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Kazakhstan

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Holiday Inn Almaty
Holiday Inn Almaty - dream vacation

2d Timiryazev Street, Almaty

Rixos Almaty
Rixos Almaty - dream vacation

506-99 Seifullin Avenue, Almaty

Duman Astana
Duman Astana - dream vacation

2 A Korgalzhinsky highway, Astana

Royal Park Hotel & SPA
Royal Park Hotel & SPA - dream vacation

18 Kerey and Janybek Khans Street, Astana

Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country and, as the world's ninth biggest country by area, is the largest of the former states of the former Soviet Union apart from Russia itself. It has borders with Russia, China, and the Central Asian countries of Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, which it dwarfs.

Its lack of significant historical sites and endless, featureless steppe repel as many visitors as are captivated by the emptiness and mystery of this goliath state. Kazakhstan is the richest country in the region due to its large oil and natural gas reserves and is also the largest in Central Asia.

Regions

Cities

  • Astana (previously, Aqmola) — second largest city, and capital since 1997. Worth visiting but you only need a few days to get to the most worthwhile sights. This city is brand new and being built very rapidly. If you want to see what the old Aqmola looks like, you need to do it now as it is disappearing very rapidly.
  • Atyrau — oil capital of Kazakhstan, with large onshore Tengiz and offshore Kashagan oilfields nearby
  • Almaty — largest city, and capital prior to December 1998. Definitely a must-see. Beside the Soviet-style city, you may want to go to the Medeu and other places in the nearby mountains.
  • Aktobe
  • Pavlodar — Kazakh city in the very north of the country, founded in 1720, closed until 1992 for its military significance in tank production, and home to one very impressive mosque, as well as other interesting Orthodox churches and various memorials
  • Semey (Semipalatinsk) — university city notorious for the atomic bomb testing site near by
  • Shymkent — Kazakhstan's third largest city, very crowded with Uzbek people, it is an old market town located near Tashkent and some beautiful mountains; now booming with oil exploration,
  • Turkestan — another ancient city, long a border town between the Persian culture to the south and the Turkic nomadic culture to the north, now majority Uzbek and home to several important cultural-historical monuments
  • Ust-Kamenogorsk — mining city in the Altai mountains that's majority Russian speaking

Other destinations

  • Aksu-Zhabagly
  • Altai Mountains
  • Baikonur - site of the spaceport
  • Karkaraly National Park
  • Talgar
  • Zailiysky Alatau

Understand

Native Kazakhs, a mix of Turkic and Mongol nomadic tribes who migrated into the region in the 13th century, were united as a single nation in the mid-16th century. The area was conquered by Russia in the 18th century, and Kazakhstan became a Soviet Republic in 1936.

During the launching of the 1950s and 1960s agricultural "Virgin Lands" program, Soviet citizens were encouraged to help cultivate Kazakhstan's northern pastures. This influx of immigrants (mostly Russians, but also some other deported nationalities, including the Volga Germans) skewed the ethnic mixture and enabled non-Kazakhs to outnumber natives. Independence has caused many of these newcomers and their descendants to emigrate.

Modern Kazakhstan is a neo-patrimonial state characterized by considerable nepotism and dominance over political and economic affairs by President Nursultan Nazarbayev. However, it is not a severely authoritarian government compared to bordering Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and China and opposition is not usually sacked or imprisoned. Since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the Kazakh government has allowed foreign investment to flow into the capital to develop. The development of significant oil and gas reserves, particularly in the north and west, has brought a large amount of wealth to the country, though the money falls into the hands of just a few people. Nevertheless, Kazakhstan is now labelled a middle-income country, and is already classified with a high human development index. Corruption in Kazakhstan is ubiquitous compared to China, but it is not as widespread as other countries in the region.

Current issues include: developing a cohesive national identity; expanding the development of the country's vast energy resources and exporting them to world markets (an oil pipeline to China has been built; the gas pipeline is under construction); achieving a sustainable economic growth outside the oil, gas, and mining sectors, and strengthening relations with surrounding states and other foreign powers.

Get in

Visas

Citizens of Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Hong Kong, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, the Russian Federation, Serbia, South Korea, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine do not need visas to enter Kazakhstan.

Citizens of Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States do not need a visa for stays of up to 15 days during the period until December 31 2017.

Citizens of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, United Kingdom and USA (Jul 2009) can obtain single-entry (up to 30 days) or double-entry (up to 60 days) tourist visas without providing a letter of invitation.

Citizens of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, United Kingdom and USA (Aug 2010) with valid Kyrgyz tourist visa can travel also to Almaty Oblast and Zhambyl Oblast of Kazakhstan. However if you have two-entry Kyrgyz visa and you cross the border from Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan, you can't return on this visa to Kyrgyzstan. Customs officers are not aware of this agreement, which can cause long obstructions at border crossings. You will be turned away with a stamp on your Kyrgyz visa that says no entry. The similar agreement applies reciprocally in Kyrgyzstan, but not for all nationalities mentioned above, see Kyrgyzstan#Get in.

For more information you should contact a Kazakhstan diplomatic mission in your area or Kazakhstan MFA's website Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan. As of June 2012 the Consulate General of Kazakhstan in New York says it only accepts money orders, but they actually accept cashier's checks as well.

Although the Kazakh government has set certain policies regarding which countries' citizens do not require "Letters of Invitation" (LOI), this does not always reach the embassies. Be prepared for the worst and coming up against an official who might flat out refuse to give you a visa without a LOI. This is an issue at the Kazakhstan Embassy in Moscow (Australian Passports).

By plane

The most important carrier is Air Astana which flies into Almaty and Astana from Abu Dhabi, Moscow, Delhi, Beijing, Istanbul, Bangkok, Hannover, London, Amsterdam, Baku, Kuala Lumpur, Frankfurt, and Seoul.

Air Astana keeps a monopoly on some international routes by limiting which airlines can fly to Kazakhstan.

