Bishkek Warnings and Dangers
A trip to the capital city of Kyrgyzstan might not be the typical vacation getaway you’re used to, but don’t let that stop you! Bishkek is a hidden gem in the tourist world, filled with beautiful parks, mountains and an incredibly varied cuisine just waiting to be explored. As you plan your Bishkek adventure, keep these tips in mind to stay safe.
Be wary of local police officers while in Bishkek as they aren’t always there to simply protect. While no one wants to believe cops can be dirty, it’s simply an unfortunate reality you have to accept when traveling here. In fact, police officers will actually look for tourists to target, stopping them to “search for drugs” or inspect your money. They can be rather aggressive about this, and some may even ask you for bribes.
It’s an odd feeling, knowing that you’re more likely to be harassed by police officers than petty street criminals. But there are things you can do to keep yourself from becoming a target and/or getting away from officers who just want to bother you. For starters, previous visitors of the capital city recommend not carrying your passport with you. Instead, carry a photocopy and leave your passport in the hotel safe. The police will often ask to inspect it and use it as an excuse to keep you there longer. Leaving it at the hotel gets you out of their clutches faster.
The most important thing to do, however, is to be confident. Don’t let the police trick you into believing you’ve done something wrong — you probably haven’t. And never under any circumstance allow them to inspect your money. This is an illegal practice and will only make it easier for you to part ways with it. If push comes to shove and the police won’t leave you alone, get out your phone and tell them you’re calling your embassy. The threat of getting the embassy involved is usually enough to get them to back off. Keep your head down and try to avoid them if you can, and if you can’t, these tips should help you!
If you can book one of the international hotels in the city, do it. You can’t always trust the staff at local hotels to keep you safe during your travels. One traveler shared a terrifying story of being robbed while staying at a local upmarket hotel. Two young Russians broke into the room, demanded money, then tied up the guest while they ransacked the room. When the guest reported the crime to the police later, they said with the ease at which the criminals entered the room, there was a good chance they used a hotel key. Officers (some of them are good!) suggested that the hotel staff tipped off the gangsters that foreigners were staying in that room and slipped them a key to do their dirty work.
Editor’s note: The information contained on this page was compiled using real traveler reviews about areas to avoid in Bishkek.