Located in the center of Asia, Almaty International Airport (ALA) is the main hub for travel to the newly independent republics of Central Asia. It is also served by a few airlines from Western Europe and the Far East.
The problem with traveling to and from Kazakhstan, especially from Europe, is that most flights arrive around midnight or later, and depart at about 3:00 a.m.
Airlines serving Almaty International Airport: Air Arabia, Air Astana, airBaltic, Asiana Airways, Avia Traffic Company, bmi British Midland, China Southern Airlines, CSA Czech Airlines, Donbassaero, Egyptair, Etihad Airways, Euroline, Georgian Airways, Imair, Kam Air, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lufthansa German Airlines, Rossiya, RusLine, SCAT Air, Semeyavia, S7 Airlines, Tajik Air, Transaero Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Turkmenistan Airlines, Ukraine International Airlines, Ural Airlines, and Uzbekistan Airways.
Many of the main roads in Kazakhstan are not well maintained. However, it is still possible to travel safely throughout most of the country by automobile.
In the mountains, on the other hand, most of the roads are dirt tracks that are frequently wiped out from rock or snow slides, or washed out from heavy rains or melting snow. The only way to get around on such roads is by Soviet-era four-wheel-drive buses. Most of the buses used in Kazakhstan are the PAZ-672 model manufactured by the Pavlovo Bus Factory, located in the city of Pavlovo in the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast of Russia. Production on that model started in early 1968 as a replacement to the earlier PAZ-652 model. The PAZ-672 is used mainly for rural and regional service, and is outfitted with four-wheel-drive when it is to be used in areas with rough roads.
The shock absorbers on these buses leave much to be desired, so the ride is very bumpy and uncomfortable. In addition, the four-wheel-drive buses travel very slowly because of the condition of the roads and the fact that they are not designed for speed. However, they will usually get travelers to their destination.
To get to Almaty, Kazakhstan from the west coast of US, I flew LAX-Incheon-Almaty on Asiana.
My itinerary included 11 hr long layover in Incheon. Because my flights were on 1 itinerary, my checkin bags were sent directly to Almaty. I didn't have to worry about the bags except for my backpack while touring in South Korea for a few hours. I'd have checked in my bags all the way to Almaty even if I wasn't going on a tour as it saves me the trouble of getting bags and go through security check again. Obviously you will need to pack extra stuff (change of clothes, small umbrella etc) you will need in your carryon until you get to Almaty.
On my return flight to LAX, the Asiana crew informed passengers that all bags had to be checked out and go through immigration at LAX, regardless of the next connecting flight. I was glad I didn't have to go through that.
There's plenty of things to see and food to eat in Incheon airport alone. But if you feel you have to see more of Korea than just the airport, check out www.freedomtour.co.kr/
In Almaty, don't look for any taxi with the taxi sign on top.
Anyone can work as a taxi driver if he owns his own car. Some work as a taxi driver full time while others do it part time. These part time drivers basically pick up passengers while they are out do run errands. If a passenger is going the way same, that the driver may take him, for a fee.
To call a taxi, you stand on the side of the road and raise your arm at about 45 degree angle. A car would stop and you can negotiate the price depending on the the destination (distance) and # of passengers. Obviously you would need to know the local geography and language to use this service but it was quite interesting to see and experience with our local guides. Many times the cars wouldn't take us due to the destination or the fee we were willing to pay.
Don't expect new/expensive cars to stop. Owners of these people obviously don't need to make $ as taxi drivers.
Also, quite a few cars in Almaty have the driver seat on the Right side of the car. Supposedly these cars were imported from HongKong, UK and Japan.
This is Kazakhstan's "other" airline--surely a throwback to the Aeroflot era. It's listed in Lonely Planet, and there is a web site, but the site is in Russian only. Using a list of cities written in Cyrillic, it's possible to puzzle out the schedule, but its not possible to make a reservation on line. The temptation might be to just turn to Air Astana, with its modern English web site and on-line reservation system, but there was real money to be saved here, so I persisted. With the helpful assistance of David Berghof of Stantours in Almaty, I was able to pu rchase tickets for my two flights, from Shymkent to Aktau and from Aktau to Astana; however, neither reservations nor ticket purchases were available until about a month before the actual flights.