Lufthansa also has daily flights to Almaty, from where you can go anywhere via local carrier SCAT, which flies to most cities in Kazakhstan. British Airways and KLM now fly several times a week to Heathrow and Schiphol respectively. There is also a non-stop connection twice a week from Prague, operated by Czech airlines. Turkish Airlines is a good passenger carrier, with flights to Istanbul (ask a travel agent about the student fares, which can be a great deal).

There are twice a week flights from Seoul to Almaty; one is with Asiana Airlines, and the other is Astana. Airbaltic also flies to Almaty; if you reserve tickets in advance, you can go there for €130 (from Riga).

Etihad flies weekly from Abu Dhabi to Astana. Flight time is around 4.5 hours. Taxi fares from the airport to the city range are ?2,000-3,000.

By train

Trains in Kazakhstan are slow but comfortable and clean. Popular routes include Almaty to/from Moscow (77 hours), Novosibirsk (35 hours) and Ürümqi, China (34 hours). Count on a 3–4 hr stay at the Russian border or 6–8 hr at the Chinese border. Trains in Kazakhstan can also be booked on-line.

By car

You can enter Kazakhstan by car through many of the border checkpoints on main roads into the country. However, be prepared to wait up to 24 (twenty-four) hours in the queues, with rather poor facilities.

By bus

It is fairly easy to travel from Ürümqi to Almaty via sleeper bus, especially if you aren't in a hurry and don't mind living on a bus for a good 24 to 36 hours. The border crossing itself is a bit of a hike, and you may be made to carry all of your belongings with you for quite a way in some seriously warm weather. The bus trip and "baggage fees" are around US$45. You can pick up your Kazakhstan visa at the consulate in Ürümqi as well, but be prepared to chill for at least a week waiting, and be sure to get a copy of your passport before handing it over.

By boat

Freighters travel regularly between Baku and Aktau, and it is possible to hitch a ride. Note, though, that it is common for ships to get held up, even for weeks, before entering port, so you had better stock up on food and water before boarding. See freighter travel to better understand how this works.

Registration

You must register your visa within five days of entering Kazakhstan if your border entry card has only one stamp. After your first registration you must register in each destination if you stay more than 72 hours (see each destination for further details). If you stay in Kazakhstan less than five days then you may not need to register but this needs to be confirmed (28 July 2008).

Although border entry card is having provision to mention just the name of your organisation, you must specify full address next to the name of organisation (although no one tells this at the time of entry). In one off case people are caught by immigration police for not having full address in the border entry card, resulting into seizing the passports causing inconvenience to the visitors. The passports needs to be collected at the immigration police office later next day after due formality.

If you have a one-entry tourist visa for 30 days, no registration is needed. In Almaty airport, custom officials say that you don't need to register as long as you don't plan on staying more than 90 days (only for tourists), as of July 2008.

Get around

You can travel within the country using taxis, buses, trains and planes, it depends on your budget and demands. Renting a car is rather costly compared to other means of transport.

In Semipalatinsk (Semey) a minivan costs ?35, and a large bus costs ?35-40 (in Astana it ranges about ?60-65), common taxi fare is minimally ?300 (in August 2013, €1.50 or US$2).

By public buses

Public transportation in big cities is rather popular. You can use buses, trolleys, trams and minibuses. One big minus of all of them is that they never come on schedule and very crowded on peak time. Moreover, there is absolutely no plan with bus stops and schedule whatsoever. If you don't speak Russian, taking the bus will be quite tricky but not impossible.

By taxi

Use taxis as they are very cheap (€2 to €6 within the city). You don't have to use official taxis in most cities, basically you can stop almost any car on the street by raising your hand. It works good in Almaty & Astana, but in Karaganda the best way is one of taxis by phone. It some cheaper and even faster than hitch-hike waiting.

A note of warning, getting to the Almaty airport can be expensive. Taxis to the airport vary greatly in price. Any foreigner will be quoted a very expensive rate but usually drivers will come down once they see they aren't going to be able to get that much. US$50 is outlandish. Do not accept the first price as it will result in your being overcharged. It should be less than US$10, although it can never be guaranteed that a foreigner will get that price. A better option are the minibuses and buses that go to the airport. The word "airport" is very similar in Russian and English.

A common way to get around is by unofficial taxis. Any time of day, just wave your hand and someone will stop. Locals do this all the time. Negotiate the price and destination before you agree to go. About US$2-4 is fair for a ride within the centre of Almaty. If your Russian is poor or non-existent, you will be charged a lot more than locals; to avoid this, try to use public buses as much as you can and don't hesitate to tell the driver how much you are ready to pay (do this before he tells you how much he wants). To be safe though, do not get in a car if more than one person is driving. Also, do not take these kind of taxis for long distances or anywhere that goes through remote areas, as there are frequent robberies, especially of foreigners.

Always try to have exact amount of money in cash (the price which you negotiated with a taxi driver), since usually they will not give you change. So if the price should be ?350, give the driver ?350, not more (as he/she might not give change).

By rail

Train is the most popular way of covering the huge distances between Kazakhstan's main cities. The main railway stations are in Astana, Karaganda and Almaty, but stations can be found in almost every big city.

The rolling stock, train classes, ticket and reservation systems were inherited from the former Soviet Railways, so they are very similar to the Russian train system.

Ticket prices are slightly lower than in Russia. Kazakh Railways have an e-shop , but it's only in Kazakh and Russian and doesn't accept many non-CIS credit cards, so you'll probably use it only for price checks.

Kazakhstan is a large country. For instance, it will take you almost 24 hours to get from Almaty to Astana. However, going by train is a very fun way of travelling, since the trains are a great way to meet people. A lot has been written about the pitfalls of being included in a vodka drinking party on a train, but for the most part fellow travellers are friendly, and keen to find out about you ("why aren't you married?" and, if you are, "why don't you have children?", and if you do, "why don't they have children?"!) Most travellers take food for the journey, as restaurant car provision is sporadic (and they expect you to share yours too!). If you don't have enough to last the distance, the trains generally stop for 15–20 minutes at each station and there are always people on the platform selling food and drink, at any time of day or night.

