Following independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Kyrgyzstan was the first central Asian country to introduce its own currency, the Kyrgyz som, which replaced the Soviet rouble as legal tender on 10 May 1993. The Kyrgyz som, which is relatively stable and currently trades at a rate of around 1 GBP sterling = 75som, US$1 = 48som, is further divided into 100 tiyin, but these are rarely used in transactions.
Kyrgyz banknotes come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and l000 som. There are also 10 and 50 tiyin notes but these are rarely seen. There are no coins. All of the banknotes feature prominent Kyrgyz historical figures on the front and a variety of images depicting Kyrgyzstan's buildings, sights and folklore on the reverse.
Kyrgyzstan remains primarily a cash economy, although credit cards and ATM machines are slowly starting to catch up. In Bishkek there are a number of ATM machines that will issue both Kyrgyz som or US dollars using a major cards.
Credit cards can rarely be used to pay for transactions, apart from in smart Bishkek hotels and restaurants or top-notch gift shops.