Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008

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Homestay Bed and Breakfast
Homestay Bed and Breakfast

Summer visitors to the shores of Lake Issyk Kul, the pearl of the Tien Shan, have a wide choice of available accommodation to choose between … sanatoria, resorts, hotels and pensionats … but, even so, at the height of the season it can sometimes be difficult to find a place to stay if you haven’t booked well in advance.  It is not surprising, therefore, to learn that – as is the case in tourist destinations all over the world, many local residents let out rooms and take in guests.

This happens not only in Issyk Kul, but is feature throughout the country where a growing number of guesthouses and hotels have opened, in both cities and rural areas.  Some of them are in more “off the beaten track” locations and this has meant that more of the country has been opened up for visitors.  In particular, more families throughout the country are offering “Homestay” accommodation – Bed and Breakfast – staying with a family. 

The difference between a Guesthouse and a Homestay is usually one of scale.  A guesthouse is like a small hotel with several rooms which are let to visitors with perhaps special facilities such as a dining room. A homestay, on the other hand, usually has only one or two rooms available for guests, and meals will be served in the same room as the family normally uses.

A Homestay, (staying with a family in their home), can help to make the visitor feel more like a guest … and offers the chance for interaction with local people.  They are not all the same – Kyrgyzstan is home to over 80 different nationalities and the architecture, the facilities, the decoration and the food - all can be different depending on the location and nationality of the host family.  One feature that is common, however, is the hospitality on offer.   

Many of the families offering Bed and Breakfast in a Homestay are members of one of the Community Based Tourism (CBT) groups which operate as part of the KCBTA network (Kyrgyz Community Based Tourism Association “Hospitality Kyrgyzstan”,  The Association unites about twenty local CBT groups and five “Shepherd’s Life” groups offering accommodation and other services for tourists.

The Association and local groups have been supported by a Swiss project operated by the agency Helvetas – and has organized training, published a handbook for those planning to offer accommodation to guests, has a standardized system of classification and quality control and operates a National Office which handles marketing and can make reservations.  Most of the local groups also run offices with information on each of the participating homestays and the facilities they offer.

Many of the host families can offer additional services for the individual traveler, such as offering souvenirs, organizing horses for riding, interpreters (mainly German and English), and concerts of traditional music and demonstrations of traditional crafts.  Homestays which participate in the CBT network also have a small “Information Corner” which has information about the local neighbourhood and facilities. 

Not all Homestays in Kyrgyzstan are members of a CBT group.  To participate in the scheme the homestay is inspected annually and awarded a sign to display to show that they belong to a local CBT group.  Each participating homestay is then awarded a grade, based on the level of comfort and facilities available: the Edelweiss.  The three levels, (indicated by one, two or three Edelweiss - three is the highest) define the different price levels charged for accommodation.     

Some of Kyrgyzstan’s more exotic providers of Bed and Breakfast are local shepherds in a high mountain pasture – a jailoo.  Accommodation is in a yurt - a round felt tent, (also known as a "boz ui") – the largest of which can accommodate up to ten people.  Here it is possible to experience the centuries-old nomadic way of life - taste national dishes, see how goats, cows, horses are milked, drink a cup of koumiss, (fermented mare’s milk), taste national dishes, home made bread and, in some places, fresh fish from a nearby lake. 

Discovery Kyrgyzstan #9


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