There is also a train called the Talgo, which can cover the distance from Almaty and Astana in 9 hours. The cost of the ticket is about ?9,000.

By long distance bus

They're a popular alternative to trains and are faster, but less comfortable. Similarly to train travel, you will need to buy your ticket in advance and will be given a seat number. Be careful when the bus makes a toilet stop, the driver doesn't check if all the passengers are on board before driving away!

Fares are relatively low, for instance a single from Almaty to Karaganda (14 hr) will cost you ?2,500 - much cheaper than a flight ticket.

By plane

Air Astana provides offices in a few major hotels in big cities; it's the fastest way of travelling within the city for those who can afford it. Planes are brand new and match European standards in quality.

Other

A fun and cheap way to get around is by taking a "marshrutka". These are the dilapidated vans that cruise around town. They usually have a sign (in Russian) listing the destination, and the driver will usually call out where they are going. But you will not find them in Almaty.

Talk

Both Kazakh and Russian are the official languages of Kazakhstan. Both languages are compulsory in all schools, and most people know both of them. Therefore, if you know either of them, you should be fine. However, in some regions people speak more Kazakh and in others they prefer Russian. For example, Shymkent and the western regions mostly use Kazakh but the northern part of the country remains to a large extent Russian-speaking. Kazakh will be somewhat familiar if you know another Turkic language, and Russian if you know another Slavic language.

Many people under age 20 will know some English as will many customs officials and airport people know English.

It is difficult to get around the country without some Russian or Kazakh language skills; though, within the more modernized cities, it is easier. Have your place of residence written on a card and get a taxi if you get lost (you might be somewhat overcharged by the taxi, but it is better than being lost).

See

Baikonur is the famous cosmodrome site for the launch of the first manned orbital flight by Yuri Gagarin. The modern town of Baikonur was built near the existing village of Tyuratam.

As the cosmodrome area (6000 km2.) is rented by Russia, no Kazakh visa is needed if you fly in directly from Moscow.

  • Köl-Say Lakes
  • The modern buildings of Astana; a contrast to most of the rest of Kazakhstan
  • Endless desert and steppe in much of the country
  • The Altai mountains in eastern Kazakhstan, and other mountain chains along the southern border.

Do

  • Sauna complexes. Because of its cold and windy weather, visiting saunas with friends is very popular in Kazakhstan. Saunas (Russian banyas or Finnish steam rooms) are an excellent place to discuss business issues or just socialize with friends. Having parties (birthdays, New Year, etc.) in saunas is a normal practice. In fact many modern sauna complexes in Almaty and Astana are usually fully equipped with karaoke, billiards, swimming pools, relax rooms, massage rooms, etc. Some saunas are a cover for sex services.

Buy

Money

The national currency is tenge, denoted by the symbol "?" or "T" (Cyrillic: ?????, ISO code: KZT).

Costs

Kazakhstan is slightly more expensive than Uzbekistan, but still cheaper than Turkmenistan. A street snack costs around US$0.30 to 0.70. A night in a dorm in the big cities is US$15-20. A more comfortable double room is US$60-80.

Shopping

Even for people who are not big shoppers, the beautifully crafted felt items will appeal. They are also easy to carry and inexpensive to post.

Eat

Meat, potatoes, rice and pasta. And lots of it. If you're vegetarian be wary, because if it doesn't have meat in it, it will be almost certainly cooked in meat stock.

Some recommended dishes:

  • Beshbarmak - "five fingers", a horse meat and pasta dish with potato and onion. The national traditional dish of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan most often served for special occasions. Can also be made with beef or lamb. Most restaurants that serve it will present a portion enough for two or three people.
  • Kazy - handmade horse meat sausage, could be cooked and served with Beshbarmak, but not at the restaurants, unless you ask to do so when preorder menu. If you did not, it would be served as cold meat appetizer with other types of cold meat appetizers (Zhaya, Basturma, Shyzhyk). And separate price would be charged. Kazakh dish.
  • Laghman - a thick noodle dish with meat, carrot and onion, usually served as a soup.Some other veggies could be added too.
  • Manty - large steamed dumplings full of meat and onions. Sometimes made with onions or pumpkin. Traditional Uighur dish.
  • Plov - wonderful dish of fried rice, meat, carrots, and sometimes other bits such as raisins or tomatoes. Traditional Uzbek dish.
  • Shashlyk or Shish Kebab - skewered, roasted chunks of marinated meat, served with some sort of flatbread (usually lavash) and onions. Various marinates can be used, and different ways to cook it, open fire or other.
  • Baursaky - bread best served piping hot. A little like an unsweetened doughnut. Kazakh.
  • Pelmeni - boiled dumplings made from different kinds of meat or potato. Russian.

If you're a vegetarian, you're probably thinking there's nothing for you in Kazakhstan. And you're right, if you eat out. But if you're cooking your own food, you'll be more than satisfied. Kazakhstan has some excellent products available at little markets everywhere. You will be amazed at the taste and availability of fresh organic veggies at low price! For a treat in Almaty, try Govinda's, a delicious vegetarian Hare Krishna restaurant. Malls have food courts with some vegetarian options too. Even some small Kazakh eateries will prepare vegetarian meals for you if you make it very clear to them (e.g. "byez myasa" (without meat), "ya vegeterianetz" (I [male] am a vegetarian), "ya vegetarianka" (I [female] am a vegetarian) in Russian). At some places (e.g. smak) you can even find vegetarian manty made with pumpkin.

