When most people think of Kazakhstan they probably picture Borat and big open spaces. It is true, it is full of wide open spaces. When traveling through the country you will see farmland for as far as the eye can see.
You’ll see deserts and oil fields and a vast landscape with wide-open skies. It’s beautiful, like a desert. You’ll feel as if you are the only person in the world. While we camped our way through the country, we would sit alone at night in silence.
Every so often a farmer or family would stop at our campsite to say hello or watch us work. They couldn’t understand why we were sitting in the middle of a field. We loved the solitude of the countryside.
This Kazakhstan travel guide will help you plan your next vacation.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
Fast Facts about Kazakhstan
- Russian power voltage is 220V 50Hz; Plug C & F
- The Kazakhstan currency is the Kazakhstani tenge is around 240 KZT to 1 USD
- Try Shubat or Kumiss. Camel milk or horse milk.
- Make sure to pack some extra wet wipes and stomach/diarrhea tablets!
- Upon arrival in Kazakhstan, citizens of foreign countries are required to obtain an immigration card that is date stamped. Hotel registration is also recorded on the card. Foreigners are given a grace period of 5 days to register, however there are specific cases for different countries so make sure to check out this information before you land in Kazakhstan.
- Travelers from specific countries are exempt from visas while others (like Canada, Belgium, Australia) must be obtain a visa in advance and not upon arrival. Check with the local Kazakhstan embassy for up to date information and requirements.
- Clothes are line-dried. Many areas of the country lack washing machines as well, so prepare for the possibility of hand washing!
- Some areas that are popular with travelers, including Big Almaty Lake, Kolsai lakes, Medeo, Charyn canyon, Alakol lake, Monakhov Gorge and other are now “closed” areas. Travelers need to obtain permissions to enter from the Immigration police Office in Almaty.
- Water is cities is chlorinated, so it is safe to drink but not recommended. Bottled water is also widely available.
Things to See and Do in Kazakhstan
- Kaindy Lake – This lake in the mountains was formed after a natural disaster (earthquake) that occurred in 1911. It is famous as a turquoise mountain lake.
- Baikonur Cosmodrome – It was initially formed as a secret missile testing site and a base for Soviet Space Programs. It is a peek spot for travelers to look into history.
- The Aral Sea – This is a rusting ship that is present in a desert where there used to be a sea. There was an environmental disaster caused by man-made activities that left it dry.
- Astana, Kazakhstan: The City at Night – Before going there, we had never heard of its capital city Astana, we didn’t know anything about architecture or its people and we didn’t really know what countries bordered it.
- Kazakhstan a Country of Contrasts – When most people think of Kazakhstan they probably picture Borat and big open spaces. It is true, it is full of wide-open spaces.
Budget – You can stay in budget hotels for around $21 a night in Kazakhstan. These often include free breakfast, internet access, and a TV.
Mid-Range – Mid-range hotels will cost you around $79 a night in Kazakhstan and may include a restaurant, airport transfers, and free parking, WI-FI, and a gym.
High End – High-end hotels start at around $118 per night and may include a private balcony, pool, business center, airport transfer, laundry facilities, and free toiletries.
- Beshbarmak – This is the national dish of Kazakhstan and among nomadic Turkic peoples in Central Asia. The name means five fingers, as the nomads used to eat it with their hands. It is a dish with boiled meat mixed with noodles and spiced with onion sauce.
- Shashlik -This dish consists of meat cubes with some vegetables cooked over an open fire or a bed of coals.
- Kazy – This common food is a traditional sausage-like food of Kazakhs, Kazy is a common element on a dastarkhan, a table set for a festive meal.
- Manti Dumplings – The dumplings are made when the manti filling (usually ground lamb) is spiced with black pepper. Manti is served topped with butter, sour cream, or an onion sauce or garlic sauce.
- Pelmeni – This is a thin dough dumpling with a filling of meat (beef, lamb, pork) mixed with spices such as black pepper, diced onions, and garlic.
- Baursak– This common appetizer is a puffy bread that is fried and is decorated in a criss-cross pattern.
- Kumis -This dairy product is a fermented product made from mare’s milk. It contains more sugar than cow or goat’s milk.
The Best Ways to Get Around Kazakhstan
Getting to Kazakhstan
Flights: Almaty International Airport is the largest in Kazakhstan, located 15 km northeast of the Almaty that is the country’s largest and commercial capital. Direct flights to Kazakhstan are available from Manchester, Spain, and UAE.
