The road from Bishkek to Shymkent - and driving rules
You are travelling with your own vehicle and you want to reach Shymkent (Kazakhstan) from Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan). So, you have three main roads to take:
- Through Lugovoe/Korday border
- Through Kara-Balta/Merke border
- Through Talas/Taraz border
Which border will you cross?
If your goal is to reach Shymkent fast, you have two options:
- The shortest way by Kara-Balta/Merki (464 km). The 90 km portion between Bishkek and the border passes through villages, so your speed will be limited.
- The longest way by Lugovoe/Korday (527 km). You will be fast to the border, which is at 20 km from Bishkek. Then, a trunk road will start soon after the border, and the highway 50 km later.
Eventually, the time spent to drive will be more or less similar, around 7h-7h30. The both borders can be crowed in afternoon and evening, go in morning if you can.
If you have time and you want to discover a road more spectacular, you can take the way to the Talas/Taraz border, which passes through the mountains. But you must be warned: crossing mountains for 150 km could be very tiring, with two passes over 3000m high and long laces. The first part, between Sosnovka and Suussamyr, is exhausting. Its road is damaged, turns are sharped, and there’s a dark 3-4km long tight tunnel to pass through. Furthermore, this road is payable because of this tunnel: 45 som for a local car and 5$ (+/-360 soms) for a foreigner car.
However, this road is really interesting and beautiful. Mountains are of a majestic beauty, combining green pastures and rough rocky reliefs with brown, greenish and pink colors. In summer, many yurts or caravans provide food, milk and kurts (dry cheese balls) along the road.
In case of problem with your car, phone number of tow trucks (евакуатор) are written all along the road. At the middle of the course, between the two passes, there’s a village with many garages and a gas station.
You can also take advantage of this road to go to visit the mausoleum of Manas, the famous Kyrgyz hero, located near Talas.
Reaching Shymkent with this road will take more than 9h with a distance of 538 km.
It can be closed in winter because of snow.
About Kyrgyz and Kazakh driving rules
In Kyrgyzstan, you are supposed to turn your lights on when you are out of city.
In Kazakhstan, you must keep your car’s lights on everywhere, even in city.
There’s not general information about speed limits on roads or highways, except for restrictions.
So, you have to know:
KG: City: 60 – Trunk road: 90 – Highway: 110
KZ: City: 60 – Trunk road: 80 – Highway: 110
In Kazakhstan, the highway crosses cities, and the speed is limited to 60 also in this case.
Speed controls are recurrent in speed restriction areas, so pay a serious attention to signs.
There’s rarely indications about the end of a restriction. You can have an idea of it if you look when the restriction starts on the other side of the road.
During the winter, restriction signs are planted along highways to limit the speed at 50 because of snow and ice. Some signs are not removed after the winter, causing interrogations about the real speed limit on these portions…
If you see a stop sign, wherever it is, you have to mark the stop few seconds. That seems logical, but it’s sometimes easy to don’t pay attention because of an unusual place.
Globally, there could have a stop sign before or after a border toll, before a police check point, and before a railway crossing.
Caution about gas stations
Be careful to long portions without gas stations and without information about this!
- Between Korday and Merki, around 150 km.
- Using the bypass around Taraz, 125 km between the road before the bypass and Shakpak Baba. If needed, you can find petrol if, just at the end of the bypass, you go few kilometres back to Taraz on the trunk road, to the village of Aisha Bibi.
- Between Aisha Bibi and Shakpak Baba, around 70 km.
Have a nice trip and see you in Shymkent!
Author/Pictures: Gaëlle Bal More information about Shymkent, Kazakhstan: www.shymkentsweettexas.com