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How to get from Almaty to Bishkek by bus (Updated 2024)

If you’re backpacking in Central Asia, chances are you’ll at some point be in Almaty or Bishkek. So how about getting from one to the other? Actually, it’s quite simple!

Many people do that, both the odd backpacker and the regular Central Asian local. It’s also relatively easy with the daily direct buses connecting the two major cities.

Here I’ll tell you how to take the Almaty to Bishkek bus with all the details. I’ll also share my experience crossing the Qorday border.

Quick Info about the Almaty to Bishkek Bus

  • Price from Almaty to Bishkek: 3280 KZT (~7.5 USD);
  • Distance: 320 km;
  • Duration: 5:30 h;
  • Departs from: Sayran Bus Station;
  • Arrives at: Bishkek Western Bus Station.
  • Luggage allowed: Two pieces of luggage of no more than 120x60x40 cm per passenger for free.

Take the bus from Sayran Station in Almaty

The bus station in Almaty that serves the route to Bishkek is called SAYRAN International Bus Station and this is the link to check the timetables, routes, prices, and to buy tickets online.

The name of the station in Cyrillic is “Автовокзал Сайран” (Avtovokzal Sayran) in Russian or Сайран Автобекеті in Kazakh.

Sayran Bus Station
Sayran Bus Station

To get to the bus station from anywhere in Almaty city, take one of those buses: 7, 16, 19, 37, 48, 59, 63, 65, 126, 201, or 206. Just check the route on the application 2GIS which is the Central Asian equivalent of Google Maps (it even gives directions offline!).

Sayran Station is not that big. It’s hard to get lost. Once inside the main lobby look for the window that sells international tickets, mainly the one for Bishkek.

The bus from Almaty to Bishkek runs 5 times a day at 08:00, 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 18:00.

The ticket costs 3280 KZT / 7.50 USD. A few years ago it wasn’t possible to buy the tickets online but now it is!

How to buy tickets online

The web portal for booking tickets online is relatively new and is only in Russian or Kazakh. It can be automatically translated into English but some of the functionality breaks. It’s still very easy to book tickets online even if you can’t read Cyrillic.

Step 1: Go to the Schedule page for Almaty to Bishkek buses

Step 2: Pick date, time, and desired seat

Step 3: On the next screen, enter your contact details (“Укажите ваши контакты”) and passenger details (“Укажите данные пассажира”) and then click “Go to Payment” (“Перейти к оплате”).

Booking screen for the tickets from Almaty to Bishkek bus

Step 4: Pick an option to pay. Google Pay is probably the most convenient option if you don’t have a Kazakh Card or a Kaspi account (money in Kazakhstan is dominated by Kaspi).

Step 5: Keep the e-ticket confirmation safe.

If any of those steps fail you, just go to the station directly – the chance of all seats selling out on the bus is slim to none. Buy tickets directly at the station and board the next available one.

Qorday Border Crossing

After a short 10-minute toilet break and maybe some samsas (mmm, tasty, hot oil drizzling samsas!) and around 5:30 hours on the bus, you will be at the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border point at Qorday.

You probably don’t need a visa for Kyrgyzstan, unless you’re from one of the less fortunate countries. Almost every country is eligible for an eVisa if not exempt. You can check online here.

Anyway, just take your luggage and follow the crowd. When I was there it wasn’t too crowded, but I’ve heard that it can get quite mad at times.

Also, Central Asian people do not believe in queueing. They will cut in front. Stand your ground!

Almaty to Bishkek, Qorday Border between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
No man’s land just before Kyrgyzstan’s checkpoint.

The border check was pretty straightforward for me. I’m translating from Russian:

I: Privyet, here’s my passport.
Border Officer: …Where’s your visa?
I: I don’t need a visa.
B.O. [checks] Yes, that’s true. Welcome to Kyrgyzstan.

Apparently, even the border officers are not used to easy visa-free travel for most yet, so old habits kick in. Anyway, once you pass Kyrgyz Immigration, you’re met with this street sign of the first village in Kyrgyzstan:

Just after Qorday Border Crossing at Leninskoye
Communism is alive!

