30 frequently asked questions about Kazakhstan
1. Why is Kazakhstan worth visiting?
Kazakhstan is a destination that sophisticated travelers simply cannot miss. As the 9th largest country in the world, it boasts a vast territory that has served as a vital connecting bridge between Europe and Asia since ancient times. The country's strategic location has resulted in the convergence of western and eastern cultures, forming a unique and fascinating symbiosis.
But it's not just the cultural richness that draws visitors to Kazakhstan. The country is also home to some of the most breathtaking natural wonders in the world. From the Caspian Sea to the Charyn Canyon and Lake Kaindy, Kazakhstan is a treasure trove of natural beauty. It's also home to a number of national parks and nature reserves that allow visitors to experience the country's flora and fauna up close.
In addition to the natural beauty, Kazakhstan has a rich history that is reflected in its ancient cities, historic sites, and diverse architecture. Visitors can explore the ancient city of Turkistan, marvel at the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, or study the Tanbaly Petroglyphs.
But perhaps what sets Kazakhstan apart is the warm hospitality of its people. Visitors are welcomed with open arms and treated like honored guests. Modern and cosmopolitan cities like Astana and Almaty offer a wide range of shopping, dining, and entertainment options, while the countryside is dotted with traditional yurts where visitors can experience the local way of life.
It is also worth noting that Kazakhstan has the best infrastructure in the region, a developed economy and a relatively high level of security. Read more about must-visit destinations in this article.
2. How can I enter Kazakhstan?
Kazakhstan has a straightforward entry process that caters to citizens of different countries. There are three scenarios in which foreigners can enter the country, which are as follows:
- Without a visa - this option is available to citizens of select countries who are planning to stay in Kazakhstan for a short period. You can find the list of visa-exempt countries here.
- On a visa - this option is for foreigners who are not eligible for visa-free entry. They can obtain a visa in electronic form or at the embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in their respective countries. Find out more about the visa application process in this article.
- On a visa, which can be obtained at an international airport in Kazakhstan upon arrival. This option is for you if there is no embassy of Kazakhstan in your country and you can’t apply for a visa online for any reason.
3. Do I need to register with authorities upon arrival?
In Kazakhstan, registration is a process in which foreign nationals notify the migration police of their arrival and obtain a temporary residence permit. The registration requirement depends on the duration of stay in the country, and there are different scenarios for visitors to follow.
- Visitors staying in Kazakhstan for less than 30 days do not need to register with the internal affairs authorities or notify the migration police of their arrival.
- Visitors intending to stay for more than 30 days must obtain a temporary residence permit. The easiest and fastest way to register is through the EQONAQ app or website. You don’t have to do it yourself. it is the responsibility of the host. For instance, if staying at a hotel, the employees will scan your passport in the app, and you will be registered with the migration police and receive a certificate by mail. Similarly, if visiting relatives or friends, they can register visitors in the EQONAQ system and notify the authorities of their arrival without the need to visit the migration police department.
It's worth noting that a foreign citizen can stay in Kazakhstan for a total of 90 calendar days during each period of 180 calendar days. Therefore, it's crucial to keep track of the duration of stay and register accordingly to avoid any legal issues.
4. What are the rules for crossing the Kazakh border?
You can learn more about the procedure for crossing the state border of the Republic of Kazakhstan through the established checkpoints on foot, by car or accompanied by minor children on this page.
5. Is it safe for foreign tourists to stay in Kazakhstan?
Kazakhstan is generally considered a safe country for foreign tourists, although travelers are advised to follow basic safety rules. In 2019, the country ranked 44th out of 128 countries in the Global Finance magazine's ranking of the safest countries in the world. While this result may not be among the best in the world, it is the best in the region, and the country is generally considered safe for travel.
It's important to note that, as with any destination, travelers should take some precautions to ensure their safety, particularly when engaging in active or extreme recreation, visiting remote areas, or traveling independently. One recommendation is to use the services of a licensed and certified tour operator to ensure reliable service and safety.
