Accommodation in Kyrgyzstan
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; expats are just as likely to call a small room in a shared family house "home" (common for English teachers) as they are to unwind in a three-room luxury apartment in a new mid-rise building.
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 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 neighborhood.
In recent years, more and more mid-rise luxury style apartment buildings have found their way into the Bishkek skyline, making for available reasonably priced, high-standard accommodation. These can be quite expensive, but accommodation outside of the capital is cheaper and falls into the category of Soviet-style apartment blocks or small houses.
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.
Outstanding 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 and then some. Kyrgyz-style interior design usually subscribes to loud patterns, sparkly wallpaper, and the more gold, the better.
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 housewares (like cabinets, tables, curtains) at a better price, but tracking down a quality worker can be difficult, especially without the necessary language skills.
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 all 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.
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 usually unnecessary, although it is never a bad idea to have the landlord change all the locks before a new tenant arrives.