The legacy of Korean resettlement in Kazakhstan means that Korean dishes, particularly salads, are very common. At the country's many bazaars (independent food and goods markets), look for the Korean ladies selling these. They will wrap you up any number of delicious, often spicy and garlicky salads to take away in plastic bags. If you are vegetarian, this may be the only decent thing you get to eat while you're in the country.

On the other hand, in Kazakhstan you can find any dishes you want, but Chinese and Japanese dishes are very expensive. The most delicious is caviar, which is very cheap, you can buy 1 kilo of caviar for less than USD300 in Almaty Zyeloniy Bazaar, but you can't export or take it with you home; you will be stopped at the airport and pay high fines.

Eating out is relatively cheap; you basically order the meat dish and then add rice, potatoes, etc. Each element is priced individually, so you can order for instance only meat or only rice. Prices are relatively cheap, count ?500 for chicken, ?1,000 for beef, and up to ?1,500 for horse, a local delicacy. Of course, the fancier the restaurant, the higher the price. If you don't speak Russian, things are relatively hard as the majority of restaurants don't have English menus (with the exception of some hyped places in Almaty).

While Kazakhs are not very religious, most do not eat pork. Be aware of this if you are dining out with Kazakhs or planning a dinner at home. Also many dishes that are made elsewhere with pork (such as dumplings or sausage) are made with beef or mutton here.

Drink

Traditional beverages include:

  • Kumiss - fermented mare's milk, up to 6% alcohol content. Imagine tart lemonade, mixed with semi-sour milk.
  • Kumyran (Shubat)- fermented camel's milk
  • Kvas - described as similar to root beer it can be bought in a bottle in a store, or by the cup from people with giant yellowish tanks of it on the street.
  • Tan. Fizzy beverage made of mare's milk.
  • Cheap alcoholic drinks can be found at every little corner shop (called the astanovka). These places are open 24/7, just knock on their door if the shopkeeper is asleep. Kazakhstan's speciality is cognac, though stores still sell vodka cheaper than bottled water at times. However, some of these astanovka sometimes sell alcohol of dubious origin; for the sake of your stomach you may want to buy your beverage in a supermarket, although the price will definitely be higher.
  • Several brands of beer, of good quality and flavor, are made in Karaganda. Becker, Staut, Tian-Shan, Derbes, Irbis, Alma-Ata. Local brands brewed in Almaty are pretty good.
  • Juices, in cartons, are common and delicious, especially peach juice.
  • Water. The municipal water is more or less drinkable, with no real nasties, but try to boil it if possible. Bottled water is cheap and easily available. When at restaurants, ask specifically for "Sary-Agash" (of Asem-Ai brand) or Borjomi. Many other widely-known water brands can be found in restaurants and supermarkets.
  • Tea is widely available, mostly very good and often quite strong. If you are on a budget this is the thing to order with your food. Tea is culturally important in Kazakhstan - "shai" time is one of the most important things a visitor can engage in to learn about the culture.
  • Coffee. Modern coffee houses and western-style cafés are appearing. They serve good coffee. Coffeedelia (Kabanbai batyr and Furmanov) is popular with expats and does OK coffee. One of the best coffee in Almaty can be found at 4A Coffee where they roast their own daily. Gloria Jeans and Marone Rosso also can be found.
  • Wine. Try the local variety. A good one can be had for less than US$4 a bottle. "Bibigul" is perhaps the most consistently good wine, and it comes in a semi-dry red or semi-dry white. Avoid drinking wine in restaurants. It's usually very expensive.
  • Vodka. Good vodka at US$8–10 per bottle. In restaurants that do not usually cater to foreigners you get 20(!) cl if you order a vodka, smaller servings not available. Buy a bottle of "Kazakhstan" vodka to take back. It is in a pretty bottle with a picture of Kazakh hunting with a falcon seen through a "window". Try Edil vodka, which is made with the pantacrene of local deer antlers.

Sleep

There are numerous hotels, from very cheap ones (€10 per night) to the luxurious ones. You wouldn't find the cheapest ones on the web; the only way to book them is to call directly, but in that case you'll have to speak Russian at the least.

There are almost no camping sites except in Burabay/Borovoe in Kazakhstan. You can, however, camp almost anywhere due to the huge uninhabited spots. The scenery is beautiful but because of the very hot weather: don't forget to take plenty of water with you as you can very easily spend many of days without seeing anybody. If you camp near a nomadic tribe, ask for the permission to stay near; it will not be refused.

Work

Unlike certain European countries still recovering from recession, Kazakhstan abounds in employment or business opportunities. Skilled professionals may be able to find a job in the energy or educational sector. Salaries tend to decrease as the country is working towards ensuring equal pay for locals and expatriate staff. Expatriate candidates must obtain a work permit. In recent years, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get a work permit.

Stay safe

Kazakhstan is a country where the population has a long history of balanced, harmonious, multi-ethnic social interaction, where both guests and locals are treated with respect during everyday life, with certain exceptions (described below in more detail). Visitors will experience hospitality and warmth in this lovely country. However, your personal safety may vary from very safe to relatively unsafe depending on your location, time of the day, circumstances, and your personal behaviour. Unlike other former Soviet Union countries, black, South Asian and Middle Eastern people should feel comfortable.

Generally, Kazakh cities are safe during the day, but certain parts of major cities should be avoided at night to reduce risk (e.g. (i) all parts of Almaty below Tashkentskaya street and all microdistrict areas within these zones, certain other remote microdistricts, and areas with high concentrations of shabby private houses (such as Shanyrak); (ii) in smaller towns, e.g. Taraz, Balkhash, ShymkentTaldykorgan, Uralsk, Semey and Ust-Kamenogorsk, going out at night should not present a significant risk, though infrequent muggings do occur; and (iii) all smaller towns such as Shar, Stepnogorsk, and Temirtau may present a higher risk of mugging and violent crime).

