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Kyrgyzstan sits in Central Asia, one of the world’s final great travel frontiers. People who plan to visit the country have visions of difficult transport, visa hassle, language barriers and all the things that typically come with intrepid travel.

CBT (Community Based Tourism) is a company who works very hard at building a sustainable bridge between foreign visitors and local culture, and they have done a fantastic job. In few countries can you peer into the local way of life with such clarity. CBT’s authentic home stays, yurt stays and village to village treks ensure that travellers experience the wonder that is Kyrgyzstan without the barriers that often separate us from the indigenous communities.

CBT Office In Karakol
CBT Office In Karakol

There are 16 CBT offices around Kyrgyzstan that can offer anything from horse treks and home stays to cultural shows and horse games. If you’re travelling in Kyrgyzstan, you’ll likely find a CBT office in almost every town you visit. CBT is the most popular community based project in Kyrgyzstan but they are not the only one and debatably, they are not the best.

Shepard's Life Office In Kochkor
Shepherd’s Life Office In Kochkor

Shepherd’s Life is another company who can arrange many of the same treks, home stays and folk shows as CBT. Although the Lonely Planet speaks higher of CBT, in our experience, Shepherd’s Life gives travellers better options and a better breakdown of costs. They also offer their tours, treks and home stays at a much lower cost with slightly better service.

Don’t ignore Shepherd’s Life, especially if you are in Kochkor, where Ainura can set you up with everything you need. Ainura is one of the most honest, and forthcoming tour operators we’ve ever had the pleasure of doing business with. Even returning our money, without question, when we found our own ride out of Song-Kol, instead of taking our pre-paid taxi.

Organizing Treks Is Easy With Shepard's Life
Organizing Treks Is Easy With Shepherd’s Life

The best way to travel around Kyrgyzstan is to look for offices of these two community based projects and plan trips through them. You can horse trek for less than $50/person/day including guide, food and accommodation and you can trek on foot for far less. You can stay with local families, taste local dishes and get a real feel for Kyrgyzstan culture, without ever breaking your budget.

Try Delicious Home-cooked Food Through CBT & Shepard's Life Homestays
Try Delicious Home-cooked Food Through CBT & Shepherd’s Life Homestays

The best part of these projects is that they are both community driven and they do wonders for the local economies. 85% of all money spent goes directly to the drivers, guides, and homeowners you hire. CBT in Arslanbob alone, brought nearly 1,000,000 som ($20,490) to the locals they employ, as well as sufficient funding for the village Mosque’s renovations.

Ascott, A Guide Who Is Happily Employed By CBT & Shepard's Life
Ascott, A Guide Who Is Happily Employed By CBT & Shepherd’s Life

We are not usually people who enjoy taking tours, but CBT and Shepherd’s Life don’t organize tours, they organize an authentic looking-glass that allows travellers to see the Kyrgyz people for who they are and experience their life for what it is. You can choose to have a guide for yourself, or join a larger group. We always ensure our guides speak English, and we take our own guide unless we already know the people we are doing the trip with. Having your own guide gives you valuable insight into the local way of life and often a much-needed translator.

A Local Family In Arslanbob
A Local Family In Arslanbob

These community based projects are just getting started and each year they expand to new destinations and offer backpackers new activities. You can do everything from hunting to horseback riding and trekking to white water rafting. We don’t like to be insistent and say: “You Must…”, but in this case, if you miss out on CBT and Shepherd’s Life, then you will be missing out on a big piece of Kyrgyzstan.

Yurts At Song-Kol
Yurts At Song-Kol

Below Is A List Of All The CBT Locations In Kyrgyzstan:

Arslanbob:

phone:  ++996 773 342476 (mobile)

e-mail:  [email protected]

Alay:

280 Kurmanjan Datka St. (2nd floor, hotel “Alay”), Osh Oblast, Kyrgyzstan

phone: ++996 3222 20276, ++ 996 555 077621

e-mail:  [email protected]

CBT Bokonbaevo:

Bokonbaevo Village, Yssyk-Kol Oblast, Kyrgyzstan

phone: ++996 777 970767 (mobile)

e-mail:  [email protected]

Jalalabat:

#3, 20 Toktogula St., Jalalabat town, Jalalabat Oblast, Kyrgyzstan

phone: ++ 996 3722 21962 , ++ 996 772 376602 (mobile)

e-mail:  [email protected]

Kazarman:

36, Bekten St., Kazarman Village, Jalalabat Oblast, Kyrgyzstan

phone: ++ 996 3738 41253, ++ 996 777 224063 (mobile)

e-mail:  [email protected]

Mrs. Bujamal Arykmoldoeva, coordinator

Karakol:

#20, 123 Abdrakhmanova St., Karakol town, Yssyk-Kol Oblast, Kyrgyzstan

phone: ++ 996 3922 55000, ++ 996 555 150795 (mobile)

e-mail:  [email protected]

Kara-suu:

phone:  ++ 996 770 16 91 64 (mobile)

e-mail:  [email protected] [email protected]

Kochkor:

22A Pionerskaya St., Kochkor Village, Naryn Oblast, Kyrgyzstan

phone: ++ 996 3535 51114 , ++ 996 777 265559 (mobile)

e-mail:  [email protected]

Kyzyl-Oi:

Kyzyl-Oi Village, Chui Oblast, Kyrgyzstan

phone: +996 312 46 47 85, + 996 555 41 78 47 (mobile)

e-mail:  [email protected]

