Bishkek Winter Packing List (2015)

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.
  • Because what else could you wear with a suit?

    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…

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