Another important aspect is to always have your passport with you, as many popular attractions are located in border areas, and visitors may be required to provide identification to confirm their legal status in the country. By following these basic safety measures, travelers can enjoy their visit to Kazakhstan without any issues.
6. Are there any special rules and regulations that need to be followed in Kazakhstan?
When traveling in Kazakhstan, it is important to be aware of the restrictions on smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages in public places, as there are fines for these activities. Additionally, stores stop selling strong alcohol after 9:00 pm. If you want to drink in the evening or at night, it's best to go to a cafe, restaurant, or bar.
As in most countries, drugs, public disorder, and insulting state symbols or officials are prohibited in Kazakhstan. It is impossible to list all the actions that may result in administrative or criminal charges, so it's best to check with the travel company or information centers before agreeing to any questionable proposals.
When driving alone in Kazakhstan, make sure to follow traffic rules carefully. Kazakhstan has strict sanctions for traffic violations, and even minor infractions can result in the loss of driving privileges. Large cities in Kazakhstan have numerous video surveillance cameras that record traffic violations, so it's important to familiarize yourself with local rules and regulations before starting your car trip to avoid unpleasant surprises.
It's worth noting that over 70% of Kazakhstan's residents are Muslim, so it's important to respect local shrines and religious sites. For example, it's important to remove shoes and dress modestly when entering mosques or holy places. Women should cover their heads and necks, and it's also essential to check whether women are allowed access to all parts of the religious site before visiting.
Similarly, when visiting religious sites of other faiths, it's important to follow any posted rules. For example, women with uncovered heads and bare legs are not allowed in the temples of the Russian Orthodox Church. You can find signs outside religious sites or ask your guide for more information.
7. Where is the best place to stay when traveling in Kazakhstan? Hotels, hostels, apartments, or guest houses?
Accommodation options in Kazakhstan range from budget-friendly hostels with prices starting at around 3000 tenge (7 US dollars) per day to luxury hotels from well-known chains like St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, and more. You can find these options on websites such as booking.com.
We highly recommend avoiding renting apartments or rooms directly from individuals, especially those who request an advance payment. Even booking through reputable websites does not provide a 100% guarantee that the owner of the apartment is not a scammer. As a result, it's best to avoid booking accommodations without reviews, with suspiciously low prices or that have recently appeared on the site.
It's important to note that staying in a hotel is often more cost-effective in Kazakhstan than renting an apartment. High-quality apartments are scarce and book up quickly. Additionally, renting a good apartment can cost more than a hotel, despite hotels offering better services, more developed infrastructure, and complimentary breakfast.
8. How much cash can be brought in and taken out to/from Kazakhstan?
Individuals traveling to or from Kazakhstan are allowed to bring in or take out cash in foreign or national currency, as well as traveler's checks, without customs declaration, provided the total amount does not exceed 10,000 US dollars. If the amount exceeds 10,000 US dollars, it is mandatory to declare it at customs, except when traveling to or from other countries within the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
When crossing borders between Kazakhstan and other EAEU member states, such as Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia, there are no restrictions on the import and export of foreign currency for individuals. They are only required to go through border control.
9. What steps can I take to ensure that I do not encounter scammers or unprofessional service providers?
If you're planning to travel to Kazakhstan and want to avoid scammers and non-professionals while getting a guarantee of professional service, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it's important to choose a supplier that is licensed to conduct tour operator activities in Kazakhstan. Ask the company if they have such a license and check if the guides who will serve you are registered in the national register of guides.
Additionally, look for companies and guides that have a lot of reviews in open sources, as this can give you an idea of the quality of their service. After the services are completed, you can also give feedback in public sources to help other travelers and to influence the supplier in case of dishonest performance.
