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Transport in Kyrgyzstan

Pursuing its traditional crossroads role, Kyrgyzstan has good road links with all its neighbours and offers a gateway to the rest of Central Asia, Russia and beyond. Roads go to China (allowing onward travel within China or along the Karakorum Highway to Pakistan), Uzbekistan, Kazakstan (and an alternative crossing to China) and Tajikistan.

Transport in Kyrgyzstan is severely constrained by the country's alpine topography. Roads have to snake up steep valleys, cross passes of 3,000 m altitude and more, and are subject to frequent mud slides and snow avalanches. Winter travel is close to impossible in many of the more remote and high-altitude regions. Additional problems are because many roads and railway lines built during the Soviet period are today intersected by international boundaries, requiring time-consuming border formalities to cross where they are not completely closed. The horse is still a much used transport option, especially in rural and inaccessible areas, as it does not depend on imported fuel.

Railways - The Kyrgyz Railway is currently responsible for railway development and maintenance in the country. The Chuy Valley in the north and the Fergana Valley in the south were end points of the Soviet Union's rail system in Central Asia. Following the emergence of independent post-Soviet states, the rail lines which were built without regard for administrative boundaries have been cut by borders, and traffic is therefore severely curtailed. The small bits of rail lines within Kyrgyzstan, about 370 km of 1,520 mm broad gauge in total, have little economic value in the absence of the former bulk traffic over long distances to and from such centers as Tashkent, Almaty and the cities of Russia.

There are vague plans about extending rail lines from Balykchy in the north and/or from Osh in the south into the People's Republic of China, but the cost of construction would be enormous.

Rail links with adjacent countries:

Kazakhstan - yes - Bishkek branch - same gauge

Uzbekistan - yes - Osh branch - same gauge

Tajikistan - no - same gauge

China - no - Break of gauge 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 5/6 in)/1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1/2 in)

Highways - With support from the Asian Development Bank, a major road linking the north and southwest from Bishkek to Osh has recently been completed. This considerably eases communication between the two major population centers of the country—the Chuy Valley in the north and the Fergana Valley in the South. An offshoot of this road branches off across a 3,500 meter pass into the Talas Valley in the northwest. Plans are now being formulated to build a major road from Osh into the People's Republic of China.

The total length of the road network in Kyrgyzstan is approximately 34,000 km. Of them, 18,810 km are public roads directly subordinated to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, and 15,190 km - other roads (village, agricultural, industrial,etc.). By their status the roads of the Ministry of Transport and Communications are classified as:

international roads: 4,163 km, state roads: 5,678 km, local roads: 8,969 km

By nature of surface there can be distinguished:

hard-surfaced roads: 7,228 km (including 11 km of cement concrete roads, 4,969 km - bituminous concrete surface, 2,248 km - road-mix pavement), gravel roads: 9,961 km, earth roads: 1,621 km

Frequent bus and, more commonly, minibus, service connects country's major cities. Minibuses provide public transit in cities and between cities to neighboring villages.

Waterways - Water transport exists only on Issyk Kul Lake, and has drastically shrunk since the end of the Soviet Union.

Ports and waterways - Kyrgyzstan’s only port is Balykchy, a fishing town on Issyk Kul Lake. None of Kyrgyzstan’s rivers is navigable, and the country has no canals.

Airports - At the end of the Soviet period there were about 50 airports and airstrips in Kyrgyzstan, many of them built primarily to serve military purposes in this border region so close to China. Only a few of them remain in service today.

There are four airports with international flights, namely in Bishkek, Osh, Tamchy and Karakol.

Manas International Airport near Bishkek is the main international terminal, with flights to Moscow, Tashkent, Dushanbe, Istanbul, Baku and London.

Osh Airport is the main air terminal in the south, with daily connections to Bishkek and beyond.

Jalal-Abad Airport is linked to Bishkek by daily flights operated by the national flag carrier, Kyrgyzstan Air Company, on BAe-146.

Issyk-Kul International Airport is linked to Almaty in summers by flights operated by SCAT on Yakovlev YAK-42.

Karakol International Airport is linked to Almaty in winters by flights operated by SCAT on Antonov AN-24.

Other airports, aerodromes and landing strips are located in Kazarman, Kerben, Toktogul, Kanysh-Kiya, Ala-Buka, Sakaldy in Nooken District, Batken, Isfana, Kyzyl-Kiya, Naryn, Talas, Pokrovka, Cholpon-Ata, Tamga, Tokmok, Aravan and many other places.

Other facilities built during the Soviet era are either closed down, used only occasionally or restricted to military use (e.g., Kant airbase, now a Russian air base near Bishkek).