Altough you might think otherwise, almost all goods of the West can be found here in Kyrgyzstan as well. But if you are here for a longer time among the locals and don’t just look for fancy shops and restaurants, it also comes in handy to know where you can buy your daily dose of water or food.
When you are walking in the streets of towns or driving on the roads of the countryside you will come across these small shops every now and then. Usually you can buy water, soft drinks, chocolate (Cola’s and Mars’ products are available across the whole country), ice cream, fruit and vegetables, beer and vodka for a relatively higher price than in supermarkets. Cigarettes are unbelievably cheap and if you’re lucky you might find some wet wipes as well!
Found in bigger cities and towns, these usually 0-24 supermarkets offer most of the things that you might need for a daily life (washing powder to Activia yoghurt or Durex) in this country. Narodnys are helpful for one more purpose as well: sometimes you may use their toilets for 5 soms.
You can mainly come across these small facilities in the countryside with the selection of fresh fruit and vegetables. Usually they are situated near markets (or as they are called here, bazars) along the main road of the town and they are very cheap. You won’t pay more then 10 soms for a kg of tomatoes.
Playing the role of cultural and trading melting pots, bazars are the place where you can see how Kyrgyzstan is still a transit country for goods between China and countries of Central Asia. You can get everything here, just as you can meet all nationalities of the region (such as Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Russians, Chinese, etc…).
There are also some famous bazars in the country. Dordoi in Bishkek being the biggest in Central Asia, Osh bazar also in Bishkek having the cheapest food or the bazar of the city of Osh being one of the oldest along the Silk Road.
These places offer you everything from clothing to electronic devices, souvenirs to meat and spices. Everything. Beware though, you have to be on your toes with how much you pay in bigger bazars. As soon as sellers recognize you being a tourist expect a much higher price. On some occassions it might happen that they ask for a 4-5 times higher amount. So help yourself with learning some numbers in Russian and Kyrgyz and gaining some confidence to push them back with a lower price. Good luck!
Unfortunately you can only find them in Bishkek, but once you are there… familiar brands –and sometimes prices- everywhere. If you worried if you can get your jar of Nutella or you need some new shirts just go these places. Just visit Bishkek Park, Zum or Tash Rabat and your needs will be met.
If you are thinking about bringing some souvenirs home from a shop specialized for that you just have walk through the main street of Bishkek, Chuy avenue. Bigger shops like Iman or Tumar Art Salon offer a wide variety to choose from, but you can always go with the cheaper option… traders on the sidewalk.