Kyrgyzstan is the country of rich in tourism opportunities and very friendly prices. As a tourist in Kyrgyzstan, you can travel, eat, drink and buy souvenirs for a relatively small amount of money. Whether to take cash or card is one of the most asked questions before coming to the country.
Most preferable payment method in Kyrgyzstan is cash. The official currency of Kyrgyz Republic is Kyrgyz Som (KGS). Banknotes denominations are: 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5000 KGS. Denominations of coins are: 1, 3, 5, 10 KGS.
ATMs and Card payment
Card is the secondary way of payment in Kyrgyzstan. It’s good idea to bring the card with you, but use it to dispense the cash in the beginning of the trip, or just for back-up. All ATMs dispense Kyrgyz Soms and some of them even US dollars. Visa is the better option to choose, as not each bank/ATM supports MasterCard or other types. There are ATMs and bank offices in all regional cities. On the following links you can find the list and maps of ATMs in Bishkek and other cities: Bank1 – list of ATMs, Bank2 – map of ATMs, Bank3 – map of ATMs.
Large chain stores, various restaurants, coffee shops and pubs accept cards. Smaller shops, hostels, markets, taxis do not support card payment.
It’s not difficult to exchange money in Kyrgyzstan. Exchange desks are all over Bishkek, Osh and Issyk-Kul area. Majority of which operates 24/7. It’s better to exchange the money in these cities before travelling to the regions.
US dollars and Euros are easy to exchange. It’s better to exchange the 50-dollars (euros) or higher-amount banknotes. These are accepted at all exchange desks and you get the actual rate for them. Exchange desks change banknotes of a lower nominal value for a lower rate. Other currencies can be changed in the banks, but banks are usually closed during the weekends. Exchange rates are fixed, no bargain.
Whenever you exchange the money, ask for a receipt showing the amount in both currencies and the date. Check the received money and count them at the desk in order to avoid some misunderstanding. Current approximate rates can be found at USD to KGS, EUR to KGS.