Traffic in Almaty
Traffic in Almaty is one of the most difficult i have seen. not becuse of the large quanitity of cars that also exist in town but due to the lack of dirving skils vs respect from dirvers.
expect everything from NOT STOPING ON ZEBRAS, RED LIGHTS, PASSING BY YOU ON THE LEFT SIDE, NOT LETTING YOU PASS SIDE WALK TO SIDE WALK; DRIVING ON SIDEWALKS (also I have see this in Russia);
A small story:
My Italian friend Marco whom I met in Almaty one day was expecting for a friend somwhere near Dinamo Stadium while he saw a lady requesting for a taxi to stop. so far so good right? so the taxi stoped a bit further of the lady and even without looking he starting driving backwards to pick the lady a bit more closer since she had a couple of bags. the problem here was that the lady also didnt look and she was hit by the car bumper on her knee and he saw exactly that moment while the knee was broken, while the leg bended to the car, PLOCK!
so with this becareful when taxis come back to pick you up a bit closer. usually they dont look where they are going so they might as well just hit you instead.
Almaty was the city in the world where i saw more accidents per day. i actually counted them and i came up with an average number of 7 accidents I HAVE SEEN per day! not that i saw the exact moment of the accident but where i saw cars stoped due to crash.
Taxi to Bishkek
Taxi to Bishkek is one of the most common problems for tourist in the area. so you have some shared taxis that can take you fast and cheap to Kyrgistan's capital Bishkek. everybook says you should avoid this type of transportation. but still people do it without any responsability and care. The normal thing to happen is that somehow you get kidnapped and they ask for all your stuff either back home, or they just leave you somehwere far from civilization without papers, bags, money etc. i guess you should be happy to stay alive as some tourists also disapear.
another small story:
I was on Uzbekistan's embassy to get my visa where I met this American guy getting is uzbekistan visa for the second time the current month. why? he got a bishkek shared taxi and he was robbed and almost stabbed to death somewhere about 30km away from the city. he said he was cereful choosing a taxi with someone already inside not to go alone with the dirver but he forgot the chance of the driver having something to do with the other passanger. suddendly inside the taxi the other passanger pointed him a big knove and asked for all his money passport and important stuff. after a few minutes in panic and impotent feeling he saw this off road coming where nothing existed and he tought "...ok, now that they rob me they maybe will kill me and live my body somewhere wher people cant find it like this desertic place about 4 km off the national road..."
nothing happen to him and he was just left there alone witouth his belongings. this sucks i guess. sorry man, but you should avoid this taxis unless you go with more friends, up to a big number inside the taxi. even like this someone can be waiting for the driver along the road with some guns or with a larger number of people, enough to get your guys money and documents.
he got a new american provisory passport and needed new visas.
another solutino for this problem is to get a few more time and go to bishkek by bus.
Horses runing in Medeu
Horses runing in Medeu are scary and can actually get you by suprise. no one warned me about the horses coming runing towards me so i really had to run to avoid being hit by them. all these horses are scared of the man coming with them on another horse, conducting them to a different place, so they just run and SAVE YOUR ASS cos they will not move!
these are the horses for horse riding on top of the hill in medeu after the olympic stadium.
Panfilov Park and Zekov Cathedral by night
Panfilov Park and Zekov Cathedral by night is indeed a mustn't. i was folowed by thes guys that really looked bad guys. i decided to go there to see the park at night and its only full with gangs. on the lighten areeas of the park you have some people still singing karaoke with these loud radios and tvs, so if you even need help and screem no one will listen to you. be careful with guys riding motorbikes and bicylcles also. after i was folowed for a few minutes i decided to go back and confront them face to face bofore i actually ended in a less lighten part of the park. they were suprised and didnt know how to react so i just passed aside them. i was heding a dark part of the park and i think they knew it so they were folowing me in order to atack me or something, this is not paranoia as i am not paranoic hehe, but i knew it for sure, you know...it was one of those moments...
Extremely cold water in medeu river
On the mountains after Medeu on the way to Shymbulak, Extremely cold water in medeu river can be found. i entered the river for the first time and i had to run for the first log i founf on the river. ahhhh so cold i could image where i was. the cold ice water just freezes your blood and you get this huge pain on your muscles all the way to your knees.
this is the cold water coming down the mountains. in the summer, a big part of the mountain snow melts and gives lives to many waterfalls and rivers.
Walk on the mountains in Ili Alatau
Walk on the mountains in Ili Alatau alone can have a few things to know about. you should avoid getting far away from your friends alone after the sun goes down. apart from wild animals you have bandits that can kidnap you... hehe, its true...im laughing but this can happen. so if you are far away from your friends have have to go back already without light, think on 4 things: you can get lost!! you can find some bandits! or you can just fall into a hole and find some bad bad wild animals like bears and stuff like snakes and scorpions very normal to see them in the summer.
if you find local kazakh nomads yurts, try to spend there the night. they will be ore than happy and youll be safe for a night.
Camping in Medeu and Shymbulak mountains
Camping in Medeu and Shymbulak mountains can be dangerous and is not advised by local authorities. many bandits are on the mountains and there is a few number of people that actually only live from this job: robbing people camping on the mountains alone. remember they rob local people also, so they will not blink their eyes on getting your stuff!
i went there alone and i was ok. but i knew the danger i was on. everythink went ok and i had no problems, but indeed this is a dangerous thing.
