My backpacking trip to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan is one of my favorite trips in 2019. And this is not because it was cheap to visit these places but because they hold the most gorgeous sights and places ever.
But the best part was that there aren't a lot of tourists around here so, we could enjoy these places in their full glory.
We traveled here for 2 months and we spent just 70,000 INR for the entire trip! Yes, that's right. This included our visa, flights, and all the sightseeing, food, and accommodations as well.
So, if you are planning a trip to these countries soon, here is how you can make it happen in a budget.
How to Reach Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
So, there are several ways to enter Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan via land or air. But, for Indians, the best and easiest way to enter either of these countries is via flights.
What we did is that we took a flight to Almaty (Kazakhstan) and then crossed the border to reach Kyrgyzstan by road. From Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), I took the flight back to India. And Bishkek is basically 5 hours from Almaty so crossing the border is not a big hassle as well.
The flights from Delhi to Almaty and then Bishkek to Delhi cost me around 28,000 INR. I had booked the flights just 1 month before the trip as it was an impromptu plan. If you plan ahead and book the flights before, you might get it for as low as 20k - 25k INR.
From Almaty to Bishkek, you can take a mashtruka from Sayran Bus Station which will cost 2000 KZT (400 INR). They will drop you at the border where you will need to go through the customs in order to enter Kyrgyzstan.
How to Get Visa
Now, Indians need visa for both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (Europeans don't). So, you will need to apply for the visa before booking the flight tickets.
Kyrgyzstan's visa process is straightforward as you have to apply for the E-visa from their official website. Their is an online application form that you need to fill and upload your passport sized photograph and a scanned copy of your passport.
And then make the payment in USD which came around 3000 INR. It took around a week for the e-visa confirmation which I had to print to show at the Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan border.
For Kazakhstan, I needed a LOI which can cost around 3000 - 4000 INR. The cost of the Kazakhstan Visa for Single Entry was 60 USD i.e., 4200 INR and we had to apply through the embassy. It took around 5 working days for the visa to be approved and we had to pick it up from the embassy.
How to Travel Locally in Both the Countries
One of the best things about Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan is that they have good bus network in the cities. So, we could easily take buses to reach our desired destination.
The cost of a bus ticket in Kazakhstan for any stop in Almaty is 150 KZT (30 INR). And the cost of a bus/mashtruka ticket for city traveling in Kyrgyzstan is 10-12 INR.
Apart from the buses and mashtrukas, we used Yandex taxi app as well because it was quite cheap on numerous occasions. We also hitchhiked a little and used shared taxis for out-of-city traveling.
But if you are on a budget then mashtrukas and minibuses are the best way to travel in these countries.
Food Cost and Options in Central Asia
Food is actually quite cheap in Kazakhstan as you spend only 30 - 100 INR for a delicious street food like Shawarma, Samsa, etc.
A decent meal also costs just around 150-200 INR while a middle-range meal will set you back by 400 INR.
In terms of food, Kyrgyzstan is slightly expensive as you get the cheapest street food options at 50 INR. But if you aren't having anything fancy then you can still manage a good meal in just 150-200 INR at most of the places.
We also cooked our own food at lot of the places so, we ended up saving a lot in this department.
Accommodation Options in Central Asia
One of my favorite things about Central Asia is that the hostels are pretty cheap here. And apart from hostels, you also have an option to stay in yurts, Airbnbs, or use couchsurfing.
Couchsurfing is not as popular here though and very few people wanted to host Indian travelers. However, we could easily manage a hostel stay in just 150-300 INR per night which was pretty decent.
Apart from that, we camped a lot as we went on a lot of hikes and natural places so we saved money there as well. They don't charge you anything for camping so if you have your own tent and sleeping bag, you are pretty much good to go.
Also, a yurt stay usually cost us around 800-1000 INR which included the meals as well. It was truly an amazing experience as well and is something I would definitely recommend you to try once.
Total Traveling Cost for the Two Countries
So, here is a breakdown of my costs in Central Asia:
Flights - 28k INR
Visa - 10k INR
Food - 10k INR
Stay - 10k INR
Traveling - 12k INR
We had to watch out and not take private taxis in order to cut down on our costs. But apart from that, it was quite easy to manage our entire 2-month trip in the planned budget.
If you are also traveling to any of these countries soon, then make sure you list down the places you wish to visit and research carefully. You can end up saving a lot of money by researching beforehand and planning your itinerary in an economical manner.
Sadly, we had to revisit a couple of places in Kyrgyzstan because they would either be frozen or raining. This definitely resulted in more money being spent here which could easily have been avoided.
So, make sure you plan properly and check the weather before deciding to visit any city or village. Hope you are able to enjoy the beauty of Central Asia the way we were able to!
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