Although illegal, unfortunately prostitution has become widespread in many big cities lately. Usually prostitutes work in hotels, night clubs or saunas. Also, local classified newspapers typically have a whole section dedicated to escort services. Many sex workers in Kazakhstan are in fact from neighbouring less economically developed states such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Keep your passport (or a certified copy of your passport and visa) with you at all times. While the situation has improved lately, police might still try to extort money from foreigners, especially on trains and long-distance buses. Unless the officers involved are drunk, it is possible to avoid paying them by pretending not to understand, or by claiming poverty.

The risk of violent crime is comparable with Eastern European countries and rougher parts of major US cities. An ordinary tourist should not experience any violent crime and is unlikely to be a target of minor crimes, if their behaviour stays within generally accepted norms in public places.

Excessive consumption of alcohol and visiting a nightclub will always present a higher risk, especially if a person goes out alone. It is advisable to go out as a group, or even better, with locals. Late at night, people speaking foreign languages may receive extra attention from local police, who have been known to falsely accuse a person of petty crimes, make an arrest, and attempt to obtain a ?1,000-5,000 cash payment "fine". Mobile phones work in most places and should be used to call a local-language speaking friend.

A foreign man soliciting a local woman on the streets or in a nightclub may draw unwanted attention from locals, or might result in arguments. Normal western attention and respect for women and children, including a smile or kind greeting, can be taken by a local husband or father as threatening or offensive.

Carrying expensive phones, watches and jewellery; or otherwise demonstrating wealth in public may result in closer attention from pickpockets and potential criminals. Outside Almaty and Astana, this should be avoided.

There is zero tolerance for any drugs, and trace amounts may result in criminal investigation, prosecution and a prison sentence. Prisons are known to be dangerous and often inhumane.

Careless and drunk driving is a problem. It is always advisable to obey traffic rules and wear seat belts. In most cities, using local taxis may present a higher risk than official public transportation due to many taxis operating unlicensed with incompetent drivers. Situations of unlicensed taxi drivers demanding additional fees before releasing luggage from their boot, or driving off and stealing luggage are more common than would be expected in western cities with a well-regulated taxi industry. It's advisable to keep your valuables and passport in your pockets and your most valuable bag on your lap. Public transportation and taxis are much less expensive than in western cities.

Kazakh people have more pride than most westerners would expect. Therefore, insulting or negative comments about Kazakhstan or local Kazakhstani people will often result in arguments and possible threats of physical violence. It is not recommended to get into an argument with locals, as Kazakhstan is a nation where physical power is part of the local culture, and can occasionally lead to a fatal last argument. Do not under any circumstances associate the country of Kazakhstan with the character Borat. There have been cases of violence against foreign workers in West Kazakhstan. A housing camp of Turkish workers was destroyed, with many workers assaulted, due to anger about foreigners taking local jobs and an alleged rape of a local woman.

Connect

Embassies

Kazakhstan has most major foreign consulates and official representatives for visa needs.

  • Canada, 13/1 Kabanbay Batyr, Astana, ? +7 7172 475 577, fax: +7 7172 475 587.
  • China, 37 Kabanbay Batyr, Astana, ? +7 7172 79-35-61, +7 7172 79-35-94, +7 7172 79-35-64.
  • Finland, 12 Samal Microdistrict, Astana Tower, 17 floor, Astana, ? +7 7172 44-21-21. sanomat.AST@formin.fi
  • Greece, 109 microdistrict KARAOTKEL 2010000, Astana, ? +7 7172 563714, +7 701 188 7406 (Emergencies), fax: +77172 563826, e-mail: [atmfa.gr gremb.ast[at]mfa.gr].
  • United Kingdom, British Embassy, Astana 62, Kosmonavtov St, ? +7 (7172) 556200, fax: +852 2901 3066.
  • United States of America, Ak Bulak 4, Str. 23-22, building #3, Astana 010010, ? +7 (7172) 70-21-00, fax: +7 (7172) 54-09-14, e-mail: info@usembassy.kz.

The Amateur Traveler talks to Mike about his recent trip to Kazakhstan.  He explored this large area on a backpacker's budget.  Kazakhstan is the 9th biggest country in the world. "In the very West end of the country you have old mosques. In the new capital Astana you have futuristic buildings."

In 1993, Kazakhstan’s president moved the capital to what is now Astana, blending elements of its Islamic roots with a dose of a personality cult.

A few years ago, Prince Harry visited the glorious country of Kazakhstan to hit the slopes of the Shymbulak ski resort. The entire resort was shut down for his privacy. The Prince and his entourage had the mountains all to themselves. This March, I undertook the same trip and, surprisingly, was provided with the same royal treatment. Empty ski runs, deserted chair lifts, and the distinct lack of snow-ploughing conga lines of snaking ski schools made it one of the best ski trips I’ve ever done. I could easily enjoy the resort on a backpacker’s budget whilst travelling through the Stans. Cheap flights from Europe also makes Shymbulak an affordable and accessible destination for winter skiing holidays. The ski season in Kazakhstan runs from December to April.

Shymbulak ski resort

The mountain to myself.

Shymbulak ski resort is located in the Medeu Valley of the Zailiyskiy Alatau mountain range. It is the northernmost section of Central Asia’s Tian Shan mountain system. The resort is only a ten-minute bus ride from Kazakhstan’s former capital and largest city, Almaty. During the Soviet times, Shymbulak hosted a number of USSR Winter Games and became known as the home training ground for Soviet Olympians. It remained a charming run-down Soviet skiing destination up until 10 years ago when the infrastructure received heavy investment from the Kazakh Government and Turkish property developers.

Shymbulak is by far the most modern and largest ski resort in Central Asia and mainly attracts Russians and Royals to its slopes. This year Almaty was proud to host the Winter Universaide Games. Shymbulak basked in the international spotlight and the resort received another capital injection. Access to the resort is easy, courtesy of the world’s third largest gondola. Once at the summit, visitors can enjoy ski runs descending from 3200 metres. In total, there are eight pistes stretching 15km (9 miles). This makes Shymbulak smaller in comparison to the well known skiing destinations of Europe and the US but the wide empty slopes are a utopia for beginners, as well as those who enjoy a leisurely ski. There are no lift queues, no crowds, and certainly not an irate Frenchman in sight (the kind who tend to jab a ski pole into my back when I edge through the lift queues).