Although low prices may be tempting, it's essential to contact experienced and officially working specialists when it comes to complexly organized services in a poorly known country. Keep in mind that up to 70% of tourist service providers in Kazakhstan work outside the law, and they are not liable to their customers under the Law on Tourism Activities and the Law on Consumer Rights Protection. By choosing licensed, experienced, and reviewed companies and guides, you can significantly reduce your risks and ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
10. When is the ideal time to visit Kazakhstan?
The answer depends on the type of services you plan to use and the location in which they will take place. Spring and autumn are typically the busiest periods for tourism in Kazakhstan, while summer is also popular despite the high temperatures in some regions. However, demand for cultural and educational tours may decrease during the hottest months. As demand rises, so does the cost of hotels and service professionals, and the most popular tourist sites may be crowded.
It is recommended that before purchasing travel services from an agent, one should ask for advice on the optimal time to visit Kazakhstan based on the specific type of services and areas to be visited. One should ask for a clear description of the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed travel period to evaluate the level of competence of the specialist and choose the most suitable dates. Feel free to contact our consultants. They can recommend the most comfortable travel period based on your preferences, taking into account a number of factors such as visiting local attractions in private and catching the most favorable weather conditions.
11. What is the weather like in Kazakhstan? How to dress and what to bring?
In general, when traveling to Kazakhstan, it is important to consider the specific climate of the region you will be visiting and the time of year you will be traveling.
In the summer months, which are typically from June to August, it is hot in most regions of Kazakhstan, and lightweight, breathable clothing is recommended. However, in some areas, such as the mountains, the temperature can drop significantly in the evenings, so it is important to bring a warm layer, such as a sweater or jacket, to be prepared.
In the winter months, which are from December to February, it can get very cold in Kazakhstan, especially in the northern and central regions. It is important to bring warm, insulated clothing, such as a heavy coat, boots, gloves, and a hat, to protect yourself from the extreme cold.
Overall, it is important to be prepared for any weather conditions when traveling to Kazakhstan, as the weather can be unpredictable. It is also a good idea to bring comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, and insect repellent, as well as any necessary medications or personal items you may need. For more information about the climate in Kazakhstan read this article.
12. Can I use Wi-Fi and mobile internet in Kazakhstan?
When it comes to Wi-Fi and mobile internet in Kazakhstan, large cities typically have a stable and high-quality mobile internet signal. In fact, if you are in the center of any large settlement, then cellular operators will provide you with a stable 4G connection, which is an excellent result given the country's large territory and low population density. Compared to neighboring states in Central Asia, Kazakhstan fares better in terms of mobile internet signal quality, according to international ratings.
However, due to the vast territory and low population density, there are many "blind zones" in the country where mobile internet and communications are not available at all. For tourists visiting natural sites located far from developed infrastructure or in mountainous areas, the signal can be weak or non-existent. It's recommended to check with experts or guides in advance about the availability of mobile internet along your planned route. Additionally, more accurate interactive network coverage maps can be found on the websites of Kazakhstani mobile operators.
Wi-Fi is available in most catering outlets, hotels, offices, business and shopping centers, and other places of leisure and entertainment. To connect to Wi-Fi, you'll typically need to log in to the network via a mobile number and SMS or clarify the password with the employees of the facility providing the Wi-Fi.
It's worth noting that looking for open Wi-Fi on the streets, squares, parks, or other municipal facilities is practically useless in Kazakhstan, unlike in some other countries. In these cases, it's better to use mobile internet or personal Wi-Fi, which works through a mobile connection. Buying a SIM card in Kazakhstan is not difficult, and the provided connection is affordable. For example, prices for a monthly mobile internet package range from $4 to $18, depending on the traffic limit available to you during the month.
13. How to make purchases and exchange currency in Kazakhstan?
In most major cities of Kazakhstan, stores accept cards and other forms of cashless payment. However, small shops may not have a point-of-sale (POS) terminal, so it is best to have cash on hand when shopping at these types of establishments. When visiting a bazaar, it is also recommended to bring cash as not all vendors may accept card payments. If you are traveling to remote areas outside of the cities, it is crucial to have cash as it may not be possible to access banks or ATMs.
