Toktogul to Bishkek: Mashrutka Journey


The day after we had come all the way from Arslanbob to Toktogul, we decided to change our plans a little and head for Bishkek.

Mashrutka runs from Toktogul to Bishkek, and this is not a complicated story. In this post, we are going to share our experience about our mashrutka journey from Toktogul to Bishkek.

Change of plans: Toktogul to Bishkek

The reason we came to Toktogul from Arslanbob by multiple modes of transport was to break up the journey to Bishkek. We had also planned to cross the border into Taraz, Kazakhstan, via Talas, 178 km north-west of Toktogul.

However, there is no public transport to Talas in Kyrgyzstan or to the border point, and the only way to get there seems to be to charter a car. Based on the prices and distances of the shared taxis that we had so far, it is estimated that it would cost more than 2500 som to charter a car to the border. We were feeling lazy so this helped in our decision making…

On the other hand, several mashrutkas a day run to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Bishkek borders Kazakhstan across the Chui River and the border crossing does not appear to be difficult. Furthermore, although not yet decided at the time of writing this, we are thinking of flying back to the UK via Turkey and Europe afterwards. We have confirmed that there are affordable flights from Bishkek to Ankara in Turkey and the UK. Apart from going to Kazakhstan, the idea of escaping Central Asia from Bishkek is becoming more and more likely.

Anyway, given the circumstances, we decided to head north-east instead of north-west and take the Mashrutka to Bishkek.

Mashrutka stop from Toktogul to Bishkek

Mashrutka boarding station in Toktogul

The mashrutka to Bishkek has a stop along the main road in Toktogul (Avtovokzal Toktogul). Mashrutka to Bishkek runs three times a day at 10am, 11am and 3pm. The distance from Toktogul to Bishkek is approximately 270 km, which means the mashrutka takes 4-5 hours.

Boarding a mashrutka from Toktogul to Bishkek

Ticket office at the Toktogul mashrutka station

We went to the Toktogul mashrutka boarding area at around 8:15 am, as we were told by the guesthouse staff that there was a mashrutka at 9 am. There was one restaurant in the boarding area and the person there told me that it would leave at 10am, not 9am. We were told that the Mashrutka to Bishkek fills up quickly, so it is a good idea to arrange tickets as soon as possible.

Mashrutka tickets to Bishkek

There is a ticket office in the building of the mashrutka terminal in Toktogul, where tickets were purchased. The fare to Bishkek is 400 som per person. Seats are unreserved, so if you want to get a good seat, it is better to go to the boarding area early and wait.

Departure from Toktogul

The mashrutka for Bishkek

The Mashrutka to Bishkek arrived at 9.30 am. Toktogul bus station was not the starting point and many passengers were already on board. A few passengers got off at Toktogul and after we boarded, the Mashrutka left Toktogul at 9.50 am fully loaded.

Arrival in Bishkek

Toilet break

The Mashrutka travelled smoothly on paved roads through the wilderness of Kyrgyzstan. Hills rising from the snow-capped mountains, nomadic tents dotted along the foothills, flocks of sheep and people riding on horseback. Unfortunately, the weather was occasionally showery, but the views from the windows were magnificent.

We stopped for a toilet break at an area where there were small shops and restaurants in the middle of this wilderness. The fee for using the toilets is 10 som. There was no lunch break.

After entering the town of Bishkek, we continued on, dropping off passengers, and it was 3pm when we got off near the accommodation we had booked.