Shymbulak ski resort

Many options to get into the backcountry.

For skiers and snowboarders hell bent on finding adventure, the true potential of the Almaty mountains lies off-piste. The geography of Shymbulak is unrestricted and there are a few good vertical descents off-piste which are accessible. When you reach the summit you’re free to explore the surrounding ridges by foot, choose a line and fly down the face of the mountain. Alternatively, there are tour companies in Almaty offering heli-skiing packages. Prices are not cheap but they are significantly lower in comparison to Europe and the US. The conditions were glorious: the sun shined down whilst I glided through the untouched powder just metres from the piste. There really was no need for thermal layers, gloves, hat, or the coat that I had packed with me. Shymbulak enjoys a mild year round climate as the southern mountains of Kazakhstan face towards the open steppe meaning prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays.

Shymbulak ski resort

Unbelievable views.

The surrounding views are stunning. It’s quite different to the Alpine ski resorts of Europe –looking out over the Kazakh steppe, the shades of sky change from light to a deep rich blue. The contrast between the endless flat steppe and the Zailiyskiy Alatau mountain range instilled a sense of awe in me that almost caused me to crash on a number of occasions. Unlike many other ski resorts in Central Asia, Shymbulak has all the modern facilities needed to ensure a smooth winter holiday: rental shops, terraced bars, restaurants, Alpine chalets, novice areas, a snow park, and artificial snow machines. Millions have been spent improving these facilities.

If you’re a beginner, or just out of practice, you can even find English-speaking ski instructors. You can rent everything you need up the mountain, but naturally, the cost is higher there. For those on a shoestring budget, I suggest renting from one of the many ski shops in Almaty city. The same rule applies for accommodation. Prices are much cheaper down in the city and you can find a hostel bed for as little as £3 a night. Almaty is a lively city and you won’t have to look hard to find good apres-ski. After a day’s worth of skiing, kick back with a beer and find a Shashlik BBQ joint (skewered meat never disappoints). When you’ve had your fill, head back up the mountain for a night ski session. Night skiing takes place twice a week from 7-11pm.

Shymbulak ski resort

World’s best-kept secret?

Kazakhstan is definitely not your typical winter skiing destination but it has all the facilities to classify it so. The Russians kept Almaty a secret during the Soviet times but in recent years, Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states have opened up their doors to tourism. The natural geography of the region provides a haven for thrill-seekers and the low costs make it attractive to the backpacker community. Almaty is leading the way for both resort and backcountry skiing, making it the skiing world’s best-kept secret.

Shymbulak ski resort

How to get there

Shymbulak ski resort extends from the former Kazakh capital, Almaty. The city is usually a first stop for travellers entering the country from neighbouring southern countries: Kyrgyzstan and ChinaAlmaty airport connects both domestic and international flights. If you arrive in the newly built capital Astana (590 miles to the North of Almaty) there are daily flights and trains between the two cities. I boarded the overnight train in Astana and arrived in Almaty the following evening. A third class ticket will set you back around £12. The number 12 bus runs from Almaty Kalenina to Medou (the gondola station) every 10 minutes.

Alternatively, you can flag down any vehicle and they will take you for a price. Every car in Kazakhstan is an unofficial taxi. Do not pay more than 1500 tenge from Abay district.

Shymbulak ski resort

Cost (for one day)

Ski gear rental in Almaty city centre: 2000 Tenge (£5) / Bus: 80 Tenge (£0.20) / Lift pass : 6000 Tenge (£15) / Locker : 1000 Tenge (£2.50) More like this: Lost in a skier's dream

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Travel and Tourism and Competitiveness Report was recently published. It shows the most expensive and cheapest places to travel in the world. The report covers the role travel and tourism plays in economies, an analysis of the industry’s sustained growth, work being done to preserve and protect local communities and the environment, and more. One of the most interesting sections of the report was the information on the top countries in the world for price competitiveness.

Here are the 20 cheapest places to travel to right now, according to the WEF Report.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

1. Iran

 Zoroastrian Towers of SilenceYazd, Iran#Zoroastrian #dakhma or Tower of Silence on the outskirts of #Yazd in #Iran. Believing a dead body was unclean and would pollute the soil, the Zoroastrians placed bodies at the top of this tower and exposed to the sun and vultures instead of being buried in the ground.

2. Egypt

 Cairo EgyptAl Fagalah, EgyptOne of Thé most unforgetable times having an hour long trip on camel at desert near Pyramids was excellent #history#ancienttimes

3. Malaysia

 Perdana Botanical GardensKuala Lumpur, MalaysiaPetrona Towers, impressive skyscraper.

4. Algeria

Sahara Desert, Tassili N

Photo: Dmitry Pichugin

5. Indonesia

 Dusun BambuCihanjuang Rahayu, IndonesiaWonderful nature

6. Bhutan

 Uma ParoParo, BhutanThey will take a little rice to clean their eating hand and put it on the ground . Then will proceed to eat . All ending eating at the same time . Great to watch . Ceremony like ! # lunch time # Bhutan # outdoors # travel photography

7. Yemen

Rock Palace de Csilla Zelko en 500px.com

Photo: Csilla Zelko

8. Kazakhstan

Big a href="/place/8909/almaty"span itemprop="location"Almaty/span/a lake on december. Water, ice, mountains and snow. de Roman Barelko en 500px.com

Photo: Roman Barelko

9. Tunisia

Shades of White. Sidi Bou Saïd. de Bérenger Zyla en 500px.com

Photo: Berenger Zyla

10. India

 CHANDNI CHOWKGhaziabad, IndiaThis is my favorite #market . So life you can get all you need. This market design by Jahannara, princesses of mugal empire, daughter of shah Jahan . #clothes #souvenirs #bargins #cheap-eats #coffee

11. Russia

 Moscow MetroMoskva, RussiaCheck out some metro stations of 1930s – 1950s for the bronze statues, mosaics and marble colonnades.