Shymkent and Aktau are small airports, and it took the Shymkent staff some time to find the one employee who spoke some English.; however, everyone was extremely helpful. The agent told me that a Yak-42 had been substituted for the originally scheduled prop-driven AN-24 and that the departure would be four hours later but that the faster plane would make up for it. This wasn't , strictly speaking, true, but we did arrive only a couple of hours late, and I was on vacation, so what the heck? The plane bore a striking resemblance to the old Boeing-727 and showed its age, but I saw nothing that provoked anxiety. The seat pitch was undoubtedly the shallowest I have encountered in my many travels, but the dinner was good and the portions extremely generous. The flight attendant also spoke at least a bit of English. The second flight a few days later went off without a hitch on the same aircraft. This is not travel for those who want a conventional or luxury experience, but it was interesting and I managed to save several hundred dollars with only minor inconvenience and experience air travel as the locals experience it. It's also a lot better than a two-day train trip across the endless steppe and desert (Kazaklhstan is a very big place!) Unless you speak Russian, you're going to need the help of David or someone like him, but his fee was modest and his service good.
In order to reach Astana I had to take an Air Astana flight from Moscow (SVO) at 9:50am and then fly to Almaty arriving at 4:15PM local time. That was a 4 hour and 25 minute trip. There were a few time zones changes as you can see!
Then there was about 1 hour layover in Almaty before boarding for another Air Astana flight on to Astana for another 1 hour and 45 minutes. So leaving Moscow at 9:50am got me to Astana at 7:55pm after flying for a bit over 6 hours.
The planes were both comfortable and the airline magazine (Tengri) was actually pretty interesting to read. It was printed in both Russian and English. It has some very nice articles about Kazakhstan as well as other places in Asia. The service on the flights was excellent and the flight attendants spoke English. The flight captain gave his announcements in both Russian and in English.
In May 2002 Air Astana, the national airline of Kazakhstan, began operations and is the largest airline in Kazakhstan. They operates a few 737’s and 757’s for international flights from Astana and some turbo prop planes for inter-Kazakhstan flights.
As of March 2008, Air Astana had flights to several cities in Europe and also flights to the near the far East. Direct flights from Europe to Astana can be found from Hannover and Frankfurt Germany and also from Moscow.
Kazachstan has a big railway system.
There are frequent trains connecting the major cities.
The train has three chlasses.
Busines: Two beds
Kupe: Four beds togehther
Platskart: Open wagon with many people
The conductor has tea and mineral water but you should bring your cup with
Buying tickets: It is not easy to buy tickets. Some ticket sellers are unfriendly to foreigners.
Pretend to buy tickets and don't go away from the counter.
Important: Write in kyrillic letters: Train number, departure time, and destination.
Bring your passport with.
There is one weekly train to Moscow.
But is the same price by plane. So you should only take the train if you want the adventure.
There are rail connections with the Russian Federation
(travel time to Moscow is now three days) and with other
Central Asian Republics. However, tourists are advised that
robberies on trains have been reported. Although we never got ripped off.
AIR and BUS
in Kazakhstan. The connection from there to Kyrgyzstan is via frequent bus services to Bishkek (travel time – four hours). Other European airlines flying direct to Almaty include KLM (from Amsterdam) and Lufthansa (five weekly flights from Frankfurt/M). There are also direct flights to Bishkek from Moscow and St Petersburg (Russian Federation) and from Tashkent (Uzbekistan). I flew to St.Petersburg from Isikul Lake via Bishkek and paid about 15 pounds for the 7 hour flight .THAT WAS THEN...we couldn't even use hard currency as was required by Aeroflot at the time for all foreigners, we basically were off the radar screen.
Driving through the heart of the Zailiysky Steppes,
with their wide greens filled with beautiful poppy fields
in the Summertime we headed off to another stan
we went in 1991 when there were no tourists going to
Biskek in Kyrgyzstan and we had to hitch a ride by car.
There are buses going now and it's probably safer that
way. We got a lift with a Georgian who had a horse farm
and sold them for meat to France and other European countries.
He wanted to impress us so it was more like a high speed
car chase through the mountain road. At that time it was still
the CCCP so there were no borders.
The main international road links are with Kazakhstan and there
is presently one crossing point into China (PR); visitors should
note that the Chinese authorities normally require proof of an
invitation by a Chinese tour operator as a condition of entry.
There are regular bus links from Bishkek to Tashkent (Uzbekistan)
(travel time – 10 to 12 hours) and Almaty (Kazakhstan) (travel time – six hours);
services leave the long-distance (zapadni) bus station in Bishkek.
There is also a direct service to Osh from Tashkent (Uzbekistan)
via the Fergana Valley, but road conditions are very poor on this
route (see also Uzbekistan section). Generally, roads can be
affected by landslides (especially during spring in the mountain areas),
while winter may cause hazardous conditions on a number of roads
(especially on mountain passes, some of which may be closed during
certain periods); visitors should also note that garage services are very limited.
