I recently made the journey from Tashkent to Bishkek overland and I am writing a short guide to help others planning to make this journey. In order to help people on Google: the journey could be called Getting from Tashkent to Bishkek through Kazakhstan or Getting from Tashkent to Shymkent or Tashkent to Taraz or Chernyaevka border crossing guide.
I made the journey on September 11th, 2014 so this information is up to date as of then. It took about 13 hours door to door and can be done in a day. My total transportation cost was 12.50 USD. I used all public transport and avoided shared taxis after bad experiences with them before.
1. Spend the night in Tashkent at Gulnara Guesthouse near Chorsu Bazaar. Get some dinner at Chorsu Bazaar. Try the Sashlyk or kebabs, and get it with bread and tea. Get to bed early because you have a long day ahead of you.
2. You should have all your things packed ant ready to go at 7:00am. Gulnara guesthouse starts serving breakfast at 7:00am so make your way into the common area and get some breakfast. As soon as your done with breakfast make sure to go to the bathroom and get ready to go.
3. From Gulnara, walk down to Chorsu bazaar and get on the metro (1000 cym). You’re going to want to take the metro from Chorsu to Habib Abdulayaev. You’ll have to change trains once to get to a different line. You technically want to go to Yunusabad, but the train as of September doesn’t go all the way there. After exiting the Habib Abdulayev station, you’ll be on a main boulevard called Amir Timur. You’re going to want to walk north along Amir Timur for 1km to Yunusabad market. See this map:
You’ll cross under the street in an underpass to get to the other side when you reach the final intersection before the red circle. As you come out of the underpass, immediately to your left on the corner are marshrutkas that will take you to the border. There was a man right on that corner yelling Chernyaevka. The price was 1,500 cym. If there is no one there when you get there, just ask around for marshrutka to Chernyaevka. They come back and forth often and pick up at the red dot.
4. The driver will drop you off about 200 meters short of the border. Once there, ladies will try to sell you immigration papers which is a scam. They’re free at the border. Walk about 200 meters north to the border. If you still have some extra cym, buy food or drinks at the shops where you get dropped off. Cym is worthless once you leave Uzbekistan.
5. I got to the border at 8:50 am which apparently was good because I’ve heard there is a big crowd by 9am. The entire process to check out of Uzbekistan took me 20 minutes. Very fast and efficient. You need to fill out a new white form and give your original form with the new one to the guard. They scanned my bags on x-ray but didn’t bother to search them. Nobody asked for my hotel registration papers but I had them just in case. I’ve heard very bad things about this border, but honestly, I cleared everything flawlessly. I got asked by the guards which state I was from every single time they saw my passport. They really like America.
6. The Kazakhstan side is very straightforward and took me 10 minutes. Once leaving into Kazakhstan, there is a small doorway through a large metal gate with a guard that checks your passport once more time before you enter the country. On the other side of that gate will be a bunch of taxi drivers shouting locations and asking where you want to go. I’ve found these people aren’t trying to scam you because you’re a tourist, but just want to fill up there car and get going. I took a mashrutka instead though out of cost concerns. As soon as you walk out, walk about 10 meters straight then to your left there is a parking lot filled with mashrutkas. I asked how much to Shymkent and the drivers said there was a big white one for 500 TG and a small minivan for 600 TG with 2 people already in it. I opted for the minivan as it would be 100 TG more but leave much sooner than the big empty white van. FYI: You loose an hour once you cross into Kazakhstan so it was an hour later when I crossed the border. I also already had some tenge, but if not there are many exchanges at the border. Secure transport then ask the driver where to exchange money.
7. Two hours later we arrived in Shymkent. The driver was dropping people off wherever they requested, and I said I wanted “Samal Avtovakzal”, but then specified that I wanted to go to Taraz via marshrutke next just in case Samal wasn’t right. One of the ladies in the van said she was also going to Taraz and I could go with her. The driver dropped us off at an avtovakzal which I assumed was Samal but it didn’t have a name on it. There weren’t many vans there, but waiting was a mashrutka that said Taraz on it. It was 800 TG. I got in and waited maybe 30 minutes for it to fill and then we left for Taraz.
8. About two hours later, our mashrutka made its final stop at the Taraz avtovakzal. There were several vans there heading in different directions, but one said Bishkek on it. It was 1,200 TG. I put my bags in the back and waited another hour until we got going.
9. Two hours later we arrived at the Kazakhstan/Kyrgyzstan border or the Chaldovar border. It was about 8pm now and the sun had already set. The border was open though and my group crossed through without an issue. No lines at this time. On the Kyrgyz side I found some people from my van and waited with them another 15-20 minutes for our actual van to clear customs then got back on.
10. Another two hours later we made our final arrival into Bishkek Zapadnee Avtovakzal and from there I could take a marshrutka to my hotel. Make sure you book a hotel beforehand as you get in late at night (10pm).
In summation, the trip was incredibly easy and cost 2,600 TG and 2,500 cym or about 12.50 USD at today’s current rates. If you’re going the other way there is an overnight bus from Bishkek Zapadnee Avtovakzal all the way to the Uzbek border near Tashkent. I met someone that did this in Uzbekistan and can confirm it exists. Just go to the bus station in Bishkek earlier in the day and buy a ticket for the evening bus. With the ticket, you’ll then know where it leaves from and exactly at what time. Lonely Planet does a really bad job explaining this process so I hope this information helps!