12. Qatar

City Center de Jurics Caba en 500px.com

Photo: Jurics Caba

13. Botswana

Elephant Herd close-up on Chobe river de Vincent Andrews en 500px.com

Photo: Vincent Andrews

14. Laos

 Patuxay MonumentVientiane, LaosCool war monument dedicated to the people who fought for independence from France. You can go to the top and have a great view of the city. #history

15. Mongolia

the Camel Centipede de Coolbiere. A. en 500px.com

Photo: Coolbiere

16. Guatemala

 AntiguaAntigua Guatemala, GuatemalaStreet vendors on their way to set up at the Market

17. Saudi Arabia

Infinite de Kareem Alahdab en 500px.com

Photo: Kareem Alahdad

18. Thailand

 Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)Bangkok, ThailandThis #temple build by porselen. Beautiful and shine temple. Must visit

19. Nepal

 BouddhatanathKathmandu, Nepal#temple #buddhism

20. Sri Lanka

 Seema MalakaColombo, Sri Lanka

Kazakhstan - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Dina Zhansagimova

Kazakhstan, one of the largest countries on earth, was long hidden from the rest of the world behind the Iron Curtain, and continued to remain unnoticed among the “stans” of Central Asia that gained independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Now, twenty years later, it has emerged as a modern state with far-reaching ambitions. It has developed rapidly over the last decade, raising a brand-new capital in the middle of its vast, empty grasslands, and stepping up to take the leading position in the region. Blessed with great reserves of oil, gas, and mineral resources, it is politically and economically stable, and the richest country in Central Asia. The seemingly endless expanse of the Kazakh Steppe takes visitors by surprise. In the east and southeast the terrain eventually changes to picturesque highlands and mountains, providing natural habitats for a number of rare animal and bird species. Once home to ancient civilizations, this immense land has yielded a wealth of archaeological artefacts. The modern Kazakh people emerged from the rise and fall of a succession of medieval Turkic states before being absorbed into the Russian Empire. They were pastoral nomads, self-sufficient, free, and famously adaptable. Their openness and generosity of spirit have survived against all the odds of a grim history. Today Kazakhstan is open for business, and receptive again to outside cultural influences. Culture Smart! Kazakhstan introduces Western readers to this complex, unknown people. It guides you through their traditions, customs, and social values. It describes how they behave at work, at home, at leisure, and on the street, and what they eat and drink. There are vital tips on communicating, and invaluable insights into Kazakhstan’s dynamic business culture and economy.

Apples Are from Kazakhstan: The Land that Disappeared

Christopher Robbins

"A captivating read notable for off-the-cuff candor and measured, eloquent prose."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

A funny and revealing travelogue of Kazakhstan, a country rich with wild tulips, oil, nomads who hunt with golden eagles, and a disappearing landlocked sea. Closed to foreigners under Tsar and Soviet rule, Kazakhstan has remained largely hidden from the world, a remarkable feat for a country the size of Western Europe. Few would guess that Kazakhstan—a blank in Westerners' collective geography—turns out to be diverse, tolerant, and surprisingly modern, the country that gave the world apples, trousers, and even, perhaps, King Arthur. Christopher Robbins enjoyed unprecedented access to the Kazakh president while crafting this travelogue, and he relates a story by turns hilarious and grim. He finds Eminem-worship by a shrinking Aral Sea, hears the Kazakh John Lennon play in a dusty desert town, joins nomads hunting eagles, eats boiled sheep's head (a delicacy), and explores some of the most beautiful, unspoiled places on earth. Observant and culturally attuned, Robbins is a master stylist in the tradition of travel writing as literature, a companion to V. S. Naipaul and Paul Theroux.

KAZAKHSTAN Country Studies: A brief, comprehensive study of Kazakhstan

CIA

A brief yet detailed report on the country of Kazakhstan with updated information on the map, flag, history, people, economics, political conditions in government, foreign affairs, and U.S. relations.

Kazakhstan (Bradt Travel Guide)

Paul Brummell

Landlocked between Russia and China, and surrounded by the shimmering Caspian Sea shores and the Altai and Tian Shan mountains, a trip to the exotic wilds of Kazakhstan will erase any association Westerners may have with the film Borat. Visit in May and find the slopes of the Tian Shan carpeted with tulips, base yourself in cosmopolitan Almaty and daytrip to the nearby mountains and forest (where the pious may encounter the legendary Buddhist kingdom of Shambala), or sample a glass of kumiss at a Kazakh dastarkhan. Now updated with more detail, Kazakhstan provides in-depth explanations of the rich and unique Kazakh traditions and nomadic heritage. The most comprehensive guide available, it's invaluable for anyone visiting or living in Kazakhstan.

Drinking Camel's Milk in the Yurt - Expat Stories from Kazakhstan

Monica Neboli

The Republic of Kazakhstan emerged from the former USSR as an independent nation in 1991. It is one of the largest countries in the world and Astana, its capital, is one of the youngest (and coldest) capital cities. In this anthology of expatriate experiences in Kazakhstan, 24 authors from 11 countries show us this Central Asian country as they know it. In Drinking Camel's Milk in the Yurt, we travel to the country's bustling, multicultural cities, to its rural homesteads steeped in rich traditions, and to the Kazakh Steppe, the vast open plain that has for centuries been home to a nomadic way of life. During the journey, we come to understand the importance of the yurt, or nomad's tent, we are privy to a powerful reflection on Soviet-era labour camps, and we witness the build-up to a traditional Kazakh wedding. In a variety of cross-cultural exchanges - some bewildering, some funny - we meet locals, try new cuisines, discover the work of a talented local artist, join one man's quest for a unique piece of Kazakh furniture for his wife, and explore the steppe as it deserves to be explored - on horseback. More importantly, we are introduced to the warmth of Kazakh hospitality and we learn it is possible to survive the extreme temperatures of a Kazakh winter. Whether you are an expat, a traveller or just curious about other cultures, Drinking Camel's Milk in the Yurt: Expat stories from Kazakhstan will introduce you to the Kazakh landscape, people and cultures as experienced by its expatriates - both those who are passing through and those who have decided to stay.

