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Rixos Almaty
Rixos Almaty - dream vacation

506-99 Seifullin AvenueAlmaty

Duman Astana
Duman Astana - dream vacation

2 A Korgalzhinsky highwayAstana

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

18 Kerey and Janybek Khans StreetAstana

Kazakhstan is the largest of the states of the former Soviet Union apart from Russia, and it dwarfs the other countries of Central Asia and stretches into Eastern Europe. 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. And while the endless, featureless steppe might repel some visitors the emptiness and mystery of this goliath state keeps many others captivated.



  • Astana — 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.
  • Almaty — largest city, and capital until 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
  • Atyrau — oil capital of Kazakhstan, with large onshore Tengiz and offshore Kashagan oilfields nearby
  • 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 nearby atomic bomb testing site
  • 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
  • 9 Ust-Kamenogorsk — mining city in the Altai mountains; primarily Russian-speaking

Other destinations

  • 1 Aksu-Zhabagly — a nature reserve
  • 2 Altai Mountains
  • 3 Baikonur — site of the spaceport
  • 4 Karkaraly National Park
  • 5 Talgar — a town nearby the Talgar Mountains
  • 6 Zailiysky Alatau (Trans-Ili Alatau) — a 200 km long mountain range


Ethnic 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 the Russian Empire in the 18th century, and Kazakhstan became a Soviet Republic in 1936. While it became independent following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the country is still home to a large ethnic Russian minority, and the Russian language continues to be widely spoken.

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, who stepped down in March 2019 after a 29-year-tenure. 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.

While Islam is the majority religion, Kazakhstan is nevertheless a secular state with a significant Christian minority, and the variety of Islam practised here tends to be more liberal than that in the Middle East.

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. Kazakhstan is also a key part of China's Belt and Road Initiative, with plans for a high-speed rail through Kazakhstan linking China to Europe.

Get in

Entry requirements

Citizens of the following countries may enter Kazakhstan without a visa for up to a certain number of days:

Check the Kazakh government website for the latest list. All other nationalities are required to obtain a visa in advance, which will require you to present a letter of invitation from a resident of Kazakhstan. If you are joining a package tour, the tour company can usually procure the letter of invitation for an additional fee; check with the company to be sure.

If you know in advance that your stay will be longer, e.g. for work, then you need a visa, which will need to be supported by an official Letter of Invitation from the employer or agency in Kazakhstan. For more information see Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan. For tourist visits where you're enjoying the country so much that you want to stay on, the simplest way is to take a trip to neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, which also has no visa requirement for many countries, and come straight back to gain another 30-day stay. There's no limit how often you do this.

Registration (card): Never lose the registration card that you're given on entry. It must have at least one stamp on it, corresponding to the entry stamp in your passport. For most visitors it will have two, meaning that you're already registered for the duration of your stay, and don't need to register with the immigration police. If it only has one stamp, you must register within five days of entering Kazakhstan (there are offices in Astana and Almaty), and again in each place you visit for more than 72 hours. And you must also present yourself immediately if you lose it: otherwise you'll endure much grief, probably fines and possibly detention, when you try to leave the country.

As of Sep 2018, as a holder of a western passport, one receives 2 entry stamps right away, and 1 stamp in the passport, both when entering by plane and at the Kyrgyz border. No address of stay needs to be presented.

By plane

The most important carrier is Air Astana which flies into Almaty and Nur-Sultan 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 4½ hours.

Taxi fares from the airport to the city range are 2,000-3,000 tenge.

A Russian transit visa is needed if changing planes in Russia when travelling to or from Kazakhstan.

By train

See also: Moscow to Urumqi

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 hours in the queues, with rather poor facilities.

By bus

From China

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 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.

From Kyrgyzstan

It is a straight forward 3½-4½ hr (mini) bus ride from Bishkek to Almaty for about 1,200-1,800 tenge, depending on the option you choose (e.g. 500 som directly from the Bishkek Western Bus Station). For more information, see Almaty.

By boat

See also: Ferries in the Caspian Sea

Freighters travel regularly between Baku and Aktau, and it is possible to hitch a ride. It is common for ships to be 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.

Get around

You can travel within the country using taxis, buses, trains and planes, it depends on your budget and demands.

By bus

In Semipalatinsk (Semey) a marshrutka costs 35 tenge, and a large bus costs 35-40 tenge. In Astana it ranges between 60-65 tenge.

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.


Similar to regular buses and another cheap way to get around is by taking a marshrutka. These are the dilapidated transport vans that cruise around or between towns. They usually have a sign (in Russian) listing the destination, and the driver will usually call out where they are going. However, you will not find them operating inside of Almaty city.

Long-distance buses

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 often does not check whether 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 tenge—much cheaper than a flight ticket.

By taxi

Use taxis as they are very cheap (€2-6 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 well 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.

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 tenge, give the driver 350 tenge, not more (as he or 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 tickets can be bought online.

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 tenge.

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. Qazaq Air is a cheaper alternative and also provides some connections between major Kazakh cities, with the most frequently served connection being the route Astana - Almaty.

By car

Renting a car is rather costly compared to other means of transport.

The traffic culture is different from that in the West. Cars and roads in Kazakhstan are often in poor condition. The use of seat belts on the front seats is compulsory and carefully enforced by the police. However, rear seat belts are often not worn or not used. In general, traffic rules are not always respected and speeding is common.

