my cost of living in Kyrgyzstan

Farrell and I came to Kyrgyzstan with a nice bit of savings, which we sadly watched dwindle away while getting the business started. With some (very big) changes coming up in my life in Bishkek, I figured I would take a closer look at where my money really goes while living here. Plus, one of the most common questions I get emails about is how much it costs to live in Bishkek. It can be cheap, it can be expensive, and one-times costs can come and go depending on the exact situation. For example, I have unfortunately not been able to find an equal replacement for my 199 som hairdryer and might have to shell out at least 800 for a new one. Shoes and clothes can be expensive, as can appliances (preventing me from spending 1000s of som on a rice cooker for now). Plus, in my coffee snobbery, I get 2 kilos of Sierra Coffee delivered to the office every 1 1/2 months. (I’ll save a more elaborate post on my love of Sierra for a different day.) Transportation costs can vary; now that it’s cold, my laziness is willing to pay 100 som for a cab rather than 8 som for a marshrutka (shared van). In the spring and summer, I’m more likely to pay for the marshrutka or just walk. Food is generally quite cheap, and rent is more affordable than most major cities.

So here’s how many January expenses broke down:

Monthly rent: $650 ($300 for the office, $150 for another office, $200 for the apartment. I would not say this is typical, we’re getting a fantastic deal for now.)
Monthly internet: ~1000 som (we pay half of the office internet)
Food, restaurant visits, toiletries, household goods, etc.: 7992 som
Russian class: 220 som an hour, 3 hours per week = 2640 som per month
Cleaning lady: 300 som per visit, one visit per week = 1200 som per month
Transportation: 492 som (taxis and marshrutkas)
Medicine: 532 som
Etc: 20 som to visit the library twice
Utilities: 2283 som
= excluding rent, I spent about 16159 som in January, or $345.27 (at 46.8 som per $1)

Not bad! I will admit that it’s not as cheap as I thought it would be to live here, but I think that’s also a side effect of running a business; there are always costs popping up that I never considered. Also, January was a pretty slow month in terms of doing things that cost money; I didn’t travel, I didn’t go to many restaurants, and Farrell was in the states for half the month so my grocery bill was lower as well.

It is also important to note that the cost of living in Kyrgyzstan varies by town (Osh probably has some interesting variances; some things will be much cheaper, but certain amenities like internet could be more expensive.) and the cost of traveling in Kyrgyzstan will be much different. (But that’s a different post for a different day.)

This was an interesting exercise for me; it was a bit unnerving to watch my stack of grocery receipts grow higher and higher and realize that I stop to buy something at the store almost every day. I think, “Oh my god, how did I end up spending 600 som today?!” before realizing, “Wait, that’s only $13, cheaper than my morning commute to work in DC.”

What do you think, how do my monthly costs in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan compare to where you live?

3 replies on “my cost of living in Kyrgyzstan”

  1. That’s my girl! You should always know where your money goes… I keep very close track weekly and set budgets and pay cash for a lot of items. When I go to the bank I ask for 3 fives, 4 tens, 3 twenties, etc. – because then I divide it – $75 per week for groceries / household items. $15 each for spending money, $10 into the haircut envelope (includes eyebrow waxing, pedicures, etc.), $15 for “entertainment” (that’s outside the house – we also have cable and NetFlix) – but we go weeks without any outside entertainment. Our gas/electric is set up on a budget billing of $136 per month. We use our credit card for gasoline, liquor, clothes and internet orders – then pay it off at the end of the month. Then there is “savings” – I put money in weekly and keep it as a ledger for bills that don’t come every month – so much for car insurance, house insurance and taxes, general savings, medical savings, vacation savings, big ticket items like tires or a new TV, and of course retirement savings. (Goal setting is HUGE!) Doug hates to talk about money but I force him into it (he hates that there is a finite amount of it) – and each year in January I give him our “state of the union” update where I break down all our assets and debts and show him where we were a year ago and where we are today.

  2. Living in Bishkek can be very expensive, i think clothes and shoes are cheaper in the US than there, yeah crazy as it sounds, people there don’t make much money but a lot of them like to have nice cars and places to live and the standards of looking good are also high; if you rent a flat not in downtown area it will be cheaper, also food in the market expensive as well.

  3. You had me at $6 a week for a cleaning lady….LOL.

    I was sitting here watching your episode on HGTV and I had to find out what a Media Analyst was. As a blogger I had a feeling there was a blog involved somewhere. Pretty interesting blog I will be keeping an eye for updates!

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