Kazakhstan is a state in Central Asia without any access to the World Ocean. It borders Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. On the west, it has a long coastline of the Caspian Sea. The capital city is Astana.
The country’s climate is sharply continental and dry. Winters are rather cold and in summer the weather is hot. The best time for travelling to Kazakhstan is late spring (from April to the first half of June) and early autumn (from September to the end of October).
The official languages are Kazakh and Russian (over 90% of the population can speak Russian). The dominant religion is Sunni Islam, but Orthodox Christianity also plays an important role.
Kazakhstan attracts the tourists with its natural diversity. Beach tourism is well-developed in Aktau and on the shores of the numerous lakes. The most famous of them are Balkhash lake, Akkol lake, Burabay (formerly Borovoe) lake, and Zerenda lake.
In the Republic, there are several mountain chains with skiing resorts such as Medeu Skating Rink and Ski resort, Ridder and Ust-Kamenogorsk. In these mountains, one will find many trekking routes, for example, along the Aksay river. Some of the rivers are very good for rafting. In Kazakhstan, there are many hunting grounds. The most popular of them are situated near Kostanay.
Makinsk and Ekibastuz have been recognized as the centers of ecological tourism.
Event tourism is also developed in Kazakhstan. The fans of modern music can participate in the famous festival of rock music in Aktobe.
Some other popular places in Kazakhstan among the tourists are Karaganda, Kokshetau, Pavlodar and Petropavlovsk, Saumalkol, Uralsk, and Fort Shevchenko.
There are direct flights to Kazakhstan from many CIS countries. The tourists from other countries can take a transit flight with a stop in Moscow or Baku. There are direct flights from Vienna, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.
There is a training, running between Kazakhstan and Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Anyone can enter the country by car from any neighbouring country. However, we do not think that such a trip will bring you satisfaction and pleasure because of the poor conditions of the roads and bureaucracy at border postings.
If the tourists from CIS countries are planning to stay in Kazakhstan for 90 days and less, they do not need a visa. The same rule applies for the tourists from Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan but they stay in the country is limited to 30 days. There is a pilot non-visa regime for 15 days for the tourists from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The President of Kazakhstan has signed the decree about visa cancellation for the tourists from the European Union provided that their stay in the country will not exceed 30 days.
The tourists from other countries must obtain a tourist visa and it will be valid for 30 days.
Any cross-border foreign and national currency transportation exceeding 10.000 US dollars must be declared.
The tourists can bring in Kazakhstan the following goods duty-free:
- a small amount of alcohol and tobacco;
- clothes and personal belongings;
- souvenirs the total cost of which does not exceed 500 US dollars.
It is prohibited to import:
medications without a doctor’s prescription;
photo, audio and video materials which damage the state order and/or Islamic traditions.
The tourists are not allowed to export:
- precious stones and rare minerals;
- game birds and rare animals.
The national cuisine of Kazakhstan is similar in many ways to the cooking traditions of the neighbouring countries. The staple food is meat, rice and dairy products.
Meat is the main ingredient of many dishes. We recommend trying the Kazakh version of Beshbarmak (boiled meat with noodles), Kuyrdak (fried giblets with potatoes), Syrne (mutton and potatoes stew), and Palau (a Kazakh version of pilaf).
The most famous soups in Kazakhstan are Sorpa (meat broth) and Ak-sorpa (meat broth with milk).
If you happen to stay near the Caspian Sea, try the major fish dish in Kazakhstan Koktal (fish roasted over the charcoal with vegetables).
The Kazakh does’t have their own vegetable dishes. The typical side dish is rice or boiled dough. In Kazakhstan, there are two types of national bread: Baursaki (puffy bread fried in oil) and tandoor baked flatbread.
Do not leave Kazakhstan without trying traditional desserts Sheck-sheck (fried pastry with honey), Talkan (grounded and fried sprouted wheat grain with sugar) and Zhent or Kospa (millet with cottage cheese, honey and nuts).
In the Kazakh diet there are many dairy products which they eat with meat, as an individual dish or an appetizer. For example, Kaymak (creamy dairy product similar to clotted cream), Katyk (similar to cottage cheese and soured milk), Kurt (salty cottage cheese or cheese), Irimshik (sheep cheese), and Uyz (boiled colostrum).
The number one drink in Kazakhstan is tea and the local prefer to add cream. The tourists should try various traditional dairy drinks such as Shubat (soured camel milk), Ayran (yogurt beverage mixed with salt), Shalap (similar to drinkable yogurt), and Kozhe (milk product with grains).
As Kazakhstan is mainly a Muslim country, it cannot boast of a great variety of alcoholic drinks. They have Kumys which is fermented mare’s milk.
The official currency is Kazakhstani Tenge (KZT). There are banknotes from 200 to 10.000 KZT and coins from 1 to 100 KZT.
The tourists can exchange currency at banks and in exchange offices. In the north part of the country, you can pay with Russian rubles, but the exchange rate is not the best.
Credit cards are accepted in many stores, hotels and restaurants in large cities. There are many ATMs in large cities of Kazakhstan.
It is better to have traveler’s checks in US dollar because the exchange rate is more reasonable and the tourists can cash the checks at banks.
Details of interest
Sightseeing in Kazakhstan
There are four sites in Kazakhstan which have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi is the mausoleum at the grave of the great Turk poet in Turkestan. This is the most significant and well-preserved architectural objects of the Tamerlan period.
- Tamgaly gorge near Almaty is known for its 5.000 petroglyphs which were made about 3.500 years ago as well as for its ancient burial places.
- Saryarka is a complex which consists of the two reserves on the north of Kazakhstan. Marshlands play a very important role for migrating waterfowl birds including some endangered species.
- The Kazakh part of the Great Silk Way consist of numerous settlements in the Almaty province and Jambyl province. The tourists should visit the city of Taraz and Shymkent and their suburbs.
The tourists should visit, at least, one of 12 UNESCO candidate sites in Kazakhstan. Of a greater interest are the four sights.
- Ancient settlement in the city of Otrar near Shymkent. There are interesting archaeological objects in the open air.
- The Ile-Alatau National Park is a large reserve to the south from Almaty with fantastic landscapes, beautiful nature and some historical monuments.
- Altyn-Emel is the national park to the northeast from Almaty. It attracts the tourists with its natural diversity, archaeological, historical and cultural monuments. The Aksu-Zhabagly Reserve is situated to the east from Shymkent and it is known for its unique landscapes and wild nature.
There are many other places in Kazakhstan which can attract the tourists.
- Baiterek Tower is Astana is one of the main sights in the capital city.
- Khan Shatyr is a shopping and entertainment complex and the largest pavilion in the world.
- Nur-Astana mosque and Hazrat Sultan mosque in Astana.
- The Atyrau National History Museum.
- The National Museum of Abai in the city of Semey.
In Kazakhstan, the tourists usually buy:
- dolls in the national costumes;
- national headwear for men and women;
- silver jewelry;
- famous Kazakh Kumys.