There are relatively few petrol stations on the roads, so if you are going on a longer journey, it is a good idea to take enough fuel with you, including for spare tanks. It is a good idea to buy fuel only from well-known petrol station chains because of the uneven quality of the fuel sold.

Avoid driving at night. In most urban areas, only the main roads are lit. In winter, road surfaces are often dangerously slippery and in winter, roads outside towns and cities may be closed due to snowstorms or high winds.


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 and the city of Almaty remain 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 staff.

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).


As the Kazakhs were traditionally nomads who lived on horseback, Kazakhstan for the most part lacks the monumental Islamic architecture of neighboring Uzbekistan. However, Kazakhstan makes up for this with its wealth of natural beauty, which can be seen in the wide open spaces between its cities.

Visitors wanting to experience the traditional Kazakh nomadic lifestyle will likely be disappointed. Under Stalin's collectivization policy during the period of Soviet rule, the Kazakhs were forced to sedentarize and become farmers, all but wiping out the nomadic tradition within the borders of modern Kazakhstan. There are opportunities for tourists to stay in Kazakh yurts, but these were re-created in the post-Soviet era as tourist attractions, and are not an authentic part of the daily lives of regular Kazakh people. Nevertheless, traditional Kazakh clothing still reflects that nomadic heritage and traditional life on horseback, the horse remains an important part of Kazakh culture, which visitors can see on display in its full glory during major traditional festivals. Perhaps ironically, the traditional Kazakh nomadic lifestyle is better preserved among the ethnic Kazakh minorities in Western Mongolia and China's Xinjiang province than in Kazakhstan, making those better destinations if that is what you are looking to experience.

  • Baikonur – 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 (6,000 km2) is rented by Russia, no Kazakh visa is needed if you fly in directly from Moscow. Tours can be organised but reportedly these take weeks to be approved by Russian authorities.
  • Köl-Say Lakes
  • The modern buildings of Nur-Sultan – 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.
  • Nature reserves – Kazakhstan has various natural landscapes and is home to about 10 nature reserves that provide a haven for rare and endangered species.


  • 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, and many will include a "happy end" option when taking a massage. 



The national currency is tenge, denoted by the symbol "?" or "T" (Cyrillic: ?????, ISO code: KZT). On Wikivoyage we use tenge to denote the currency, e.g. 100 tenge. Coins come in denominations of ?1-, ?2-, ?5-, ?10-, ?20-, ?50-, ?100 and ?200. Banknotes come in denominations of ?200-, ?500-, ?1,000-, ?2,000-, ?5,000-, ?10,000 and ?20,000.


Kazakhstan is slightly more expensive than Uzbekistan, but still cheaper than Turkmenistan. A street snack costs around US$0.30-0.70. A night in a dorm in the big cities is US$10-20. A more comfortable double room is US$60-80.


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.


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 US$300 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 tenge for chicken, 1,000 tenge for beef, and up to 1,500 tenge 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.


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.
  • 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.


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.


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. It is 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 in some 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, 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 tenge 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.

Major criminal organisations are active in the Shu valley, between Taraz and Almaty. Locals widely report a heavy police presence, and that corrupt police are known to plant drugs on both local and foreign visitors.

Watch out for food poisoning from shady vendors in smaller towns. In Astana, completely legitimate cafes may include milder drugs in their drinks menu. A misunderstanding can get the unwary traveler lots more than he bargained for.


Kazakh people have more pride than most Westerners would expect. Therefore, insulting or negative comments about Kazakhstan or local Kazakh 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 associate the country with Borat. Many Kazakh people find the movie offensive and insulting, and believe the movie created an opportunity for people to disparage, insult, and offend Kazakh people. Jokes and friendly banter about the movie are no-go areas, so don't go about joking about it.

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.

Stay healthy

In general, the level of health care and hygiene is not up to Western standards. When travelling to smaller places, it is a good idea to bring your own medical supplies. There may also be a shortage of medicines.

In an emergency, call an ambulance at the general hospital on duty on 103. However, you should consider using local hospitals.

When travelling to forested and mountainous areas, especially in the early summer months, tick-borne encephalitis should be taken into account. Tuberculosis and HIV are also present in the country. There have been a few cases of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever in South Kazakhstan and cases of Lyme disease in rural areas.

In order to avoid stomach infections and food poisoning, particular attention should be paid to hygiene when preparing food and drinks, especially during the summer months. 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 Asu, Borjomi, Sary-Agash or Tassay mineral waters. Many other widely-known water brands can be found in restaurants and supermarkets. If you have to use tap water, it is advisable to boil the water before using it.

Travellers should have comprehensive travel insurance, including cover for aircraft evacuation in the event of serious illness or accident. Many hospitals either do not accept international travel insurance at all or only accept it from certain insurance companies. Payment by international credit card is not possible in all hospitals, so payment must be made in local cash (tenge). Before you travel, check with your insurance company which clinic in Kazakhstan you should contact in case of an emergency.


Phone numbers

Kazakhstan has used +7 6xx or +7 7xx as its dialling code (as with Russia), but on January 1, 2023, the country started to progressively switch to using +997. However, the +7 code will still be used (through permissive dialling) until the end of 2024.

Go next

The land border can be crossed to Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Check the requirements for crossing the border to Turkmenistan. There is a ferry to Azerbaijan.

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.


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.


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, 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.


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

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.


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 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.


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


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 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.
  • 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.
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.

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 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.



There is no risk of malaria in this country.


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 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 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.


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.


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.


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

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