Friday, November 2, 2012

Crossing the border from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan


My big fear about crossing the border from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan came last Sunday.
I wanted to leave Kazakhstan as soon as I could, but for some personal reasons I had to take the 3pm mini van to Bishkek. Under my calculation, I should be at the border at 8pm. Still I will have time if the mini van had a breakdown or something.
This is the minivan we travel to Bishkek
16 seats minivan cost me 1300tг ( 6,6€ or 8,5$). The trip is like 3 hours from Almaty to Korday, the town in the border (including 10 minutes toilet break in the middle), 40 minutes to cross the border and another half an hour from the border to Bishkek.

When I entered the minivan, I was offered to seat in the front! I thought it was a great opportunity to enjoy the landscape, poor me, I was squeezed between the bus driver and his gear lever and another gentleman who didn’t bother to blow his nose….arghh….I can’t move and I want to escape!
Here I was traveling totally squeezed!

When we arrived to Korday the gentleman left, so I had both front seats for me. It was dark and foggy and I had a horrible feeling.
We approached the border and the bus driver says something. I see everyone taking his baggage and leaving. I remain like: what to do now?
I was lucky that a Kyrgyz gentleman who spoke perfect English translated for me that "this was the end of Kazakhstan, we have to take our baggage, go through customs and immigration and the bus will be waiting for us at the other end of the Kyrgyz border".

Glup.

I stick behind this Kyrgyz gentleman as hemorrhoids.

He was a Kyrgyz citizen so no problem with the immigration officer. But when they saw my shiny Spanish passport and my little girl face traveling alone…the officer smiled: Madrid or Barcelona? (I am pretty surprised; everyone here seems to know at least those two Spanish cities). I answered that any, I come from Almeria, Andalusia, on the south coast. He could barely speak English, though he was very young.

Stamps? You need two stamps.

Glup

When I landed into Almaty airport, another very nice lady(*insert irony here*) told me to fill it out an immigration card and put 2 stamps on it and 1 over my Kazakh visa. I insisted to please put me another into the visa, just in case. But she did not understand or pretended she didn’t. At least I did not have to register with immigration services. It was 4am so I couldn’t blame her.

Where is your Kyrgyz visa?

“From 28 July 2012 Spanish Citizens, among another European Passport holders do not need any visa to stay in Kyrgyzstan less than 60 days”

I said so quick and it was so long sentence in English that he collapses. My Kyrgyz angel translator came to assist me. The workmate sharing the cabinet with this young Kazakh officer said something to him in Kazakh or Russian like to confirm my arguments.
He seems so shock about the new immigration policy of the neighbour country(I guess he didn’t have any idea or I muss be the first person doing this) that forgot about the 2nd stamps and let me go! Yes!! All the process took me around 15 minutes while the guy scanned my documents and check who-knows-what.

Ok, now let’s face the Kyrgyz border. As non CIS citizen, they had a special place for me, not a cabinet but an office with 2 officers inside (it reminds me to the London Underground control room). I knock, prepared for the worse:

“Come Madame”

Ploff.One stamp.

Do I need to register? Immigration card?

No visa madame, if less 60 days. Register don’t know. Check Bishkek tomorrow.

That’s it. 2 seconds. One stamp. Easy peasy. I am free to move and stay in this country for 60 days. I am amazed how some countries make your life so complicated with stupid rules for 5 days and another is just TOO easy.

My Kyrgyz translator decided to take a private taxi until Bishkek. I decided to wait for the bus together with a nice Kyrgyz girl from Osh that also speaks English. She will became my angel no2 of the night when arrived to Bishkek, called to Sakura Guesthouse, arranged some special exchange rate with the bus driver (1300tг =300som) and share a taxi with me to the guesthouse.

A 3rd angel, this time from Turkey, translated me in the hostel, explained the girls that I couldn’t pay the room until tomorrow morning as I only have 220soms and the dorm costs 350 but I will pay in the morning and also took me for the most delicious showarma kebab for only 80som(1,3€ -1,7$).

Welcome to Kyrgyzstan, Noelfy!

He also showed me how useful the Turkish language is, as Turkic languages (Tajik, Uzbek, Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Turmek) are all related with old Turkish as he comes from a village inside the country, it was very similar.

I went to Immigration office in Bishkek the following day. When the lady saw my Spanish Passport and entry stamps, big smile.

“Spanish no visa no registration for 60 days!” yes!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi just wanted to say that I like your article very much. Please keep up the good posts Thanks a ton! and Have a good day

Anonymous said...

hi neolia this is your third angel from turkey we met in sakura sorry i was out in the morning.all the best for rest of your trip.yasarsalur@hotmail.co.uk

Laurie Molloy said...

Hi, this is a great blog thanks! Just wondering if your kyrgyz stamp required a blank page in your passport? Any help would be appreciated.

Noelfy said...

Hi Laurie!
They did use my last page of the passport for the stamp, but I think it was randomly and they could just had stamped anywhere else without much complication. The guys in the border with Korday where quite cool!
i hope it helps! When are you planning to go?

Laurie Molloy said...

That's great, thanks for the quick response.

Hopefully my passport will be OK, I've only got 3 blank pages left and was planning on going to Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, then back into Kyrgyzstan to fly home, so I think it's slightly dodgy! I'm going in August, so quite far off but I get very excited planning!

Happy New Year, keep up the great blog :)

Noelfy said...

Wow! A passport with only 3 blank pages??? Where had you been??? :)

I think you will need to use 2 for the Kazakh and Uzbek visa...Kyrgyz stamp is pretty small, regular size.

I know some countries like Brazil that requires a several number of blank pages to enter the country (at least as a seaman)but haven't heard anything about Central Asian countries.

Check with the guys of caravanistan.com, they have a pretty awesome guide about visas that I wish I would know before my trip.

If you haven't book your ticket, Ukraine Airlines offered very good deals to Almaty from London (there are several reviews in my blog)

Enjoy Almaty and Kyrgyzstan, they are really unique places. And let me know about Uzbekistan ;)

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