I wrote a summer packing list for Kyrgyzstan this past June, but realized I haven’t yet done justice to the country’s fiercest season. As there are certainly some things you don’t want to forget, here it is:
- A Warm, Windproof/Waterproof Jacket. It’s not always cold enough to justify a Canada Goose jacket, but you will want something that keeps out the wind as well as the occasional cold winter rain as weather can be quite variable in Bishkek; something that covers your thighs is definitely going to be better.
- Mukluks, or any other very warm winter boots with grippy soles. Once it snows the sidewalks are never completely shoveled and can be very, very icy for several months. Mukluks might carry a heavier price tag – but, seriously, they’re made of moosehide. I’ve had mine for over ten years and maybe experienced cold toes twice.
- Gloves Though there are a few specialty sports shops selling ski gloves, normal good-quality winter gloves are hard to come by
- Insulated Rainboots/Mudboots For those days when it rains and then freezes and then thaws again and the streets and sidewalks are just a mess. Unless, of course, you really like the clunky black rubber “shoe covers” sold in the bazaars.
- A Kindle, unless you plan on reading books on your computer or in Russian, as the number of English books is limited to the point of almost non-existent.
- Holiday Food Ingredients Bishkek has most of the standard – nuts, dried fruits, flour, sugar, etc… but certain things are absolutely absent: vanilla extract, star anise, cranberries, pecans, non-whey protein powder, anything gluten free…
- Long Underwear and Layerable Sweaters, preferably silk long underwear and ulfulta (sp?) or smartwool on top. Because sometimes it is cold, and a lot of the stuff sold in the city is of lower quality synthetic materials.
Things You Can Buy in Bishkek:
- Waterproofing Spray for boots, at the 7 Day supermarket for about 250 som
- Really Warm Wool Socks at almost all the bazaars and the Chuy/Sovietskaya underpass for $1-2 a pair; most are from South Korea, China or Turkey and are actually quite good quality – especially considering the price.
Shapkas! (Otherwise known as the giant Russian fur hat). This year hasn’t been so cold, but sometimes it’s definitely frosty.
- Fun Felt Slippers, in case you don’t happen to have heated floors or your gas sometimes goes out; available at Osh Bazaar, Tsum, and Kyrgyz souvenir shops (Epos, Tumar, etc…)
**This is not a winter necessity list for all Kyrgyzstan. The Fergana Valley (Osh, Jalal Abad, Ozgen) is far more temperate in winter. It’s just the rest of the country that is cold…