The currency in Kyrgyzstan is the Kyrgyz Som (KGS). Som is written as сом in Kyrgyz Cyrillic and is divided into 100 Tiyin. Traditionally Kyrgyzstan has had the most stable currency in Central Asia and for most of its history has been fully convertible, as opposed to being pegged to a major currency.
The Som was introduced in 1993 and replaced the Soviet Ruble at a rate of 200 Rubles to 1 Som.
The word Som means pure in the Kyrgyz language, as in most Turkic languages.
In Kyrgyzstan you’ll most often see Som referred to as C, for example 200c, which some find confusing as it looks like cents.
Notes of Kyrgyzstan
Notes of Kyrgyzstan come in 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 and 5000 Som. The 1000 and 5000 can be quite difficult to use at smaller shops as they often don’t have change.
Coins of Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan was the second last Soviet country to introduce coins, the last being Belarus. Kyrgyzstan introduced coins in 2008 and currently issues 1, 10 and 50 Tyin, although these are quite rare due to the exchange rate. Coins in 1, 3, 5 and 10 Som are issued and are very common.
ATMs aren't prolific outside of Bishkek, but you will be able to find them if you need to, or you can change other currencies into local currencies.
There is no black market or any other complicating factors and you will also be able to change a wide range of currencies easily if you need to, so it’s all much simpler than in some of the neighbouring countries. Some places will even accept credit cards, but just like in the rest of Central Asia, the economy is still largely cash driven.
3 Som Coin
In the Soviet Union there was a 3 Ruble note and because of this history, several of the former Soviet republics still use a denomination of 3. In the case of Kyrgyzstan that is a 3 Som coin, and likewise Tajikistan also has kept the 3 denomination.
Can you use foreign currencies in Kyrgyzstan?
Of course for larger purchases, accommodation or tour costs, USD can usually be used, however for day to day purchases you will need to use the local currency. If you tried to buy a coke or dinner with a foreign currency you’ll most likely get refused.
The exchange rate is currently hovering around 80 to 85 Som per USD, as the Central Bank of Kyrgyzstan intervenes to ensure currency stability by holding gold and foreign reserves.