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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet

Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Kyrgyz Republic

Kyrgyz Republic - Consular Information Sheet
September 24, 2001

TRAVEL WARNING (Issued September 21, 2001): The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to the Kyrgyz Republic. The September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and anxiety in the Kyrgyz Republic has significantly added to concerns about the security situation for Americans residing in and visiting there.

While the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic has been helpful in ensuring the safety of U.S. citizens, the presence of indigenous militant groups, including a group designated by the Secretary of State as a foreign terrorist organization, requires that all Americans in or traveling through the Kyrgyz Republic take appropriate steps to maintain their security awareness.

As a result of these concerns, the Department has approved the authorized (voluntary) departure of non-emergency personnel and family members of U.S. Embassy personnel in the Kyrgyz Republic. All American citizens in the Kyrgyz Republic are urged to take those measures they deem appropriate to ensure their well being, including consideration of departure from the country. The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek remains available for emergency American citizen services assistance.

In July 2001, Kyrgyz armed forces engaged in a skirmish with armed individuals south of the city of Khaydyrkahan in Batken Oblast. At least two Kyrgyz soldiers were wounded. In August 2000, members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a group designated by the Secretary of State as a foreign terrorist organization, crossed the Tajik-Kyrgyz border, engaged Kyrgyz security forces, and took four American climbers hostage. Periodic fighting between Kyrgyz forces and the IMU has resulted in a number of reported Kyrgyz fatalities. In 1999, armed IMU militants from Tajikistan took four Japanese citizens hostage.

The Department of State reminds U.S. citizens that the security situation in areas of the Kyrgyz Republic to the south and west of the provincial capital of Osh, and particularly along the Kyrgyz-Tajik and the Kyrgyz-Uzbek borders remains fluid, volatile and dangerous. There exists a continuing threat of terrorist violence in the southern Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan.

Given this situation, U.S. Government personnel are prohibited from traveling to areas of the Kyrgyz Republic south and west of Osh and in rural areas along the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. Due to the presence of land mines in the Batken Oblast and along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, the U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that American citizens avoid all travel to these areas.

Americans who decide to remain in or visit the Kyrgyz Republic should exercise maximum caution and take prudent measures. This includes maintaining a strong security posture by being aware of their surroundings, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, varying times and routes and notifying the U.S. Embassy in case of any change in the local security situation as well as if there are changes in their contact information.

U.S. citizens in the Kyrgyz Republic are strongly urged to register and obtain updated security information at the American Embassy in Bishkek. The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek is located at 171 Prospect Mira, 720016 Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic. The telephone number is 996-312-551-241,fax number 996-312-551-264.

For further general information regarding travel to the Kyrgyz Republic, U.S. citizens should consult the Department of State's Consular Information Sheet for the Kyrgyz Republic, available via the Internet at http://travel.state.gov.

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Kyrgyz Republic (formerly known as Kyrgyzstan) is a newly independent nation in Central Asia undergoing profound political and economic change. Tourist facilities are not highly developed, and many of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries are not yet available.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa as well as an invitation are required. For further information regarding entry requirements, contact the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic at 1732 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007, telephone (202)338-5141, fax: (202) 338-5139, or on the Internet at http://www.kyrgystan.org. Americans are required to register their passports with the Office of Visas and Registration, of the Kyrgyz Internal Affairs Ministry, within three business days of arrival in the Kyrgyz Republic. There are fines for failure to register and fines for late registration. This requirement does not apply to official delegation members and bearers of diplomatic passports.

DUAL NATIONALITY: The Kyrgyz Republic does not recognize dual citizenship. In addition to being subject to all laws of the Kyrgyz Republic affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Kyrgyz citizens. For additional general information on dual nationality, see Dual Nationality flyer.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to rural areas along the Kyrgyz-Uzbek and Kyrgyz-Tajik borders, and all areas to the south and west of the provincial capital of Osh. Security conditions in these parts of the southern Kyrgyz Republic differ from security conditions in the north, and a threat of terrorist violence in the southern Kyrgyz Republic continues through the summer of 2001.

Military and insurgent activity created volatile and dangerous situations in the southern Kyrgyz Republic in the summers of 1999 and 2000. There are land mines in Batken Oblast and near the Kyrgyz-Tajik border. Hostage-taking incidents involving foreigners have occurred during each of the last two summers, including one in the summer of 2000 involving American citizens. All U.S. Government personnel are prohibited from traveling to areas of the Kyrgyz Republic south and west of Osh and in rural areas along the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border because of the volatile security situation in these areas.

NOTE: U.S. citizens should check the Consular Information Sheets and current Travel Warnings or Public Announcements for nearby countries, including Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan on a regular basis. The U.S. Embassy in each of those countries can provide up-to-date information about local Crime and Safety issues. Information about how to contact each embassy directly is available on the Internet at the Consular Affairs home page, http://www.travel.state.gov , or by calling the U.S. Embassy, Bishkek.

CRIME: The U.S. Embassy cautions U.S. citizens to exercise caution in urban areas of the Kyrgyz Republic due to the high rate of violent crimes against foreigners. Travelers should not take public transportation or walk after dark, and should be extremely cautious in or near hotels, bars, parks and all places that attract an expatriate clientele. The Kyrgyz Republic has a high rate of violent crime due to unemployment and an increase in the number of organized gangs. Economically motivated street crime against U.S. citizens is rising. Common crimes include auto theft, muggings, and pickpocketing in crowded places such as markets and public transportation.