You can check for the best flights to Kazakhstan on Skyscanner.
Buses: Buses in Kazakhstan cost up to 0.21 USD for a one-way ticket and do not depend on the distance.
Taxis/Uber: Initial fare per km in Kazakhstan starts from $1.70.
Car Rental: Local car services in Kazakhstan have their prices varying from $5 – $6 for 3 hours, whereas International car rentals cost up to $40 per day. You can also compare prices here.
When to go To Kazakhstan
- The best time to travel to Kazakhstan is during summers, between July – August. The weather is perfect throughout the country in these months. It is the peak season and the best occasion for hikers too. The views are also ideal in these months.
Where to Stay in Kazakhstan
- Holiday Inn ALMATY – This is a 4-star hotel in Almaty with a restaurant and a fitness center. It also provides other amenities such as a conference room, 24-hour room service. It offers minibars and safes in 277 accommodations. Refrigerators, as well as coffee makers, are provided, and bathrooms include hairdryers and complimentary toiletries.
- Rixos Almaty Hotel – Rixos Almaty Hotel offers complimentary bottled water and rooms with open balconies. Smart televisions with wireless internet access and a fitness center for the guests. A full-service spa and a sauna are also available.
- The Ritz-Carlton, Astana – It is the most booked hotel in Almaty. It provides free breakfast, restaurants, internet access, air conditioning, laundry services, free parking, and bars.
What to Pack for Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan has a continental climate, which means that it can have some extreme temperatures. In summer (June to August) it can climb above 36 degrees °C (96°F) and in winter (December to February) you can expect temperatures to be as low as -26 degrees °C (-10°F).
Snow stays on the ground for almost half the year. The best time to travel is during spring (May to June) and autumn (September to November) when temperatures are mild. While it can rain at any time of year- the desert gets very little rainfall while in the mountains it is best not to leave home without your rain gear.
- Layers – You could possibly be sweating all afternoon and then be freezing by nightfall! Make sure to stock up on the layers. If you plan on heading to Kazakhstan during the winter make sure to pack the winter essentials: Warm, waterproof, fleece-lined boots big enough to wear with heavy wool socks, hat, waterproof gloves and thermal long underwear!
- Classic Basic items – You do not need to be a fashionista to blend in. The key is in embracing neutral toned items that can be mixed and matched easily. Avoid logos, baseball caps, shorts, hoodies, flip-flops and running shoes as these items scream tourist!
- Rain Essentials – the weather can be a little unpredictable so make sure to pack a lightweight easily compacted waterproof/windproof jacket and a pair of waterproof boots.
- Personal Safety products – Certain areas in Albay are known as pickpocket hotspots. Before leaving for your trip, make sure to pack some personal safety products, like money belts and locks, so that you can keep your valuables safe on your trip.
- See our packing tips: packing tips
Kazakhstan Travel Guide: Best Booking Resources
Whenever we travel to we make sure to start with these companies. We have tried a lot of different ones over the years and all of these have consistently proven to be the best when it comes to offering great prices.
We have used every one of these personally and continue to do so.
- Booking.com: This is our go site to when comparing prices for accommodation. It usually has the cheapest prices, especially in Europe and we love their interface. Not to mention you get free cancellation and you are guaranteed the best price.
- Trip Advisor: What we like about Trip Advisor is that we can look at all the reviews and then book our accommodation. TripAdvisor is where we go when we want to compare prices with multiple accommodation providers.
- VRBO: is the main search engine we use when we are looking for a home or apartment rental. It can sometimes be cheaper than hotels and it is the best way to stay in areas that offer a more local feel.
- Hostelworld: With one of the largest databases of hostels in the world, Hostelworld is the go-to site when you are looking for budget accommodation.
- Skyscanner: This is the first place we check for flights. It consistently comes back with the cheapest and best options. It allows us to compare a lot of airlines to get the best price.
- Rome 2 Rio: If you want to see how to get somewhere by plane, train, bus, ferry or car Rome2Rio lays it all out for you as well as related costs.I love how they show it all to you on a Google Map and it works offline.
- Get Your Guide: For all your day trip and city guide needs, we use Get Your Guide. It has the world’s largest collection of things to do with more than 30,000 activities in 7500 destinations.
- World Nomads Insurance: When traveling to Italy you should always have travel insurance. We have found the best bang for your buck is by far World Nomads.