Central Asia is huge, bigger than Europe in fact. This means that air travel is an important part of getting around, and like other continents, they even have local low cost carriers . Airports around the world have been getting gradually bigger and bigger, however for the most part Central Asian airports are small and simple affairs. With the exception of Bishkek, they are all also relatively close to their respective cities.
Central Asia, with its stunning landscapes and rich cultural history, has been gaining popularity as a travel destination. When exploring this vast region, it's essential to understand the airports and transportation options available to reach the heart of each city. In this guide, we'll take a closer look at the main airports in Central Asia and the various ways to travel from these airports to the city centre.
The most important rule for all airports in Central Asia is anyone yelling taxi at you when you’re exiting is there to try and rip you off. It’s not uncommon for people to be charged $100 for a trip that should have cost $5.
Almaty International Airport, Kazakhstan
Almaty International Airport, located in the biggest city in Kazakhstan, which was also the capital until 1997, is the busiest airport in Central Asia. It is currently undergoing huge renovations in order to meet the massive increase in demand in recent years. And they are well needed – this is still a tiny airport, with very little space in the departures area, which is always jam-packed. On the plus side though, it’s also an incredibly easy and quick airport to get around, because of how small it is.
To reach the city centre, visitors have several options. The most convenient is the taxi service, with a ride taking around 20-30 minutes. This should cost anywhere from 1500 tenge to 4000 tenge ($3-8) depending on where in the city you’re going and the time of day. Alternatively, the city has a well-connected bus system, and one bus goes from the airport to the centre, with a ticket at the airport costing 200tenge (40cents).
Bishkek Manas International Airport, Kyrgyzstan
Bishkek Manas International Airport serves as the main gateway to Kyrgyzstan and is 20-30km from the centre of Bishkek. The airport code is FRU owing to the old name of the city, Frunze, which was changed in 1991 when the country gained independence from the Soviet Union. During the 2000s, the airport was also used as a US air force base.
To get to the city centre, you can take a taxi, which typically takes around 40-50 minutes. Shared taxis and minibuses are also available at a more budget-friendly rate, less than 100som ($1). However, be prepared for a more extended travel time due to multiple stops. For an authentic experience, consider the "marshrutka," a popular local form of transportation. A taxi from the airport should cost between 600 and 900som ($6.5 - $10).
Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport, Kazakhstan
Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport in Astana ( formerly Nursultan ), Kazakhstan, is a modern facility serving the country's capital. Travelers can reach the city centre via taxi, a journey taking approximately 20-30 minutes and costing roughly 1500-4000tenge, once again depending on where you are going. There are multiple public buses going to various parts of the city as well as shuttle services, offering a more budget-friendly option. Nursultan boasts well-planned infrastructure, thanks to the fact that it’s a modern, purpose-built capital, making transportation to the city centre efficient and hassle-free.
Tashkent Islom Karimov International Airport, Uzbekistan
Tashkent International Airport , the largest in Uzbekistan, connects travellers to the nation's capital. The airport has separate domestic and international terminals which are about 10 minutes apart via taxi, so be wary you will need to travel in between the terminals if you’re changing from a domestic flight to an international one, or vice versa.
To reach the city centre via taxi, which take about 10-20 minutes, it should cost 11000 – 40000 som ($1-$4). You can use the Yandex app, or if you don’t have access to internet, walk straight across the carpark roughly 100m to the road and wave down a taxi. Don’t bother using a taxi that is waiting at the airport. There are also bus options that are on the nearest road after the carpark exit.
Dushanbe International Airport, Tajikistan
Dushanbe International Airport, Tajikistan's primary gateway, offers various transportation options and is already in the city centre! Very few cities have airports this central.
Depending on where you are staying you could opt to walk! However, a taxi will only cost 15-40 Somoni on average ($1-$4) to anywhere in the city.
Ashgabat International Airport, Turkmenistan
Ashgabat International Airport in Turkmenistan is a tourist attraction in itself, as it’s shaped like a huge bird ! Like everything in Ashgabat, it was built in white marble and gold and is absolutely massive. The airport is designed to handle 14 million passengers a year. There are roughly 6000 tourists per year.
Most people who arrive in Ashgabat will be on a tourist visa meaning you’re on an organised tour and will have your airport transfer included as part of the tour. If you do happen to be allowed to catch a taxi from the airport it will cost roughly 50-100manat ($2.5-$5) to most hotels in the city.
Banner photo: Inside Ashgabat Airport