Central Asia’s Kazakhstan may not leap to the mind as an interesting travel destination, but it offers diversity and a number of interesting places. Whilst it does not contain many historic attractions, people are still drawn to this intriguing, mysterious, and often viewed as remote, country. Visitors will do well to read up on some Kazakhstan travel advice before embarking on any adventure, to ensure a smooth and pleasant visit. Step off the beaten track and take an intrepid journey through the largest Central Asian country.
Here are some top questions answered for all seeking quality Kazakhstan travel advice:
Do I Need a Visa to Visit Kazakhstan?
The visa situation varies greatly for citizens of different countries. Some people can get a tourist visa without a letter of invitation. These include people from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the USA, Singapore, New Zealand, Oman, Italy, Greece, and Japan. It is often wiser to obtain a letter of invitation, however, as the immigration staff is known for being somewhat disagreeable. You do not want to find yourself turned away at the border. Citizens of Turkey, Armenia, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Ukraine, Serbia, and a few others, do not need a visa. Check with your local embassy before finalizing your travel plans. Visas must be registered within a certain period of time of entering the country.
How Can I Enter Kazakhstan?
There are several international routes flying in and out of Kazakhstan. There are frequent boats between Baku and Aktau, but with long delays, sometimes lasting for several days or weeks, it is not the best option. Trains enter by land, with popular routes running between Russia and China. Buses can be slow, but sleeper buses are fairly comfortable. Private vehicles are an option, but there are often very long queues at the border points.
How Can I Get Around Kazakhstan?
Kazakhstan has a decent public transport system, and trains, buses, and planes are all good ways to travel around the country. Car hire is expensive. Trams and minivans are available in most major areas, and, unlike many countries, taxis can be a very cheap and affordable way to travel around. The local transport that is known as a marshrutka can be a really fun experience and a different way of getting from A to B. They are clapped out vans that follow certain routes in many of the cities.
What Language is Spoken in Kazakhstan?
Both Kazakh and Russian are spoken. Younger people will usually know some English, although it is typically not widely spoken. Outside of the main tourist spots, some local phrases will be almost essential to be able to travel around Kazakhstan. A phrase book, translator, or even dictionary, can be an invaluable tool on your adventure.
What is the Food Like in Kazakhstan?
The staple foods are meat, potatoes, pasta, and rice. Kazakhstan food is known for being fairly stodgy, hearty, and filling. Vegetarians will probably struggle to find traditional dishes that they are able to eat. Even vegetable dishes are often prepared using a meaty broth or stock. International food is available in most larger cities. Eating out is generally inexpensive, and there are many markets selling a range of delicious foods.
Where Should I Visit in Kazakhstan?
Some of the highlights include the capital city of Astana, an ancient burial site that is being rapidly redeveloped and modernized, the former capital city of Almaty, a lively city with a Soviet feel, close to the mountains, the oil capital of Atyrau, and Pavlodar, which is home to one of the country’s most spectacular mosques. Tukestan is an ancient city, with many places of cultural interest. In Karaganda you can learn about Kazakhstan’s mining heritage, and Shymkent is an old and traditional market town.