map of Asia
map of Kazakhstan
Copyright © All World
Kazakhstan is by far
the largest of the states of Central Asia of the former USSR. It has borders
with Russia, China, and the Central Asian countries Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan
and Turkmenistan. It is the world's ninth biggest country by size, and
is more than twice the size of the other Central Asian states combined.
Its lack of significant historical sites and endless featureless steppe
have put many off Kazakhstan, but many are captivated by the emptiness
and mystery of this goliath state. It will be many travellers' first port
of call on their Central Asian adventure, and there is much for the intrepid
traveller to enjoy.
Kazakhstan - NOT Borat Land
!!! by Chris Merriman
I have written this article
to help people who want to learn more about Kazakhstan. Whilst the film
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of
Kazakhstan was funny, it did not paint anything like an accurate picture
of this country. Some people want to learn more about Kazakhstan purely
for their own education, others may be thinking of taking a vacation here.
I moved to from Britain to Kazakhstan in April 2006, to Astana, where my
wife's parents live. Since then, I've learnt a lot, and seen many of my
mis-conceptions blown away.
|Things that may grab
your attention whilst you're over here:
Men nearly always shake hands
upon meeting one another, even more so if it is the first time you've met.
Women don't. If they are family, there may be a peck on the cheek, or a
quick embrace. This area is still a little fuzzy to me, so I just stand
back and accept whatever comes my way.
If someone thinks you look
a little different to the accepted norm for a Russian or Kazakh person,
they will simply stare at you. This shouldn't be taken as an insult (or
an invitation to get to know one another). It is just if they want to get
a good look, they won't be subtle.
People have different coping
mechanisms for this behavioural trait. Some avert their eyes, others pretend
not to notice. Still others will decide to turn it into a juvenile game.
Whoever breaks the stare first loses, and you can keep a tally through
the whole day you are out. Once you are up at the end of a day (18-3 for
example), you can assume you're no longer feeling like such a wimpy foreigner.
Ummm, or so my friends tell me ..
Whilst we may all joke about
British manners and overly polite social standards, standing in line for
something over here is an experience you're not likely to forget very quickly.
You'll also be likely to quickly re-appraise your understanding of the
term 'line' or 'queue'. People will have no shame, nor should you, about
pushing their way to the front of what could have been a perfectly civil
and organized wait for the bus/ticket desk/shop assistant/train. I still
draw the line at elderly/young people, other than that, its every queue
jumper for themselves, ultimately. (This does tend to mean most elderly/young
people get served/on the bus before me, but I have this thing against trampling
over brittle bones/people smaller than me.)
|Upon arrival/exiting the
country, be it 8.30pm, 3.45am or 3pm, you'll likely find yourselves being
greeted with a small (OK, more likely a table laden with more stuff than
you'd normally see for a 'light' meal) snack and some drinks, to celebrate
your arrival/time in the country, if you are staying with people, rather
than a hotel. You might not feel exactly like wolfing the whole lot down,
but if you take your time, with the food and the drink, you should do fine.
DON'T feel obliged to down shots of Cognac/Vodka each toast. Unless that's
your adjusting mechanism to the flights & time difference.
Bureaucracy - if you
are on holiday, rather than emigrating, coming into and out of the country
is the most likely area you'll possibly encounter any problems. To be fair,
we've not been stopped in a couple of years, but if they decide you look
like a likely person to have violated a rule, there isn't a great deal
you can do about it. Coming into the country, they can decide not to let
you in at all, and worse, leaving the country, they are only too well aware
that you need to be available to get on a plane pretty soon. Once you arrive
in the country, you will need to register your presence, within 3 or 4
There is nothing to worry
about regarding this procedure; it is just so they can know who is officially
registered where. Whilst this country is a lot 'freer' than it may have
seemed to Westerners 15 or 20 years ago, you will have to remember that
the approach taken by the government over here to maintain control of the
population is not how we view 'best practice' in the West. Tough luck,
their country, their rules, which, all in all, seems fair, if the roles
were reversed, we'd not expect people to complain too excessively about
our customs/social rules/laws.