KAZAKHSTAN A COUNTRY PROFILE

Federal Research Division

Everything you ever needed to know.

Kazakhstan 2016 : Rip & Waterproof Map by Reise Know-How (English, Spanish, French, German and Russian Edition)

Reise Know-How Verlag

Road map of Kazakhstan with legend, city and places of interest index. On reverse map and index continued. Waterproof and tear-resistant paper.

Kazakhstan and Surrounding Countries Political 1:3M (English and French Edition)

GiziMap

Discover Central Asia with the colourful Gizi political and road map. The best way to prepare your trip, to plan your itinerary, and to travel independently. This map includes Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tadjikistan. The legend is in 6 languages (English, Russian and Kazakh included). Each country has its own colour.

Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Terrorism

There is a general threat of terrorism in Kazakhstan, particularly in the western and southern regions of the country. Maintain a high level of vigilance and follow the advice of local authorities.

Crime

Violent crime against foreign tourists occurs. Robberies occur on public transportation, in parks, shopping areas, open markets and restaurants, and near major tourist hotels and nightclubs. Do not open your door to strangers under any circumstances. Do not carry large amounts of money or travel alone after dark.

Foreigners have been robbed by individuals posing as police officers. If approached, ask to see police credentials.

Men posing as “meet and greet” airport facilitators lure unsuspecting foreigners into cars and demand money. Make prior arrangements with your contacts for appropriate identification upon arrival at the airport.

Do not accept food or drinks from strangers. Do not leave food or drinks unattended in bars or restaurants. Cases of drugging followed by robbery have occurred.

At night, call a reputable taxi service in advance before leaving popular restaurants and places of recreation, as foreigners have been specifically targeted leaving such venues.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations, though rare, occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. They can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Demonstrations resulting in casualties and fatalities were reported in the western province of Mangghystau in December 2011. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.

Road travel

Poor driving standards, poorly lit and maintained roads and obscure signs and regulations make driving hazardous, especially in winter. Driving after dark is dangerous. The Cyrillic alphabet is used on road signs.

Hire a car with a driver.

Buy gas before leaving major cities because there are few gas stations in rural areas.

Use only officially marked taxis, pre-negotiate the fare and do not allow other passengers to ride with you.

Routine and strict border controls on the road between Almaty, Kazakhstan and Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, are in place, making travel in this region more difficult. Strict adherence to visa regulations is essential.

Rail travel

While rail service is good, robberies often occur and corruption may be prevalent. Store personal belongings in a safe place and do not leave the compartment unattended. Ensure that the door is secured from the inside.

Air travel

Unannounced delays and flight cancellations are common in winter due to poor weather conditions. Reservations on regional airlines are not always respected.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

General safety information

Identification checks are common and police can arrest visitors who do not carry identification. Carry photo identification as well as a legally certified copy of your visa and registration with you at all times. Keep your passport and visa in a safe place and leave a photocopy of your travel documents with a relative or a friend at home.

Tourist facilities are limited, especially outside Almaty and Astana.

Emergency services

Dial 101 for the police, 102 for fire and 103 for an ambulance.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Polio

There is a risk of polio in this country. Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up-to-date.

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Central Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like hepatitis A and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Central Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Central Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, malaria, and tick-borne encephalitis.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is a viral disease that typically causes fever, bleeding under the skin, and pain. Risk is generally low for most travellers. It is spread to humans though contact with infected animal blood or bodily fluids, or from a tick bite. Protect yourself from tick bites and avoid animals. There is no vaccine available for Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.


Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in Central Asia, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities throughout Kazakhstan are scarce and the quality of care is below Western standards. Medical clinics often have poor hygiene standards and lack basic drugs and equipment.

Health risks

Reports indicate that radioactive or toxic chemical sites associated with former defence industries and test ranges, particularly in the Semipalatinsk area, pose health risks. Industrial pollution is severe in some cities. These test areas are normally closed to foreigners; if travelling to these areas on organized tours, closely follow the advice of tour leaders.  

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

An international driving permit is required.

Illegal or restricted activities

There is “zero tolerance” for drinking and driving.

Possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs may result in jail sentences and heavy fines.

Homosexual activity is legal but is not widely accepted by Kazakh society.

Photography of military installations or government buildings may result in a penalty. Seek permission from local authorities before taking photographs.

Dual nationality

Dual citizenship is not legally recognized, which may limit the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular services. You should travel using your Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times.

Dual nationals may be subject to national obligations. Check your status with the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Canada prior to travelling.

Consult our publication entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know for more information.

Religion

Although Kazakhstan is a secular country, Islamic practices and beliefs are closely adhered to, particularly in rural areas. Dress conservatively, behave discreetly and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities.

Money

The currency is the tenge (KZT). The economy is primarily cash-based. It is illegal to use foreign currency in financial transactions.

Traveller’s cheques are rarely accepted outside large hotels catering to foreigners. Credit cards have become more prevalent in large urban centres. Euros and U.S. dollars can be exchanged at authorized currency exchanges. All U.S. dollar bills must have been issued after 1995 and be in good condition.

Automated banking machines are widely available in Almaty and Astana, and are becoming increasingly available in other urban centres throughout the country.

Climate

Kazakhstan is located in an active seismic zone. Avalanches and landslides are possible in mountainous areas, especially in the spring.