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The Karkara Border Crossing Between Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan
Updated April 2020, The Karkara Border Crossing Between Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan was originally written in January 2020
All I heard of the Karkara Border Crossing between Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan was that it was remote and that there was no way of doing it by public transport, on my previous trips to both Central Asian nations. In fact, I was tempted to take it on on my first trip to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, because I was already in Almaty and needed to get to Karakol… but alas, I wound up backtracking to avoid the potential headache.
Well, this year I finally made this border crossing happen and can happily report that the Karkara Border Crossing between Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan isn’t that difficult, it just takes a little more Tenge/Som and some forward planning.
Traveling in Kyrgyzstan? Check out the Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide and start planning
Karkara Border Crossing Quick Info
- The Karkara Border is not open year-round. It typically opens early to mid-May and closes in late October.
- The nearest towns on either side of the borders are Kegen, Kazakhstan, and Tep, Kyrgyzstan.
- There is no true public transport over the Karkara border.
- There are no money changing facilities at the border. Kegen and Karakol in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan respectively will have money changers.
- If you have visa-free entry to both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan the Karkara border crossing will be a breeze. However, if you’ll require a visa you’ll want to have the visa in advance. E-visas holders cannot enter either country at Karkara.
Karkara Border Crossing: Kazakhstan To Kyrgyzstan
Step 1: Book Accommodations in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan & Ask For A Taxi From The Border
The easiest way to ensure you’ll be picked up on the other side of the border is to have your accommodation on the other side arrange it.
If you will be going from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan via the Karkara Border you’ll want to make these arrangements with your hotel/hostel/yurtstay in Karakol. It’s best to try and make these arrangements a couple of days in advance. Expect quotes to come in at about 3,000-3,500 KGS for a car from the Karkara Border to Karakol.
You can opt to make no arrangements and attempt to hitch down to Karakol, but aware that traffic at the Karkara border is fairly light and you may be waiting quite a while for a car willing to take you. Shop around for Karakol accommodations here.
Step 2: Get to Kegan
Step 3: Find a car to the Border
Once to Kegen, you can easily arrange a car to take you to the border for about 2,000-3,000 KZT. You’ll typically see cars waiting along the main thoroughfare.
Step 4: Exit Kazakhstan
About 15 km beyond the village of Karkara you’ll reach the border after bumping along a dirt road. Here you will go through Kazakhstan exit formalities.
In my experience, it was quite quick. Passports were checked and stamped and we were sent through to have our bags quickly searched before motioned over to walk across to the Kyrgyz side of Karkara. Note that the Karkara Border posts are open from 8 am-6 pm daily between May and October.
Step 5: Enter Kyrgyzstan
On the Kyrgyz side of Karkara, we went through typical entry formalities, which were quite painless. Simply just having to show passports, get entry stamps and hop on our transport.
Plan the perfect trip with my two week Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan itinerary
Step 6: Find your taxi
If you’ve prearranged to have a car pick you up on the Kyrgyz side, make sure to give an approximate time of when you’ll be crossing the border and ask for a car description and plate numbers, though don’t expect there to be many, if at all, any other cars waiting.
Step 7: Arrive in Karakol
You can expect the ride from the Karkara Border to Karakol to take about three hours. Don’t be surprised if you’re waved over by locals on the road to stop to try some homemade Kumis (fermented horse milk) on the way… just don’t be a tactless jerk like one blogger on my Karkara border crossing day that decided it was cool to video themselves fake-choking up the Kumis around the corner out of the view of the rest of us to later post to their Instagram about how disgusting they thought it was… I mean, it’s an acquired taste for most foreigners, but come on.
Eat your way across Kyrgyzstan’s most delicious city: Karakol
Crossing From Kyrgystan To Kazakhstan
As I did not cross Karkara in this particular direction, I can’t speak from personal experience, but I will explain what I’ve read online about those that have done it this way and include a link to the original posting.
I’ve read of there being a marshrutka from the bazaar in Karakol to Sary Telegei, which makes a stop in the village of Karkyra, about 5.5 km before the border. From Karkyra to the Karkara Border travelers were able to get a taxi for 400 KGS and then once to the Kazakh side border had guards call to Kegen and arrange a car to pick them up and take them to Kegen for 2,000 KZT. You can read this report in full here (forum entry posted on 24 July 2019).
Everything you need to know: The Kazakhstan Travel Guide