Great Country, Be Careful of Scammers!
Being a former Soviet Union country, Kazakhstan is proned to being subjected to a lot of misconceptions and negative assumptions, some of them true, some false.
Everyday life in big cities like Almaty and Astana is no different from any other developed country in many ways. The vast majority of people go about their everyday lives, doing their own thing and won't bother you. It's usually not until you go to make a purchase of some sort, do the scams and charlattans come out.
My first advice is to be careful of taxis as soon as you get off the plane, not just in Kazakhstan, but any former Soivet Union country. When walking out of the airport, there will be hordes of men waiting outside, asking you if you want a taxi? Don't be fooled by the pleasant demeanor. Upon noticing you don't speak Russian or Kazakh, they will charge you exorbitant amounts for a trip to the city. There are official taxi stands inside Almaty and Astana, that charge a fix price of 3000 Tenge. You should arrange your trip into the city with them. If you're brave, negotiate a price with one of the locals outside the airport. A trip into the city from an unofficial taxi should be no more than 2000 Tenge. Remember, with taxis in Kazakhstan there are no fare meters, all prices of trips are prearranged between driver and passenger.
Avoid currency/money exchange centers on the street. I unfortunately got cheated out of 10 USDs when exchanging what was the equivalnt of 23 USDs. If you want to exchange money, do it at a bank. It'll cost more but they won't take what is nearly a 50% "commission".
My last and final piece of advice, is not to buy anything without the price labeled on it, or at least asking first. At the Green Bazzar in Almaty, multiple people tried to overcharge me after taking my money (asking for more); short-change me (feigning ignorance of what they just did), or losing the ability to do simple addition, which always conveniently worked out in their favour.
Kazakhstan is a beautiful country. They have a way of being that is completely different than people from tourist populated countries. Just remember though, being a former Soviet Union country, that corruption and scamming behaviour filters down into every level of their social, political and working life. Police officers asks for brides, store keepers blatantly short-change you, peope "pay" for their driver's license (I saw more minor car crashes in my 1 month stay there than I have in my entire life [I'm in my early 30s]) and men will try to alpha-male and bully you into giving them money.
All that being said, overt violence is uncommon. I can honestly say I've never felt in danger throughout my 4 weeks there, and I went out late at night and ventured into some pretty obscure places. The petty scammer and thief is what you have to worry about.
Register your visa!
One of the most complicated parts of travelling in the former Soviet Union is registering your visa. If you are staying in a hotel, this is usually not a problem - the hotel should register your visa for you, at least for the amount of time that you are staying in the hotel. However, if you are doing a homestay or staying with friends, my preferred types of accommodation, you either have to do battle with the local OVIR (Office of Visas and Registration) or find some other way to do it.
In Almaty, I found ACS Travel Agency to be very useful. For a fee of 4200 tenge (around $30 USD), they will register your visa for you for your entire stay in a day or two with minimal wait time (you avoid the horrendous lines and confustion at OVIR). Make sure you go within 5 days of arrival!
Address: 27 Pr. Dostyk, Almaty.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Hello ya'll and welcome,
So one warning about Kazkhstan is the lost wallet. If you see a wallet on the ground DO NOT PICK it up!!! It is a scam, if you do happen to pick it up as a good hearted person, you will have a man pop out from nowhere and explain to you that money has been lost. So what happens here is that the man will inform you that both of you can go somewhere and split the cash. Many people have fallen for this and the result ends up like this: The foreinger ends up in an isolated area and a local Kazakh man will show up and inform you that you stole his money. You will be searched and your own money will be used against you, ending up as being his "stolen money". So the locals will tell you that they if you do not pay the at least $5000 that they will call the police ,have you arrested and then deported.