Harassment and extortion by people who purport to be Kyrgyz police officers are common. According to Kyrgyz law, any person claiming to be a police officer must show identifying documents on demand. U.S. citizens should not accept requests by people, whether in civilian dress or in police uniform, if they have no official identification.

Further, Americans should exercise caution in traveling to Bishkek from the Kazakh border crossing at Georgievka on the Bishkek-Almaty road. The Embassy has received several reports of robbery of foreigners entering Kyrgyzstan by this route. Persons in plainclothes claiming to be police officers have stopped vehicles and robbed the occupants under the pretense of a search for contraband.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, which provides useful information on guarding valuables and ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su docs .

MEDICAL FACILITIES: The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek maintains a list of foreign and local physicians who have agreed to give medical assistance to Americans. Basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics, are in short supply in the Kyrzgyz Republic. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Travelers to the Kyrgyz Republic may find it prudent to consult with medical evacuation companies regarding costs and insurance rates prior to their arrival. Please see the Consular Affairs Internet home page at http://travel.state.gov for contact information for air ambulance or medical evacuation companies.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, or by autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers' hotline, at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Kyrgyz Republic is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Most of the Kyrgyz Republic's road infrastructure consists of two-lane roads, all of which are in various states of disrepair. Many local drivers tend to disobey fundamental traffic laws - such as stopping at a red light. As a result, driving can be very dangerous. Accidents involving severe injury and/or death are not uncommon.

Drivers must exercise particular caution to avoid uneven pavement, potholes and open drains and manholes. Night driving should be avoided, as roads are inadequately lit. In winter, roads are seldom plowed and ice and snow make the poor driving conditions even more hazardous. Pedestrians routinely walk in the road necessitating even greater caution for drivers.

Mountain roads in the Kyrgyz Republic are often narrow and tortuous, and may close without notice. Guardrails and barriers preventing falling rocks are often missing. The Bishkek-Osh road is currently undergoing extensive renovation along much of its length and construction-related activity can create additional hazards and delays.

The Kyrgyz Republic does not have a roadside assistance infrastructure. Towing companies do not exist. Although mechanics are available in cities there is little organized oversight or certification of their practices or abilities. Rest areas are infrequent and very primitive. Service stations are generally available in and near cities, but the fuel they provide may be adulterated or of poor quality.

Generally, speed limits are 60 km per hour in the cities and 90 km per hour in rural areas. Kyrgyz law mandates that all automobile passengers wear seat belts and that motorcycle riders wear helmets. International driving permits are recognized in the Kyrgyz Republic.

Drivers may face harassment by traffic police, who have been known to demand arbitrary "fines" for purported infractions. The Kyrgyz Republic has a "zero tolerance" policy for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Public transportation in the Kyrgyz Republic is limited to buses and taxis. Travelers should be particularly careful when using public transportation. Buses tend to be very crowded and can be unsafe and unreliable. Taxis too can be unsafe and dangerous. Due to the danger of theft or assault, travelers should avoid entering a cab that already contains passengers. Taxis are seldom metered, and travelers should negotiate a fare prior to entering a cab and be aware that cab drivers often try to charge foreigners a high fare. Drivers of vehicles that are not taxis are often willing to drive people for fares, however, U.S. citizens should avoid using all of these "private taxis" and unmarked taxis.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Kyrgyz Republic driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Kyrgyz Ministry of Transportation through the Kyrgyz Embassy in Washington, DC at 1732 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007, telephone (202)338-5141, fax: (202) 338-5139, or on the internet at http://www.kyrgystan.org.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and the Kyrgyz Republic, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Kyrgyz Republic's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Kyrgyz customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from the Kyrgyz Republic of items such as antiquities or hunting trophies. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic in Washington for specific information at 1732 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007, telephone (202)338-5141, fax: (202) 338-5139, or on the internet at http://www.kyrgystan.org.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to the country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the Kyrgyz Republic's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Kyrgyz Republic are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Hunting in the Kyrgyz Republic without proper licenses is illegal. Foreign hunters who do not have official permission to hunt or take trophies out of the country may face criminal and civil charges.

CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and citizenship are readily available. In accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and certain bilateral treaties, a consular officer from the U.S. Embassy must be given access to any U.S. citizen arrested in the Kyrgyz Republic. U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should ask for the U.S. Embassy to be contacted immediately.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The Kyrgyz Republic is a cash-only economy. The banking system is not well developed and there are no automated teller machines. One or two hotels or banks may, on occasion, accept travelers checks or credit cards but fees can be quite high for travelers checks, as much as 20 percent.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: The Kyrgyz Republic is an earthquake-prone country. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or visiting the Kyrgyz Republic are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy and obtain updated information on travel and security in the Kyrgyz Republic. The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek is located at 171 Prospect Mira, 720016 Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic. The phone number is 996-312-551-241, fax 996-312-551-264.

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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet of August 6, 2001 to incorporate the information about the current Travel Warning for the Kyrgyz Republic.



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