Hidden spots in town
Hidden spots in town can get tricky. avoid hidden places and small narrow streets far away from bigger streets. i didnt really took this advice in consideration as i walked everywhere in town without a problem, but, this doesnt mean i dont have knowledge of this problem and the probabilities of something like a robbery to happen. just feel confident, strong inside and go everywhere you think that in that exact momment feels ok and without a problem.
Casino's areas by night
Casino's areas by night should be avoided in Almaty has they are full of local mafia and drunk people getting out of the bar. constatntly there are many shooting action near these buildings so, just cross to the other side of the street, or just go niside and play! haha, just dont stay at the door waiting for some lost bullets!
I remember precariously trying to cross busy streets in Almaty. There are no zebra-painted crosswalks that I saw so be careful pedestrians don't have the RIGHT-OF-WAY!
Also some major intersections don't have traffic lights. I remember riding in my colleagues car trying to turn right without the aid of a traffic light, it was pretty crazy.
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4WD Offroad can get tricky and there is alot of stuff you have to prepare. extra part of car, water, tyres, chekcing oil. the thing you will not want is to get stuck somewhere on the mountains without possibility of getting back. the mountains usually are with some bandits that can rob you. if you go by car get your car prepared for eventualities.
Barakholka's district is wild and full of crazy people. you have to see this magik place full of action. chinese people meet kazakh, russian along with uygur, uzbek, all in one can get messy and usually there is a lot of people fighting and shooting eachother. open your eyes and dont go to places you thin should be dangerous. again i went everywhere i wanted and didnt feel in danger but still this is just a warning for you to be careful and open your eyes and all will be ok. the problem everywhere in the world is that people when travel just relax their instincts and let them go to places they never would go while at home!
Barakholka's market consists on kms ans kms of labirints full of shops of all kinds....
Upon entering Kazakhstan you must fill in two copies of the customs declaration form.One copy must be handed to the customs official and the other kept until your departure.
Foreigners generally experience more problems when leaving Kazakhstan than when arriving.
It is prohibited to import or export arms,ammunition,drugs and pornography,and to export securities,state loan certificates,lottery tickets,art and antiques(unless you have a special permit issued by the Culture Committee),antelope and deer antlers,or deer skin(an exception is made for those on organised hunting tours).
Documentation is required to export carpets,works of art and pets.Permits to export carpets and work of art are issued by the Commission for Controlling the Export of Cultural Valuables.
From the speech of N.Nazarbaev
at the Vth Session of the Parliament
on September 1, 1999
of the Customs Authorities of the Republic of Kazakhstan
1-We declare on our intention to contribute to economic, democratic, legal and social development of our state and to ensuring, within our competency, to safety of natural environment.
2-We guarantee the quality of Customs services and our presence in the market economy as a result of a long-term national Customs policy.
3-We exercise our activity for Kazakhstan, for the entire world, and establish Customs clearance points at the places that are convenient for participants in foreign economic activity and are located within our territories.
4-We guarantee each participant in foreign economic activity who addresses us, prompt and qualitative Customs clearance of goods providing maximum convenience, minimum expenses and full compliance with the Customs legislation.
5-We fight for providing Customs services that meet international requirements and standards.
6-We guarantee relations based on partnership and cooperation with all government agencies and public organizations and conflict-free existence in the market.
7-We guarantee professional and honest relations with our partners and expect the same relations from them.
8-Exercising our activity for the prosperity of Kazakhstan, we are interested in re-energizing of the national economy in the system of the world economic relations and in liberalization of foreign economic activity.
9-We are open for the constructive dialogue with participants in foreign economic activity on Customs issues.
10-We are striving for creating conditions for high-quality and highly productive work for our personnel and require effective work from them. We are striving for healthy life style and call for going in for sporting all the people of the country.
11-We guarantee full observance of the RK legislation.
12-We realize that the reputation of the Customs service depends in many respects on the professionalism and adherence to principle of our officers, and pay much attention to work with them.
13-We declare that elimination of corruption is our priority. We assume an obligation to maintain the high level of integrity.
14-The Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan and public opinion are the supreme arbitration for us.
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Marijuana plantations around the city
Marijuana plantations around the city is often seen. i had to go off road and find hidden paths to be able to go to the top of the TV tower hill as the cable car going up was broken and also as that from the national road going up had a road block by police that prevent people going up and fall on the broken buildings damaged by the last earthquake.
i found a huge plantations of marijuana, so i guess some people should be guarding that right? i dont think they would be very happy to see me there on their marijuana field!! check out for ht epicture that only shows a little area of the plantation... WILD WILD!! ah and dont pick it up!!
Banks and Currency Exchange
Currency:The national currency of Kazakhstan is the tenge.
Notes currently in circulation are T5000,2000,1000,500,200,and 100;coins are T1,5,10,20,and 50.
Changing money:Foreign currency can be exchanged for tenge and vice versa at any bank or official exchange office.All such transactions must be recorded on the customs declaration form you received when you entered Kazakhstan.Try to keep all your currency exchange documents as they may be required when you leave.
Bank opening hours:
9am to 6pm Mon-fri,linch break 1-2pm.
Credit cards:Most European and International credit cards,including Visa, Master,Diners club cards are accepted by major hotels,shops and restaurants in Almaty and Astana.
1 Kazakh tenge = 0.00478547092 British pounds (17th october 2008)
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