Most expats living in Kyrgyzstan settle in either Bishkek, the capital, or Osh, the country’s second-largest city. Accommodation in Kyrgyzstan is widely available and varied in nature – depending on their personal and work circumstances, some expats are just as likely to call a small room in a shared family house 'home' as others are to unwind in a three-room luxury apartment in a new mid-rise building.
Types of accommodation in Kyrgyzstan
In recent years, more and more mid-rise luxury-style apartment buildings have found their way into the Bishkek skyline, making for reasonably-priced, high-standard accommodation. These can be quite expensive, but accommodation outside the capital is cheaper and falls into the category of Soviet-style apartment blocks or small houses.
Amenities such as swimming pools, gardens and private yards are uncommon in Kyrgyzstan, especially in the city centres where most expats choose to settle. Further away from the tightly packed urban spaces, expats can find houses with more personal space.
Furnished and semi-furnished apartments are the most common housing options. A semi-furnished apartment may require kitchenware, linen and small appliances. A fully-furnished house will include everything needed to live comfortably.
There are several furniture stores in larger cities, but they all sell goods imported from China (inexpensive and poor quality), Turkey (expensive) or Europe (very expensive). There are also plenty of skilled craftsmen in Kyrgyzstan available to make furniture and houseware (such as cabinets, tables, curtains) at a better price, but tracking down a skilled craftsman can be difficult, especially without the necessary language skills.
Finding accommodation in Kyrgyzstan
If an expat's employer is arranging their visa and work permit, it is likely that they will also arrange for their accommodation in Kyrgyzstan. But for those who have to do it themselves, reasonable accommodation is easy to find through word-of-mouth or reputable real estate agencies. There are several agencies in Bishkek with English-speaking agents who can narrow down available properties to suit an expat's budget and preferred neighbourhood.
One thing to note when searching for housing is that a place is advertised by the total number of rooms, not just the number of bedrooms. Therefore, what is called a studio apartment elsewhere is known as a one-room apartment in Kyrgyzstan, a one-bedroom is called a two-room apartment, etc.
Renting in Kyrgyzstan
Lease agreements in Kyrgyzstan can be simple verbal agreements or fully drafted legal documents. Be sure that it is made clear who will be responsible for paying for utilities and taxes. The term of a lease agreement is usually flexible, and most landlords will not require more than one month’s rent upfront or more than one month’s notice before moving out.
Utilities such as gas, electricity, water and internet are not typically included in rental prices and are typically an extra expense for the tenant. Some landlords do include one or several utility costs as part of the rental price, but this is not a given.
There should always be some form of security, whether it's a 24-hour security guard or a digital code to enter the building. Extra security on top of what is already available is often unnecessary.