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Ultimate Kazakhstan Backpacking Travel Guide 2020

The biggest landlocked country in the world, is a huge destination with diverse landscapes, lively capital cities, and various traditions. It brims with natural beauty, rich culture, and history. Kazakhstan is a fascinating country with loads of opportunities to marvel at architecture, relax by the beautiful lakes, and go hiking in the most impressive landscapes in the world. Despite being the 9th biggest country in the world, Kazakhstan is a destination that not many people are aware of, a great gem for those wanting to explore a place that isn’t full of tourists.

Kazakhstan at a Glace

Language

Kazakh

Currency

Kazakhstani tenge

Best Money Exchange

ATMs, Money Changers

Local Dishes

Beshbarmak

Drones Allowed

no

Is water safe to drink

No

Vaccinations

Check CDC

Power Plug Type

C and F

Car Sharing Options

Comfort and Car rental directory

Peak Season

July - August

Backpacker Friendly

Yes

Hitch hiker Friendly

Yes

Credit Cards Accepted

Yes

Preferred Payment Method

Cards and virtual wallets

Low Season

November to March

Top 5 Things to See and Do in Kazakhstan

1. Almaty

The country’s biggest city and major cultural and commercial hub, surrounded by beautiful mountains and scenery.

2. Nur-Sultan

Capital of Kazakhstan, Nur Sultan is a modernized city home to several futuristic buildings and skyscrapers, making it an ideal destination for some sightseeing.

3.Shymkent

This city is popular for its exciting food, shopping, and nightlife options.

4. Turkistan

a significant historic city dating back to 4th century and one of the country’s only remaining places from this era.

5.Karaganda

Some of the must-visit places in Karaganda includes the Gulag Museum, Dolinka, and the Regional Central Mosque and the Monument of Mining Glory.

Other Things to See and Do in Kazakhstan

1. Pavlodar

Pavlodar is one of the quietest and oldest cities in the country. Famous for the Mashkhur-Jusup Mosque and the impressive Cathedral of Annunciation. This city boasts many nightclubs and houses the old Chekhov Theatre.

2. Temirtau

Temirtau is a hundred year old city that sits on the Samarkand Reservoir of the Nura River. It is the hub of Kazakhstan’s iron industry and houses the largest steel-production plant in Kazakhstan.

3. Atyrau

one of the few cities worldwide that spans between two continents. Atyrau is a hotspot for businessmen and features a range of international restaurants and lively nightclubs. There are many historical buildings and museums that contain the finest examples of crafts and architecture, specific to the Atyrau region.

4.Aktau

Aktau is full of various Sufi pilgrimage sites such as Shopan-Ata, Beket-Ata, Masat-Ata, and Shakpak-Ata. Also, there are many natural attractions such as mud baths, hot springs, oases, etc.

5. Taraz

Taraz is a historic and modern city at the same time. Today, it is an amazing, Soviet-built destination with green boulevards, a huge ceremonial square surrounded by governmental structures, and various medieval mausoleums.

6. Petropavl

Petropavl is the most attractive city in the northern region of Kazakhstan. It boasts a rich historical past and is surrounded by the beautiful pine forests, many lakes, and Siberian-style leisure for every season.

7. Oskemen

Oskemen is a picturesque city located near the confluence of the Irtysh and the Ulba rivers. This stunning place is known for its vibrant, electric blue mosque named Ust-Kamenogorsk City Mosque. It is also famous for its honey and is full of greenery and wildflowers.

Typical Costs

WPCS 2.1.4

Transportation

Buses are relatively cheap in Kazakhstan. A bus ride in major cities can cost around $0.40 or $0.20 if you use the Unified Transport Card. You can easily get these cards from one of the small kiosks for $1.30 and top up the card at different top-up stations across the city. To travel across the country, we recommend using the trains. Fares differ depending upon the train and the type of seat you choose. A train ride within the major cities cost between $20.00$30.00. However, it is better to book the seats in advance as seats fill up quickly.

Accommodation

Accommodation is quite cheap in Kazakhstan. You can get a room in a budget hotel for about $20.00 per night which often includes free breakfast, TV, and Wi-fi access. A room in a mid-range hotel costs around $80.00 a night and may include free breakfast, parking, airport transfers, gym, and Wi-fi access. Those looking for high-end hotels should expect to pay around $120.00 a night and may include free toiletries, private balcony, pool, business center, airport transfer, and laundry facilities.

Food

Food is quite inexpensive in this country. You can enjoy food for less than $3.00 if you stick to the markets. Otherwise expect to pay between $5.00$7.00 if you visit a mid range restaurant. The meals outside the major cities are much cheaper. The best option is to buy ingredients from the supermarket that costs around $5.00 a day. Meals include mainly vegetables, pasta, rice, and sauces. A large bottle of water costs about $0.30.

Activities

To keep things simple and fun,the best way to explore the country is by joining the organized tours. Tours taking place outside the main cities are cheap if you go on the weekend, but they are quite expensive during the weekdays.

Suggested Budget

How much does a trip to Kazakhstan cost in 2020?
Travel Style Accommodation (per night) Food (3 Meals) Transportation Activities (Per activity) Daily Cost
Backpacker
$3.00 - $6.00
$2.00- $3.00
$10.00-$15.00
$5.00-$6.00
$10.00
Mid - Range
$7.00-$15.00
$6.00
$20.00 -$50.00
$10.00-$15.00
$20.00
High - End
$16.00-$30.00
$12.00
$100.00-$150.00
$40.00
$50.00

Budgeting Tips

Kazakhstan is not an expensive country, public transport and local food are relatively cheap. But when visiting more remote areas for sightseeing, the cost can add up. Below are some tips to save money while backpacking Kazakhstan.

