Kyrgyz Republic

Kyrgyz Republic flag

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

At your pre-departure orientation (staging), you will be given a temporary mailing address to use during Pre-Service Training in the Kyrgyz Republic. After you are sworn in as a Volunteer, you will be able to receive packages at your site.  

Telephones

Service through the three major carriers is available in the country, and many Volunteers use internet calling services such as Facetime, WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype or Messenger to call the United States. Peace Corps Kyrgyz Republic will provide you with a basic smart phone upon arrival for use during your service. If desired, you may also bring an unlocked mobile phone that can work with a Kyrgyz SIM card, and a 220 volt charger. Peace Corps will help you connect to a service provider during your Pre-Service Training.

Internet

Access is widely available throughout the country. Peace Corps Kyrgyz Republic staff recommends bringing a laptop, tablet, or iPad to use at work and for communication. All cellphone carriers provide 3G-4G data network service, which you can use via locally available USB Internet modems to access the internet on your laptop where there is coverage.

Housing and site location

After Pre-Service Training, Peace Corps will assign you to live with a host family at your permanent site for the duration of your service. The benefits of living with a host family include full immersion into Kyrgyz life, language, and culture; community integration; and having a place to call home. Being a respected and equal member of a family not only provides strong personal and professional rewards, but it can also ensure your safety and security.

Most Volunteers live in rural villages, in a private room in a family home; a few live in a detached structure within a family compound (not available in all communities). Some homes may have European-style bathrooms, but most have outhouses with squat toilets. The Kyrgyz Republic electrical system uses 220 volts, 50 cycles. Volunteers usually share a stove and a refrigerator with the host family. Peace Corps will provide you with a water filter and other safety and health supplies and support. In most other respects, Peace Corps expects Trainees and Volunteers to live as the members of their community do.

Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for a Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before a Volunteer’s arrival to ensure placement is appropriate and safe, and that housing and worksites are secure. Site selection is based in part on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, and markets; and housing options and living arrangements.

Living allowance and money management

Costs to live with your host family will be part of your living allowance and will be discussed during your Pre-Service Training in Kyrgyzstan. Living-allowance costs are reviewed annually. Volunteers are also reimbursed for continuing language study. If you are asked by Peace Corps to travel for official, medical, or programmatic reasons, transportation and lodging will be covered by Peace Corps.

Peace Corps helps Volunteers set up bank accounts in local currency and directly deposits all the allowances. Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Kyrgyzstan with these allowances. Peace Corps believes that development and learning are most effectively achieved when people live and work together and thus, it is important that Volunteers live at the same standard as their community members.

The Kyrgyz Republic is a cash-based economy. Volunteers can withdraw local currency from ATMs in their sites or at nearby towns. Credit cards can be used in restaurants, hotels, and large stores in the capital, and are handy for travel outside Kyrgyzstan. Credit cards, as well as U.S. bank ATM/debit cards, can be used at ATMs in Bishkek and other large cities around the country to obtain local currency or U.S. dollars.

Food and diet

The traditional Kyrgyz diet relies heavily on bread, fried or boiled meat and a limited, seasonal selection of vegetables. There is a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables available during spring, summer, and fall. Winter markets will feature a much more limited selection of staples, such as potatoes, carrots, cabbage, green radishes, and apples. Most local markets have dried beans, pasta, rice, nuts and dried fruit. Cheese, eggs, and milk are available in many, but not all, markets. Tofu is available in larger towns. The cost of purchasing fruits and vegetables out of season can be very expensive.

It is possible but might be difficult for vegetarians to maintain a meatless diet. Although declining to eat meat may seem strange to your host family, they will respect your decision and accommodate your needs accordingly. With a little planning, you should be able to maintain a healthy alternative diet. Vegans will have a difficult time finding sufficient food selection outside of the capital. Those with gluten intolerance should be aware that bread has a role both in tradition and as a food staple and gluten-free products are only available at specialty shops in Bishkek.

Transportation

For your safety and security, Peace Corps restricts how, when, and where Volunteers can travel in the Kyrgyz Republic. Peace Corps provides Volunteers living in rural villages private commercial transportation (i.e. Peace Corps-hired taxi) to and from the nearest large town once a week to buy food and other essential items. Volunteers have other public transportation options for traveling out of their sites, with some limitations that staff will explain during Pre-Service Training. Peace Corps prohibits Volunteers from driving motorized vehicles of any type, including mopeds and motorcycles. Volunteers must wear a helmet when biking or riding horseback. Violation of this or other parts of the Transportation and Travel policy may result in termination of your Volunteer service.

Social activities

The Kyrgyz people are well known for their hospitality. Social life at Volunteer sites centers on a custom known as “guesting,” being invited to a home for a meal and extended conversation. You may be the only American in a community, and hence will often be the guest of honor. The local people, whether ethnic Kyrgyz, Uzbek, or Russian, take pride in being hospitable, charismatic hosts, and you will be encouraged to fully participate in the celebration which often involves great amounts of food and drink. It is socially acceptable to politely decline alcohol.

On weekends and in the evenings, people generally socialize with their families and friends. Some of the larger cities have sidewalk cafes that open in the summer. People enjoy spending time with extended family, neighbors, and friends. Socializing typically includes lots of tea drinking. Boys and girls play basketball, soccer, badminton, and ping pong. In addition to participating in these activities, Volunteers enjoy hiking and exploring local historical sites.

Professionalism, dress, and behavior 

In general, the Kyrgyz people tend to be conservative in both dress and behavior. You will be serving as a representative of the Peace Corps and will be expected to dress and behave accordingly. For men, professional dress includes collared shirts, slacks, and occasionally suit jackets and ties. For women, professional dress includes dresses or skirts (knee- or mid-calf length), modest blouses or tops, and dress pants. Both men and women should be prepared to occasionally wear suits or formal wear for presentations or other business-related events.

Volunteers need to continually strive to maintain neat and clean clothing and hair. Facial piercings (lip, nose, eyebrows, etc.) on both men and women, and earrings on men are generally unacceptable in professional settings in the Kyrgyz Republic. If you have tattoos, please be prepared to cover them, if possible. Diversity of dress and appearance may be more acceptable in the capital or larger cities, but please be mindful that you are always representing the Peace Corps wherever you are.