When exchanging currency in Kazakhstan, you will be asked to provide a valid identity document, such as a passport. You can exchange currency at branches of banks or at non-bank exchange offices, which can be found in many locations throughout the country, including major cities and tourist areas. To calculate the ratio of tenge to the US dollar, euro and ruble, use our currency converter. Also, read more about the national currency in this article.
14. Where can I find an ATM in Kazakhstan?
ATMs are widely available in cities, towns and villages in Kazakhstan, and they can usually be found in banks, shopping malls, and other public places. One way to find an ATM is to look for the logos of the major international payment systems such as Visa or MasterCard, which are often displayed near the entrances of banks and shopping centers.
You can also use online maps and applications to locate ATMs in Kazakhstan. Google Maps, Yandex Maps, and 2GIS are popular and reliable mapping services that can help you find ATMs and other points of interest in the country. Many banks in Kazakhstan also have their own websites that provide information about the location of their ATMs.
15. What is the electricity voltage in Kazakhstan?
The standard mains voltage is 220 volts. Kazakhstan uses European standard sockets, so travelers from Europe will not face any difficulties. Guests from the US, Canada, and Japan need to stock up on adapters.
16. What languages are spoken in Kazakhstan?
The state language is Kazakh. However, along with Kazakh, Russian is also widely used. The vast majority of people, especially in the northern, central, and eastern regions, speak Russian. If you are planning to travel around the south of Kazakhstan, especially small towns and villages, you should learn at least a few phrases in Kazakh. You will find a more detailed story about the Kazakh language, as well as a small English-Russian-Kazakh phrasebook on this page.
Also, many people, especially those living in large cities, understand English. Signs in public places and announcements in the subway are usually duplicated in three languages: Kazakh, Russian, and English.
17. Should I have any vaccinations before traveling?
In Kazakhstan, the risk of contracting exotic diseases such as malaria or dengue fever is low. However, it is still important to practice basic hygiene to maintain good health. Vaccinations are recommended for measles, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and meningitis, if you aren’t already vaccinated against these diseases.
During the spring and summer months, ticks can be active in forests and mountains and may carry encephalitis or Lyme disease. It is advisable to get vaccinated if you plan to go hiking in these areas and take necessary precautions such as covering exposed skin, avoiding tall grass, and using insect repellent. If you find a tick on your body, it is important to seek medical assistance to remove it properly and have it checked for diseases.
As of early 2023, Kazakhstan has lifted all coronavirus-related restrictions for tourists and vaccination certificates are no longer required.
18. Can you find vegan, lactose or gluten-free products in Kazakhstan?
It is possible to find food products suitable for vegans and those with gluten and lactose intolerance in some supermarkets. In addition, there are health food stores in Almaty and Astana that cater to these dietary needs. Many coffee shops offer coffee with plant-based milk, and some vegetarian cafes are available in the cities.
However, if you are traveling to rural areas or small towns, it may be difficult to find food that meets your dietary requirements. The traditional Kazakh cuisine is predominantly meat, dough, and dairy-based, which can make it challenging for those with specific dietary needs.
If you are traveling with a reputable tour operator, make sure to inform the staff of your dietary requirements in advance, and they will try their best to accommodate your needs. It is also recommended to carry some non-perishable snacks and food items that you know are safe for you to eat.
19. Is tap water safe to use?
In Kazakhstan, tap water undergoes multiple stages of purification, including chlorination, to make it safe for drinking. However, the quality of tap water can vary significantly between regions and even different districts within the same city. Although it's unlikely that drinking tap water will cause any harm, it's still not recommended. To be safe, it's best to filter the water or boil it before consuming it. Many people in Kazakhstan prefer to drink bottled water, which is widely available in stores and supermarkets.
