comes up to us and motions "follow me", so we did as we were told as he brought us right to the front of the line! 

I had read reports of this type of special treatment for foreign tourists. Doesn't really seem fair, but you never argue with border guards!

We were stamped out, and ended up in a really busy hectic no mans land in between the two countries. There was another gate where a crowd had gathered, and the guard on the other side seemed to only let a few people in at a time. So, we waited in the crowd. Eventually, a guard at the main vehicle gate caught our eye, and waved us over and opened the gate there and let us in!

Next was a line up of about a hundred people. We hadn't noticed, but it was kind of broken into women on the left, and men on the right. Eventually, a girl pointed this out to us, and I went into the men's line on the right which was far shorter than the women's line on the left. 

The lines were moving along, but very slowly. Eventually, who comes up behind me but Ruth, with another border guard who led us right to the front and said in English that we could use the entry window that the vehicles normally use. They hadn't let any vehicles in for a while, and that guy was sitting doing nothing.

He stamped us in, said "welcome to Kyrgyzstan", and we bypassed all of those people! Almost felt like celebrities! Or at least politicians!

So, there is obviously some kind of protocol on both sides of the border where they have been told to ensure that tourists get through without having to wait hours like the locals do.

We entered the final gate where the typical crowd of taxi drivers harass you. We know to bypass them and just continue walking. But on the right, Ruth pointed out several money exchange booths. So we stopped in at one. I didn't have much Uzbek SOM left, but wouldn't be needing it again. So I changed it to Kyrgyzstan SOM. Their currency is also called the SOM, but it's at a totally different exchange rate. 

Then I remembered I still had that Tajikistan money left over, and it was about $30 worth. I knew it was going to be difficult (if not impossible) to get rid of elsewhere, and I asked this guy if he would change it. He was quite happy to, but I probably lost $10 on the exchange. Oh well... better than nothing, and at least now it's gone.

I had read that the Yandex app works here as well, but before I got a chance to check it, we saw a local bus #137, and I thought I remembered reading that this bus would take us the 7 kms (4.5 miles) into the city center. So we hopped on and I pointed in the direction of the center and asked "Osh?" and the driver nodded his head. We paid the 15 KGS ($0.23 CAD, $0.17 USD) each.

We got going soon after. 

View from the front window of the bus.

First impressions, Osh is a really crowded and congested city with a lot of traffic. 

I was following our route and we were doing fine headed in the direction we wanted to go. But we turned off and then turned again, getting further away. We decided we had better get off. I guess bus #137 wasn't the right one! We still had 3 kms (1.8 miles) to get to our hostel, but now I didn't have cellular access, so couldn't get a Yandex taxi and we didn't want to deal with negotiating with a guy we could have flagged down. So we walked it.

Silk Road statues on a bridge in Osh.

Made it to our hostel at 2:15pm. Not bad, but only because of our special treatment at the border!

We have a private room with ensuite bathroom for 1,785 KGS ($20 USD, $27 CAD) per night. The place gets great reviews.


Nice and bright.

And spotlessly clean.

But we needed to get three things... a local SIM card, an ATM, and some food. We were starving!

About a 15 minute walk to the O! cellular shop where we got unlimited internet for 7 days for 245 KGS ($2.75 USD, $3.75 CAD).

Then an ATM where we got 10,000 KGS ($153 CAD, $112 USD) in local cash, but just over half of that would be necessary to pay our room bill for three nights.

Then we lucked out on a restaurant. 

The Borsok restaurant has a wide selection, decent prices, and great reviews. And, a menu available in English.

I had the cheese chicken breast. The mashed potato balls didn't impress, but they were edible.

Ruth had a kind of chicken stir fry.

Despite the fake looking potato balls, it was actually really good! And including a liter of lemonade and a 15% service charge, the bill was 995 KGS ($15.30 CAD, $11 USD) for the two of us. I can see us going back to that restaurant.

Looking like another nice day today... sunshine with a forecast high of 18C (65F).

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And in Canada...

2 comments:

  1. You guys are having a blast! What a great way to travel, from one country to another in such close proximity and time. I didn't enjoy the description of the potato dish much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We certainly are having a great time. We like being able to travel by land as much as possible through these countries but sometimes it just makes more sense to fly.

      Kevin wasn't impressed with those potato things either but he said the rest of the meal was fine.

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