Practical Travel Guide
The visa situation for Kazakhstan is a mixed bag. For some, a visa just requires one to show up at any border. Others have to make several trips to the embassy. Most, but not all, citizens from Western Europe can travel to Kazakhstan visa free for two weeks to a month, while some citizens of South America can travel visa free for 30 days.
Go to the relevant embassy website if you need a visa, or if you want to stay for longer than the allotted visa free time.
Rejoice! Since the devaluation of the tenge, Kazakhstan’s currency, the country has become much more affordable. Accommodation, food, entrance fees and transportation costs are all decent value.
The only problem is that many of the more memorable natural sights are not serviced by public transport, requiring you to take expensive taxis. Having a car here would be ideal.
The following info is based on two weeks of traveling in the greater Almaty region. Prices may vary widely depending on how off the beaten track you are or want to go, and whether you have you’re own transport or are using public transport.
See our budget report for a detailed breakdown of our costs while backpacking in Kazakhstan.
Exchange rate used for this trip: €1 = 382 Tenge
Food & drinks
- Water or soda: 100 – 300 tenge
- Tea: 100 – 500 tenge
- Breakfast and lunch and dinner: 500 – 1000 tenge
- Dinner: 1000 – 300 tenge
- Budget hostels and yurts: 2000 – 3000 tenge
- Museums: 0 – 500 tenge
- National Parks: 500 – tenge
- Mosques: free
Average budget per day by location
All budgets shown are for one person traveling on a budget: cheap rooms, public transport and cheap food. Almaty: 9,412 Tenge / €24.65
- Shymkent: 7,785 Tenge / €20.40
- Turkestan/transit: 7,710 Tenge / €18.60
- Saty/Kolsai: 4,835 Tenge / €12.65
Of you want to see a detailed breakdown of all our costs, check out our public spreadsheet.
Kazakhstan is an absolutely massive country. People using public transport will find it hard to get to many places without breaking the bank. Hitchhiking is an option, though. Below we’ll show the most commonly used forms of transport in the country.
Mostly used for trips within cities, or for transport between nearby towns. They are not as integral to the transport system in Kazakhstan as they are in Kyrgyzstan.
Buses run between most major cities and towns. They are not the most comfortable option, and considering there’s hardly any price difference, we would advice using the train.
Since regular public transport is lacking, shared taxis are the way to go to many of the more remote places in Kazakhstan.
Trains are you’re best bet for long distance journeys between cities. They’re relatively cheap and comfortable, and ride between Almaty and most major cities of interest in the country.
Entering and exiting
Kazakhstan shares borders with Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, China, Russia and Azerbaijan. Go to Caravanistan to see the latest updates on all these crossings.
Tipping in Kazakhstan
Tipping is not a big deal in Kazakhstan. Upscale restaurants might add a service charge, and waiter at small places appreciate a tip, but it’s not expected.
Kazakhs are a hospitable bunch. Don’t be surprised if you’re invited for some drinks, or if a random stranger decides to pay your bill at the cafetaria.
A majority of Kazakhs are Muslim. Russian influence has diluted some of the more conservative aspects of Islam. Alcohol is widely available and it’s quite common to see women in skirts in places such as Almaty and Astana.