20. What holidays and days off are there in Kazakhstan?
Public holidays in Kazakhstan are:
- New Year (January 1-2)
- Orthodox Christmas (January 7)
- International Women's Day (March 8)
- Nauryz (March 21-23)
- Day of unity of the people of Kazakhstan (May 1)
- Defender of the Fatherland Day (May 7)
- Victory Day (May 9)
- Capital Day (July 6)
- Constitution Day (August 30)
- Republic Day (25 October)
- Independence Day (December 16)
- First day of Eid al-Adha (date subject to change)
If you want to learn more about these holidays, feel free to read this article.
21. What are the major religions in Kazakhstan?
Kazakhstan is a country that values religious tolerance and freedom of religion for its citizens. The country is home to a diverse range of religions, including Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism.
While the majority of the population is Muslim, Kazakhstan is a secular state, meaning that religion does not influence the government's structure. The state's foundation is based on legal norms rather than religious principles, ensuring that all citizens are treated equally regardless of their religious beliefs.
Tengrianism, a pagan religion that worships Tengri, the god of heaven, and Umai, the goddess of the earth, was the primary religion in Kazakhstan before the arrival of Islam. Although a small percentage of the population still practices this religion, it is not widely observed.
22. What is the attitude towards LGBTQ+ people in Kazakhstan?
In Kazakhstan, while the majority of people may hold conservative views, the legislation allows for voluntary homosexual relationships between adults and prohibits harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, there are restrictions and prohibitions on the promotion of homosexual relationships among children, same-sex marriage, adoption by same-sex couples, and serving in the internal affairs bodies of the Republic of Kazakhstan for people of non-traditional sexual orientation.
In larger cities, views on same-sex relationships are more tolerant, and some members of the LGBT community openly express their sexual preferences. Gay clubs also operate openly in these cities. However, LGBTQ+ individuals still may face discrimination and harassment, and there have been reports of violence against members of the community.
It is important for travelers to show respect towards all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, when visiting Kazakhstan.
23. What souvenirs would you recommend bringing from Kazakhstan?
- Kazakhstan chocolate, available in any supermarket, packaged with the country's flag.
- Felt products, such as slippers, vests, bags, and rugs, made by Kazakh artisans.
- National food products like kurt (hard cheese balls), jent (millet, butter, and sugar dessert), kazy (horse meat sausage), kumys (fermented mare's milk), shubat (sour camel milk), and tan (sour milk drink made from goat or cow's milk).
- Traditional clothing, such as the skullcap and chapan (headdress and caftan).
- Honey, especially from the Kazakh Altai region.
- Musical instruments like the dombra, kobyz, and sybyzgy.
- Kazakh cognac, particularly the «Kazakhstan» brand.
- Kamcha, a leather whip and a symbol of power, often used in nomadic households.
24. What are the must-try foods and drinks in Kazakhstan?
Beshbarmak is a very popular national dish in Kazakhstan, made from boiled meat, thinly rolled dough, and onions. It is often served during special occasions, such as weddings and holidays. Fishbarmak, a local variety of beshbarmak that uses fish instead of meat, is also worth trying if you visit the cities of Aktau or Atyrau, which are near the Caspian Sea.
Other popular dishes in Kazakh cuisine include kuyrdak, which consists of fried pieces of liver, lungs, and kidneys with potatoes; syrne, made from lamb with potatoes and onions; sorpa, a meat broth; and kespe, a type of noodle. Sausages such as kazy, shuzhyk, and karta, are also worth trying, as are dough products like baursaks (fried pieces of dough) and shelpeks (flat cakes fried in oil).
Milk products are an integral part of Kazakh cuisine, including kumys, tan, shubat, airan (kefir), kaimak (sour cream), irimshik (hard cheese made from sheep's milk), and katyk (a fermented milk product). These products are often used in various traditional dishes and have a unique taste that is difficult to find elsewhere.
Overall, Kazakh cuisine offers a wide variety of dishes and flavors, influenced by the country's nomadic history and diverse geography. It is definitely worth trying when visiting Kazakhstan. For more information about Kazakh cuisine feel free to visit this page.
