Practical Travel Information
Covering visas, money, internet, and more.
The Jyrgalan Valley is located just one hour from Karakol and is accessible year-round for adventurous travelers. Although the village of Jyrgalan is a small community, its infrastructure is designed to support independent travelers in search of some of the finest treks, freeride skiing, and culture experiences in Kyrgyzstan.
There are no restaurants and only a few very small general stores located in Jyrgalan. Guesthouses will have you completely covered on the food front (more on that here), however, and locals offer rental services for gear you'll need for your outdoor adventures — camping essentials (except backpacks), mountain bikes, trekking gear, snowmobiles, and more. We advise that you contact us in advance to reserve your gear, in order to ensure that what you need is available prior to your arrival. We recommend that you shop for snacks, toiletries, and essentials before leaving Karakol so that you arrive in Jyrgalan with all of your personal basics covered.
Alternately, if you need a few small items, these shops carry some basics:
- Nadina's Shop; location here
- Rahat's Shop; location near bus station
- Bermet's Shop; location near bus station
Below, you'll find additional information you need to plan a seamless visit. Our information covers everything from how to secure your Kyrgyz visa to buying a SIM card that will work in our remote village. We cover health and safety, money, language, where to buy simple foodstuffs, and more. Use our transportation information page for exact information on getting to and from Jyrgalan Valley. And if there's anything that we can help with as you plan your travels here, please get in touch — the Jyrgalan community looks forward to welcoming you to our beautiful corner of the world.
Map of Shops, Guesthouses and other Places of Interest
Kyrgyzstan has one of the most liberal and inclusive visa policies in Central Asia. Citizens from more than 60 countries (many North American, European, and CIS countries) are included in a visa-waiver program which allows visa-free entry for between 30 and 90 days, depending on the nationality. A dozen other nationalities qualify for visa-on-arrival. Check your eligibility here.
Citizens from countries not included in the visa-waiver or visa-on-arrival programs can apply online through the government’s e-visa website — please note that e-visa holders must enter the country via a few specific airports and land borders (check the e-visa website for the most up-to-date list). All Kyrgyz visas are date-specific, meaning you will supply precise entry and exit dates during your application process, which will then be noted on your visa.
All foreign nationals must enter the country with a valid passport. You should thoroughly research the visa requirements for your personal situation before booking your travels in Kyrgyzstan.
You must bring enough cash to Jyrgalan to pay for your entire stay. Although many guesthouses offer online booking to reserve a room, payment for accommodation is in cash at the guesthouse. In addition, all tours, guides, and meals require cash. The Kyrgyzstani Som is the official currency in Kyrgyzstan (check the current exchange rate) and you should withdraw local currency from ATMs before leaving for Jyrgalan. You can easily find ATMs that support international bank cards in Karakol — the closest large city, and an easy transit hub in the Issyk-Kul region.
Although many members of the Jyrgalan community are learning basic English, many guesthouse owners only speak Russian and Kyrgyz fluently. You should carry a Russian-English phrasebook or install a translation app on your phone to make communication easier. You can also email Destination Jyrgalan if you need information and support in English.
None of the treks from Jyrgalan require trekking permits. If you are planning the Echkili Tash trek, however, you do need a border permit. Please leave 5 to 12 days to secure your border permit from either Karakol or Jyrgalan. If you are unsure about the trek that's best for you, or if you'd like to talk about customizing a trek that leaves from Jyrgalan, send Destination Jyrgalan an email.
Embracing nature and spending time offline is one of the most delightful aspects of visiting the Jyrgalan Valley. If you’d like to stay connected, MegaCom is the only telecom network supplying a decent mobile data signal to the area. However, you must purchase your SIM card and data plan before arriving in Jyrgalan. Buying a Kyrgyz mobile data plan in the larger cities (like Bishkek or Karakol) is easy and inexpensive. SIM cards are affordable; travelers can purchase short- and long-term data and voice plans to fit any situation. Bring your passport to a MegaCom office to buy a local SIM card and data plan, and top up your credit before you arrive in Jyrgalan.
Alternately, the Destination Jyrgalan office in Alakol-Jyrgalan Guesthouse offers free WiFi; speeds can be slow, so plan accordingly.
If you encounter health problems, there is a medical center in town (location here), and the town’s local midwife/EMT can also assess and treat minor injuries. For more serious issues, the medical center will help arrange transfer to Karakol, which has both hospitals and doctors. Because fluent English-speakers are not easily available, always carry a printed card listing any life-threatening allergies translated into Russian Cyrillic.
Jyrgalan is a safe, tight-knit community and there is little-to-no theft or crime against tourists. If you do encounter any issues, your guesthouse owner and/or guides will help you file a report at the local police station.
Before traveling, travelers (and particularly trekkers) should obtain comprehensive travel insurance that covers all overseas medical costs, including: medical evacuation, repatriation of remains, and legal costs. Check your policy for any exclusions and, in particular, make sure that your policy covers the activities you will enjoy while in the region.