Kyzyl-Tuu:

Coordinator: Ms.Nurgyl

tel:+996 779 788954

e-mail: [email protected]

Naryn:

#8, 33 Lenin St., Naryn town, Naryn Oblast, Kyrgyzstan

phone: ++ 996 3522 50865, ++996 779 56 76 85

fax: ++ 996 3522 50865

e-mail:  [email protected] 

Osh:

Osh city, Osh oblast, Kyrgyzstan

phone: ++ 996 772 574940 (mobile)

e-mail:  [email protected]

Chon-Kemin:

9, Bapakova St., Karool-Dobo village, Kemin Region, Chuy Oblast, Kyrgyzstanphone

 ++996 312 540069, 443331, ++ 996 772 832065 (mobile)

 e-mail:  [email protected]

Sary-Mogul:

Sary-Mogol village, Alay Region, Osh Oblast, Kyrgyzstan

phone: ++996 312 540069, 443331

e-mail:  [email protected]

Talas:

76 Kasym Kayimov (Yuzhnaya) St., Talas town, Talas Oblast, Kyrgyzstan

phone: ++996 3422 52919, ++ 996 772 643466 (mobile)

e-mail:  [email protected]

Tamchy:

55 Manasa St., Tamchy Village, Yssyk-Kol Oblast, Kyrgyzstan

phone: ++ 996 3943 21272 , ++ 996 773 355611 (mobile)

For Shepherd’s Life, Contact Ainura:

Kyrgyzstan, Kochkor Village, Pionerskya St.

(+996) 0777 01 37 47

 

If you have any questions about CBT or Shepherd’s Life, feel free to comment below!

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18 thoughts on “Community Based Tourism In Kyrgyzstan (CBT/Shepherd’s Life)

  1. These companies sound great – what a wonderful concept. Now I’m curious about similar companies in other countries. I think it’s so important to connect with the local culture when traveling – it truly gives you a completely different outlook!

  2. You’re right, it’s a great concept…one that Kyrgyzstan pulls off perfectly. It originally started out in Nepal, but apparently things have become more geared towards making money there than providing foreigners with an authentic experience.

    We think these types of companies should be in more parts of the world.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Unfortunately we haven’t had such a good experience with CBT in Kyrgyzstan. To us, they seemed to be a “community based” organisation like the ones you describe in Nepal, i.e. geared toward getting as much money from tourists as possible, claiming to offer an authentic experience. In fact, we found that there’s prices were very high, the experience they offer isn’t that authentic at all, and the community aspect seems to benefit only the lucky few that are privileged to work with CBT. I’m glad you mention there’s other agencies, such as Shepherds life, because I wouldn’t recommend CBT at all. Jailoo, in Kochkor, is also a very good alternative. The blog you’re having here is great though, thanks a lot for all the good tips, we’ve made good use of them during our travels! Keep up the good work!

    Johannes

  4. Thank you Johannes.

    We had good experiences with CBT in Aslanbob and with Sheppard’s Life in Kochkur. In Arslanbob, there are may homestays that are part of the CBT group, and they get rotated around so that tourists can’t choose where they want to stay, all they can choose is their budget. We also did a fishing trip with CBT in Arslanbob and it was just the 2 of us, a 70 year old fisherman and one of the local guides. We spent the night camping as well and were able to have a great time with those 2 local men. We also contacted CBT to sort out a shared ride from Bishkek to Osh, which they did so, making it easy for us!

    Thanks for your kind comments about our blog, we’re happy it helped you out 🙂

  5. Wow, that’s a brutal review on T.A.! To be honest, we had such a good experience with Shepherd’s Life. Our guide’s name was Askot and he was friendly, patient and helpful. Yes, the ride back to Kochkur is expensive, but we didn’t take it. We sorted out our own ride from Song Kul.

    The owner of Shepherd’s life was great to work with and we found her very friendly and professional. It’s too bad this “poster” on TA. didn’t have a good experience.

    Read about our Song Kul Trip here: https://www.goatsontheroad.com/lake-song-kol-horse-trekking-high-mountains-kyrgyzstan/

  6. Excellent! I’m so glad to hear that. We too had such a great time and it’s a shame when we hear negative things about the program. I think it’s a great way to really meet and learn about the local people 🙂

    Happy travels and thank you for sharing.

  7. Hi,

    Lots of useful information, thanks! However, your link for more info about Shepherd’s Life at the bottom of the post (For More About Shepherd’s Life, Click Here!) actually points to CBT’s webpage.

    Keep up the good work!

    Yannick

  8. Great organisations but a bit unprofessional we experienced at Shepherd’s Life Kochkor; the ‘guide’ was a 20 year old student who didn’t knew anything about the area and had no experience in walking mountain areas in terms of safety conditions. Even had a pretty rude character. Offering low prices does not mean you should bargain on people’s safety and quality.

  9. Hi any chance you have an e-mail address to contact Shepherd’s Life for quotes? I have been recommended to use Shepherd’s Life, as they offer better deals. Thanks

  10. Any contact point in Bishkek?? I couldn’t find CBT office @ given address (? 58 gorky st)

  11. Hi,

    Loads of great information on this page, thanks! I will be travelling to Bishkek in September but have noticed that there are no CBT offices there. In your experience, is it possible to start tours out of Bishkek or will I need to travel to the nearest office?

    Thanks in advance!

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