The Center. Central Kazakhstan has one of the largest lakes in the world. The unique Lake Balkhash is one-half salt, one-half fresh water. Some archaeological and ethnographical sites have been preserved in Central Kazakhstan. There are Bronze Age and Early Iron Age sites and New Stone Age and Bronze Age settlements in the Karkarala Oasis. The Bayan-Aul National Park has rock drawings, stone sculptures, clean, sparkling lakes and pines clinging to the rocks. The Baikonur Cosmodrome is located 5 km (3 miles) from the garrison city of Leninsk and 230 km (143 miles) from Kzylorda city. Astana, a new capital of Kazakhstan is located in the region.
The East. East Kazakhstan offers picturesque landscape of snow-capped mountain peaks, plunging forested canyons and beautiful cedar forests. Lake Markakol is 35 km (22 miles) long and 19 km (12 miles) wide and lies 1,449 m (4 754 ft) above sea level. The city of Semipalatinsk, 30 km (19 miles) from Siberia, was a place of exile of famous Russian people, whose houses are preserved as museums. Other museums in the city include the Abai Kunanbayev Museum, commemorating a great Kazakh poet and philosopher, and the History Museum. Nuclear tests were carried out south-west of Semipalatinsk until 1990, and today background radiation does not exceed international standards. The town of Ust-Kamenogorsk is a mining and smelting town and is the gateway to the Altai Mountains. Occupying the central point of the continent, these gentle mountains are covered with meadows and woods and stretch for thousands of kilometers into Mongolia.
Transportation: Tickets for the Moscow-Almaty flight are sold out long in advance. The introduction of additional flights along that route are being delayed by the sluggish repairs of airport facilities.
Permission for our flight from Moscow to Baikonur was very difficult to obtain and required approval by government officials both in Moscow and at the cosmosdrome. In the light of increasing restrictions on visas, I recommend that you book an organized tour for visiting the cosmodrome.
It is possible to get here mostly by airplane.
As you already noticed the territory is huge & you'll have to use airplane even to get to another city. It's ridiculous that the ticket from Almata to Astana costs about 300$, almost the same price is from Almata to Bankok for instance.The local airlines just try to make money on it,though offering not very quality service.
Of course it is also possible by car but you'll be tired to death traveling for days & it's not safety.
If you want to safe money you can also try the railway,though it's not much comfortable .
Buses are also not bad but it depends on a distance.
If you want to rent a car in a city you'll have to be a very professional driver because drivers here are not very polite & sometimes don't keep the rules.
Renting motorcycles are for people with suicidal intentions:)
Trolleybuses are best in Almaty [see pic]. Watch out for pickpockets. They are not pervasive in their presence but DO exist. Around the country, car or bus is better than train. Probably best for long distance is domestic air, which is quite reasonably priced: don't forget Kazakhstan takes several hours to overfly; Moscow takes as much as six hours (by train, 77 hours...)
I flew to Almaty from Moscow on Kazakh Airways (which I believe is now defunct). Several Western airlines now fly to Almaty direct from Europe--probably a better, if more expensive, choice. KazAir was just fine as 'BabyFlots' go--my favorite part of the trip was when they served tea by bringing around a standard issue, orange-painted teakettle. Our meal on the five-hour flight from Moscow was a cold hot dog and a handful of cold peas, with a packet of pomegranate juice imported from Iran. In the former Soviet Union of 1994, this was not bad.
Within Kazakhstan I did a lot of driving around, flew internally almost every week between Almaty/Zhambyl/Chimkent, and took the train from Kzyl-Orda to Chimkent. The train was by far the most fun. Although traveling companion and I were warned extensively about the dangers of taking the train, we had to take it anyway because there was no other way out of the suicidally depressing town of Kzyl-Orda. The trip took 11 hours and that was one of the best days I spent in Kazakhstan--we saw camels en route, ate ourselves silly as we bought yummy food from women selling it alongside the train at stations, and had a great time talking to the other people in our compartment. The train in the former Soviet Union is the best way to travel, in my opinion.
There are special tourist services which offer a horse riding in the mountaines. Even if you are scared of horses, don't worry, they will give you the most friendly one:)
Furmanov Str. 164, Almaty, 050021, Kazakhstan
Good for: Families
Sarky Arka 4, Astana, Kazakhstan, 010000, KZ
Good for: Business
Best and most expensive business Hotel to stay in Atyrau. However this is not saying much. This...more