Kazakhstan, Asia - Stein Travel
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Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world, with a landmass four times the size of France. Although little visited by outsiders, it is a country with a rich historical and cultural past, and a wonderfully diverse ethnic make-up. Bordered by Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan has become home to many nations and is known for its friendly and hospitable people.

Kazakhstan was formerly a Soviet Republic, but gained independence in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It is a country of immense and diverse natural beauty ranging from the arid, treeless steppes of the centre to the snow capped peaks and glaciers of the Tian Shan mountain range, to the Almaty area, with its canyons, turquoise lakes and alpine meadows.

Rich in natural resources such as oil, natural gas and minerals, Kazakhstan is a country of huge economic potential. Although there is still widespread poverty in the country, and unemployment and inflation are rife, oil development has brought rapid economic growth and the country is already a significant oil exporter.

Astana, declared a world city by UNESCO in 1999, is the capital of Kazakhstan and is one of the main commerce centres with all government organisations and foreign businesses located there. Leafy Almaty, situated in the fertile fruit-producing region in the southeast is the former capital of Kazakhstan and is the largest city in the country. Famed for its beautiful architecture, grand ballet and opera houses, public sculptures and market stalls, Almaty is the cultural centre of Kazakhstan and well worth a visit.

Other sights and activities in Kazakhstan include skiing, visiting the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the prominent spaceport launch site, bird watching in Korgalzhyn and visiting one of the country's striking nature reserves where bears, ibex and raptors can be observed.

Information & Facts


An experienced and proficient interpreter can be of great assistance at business meetings. It is customary to shake hands and call people by their first names at business meetings, as well as at informal gatherings. Business attire is generally a suit and tie for men, and a suit or business dress for women. Small gifts (pens, company logo pins or books) are frequently given at the end of an initial meeting as a token of appreciation. Business cards are widely distributed, both in Russian and English. Many people in Kazakhstan are Muslim so it is not uncommon for them to take breaks from work during the day for prayer; this should be taken into consideration when scheduling meeting times.


The lack of moderating bodies of water make Kazakhstan's climate extremely continental and very dry. Seasonal temperatures are polarised and vary depending on the region. The best time to visit Kazakhstan is in spring (April to June) or autumn (September to October) when temperatures are mild. In spring the desert comes into flower and autumn is harvest time, where market tables are overwhelmed with freshly picked fruit. Average winter temperatures during the day are 3 to -1°F (-16 to -18°C) in the far north and about 21°F (-6°C) in the south; summer temperatures average 70°F (21°C) in the north and 81°F (27°C) in the south. Snow starts to fall around November and the mountain passes fill with snow until April, sometimes even May. Climbers are advised to visit in summer when the mountain temperatures are at their best.


The international dialling code for Kazakhstan is +7. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). Area codes are in place, for example, Astana is 3172 and Almaty is 327. Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone companies and reception is good around the main cities. There are Internet cafes in most towns and cities but they tend to be expensive.


Kazakh people are known for their hospitality, respect for elders and peace and tolerance. Generosity and cordial behaviour are common in both social and business fields. An invitation to the traditional Kazakh feast, dastarkhan, is the most popular form of Kazakh hospitality. Standards of dress and behaviour are conservative and travellers should take care not to offend. Possession and use of drugs is illegal and if found guilty, could bring about a lengthy prison sentence.

Duty Free

The following goods may be imported into Kazakhstan without incurring customs duty: 1, 000 cigarettes or 1kg of tobacco products; 2 litres of alcoholic beverages; a reasonable quantity of perfume for personal use and gifts to the value of US$500 for personal use only. On entering the country, tourists must complete a customs declaration form, which must be retained until departure. This allows the import of articles intended for personal use, including currency and valuables, which must be registered on the declaration form. They must be exported at the end of the stay. Customs inspections can be long and thorough. It is advisable to keep receipts for items bought in Kazakhstan in order to avoid difficulties on departure.


Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. The European round 2-pin plugs are standard.


All travellers arriving from a yellow fever area are required to have a certificate of inoculation. It is recommended that travellers to Kazakhstan immunise themselves against hepatitis A. Bird flu was discovered in poultry farms in Kazakhstan, but there have been no reports of human infection. Medical care in Kazakhstan is extremely limited and shortages of essential medical supplies are common. Doctors and hospitals will expect payment in cash, regardless of travel health insurance. Blood screening is inadequate and HIV/AIDS is a risk due to contaminated blood or inadequate sterilization of instruments and syringes.


Kazakh and Russian are the official languages.


The official currency is the Tenge (KZT), which is divided into 100 tiyin. ATMs are generally accessible in Kazakhstan and major European and international credit cards, such as Diners Club and Visa are accepted in central hotels, shops and restaurants. Travellers cheques are cashed at large hotels catering for foreigners and should be in US dollars.

Passport Visa

Most foreign passengers require a visa to enter Kazakhstan. Holders of a letter of invitation (issued by either an organisation or a national of Kazakhstan) can obtain a single-entry visa on arrival, for a stay of up to one month, provided that (i) the visa is pre-arranged by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and (ii) they are arriving at Aktau, Almaty, Astana, Atyrau or Uralsk airports. The visa fee is approximately USD 80. Additionally, foreign visitors holding tourist visas (i) must be in possession of hotel vouchers covering their period of stay in Kazakhstan, and (ii) if staying longer than 5 days in Kazakhstan, must register themselves at the OVIR (Upravlenie Passportno Visovoi Raboty Registration Office). Failure to do so will result in penalties upon departure. OVIR offices can be found in large cities in Kazakhstan. Note that if visitors are holding a tourist visa, return/onward tickets are not required. However, if they are holding a transit visa, it is also required that they hold onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Kazakhstan, if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


The general rules of safety in Kazakhstan are the same as in any other developed country. There are the normal risks of pickpockets and petty crime, and travellers are advised to be cautious of corrupt police. Travellers are advised to be cautious at night in and around clubs and bars. Kazakhstan is generally a very friendly country and foreigners are respected.


Tipping is not customary in Kazakhstan as a service charge is included in hotel and restaurant bills. There is also a fixed charge on taxi and railway transport.

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