|Re. CDs/DVDs vs. portable
hard drive. I've read around, and people have less difficulty taking
hard drives out of the country than lots of discs, apparently. I couldn't
find any info on importing. Personally, I've never had a problem in either
direction. There is apparently a rule, on your way out of the country,
that if Customs discover discs in your luggage, they must have been previously
inspected and sealed by a dept. elsewhere in Astana. You'll need to do
this four or five days before the flight. Some people stock up on cheap
Software, Music and other media, though don't forget your home country
may not allow you to keep these items if they search your luggage on your
When in the country, you
will see some people walking around in army camo fatigues, most of these
people are manual labourers, who use them as hard-wearing clothes to work
If, however, you see a group
of 2-6 young men wandering in 'urban' colour camos (blue/purple), these
are some sort of street patrollers. No idea on their legal/military/civilian
status, I just make sure I'm not littering/jay-walking when I see them
Then you have the regular
police force, who you will see in cars (often using their PA systems as
public education systems ('Drivers! Do not park here' or 'Move out the
way NOW')), on foot, or in little kiosks at key strategic civic points.
The worst you can expect from them is a request to see your ID and/or passport.
There is also a traffic police force, who occasionally turn off the traffic
lights, and get out their little wands to manually direct the traffic.
Unless you intend to drive over here (don't forget to apply for an International
Driving License in the UK, if so), you can safely ignore them. Finally,
you'll occasionally see the Army guys marching round in unison, but they
seem to stay off the streets for the majority of the time.
|"So how much money should
I bring?" Well, not sure on total, but if I give you an idea of how much
stuff costs here, you'll be better informed to guess a holiday total I
suppose... (All prices are approximate and sampled in Early 2007)
20 fags (Parliament) - $1.50
20 fags (Marlboro) - $1.00 20 fags (Russian smokable stuff) - $0.40
Bottle of coke in a shop
- $0.50 Bottle of vodka in a shop - $1.60 to $8, depending on the brand
(from drinkable to nice & smooth), whilst you can pay more, what's
the point? Bottle of beer in a shop - $0.45 to $1.60 (Russian to European
In a restaurant/cafe, fags,
coke and beer maybe double the price, or there abouts, vodka costs approximately
$4 for 200ml
collections - $4 to $10, depending on the amount of discs in the box, and
how obvious the copy is! Music CDs - About the same as American prices,
Taxi ride (real taxi) - $3
to $6 pounds for a 15 minute ride Taxi ride (flagging down a random car
off the street) - haggle on the price, normally around 30% to 60% cheaper
than a real taxi
|Meal in a cafe (salad, meat
dish, french fries, coke, vodka) - Between $8 and $15 per person, depending
on the type of place you go to
Meal in a restaurant (same
menu as above) - Between $12 and $30 pounds tops, per person. Again, you
can spend more if you go high class
Obviously, if you want to
get drunk, rather than merely relaxed, add more money for the extra vodka/soft
drink/beer in the prices quoted above
Entrance fee to a club -
$5 to $20 - basically, the more 'exclusive' an activity or brand is, the
higher the price soars, prices for drinks in clubs are a little higher
Kazakhstan is next door
to China, so disposable electronic trinkets, that might last 5 years, or
5 days, are to be found in plenty of shops. If you want any 'Kazakh' souvenirs
- cultural stuff, definitely bring along a little bit extra cash.
Re. Money - bring at least
100 euros or a little more in dollars, the rest is up to you - there are
ATMs over here (don't forget to budget for bank's commission/charges for
this service), and there are at least two places that we know of that will
exchange English pounds sterling for Kazakh Tenge, and all currency exchanges
obviously accept dollars.
I hope some of the above
will give you an idea of what you can expect from Kazakhstan. If you want
to read more, or ask a question, please feel free to visit my blog at http://www.chrismerriman.com
|About the Author: Chris
Merriman is a Brit now living in Astana, Kazakhstan. You can read his blog
for hotels in Almaty
is located in central Almaty, close to Republic Square, Presidential Palace,
and National Museum of Kazakhstan. Nearby points of interest also include
Almaty Central Stadium and Almaty Opera House. Dining options at InterContinental
ALMATY include a restaurant and a bar/lounge. Room service is available.
