How to get to Karakol and around town.
Sure, Karakol can seem quite remote in the eastern part of Kyrgyzstan, not far from the borders of China and Kazakhstan. And with its stunning natural scenery of mountains, valleys, and alpine lakes, that seeming remoteness part of its charm. But the town is actually very accessible from capital city of Bishkek, and from other parts of Kyrgyzstan. Once you arrive, it's quite easy to get around.
If you need additional transportation information or want to hire private transport to get you to/from Karakol or around its surrounding region, be sure to get in touch. We work with a group of trusted drivers, most of whom speak some English, who can provide you with a comfortable ride that is timely and safe.
The most common — and cheapest — way to travel around Kyrgyzstan by public transportation is by marshrutka, which is like a minivan or a small bus that travels a standard route and picks up and drops off passengers along the way. Although marshrutkas usually have some set stops, you can also flag one down on the street in similar way as you would a taxi. Marshrutkas run on popular routes between towns and destinations, as well within towns and cities.
A shared taxi is a driver with a car (often unmarked) who is going to a specific location (e.g., city, town, village). Although you will usually find shared taxis at the bus station or main markets, there is no set departure time. A shared taxi driver will leave once his car is filled with passengers (depends on the car, but often four people). The advantage of shared taxis is that they are sometimes a bit faster than marshrutkas since they typically travel a more direct route. The downside is that you may need to wait for a while for the car to fill with passengers.
Shared taxis usually cost slightly more than marshrutkas, and if you get tired of waiting for passengers to show up you can also often offer to pay for the missing passengers so that the driver leaves immediately.
Large buses run on some of the more major routes between bigger towns and cities within Kyrgyzstan. This can be more comfortable than marshrutkas as there is more space. It is advised to buy tickets in advance for popular routes.
Marshrutkas: Karakol's public transport system uses a system of numbered marshrutkas with set routes throughout the town and also to nearby villages and other locations (e.g., Sunday Animal Market). Marshrutkas have a set cost of 10 som/person for local stops.
Local taxis: Traveling around Karakol by taxi is rather simple and easy as there is a fixed rate of 70 som (per car) for all local stops. This avoids the need to negotiate or watch the meter for fear of being cheated.
Getting from the Karakol bus station into town: Take Marshrutka #109 (10 som/person) or take a taxi (70 som/car). If you have a lot of gear, a taxi will likely be more comfortable.
There are a number of ways to get to Karakol from the capital city of Bishkek, as well as other areas of Kyrgyzstan. Some routes have enjoyable, scenic drives of the Tian Shan mountains and Lake Issyk-Kul.
The closest airport to Karakol is in Tamchy (IKU) on the northern short of Lake Issyk-Kul, not far from Cholpon Ata. But, this is only for domestic flights (from Osh) or from specific locations in Russia during the summer. Most people fly into Bishkek and then transfer by ground transport to Karakol.
|Bishkek (Western Bus Station, Shymkent 1, Bishkek)||Marshrutka||Ongoing during morning hours||5-6 hours||350 KGS|
|Shared taxi||Ongoing during morning hours, when vehicle is full||5-6 hours||500-800 KGS|
|Night bus||21:00, 22:00 and 23:00||5-6 hours||350 KGS|
|Cholpon Ata (Long Distance Bus Station, 96 Sovetskaya Street)||Marshrutkas||Almost every 30 minutes during the daytime in summer season.||2.5 - 3 hours||120 KGS|
|Shared taxis||Departures throughout the day, when vehicle is full.||2.5 hours||150 KGS|
|Bakonbaevo / South Shore of Issyk-Kul||Marshrutkas and shared taxis||Throughout the day, but ask at your guest house for regular departure times for that season.||3 hours||confirm|
|Almaty, Kyrgyzstan||Bus||In summer, there is daily bus service from Almaty to Cholpon Ata or Tamchy, switching buses at the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border. In Cholpon Ata or Tamchy you can change to a Kyrgyz marshrutka to Karakol.||confirm||confirm|
Traveling from Karakol to other destinations in Kyrgyzstan, both near and far, is quite easy. There are three main transport hubs in the town — main bus station, south bus station, and main bazaar. Use the chart below to figure out which transport hub gets you to your next destination.
|To (Location)||Bus Station||Type||When||Duration||Price|
|Bishkek||Main Bus Station||Marshrutka||Ongoing during the day||5-6 hours||350 KGS|
|Shared taxi||Ongoing during the day, whenever vehicle is full||5-6 hours||confirm|
|Night bus||21:00, 22:00 and 23:00||5-6 hours||350 KGS|
|Cholpon Ata||Main Bus Station||Marshrutkas and shared taxis||Regularly throughout the day.||2 hours||200 KGS|
|Naryn (Main Bus Station, Przhevalskiy Street 149, Karakol)||Main Bus Station||Bus (via Kochkor)||8:50 am (North Shore), 9:10 am (South Shore)||5-6 hours||450 KGS|
|Bokonbaevo, South Shore||Southern Bus Station||Marshrutkas||12:20; 14:20; 15:20; 16:30||2.5 hours||120 KGS|
|Balykchy, South Shore||Southern Bus Station||Marshrutka||7:50; 8:50; 9:50; 10:50; 11:30; 12:50; 14:50||3 hours||200 KGS|
|Tamga, South Shore||Southern Bus Station||Marshrutkas||13:00 pm; 15:00 pm||1.5 hours||80 KGS|
|Barskoon, South Shore (Southern Bus Station, corner of Toktogul and Torgoev streets)||Southern Bus Station||Marshrutkas||9:20; 12:00; 14:00; 15:00; 16:00; 17:00||1.5 hours||80 KGS|
|Jyrgalan||Big Bazaar||Marshrutka||8:30; 1:30; 17:30||1 hour||80 KGS (Private taxi = 1,300 KGS/4 people)|
|Ak Suu||Big Bazaar||Marshrutka||Every 10 minutes beginning at 7:20||20 min||25 KGS/person + 20 KGS/trekking bag|
|Jeti Oguz Village and Resort||Big Bazaar||Marshrutka (Note: If enough passengers want to go to the resort, the bus will stop there. If not, passengers can get off at the village and take a taxi to the resort.)||Every 10 minutes beginning at 7:20||20 min to Jeti Oguz village, 35-40 minutes to Jeti Oguz resort||35 KGS to Jeti Oguz village; 100 KGS to Jeti Oguz resort|