How to get from Qorday border to Bishkek

Once on the other side, it’s time to get back on the bus to continue the journey. However, the bus takes a lot longer than the passengers to go through customs, so you might have to wait a while.

If you don’t want to wait, then don’t. Bishkek is only 20 km from the border and frequent marshrutkas run between the border and the center of Bishkek every 15 or so minutes.

I waited 30 minutes for the bus before giving up and hopping on the next marshrutka bound for Bishkek.

If you don’t have Kyrgyz Som, there are change bureaus near the border that happily accept USD, EUR, KZT, GBP, and some other currencies too. Just don’t exchange much as the rate is much better in the city. Read all about money in Kyrgyzstan as a tourist.

The Almaty to Bishkek bus eventually reaches the Western Bus Station in Bishkek, which is 4 km from the center, so you’ll have to take a marshrutka to the city center anyway.

If you decide to take a marshrutka from the border, it should cost 20-30 KGS /0.2-0.3 EUR. It stops directly in front of TSUM – the big mall in the heart of Bishkek.

In Bishkek

Once in Bishkek, check 2GIS to see which marshrutka to take to your hostel. Chances are it’s close to the center and walking distance away from where the previous marshrutka leaves you.

If you took the bus all the way to the Western Bus Station you need to take bus 224 or 129 to get to TSUM. A taxi through YandexGo costs around 230 KGS / 2.4 EUR.

National Museum Bishkek
Bishkek

If you’re traveling onwards to Osh, I suggest you read my smart guide on how to get from Bishkek to Osh.

If you’re spending more time in Kyrgyzstan, you should check out the tourism hotspot that is Karakol. Here’s how to travel from Bishkek to Karakol.

16 Comments

  1. You can buy a ticket online in advance if you can read Russian :).

    Source: I just did it.

    1. The article is now updated with some guidance on how to book tickets online.

      Yes, the website is in Russian or Kazakh (both in Cyrillic) but auto-translate works (although it breaks functionality, you have to go back and forth between languages).

      It’s quite convenient now that you can book online 🙂

      -S.

  2. Thanks for the informative blog!

    One question: any idea how much luggages you can take with you on the marshutkas? I plan to travel to Bishkek (from Almaty) with three luggages.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi there,

      For the bus from Almaty to Bishkek, you can bring as much as you like within reason. It’s a bus with a luggage compartment, so it’s not pressed for space.

      If you decide to take a local marshrutka from the border to Bishkek, then keep in mind they do get quite packed but won’t reject you unless you’re carrying a whole caravan worth of luggage.

      -S.

  3. I am travelling from Almity to Bishkek on 8th May Do I have to change the bus for entering Bishkek center.

    1. No. The bus will go to the Western Bus Station in Bishkek.

      However, you will very likely pass immigration much sooner than the bus. Hence, you will have to wait for it an indeterminate amount of time. You can instead take a marshrutka for like 15-20 KZS so you don’t have to wait for the bus.

  4. Thanks Simon, your article help a lot. Pls.advice about telecomunication, should we buy a local SIM card? Where? Is there any shop in the border selling this?coz the roaming of my provider only cover Kazakh and Uzbekh. Thank you

    1. I bought a local Kyrgyz sim card from the big TSUM mall in the center of Bishkek.

  5. Catherine says:

    Hi do you have any idea how much shared taxi from saryan bus station to bishkek border?im traveling at 8pm

    1. Around 5000 KZT per person, assuming a full car.

  6. Hi. Is it possible to buy bus tickets one day earlier?

    1. Maybe, but I don’t know. I bought mine when I arrived at Sayran in the morning and it was just fine.

  7. Hi Simon. I am wondering to go to Bishkek from Almaty at night (10pm). Is there mashrutka in both side at that time?

    1. No idea, I’m sorry. Ask the locals in Almaty, they should know.

  8. Hi Thanks for your info you share here.. i will be travelling with 4 of my kids. What the best time did you prefer to leave Sairan Bus Station to Bishkek.?

    1. It’s up to you. The earlier, the better.
      Bus times are in the article.

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