Recreational amenities include an indoor pool, a children's pool, a health
club, a spa tub, and a sauna. This 4.0-star property has a business center
and offers secretarial services and business services. High-speed Internet
access is available in public areas. Additional property amenities include
valet parking, a concierge desk, and multilingual staff.
Located in central Almaty,
Rixos Almaty Hotel is near the airport and close to Almaty Opera House,
Almaty Central Stadium, and Republic Square. Nearby points of interest
also include Almaty Cathedral and Presidential Palace. Recreational amenities
include an indoor pool, a health club, a sauna, a fitness facility, and
a steam room. The property's full-service health spa has body treatments,
massage/treatment rooms, facials, and beauty services. For a surcharge,
shuttle services include an airport shuttle (available 24 hours) and an
area shuttle. Guest parking is complimentary. Additional property amenities
include a bar/lounge, a coffee shop/café, and a concierge desk.
Extended parking privileges may be offered to guests after check-out (surcharge).
The property has designated areas for smoking.
Located in Almaty, Royal
Tulip Almaty is near the airport and close to National Museum of Kazakhstan,
Almaty Tower, and Presidential Palace. Nearby points of interest also include
Republic Square and Almaty Opera House. Recreational amenities include
an indoor pool and a health club. The property's full-service health spa
has body treatments, facials, and beauty services. This 5.0-star property
has a 24-hour business center and offers small meeting rooms and audio-visual
equipment. Wireless Internet access (surcharge) is available in public
areas. This Almaty property has event space consisting of conference/meeting
rooms and a ballroom. Additional property amenities include a nightclub
and a hair salon. The property has designated areas for smoking.
for hotels in Astana
Located in Astana, Radisson
Hotel, Astana is on a river and close to Kazhimukan Munaitpasov Stadium
and Bayterek Tower. Additional area points of interest include Pyramid.
Dining options at Radisson Hotel, Astana include a restaurant and a bar/lounge.
Room service is available 24 hours a day. Recreational amenities include
an indoor pool, a spa tub, a sauna, a fitness facility, and a steam room.
The property's full-service health spa has massage/treatment rooms. The
property offers an airport shuttle (surcharge). Business services, wedding
services, and translation services are available. Guest parking is available
for a surcharge. Additional property amenities include a coffee shop/café,
valet parking, and a concierge desk.
Ramada Plaza Astana is the
best five-star hotel in the capital. We are pleased to offer the best service
in order to provide an enjoyable and productive visit to Astana. Easy access
to Astana's financial, political, and business centers makes the Ramada
Plaza Astana the perfect choice for the business traveler. Our aim is to
make your stay in Astana both comfortable and memorable. The hotel's 228
guest rooms provide a spacious and elegant atmosphere with an impressive
assortment of standard and hi-tech facilities, with individually controlled
heating and air-conditioning systems as well as satellite TV, 3 phones
with direct International voice mail system, Internet access, mini-bar,
in-room safe, and 24 hour room service.
President Astana Hotel
Located in Astana, Rixos
President Astana Hotel is near the airport and close to Bayterek Tower,
Pyramid, and Kazhimukan Munaitpasov Stadium. Recreational amenities include
an indoor pool, a sauna, a fitness facility, and a steam room. This Astana
property has event space consisting of conference/meeting rooms and a ballroom.
Room service is available 24 hours a day. Additional property amenities
include laundry facilities. There are 168 guestrooms at Rixos President
Astana Hotel. Bathrooms feature phones and hair dryers. Guestrooms offer
phones and in-room safes. Televisions have satellite channels. Air-conditioned
rooms also include minibars.
- Cambodia - China -
Hong Kong - India
Indonesia & Bali - Japan
- Korea (South) - Kyrgyzstan
- Laos - Macau - Malaysia
Maldives - Nepal -
- Singapore - Sri Lanka
- Taiwan - Thailand
- Turkmenistan - Uzbekistan