25. What mobile applications will make my stay in Kazakhstan more comfortable?
- 2GIS – the best maps of Kazakhstani cities.
- Google Maps – these maps are better than 2GIS if you are outside big cities.
- YandexGo is the most popular taxi aggregator. Uber and Lyft are not present in Kazakhstan.
- AstraBus – here you can see bus routes in Astana, as well as track buses in real time.
- Onay! In this application, you can track buses in Almaty and Karaganda. However, to register a transport card in it, you need an identity card of a citizen of Kazakhstan.
- Google Translate. In the application, you can instantly translate spoken language, the translator also recognizes and translates text in photos and even handwritten text.
26. Kazakhstan is a huge country. What is the most convenient way to move around its territory?
- Train. Kazakhstan has an extensive network of railways, which connects all major cities.
- Airplane. Domestic flights are operated by Kazakhstani airlines AirAstana, FlyArystan, SCAT, QazaqAir. Due to the large area, the plane is often the best solution, and air tickets are not always more expensive than train tickets.
- Automobile. Many attractions can only be reached by car, and some can only be reached by SUV. The price of gasoline in Kazakhstan is one of the lowest in the world, so traveling by car will not be expensive.
- Taxi. People often use ride-hailing services like InDrive to move between cities that are relatively close to each other.
27. Can I travel around Kazakhstan on my own or rented car?
Certainly. There are several car rental companies operating in the country. Before you rent a car, check where you are allowed to drive it. Many firms allow you to move only within the city, while others allow you to travel throughout Kazakhstan.
If you enter Kazakhstan by your own car, at the border you need to present your passport, driver's license, and vehicle registration certificate. Insurance must be issued on the territory of Kazakhstan.
28. What is the situation with toilets and sanitary stops in Kazakhstan?
Unfortunately, many roadside toilets are still in poor condition. However, in recent years, KazWay pavilions with clean toilets, cafes and Wi-Fi have begun to appear throughout the country. There are also toilets at gas stations of large chains such as Helios, Sinooil, or KazMunayGas.
29. Is Kazakhstan suitable for hitchhiking?
Yes, Kazakhstani drivers are usually willing to pick up hitchhikers, and traveling in this way is relatively safe. However, it is still worthwhile to exercise some vigilance and it is advisable not to travel alone at night, especially for girls. Before getting into the car, explain to the driver that you intend to ride for free in order to avoid misunderstandings. Some drivers may expect payment from you. Hitchhiking in a group can also be difficult, because not every driver is ready to pick up several people. We recommend using the services of licensed travel agencies that offer individual and group tours. Of course, it is more expensive, but you will be sure that the trip will be successful.
30. Can I buy a group tour and join a group of tourists to save on travel?
In Kazakhstan, group tours are not yet very common, as individual trips are more prevalent where tourists or groups of tourists book all services for themselves. During the pandemic, many large travel companies left the market or abandoned group tours. Although group trips are starting to reappear in some of the most popular destinations, they are generally geared towards domestic tourists. The downside of such tours may include poor service, a mass tourist experience where you may not receive the attention you deserve, a lack of excursions in foreign languages, and cheap pricing due to stiff competition. Such tour packages are often sold at the lowest possible price, including accommodations in the cheapest places, older transport, inexperienced guides, and no additional services (food, entrance fees, water, or other expenses).
During peak season, you may also find group tours available for international guests with a higher level of service, including better transport and experienced guides who speak foreign languages. These tours are pre-planned for fixed dates and typically gather small groups of 2-8 people. The costs are shared between all members of the group, or the tour has fixed rates. To find out about the availability of such tours, check out the Group Tours section. Alternatively, you can contact our manager who can assist you in finding a tour that suits your schedule.
If you want to save money, you can purchase an individual tour at a discount during the low season (November-February) or at an economy rate from Welcome.kz tour operator. This can reduce the tour cost by up to 30%.
The information was updated in March 2023
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