Be warnedRelated to:
- Budget Travel
Insects and Bugs in Western Kazakhstan
If you're going to visit Kazakhstan you should be prepared to meet new kinds of insects and bug you haven't seen before.Some of them can fly,some jump,some creep and some of them can do all:) dont ever leave a window open at nights...Related to:
- Road Trip
- Business Travel
Local People and Policemen Asking For Bribery
If you're going to visit Kazakhstan you better be aware of the fact that most people's monthly income doesn't even afford their basic needs.So they often ask for bribery or they beg.In Tengiz after 8:00 at night non of the foreign people could go outside alone.As far as I heard even if it isn't night policemen are asking for bribery.Related to:
- Business Travel
- Road Trip
Harrasment by the police
The police is one of the things you should keep an eye on in western Kazakhstan, around Atyrau and Tengiz. In Tengiz for example, walking the street under influence of alcohol is prohibited. Police may detain you just because you had a couple of beers. I saw policemen waiting at disco/bar gates to pick up people that are just getting out of the bar and going home!!! I was never caught by them, if that had happened, I would call my company and they would take me out. But if you are alone, maybe bribing the police is the trick.Related to:
Harrasment by locals
Kazakhs in western Kazakhstan are not the nicest people against foreginers. Strangely enough, although they share the same ancestors, they almost hate Turks. I have heard of a number of street fights, and people beaten. The reason might be that one foreginer didn't want to offer one of his cigarette to a local. (Asking for a cigarette is quite common in Kazakhstan, just like asking for lighter)Related to:
In the Tien Shan Mountains, the high altitude can be a problem. It is not uncommon for those unaccustomed to the altitude to feel a shortness of breath with the slightest exertion. In severe cases, altitude sickness can cause death. It is a good idea to take it easy for the first few days until the body becomes acclimatized to the altitude.
The Tien Shan Astronomical Observatory where I stayed for two nights is at about 9,000 feet (2,743 meters) in elevation. Hiking in the surrounding hills was an effort, and when I lay in bed at night, I felt a pressure on my chest and an accelerated heartbeat caused by the altitude. When we went even higher, to 12,000 feet (3,658 meters), the symptoms were worse.
Kazakstan is a difficult place...
Kazakstan is a difficult place to travel. First, it is difficult to obtain a visa to enter the country since the government has abandoned the 72-hour transit visa. Today, you need a letter of invitation to obtain a visa. According to a recent report by the U.S. State Department, robbery is common in almost every town of Kazakstan, even the police are after your money and your passport.
Be very careful of taxi...
Be very careful of taxi drivers, ESPECIALLY official taxis. Avoid casinos, local (as distinguished from 'expat' nightclubs and (from what I have been told) prostitutes. Pickpockets are numerous in the open markets (eg: 'Optovka'), especially the busy ones on the edge of town and on public transport. Having said that, I used buses, trams and trolleybuses extensively for months without a problem. Watch out for poorly cooked shashlik (shishkebab), especially pork. Chicken is safer. Do not attempt to drive yourself anywhere, especially in town.
Dangers of a more serious nature DO exist: by avoiding most nightspots, bad areas of town (stick to the higher in altitude parts, which are more prestigious) and so on, you will probably be safe even if your stay is lengthy. But...I know a man and woman who, separately, were mugged right in the heart of 'official' Almaty (Furmanova). While I lived in the city, an American --supposedly, a journalist of some sort-- was tied to a chair in his own apartment and had his throat cut. Never open your apartment door, especially after dark, to anyone, even if in police uniform, you do not know. Many doors are steel, so you can probably say get lost with impunity!
I spent a lot of time sick in...
I spent a lot of time sick in Kazakhstan with a festival of gastrointestinal ailments. It's hard to avoid this, but try and bring medication to alleviate it. Of course, I now believe that the time I spent there pretty much immunized me against stomach illnesses for the rest of my life--these days I travel 7-8 times a year to developing countries and never get sick any more.
When captured it is to be made...
When captured it is to be made part of the USSR and there for is under the control of Markov Spirello.
181 Zheltonsan Street, Almaty, 050013, Kazakhstan
Good for: Families
Sarky Arka 4, Astana, Kazakhstan, 010000, KZ
Good for: Families
Best and most expensive business Hotel to stay in Atyrau. However this is not saying much. This...more
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