1. Take tours on the weekend

Try your best to join the tours at the weekend as they are 10x cheaper than the weekdays. Do your research on the tour companies as some of them are a lot cheaper than others.

2. Advance booking

It is recommended to make the bookings online beforehand as far as one or two weeks before you want to travel as the hotels and trains fill up very quickly, especially during the peak season.

3. Use 2GIS App

The 2GIS App is a lifesaver. It shows you the map of the city and allows you to enter your location and where you want to go. Then, the app will show you how to reach the destination and which bus will take you there.

4.Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking is quite common in this country. You often see people standing next to the road and get into the car to share the cost of the fuel. It might take some more time but it will be much cheaper than most other options. Remember that it is not free and you are expected to pay a small amount to the driver.

5. Meet up with others

Some tour companies allow you to pay for a sem-private minivan with a driver. This indicates that you can divide the total cost of the vehicle per person. So, the more people, the less the fare.

Where To Stay

Almaty

Sky Hostel Almaty

Shymkent

City Hostel

Others

TBD

How To Get Around

tuk tuk

Trishaws

Trishaws (like rickshaws) aren’t famous in Singapore now, but can be seen along some of the tourist routes. You’ll pay around $40.00 for a 30-minute ride.

Car Rentals

Car rental services are available in Kazakhstan that cost between $5.00$6.00 for a 3-hour ride whereas international car rentals costs around $40.00 a day.
chicken bus

Marshrutkas & Minibuses

Most of the short and medium-length routes (3-4 hours) between the cities are now covered by advanced mini buses and a few marshrutkas (combi-type vehicles). These vehicles cost 50% more than buses and run faster.

Ride Sharing

Taxi is a much faster alternative to buses and mini buses for intercity travel. Normally, they can be found waiting outside the bus and train stations and you can either rent an entire taxi or share it with other passengers at the fraction of the price. In some cities, the taxis are metered while others refuse to use them, so the fare greatly depends upon your bargaining skills. Uber is another great and cheaper option for those with smartphones.

Trains

Kazakhstan is a huge country, so the easiest and most comfortable way to get around the country is to travel by train. The cost of rail travel is less in comparison with Western Europe. There are regular connections between all the cities and towns. However, it is advisable for travelers to travel by bus between the cities to avoid any robberies of personal items for overnight trains.

Bus

Buses are a great option for trips of about 5-6 hours, generally a bit faster than trains. A bus ride in Kazakhstan costs up to $0.30 for a one-way ticket irrespective of the distance.

Airlines

If you don’t have much time to travel within the main cities by train, you can always take an airplane. The network of domestic flights connects cities all across the country and the fares are economical. A plane ride from one city to another in Kazakhstan costs as low as $100.00. The pricier airline is Air Astana whereas the inexpensive airline is SCAT. Qazaq Air and Bek Air are other competitors but have less destinations. .

Bicycle

Cycling can be quite challenging in Kazakhstan due to large distances between locations. But because there is little traffic outside the main cities and many beautiful routes, many cyclists take up the cycling challenge. In cities like Nur-Sultan and Shymkent, more and more cycle lanes are getting introduced. These cities have many automated bicycle-rental spots, perfect for traveling short distances.

Hitch Hiking

Info

Resources

When To Go

Kazakhstan is a year-round destination, depending on what you want to see and do during your trip. The period from July to August is regarded as the best time to visit the country as the weather is pleasant and a great time for hiking as well. April-June is also a decent time to visit the country. The steppes are quite stunning during this period. The busiest and most expensive time for tourism is October, after July and August when the rates for flights and hotels are the most expensive during these months. Winter is very cold, but if you love ice skating or skiing, you can head to the great ski slopes at Chimbulak from December-February.

How To Stay Safe and Aware of Scams

Kazakhstan is a quite safe country to travel in if you follow the normal precautions. Scams, corrupt police, and pickpocketing are some of the problems that you might face. Below are our top tips to keep you safe and kinds of the crime you should know before traveling to Kazakhstan:

1. Taxi scam

Beware of the dishonest taxi drivers as they don’t use the meter, and say that it’s not working, or charge an inflated fare. So, ask your hotel staff for a taxi and make sure that the meter is working before riding.

2. Don’t drink tap water

Avoid tap water in Kazakhstan until you are staying in Almaty. The cities other than Almaty don’t have the same quality standards when it comes to potable water.

3. Avoid stray animals

There are many stray cats and dogs in the country that may look cute and inoffensive. However, they could have rabies.

4. Pickpocketing

Though crime towards the tourists is uncommon, still it happens in crowded places. Keep your valuables safe and don’t flash around your expensive items.

Packing List

If you plan to visit Vietnam, you might be wondering what items should be carried along. Following are the few essential things you need to consider before hopping on your flight:

2 Pairs of Shorts

2 long sleeve

8 pairs of underwear(Thermal)

Medicine

Light pants

Flip flops

Toiletries: Toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, floss, shampoo and body wash

Locks: Some hostels provide locks for a fee, so bring your own

Swim Trunks

Comfortable Sneakers

Quick dry towel

Laundry Bag

3 shirts

8 pairs of socks

Dedorant

Hand Sanitizer

Power Bank

umbrella

Umbrella

Sun Glasses

Sun Screen

Rain jacket

Sunhat

Water bottle

Mosquito repellent

Travel adapter

Hiking pants

boots

Hiking shoes

First-aid kit

Windproof & Fleece jackets

Sleeping mat

boots

Padlocks

Trainer shoes

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