|Most popular in||December||High demand for flights, 27% potential price rise|
|Cheapest in||October||Best time to find cheap flights, 22% potential price drop|
|Average price||R12 684||Price for this month|
|Cheapest price||R11 951||From Johannesburg to Bishkek|
Bishkek has a seasonal climate and enjoys warm summers and cold winters. Being a city of parks and tree-lined streets, it is especially beautiful in both spring, between March and May, and autumn (September to November). Visitors arriving at the beginning of spring can join in the celebrations of No’oruz, a 3,000 year old Zoroastrian tradition marking the start of the Persian New Year. Kyrgyzstan is a largely Muslim country, and Ramadan is widely observed. Dates change annually, so check before you travel, as it may affect your plans. Orozo Ait, the festival of Eid marking the end of Ramadan, is a marvellous spectacle where thousands of people get together to pray and exchange gifts.
A city of marble-clad public buildings, wide boulevards, and Soviet-style apartment complexes, Bishkek is both the capital and the largest city in the often overlooked country of Kyrgyzstan. Beginning as a small clay fortress, and originally designed as a way of controlling, and getting tribute from, caravan routes along the Silk Road, it was destroyed in 1860 by the Russians, who eight years later would rebuild a fortress and name it Pishkek. In 1925, it was renamed Frunze in honour of the Bolshevik military leader Mikhail Frunze, one of the city’s most famous sons and there is a statue in his honour by the railway station. In 1991, following independence, the city was renamed Bishkek. Visitors to Bishkek today find a city that still feels much like the Eastern Europe of the mid-1980s. It’s not an old city, and what it lacks in ancient monuments, it makes up for with its own special charm. The leafy parks and wide avenues, with the Tian Shan mountain range as a backdrop make for spectacular views, and the visitors and ex-pat residents alike enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, low costs of living, open-minded spirit and party culture that the city offers. For shopping, there are numerous bazaars across Bishkek, with the Osh being the largest. It’s also worth seeing the State Historical Museum, with its enormous statue of Lenin outside.
Bishkek, like many ex-Soviet states, has a large network of ‘Marshrutkas’. These mini-buses which link right across the city are the cheapest, fastest and the most fun option. The bus system is slower, less frequent and less reliable. Taxis are easy enough to find, and during the daytime a flat-rate can often be agreed on. Car rental is possible, but it is not for the faint-hearted as drivers can be aggressive and road laws seem to be treated more like guidelines than rules.
Travellers arriving in Manas International Airport (FRU) will find that the quickest and easiest way to get into Bishkek is by taxi. Do a little research on prices before you go, and be sure to go with an official cab, from the airport taxi stand. There is also a minibus, which will take you to the city centre – Chui Avenue. It runs roughly every 20 minutes.