Getting there & away
Long-distance buses currently use the Sayran bus station (Novy avtovokzal; 276 26 44; cnr Töle Bi & Utegen Batyr), 5km west of the centre, but there are plans to replace Sayram with a new terminal even further out west, so check before you go there. Destinations include Karaganda (2800T, 20 hours, 2pm and 10pm), Shymkent (1400T, 12 hours, 8pm and 9.30pm), Taldyqorghan (650T, four hours, 17 daily), Taraz (1100T, nine hours, six daily), Turkistan (1200T, 15 hours, 11pm), Ust-Kamenogorsk (3100T, 22 hours, 7.30am and 5.30pm) and Zharkent (800T, six hours, five daily). For road transport to Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) and Ürümqi (China).
Quicker minibuses to some of the nearer destinations wait at the front of the Sayran bus station building and even quicker shared taxis wait on Utegen Batyr (at the side of the bus station). To Taldyqorghan it’s 700T (four hours) by minibus and 2000T (three hours) by taxi; to Taraz it’s 1200T (eight hours) by minibus and 3000T (six hours) by taxi.
Most nearer destinations are served by the Sayakhat bus station (Stary Avtovokzal; 230 25 29; Rayymbek). Buses go every 15 minutes to Talgar (60T, 30 minutes) and Issik (Yesik; 60T, 45 minutes), and there are several minibuses to Kegen (800T, three to four hours). Services to Taldyqorghan may be added here.
One of the very few car rental companies operating here is Europcar (258 16 81; www.europcar.com; Bayseyitova 33). Small and medium-sized cars cost around US$125 to US$160 per day with unlimited kilometres. A driver can be provided for an extra fee.
Nearly all main long-distance trains stop at Almaty-I station (296 33 92), 8km north of the centre at the end of Seyfullin, but fortunately most terminate at the more convenient Almaty-II station (296 55 44), at the end of Abylay Khan on the northern edge of the central area. There are train ticket offices in the centre, including in the Gorodskoy Aerovokzal, as well as inside the stations and on Abylay Khan just south of Almaty-II, where tickets are available 24 hours. You need to show your passport when buying tickets.
Destinations served at least daily (in some cases several times daily), with typical 2nd-class (kupeynyy) fares, include Astana (5300T, 19 to 21 hours), Aqtöbe (5500T, 40 to 46 hours), Kokshetau (6500T, 25 hours), Kyzylorda (3600T, 22 hours), Pavlodar (6700T, 28 to 33 hours, from Almaty-I only), Petropavlovsk (8000T, 31 hours), Semey (3500T, 20 to 22 hours), Shymkent (3000T, 12 to 15 hours), Taraz (2765T, 10½ hours), Turkistan (3200T, 16 hours) and Uralsk (6500T, 54 hours). Trains for Atyrau (6000T, 52 hours) and Mangyshlak (Aktau; 7000T, 67 hours) depart every second day.
For Karaganda and Astana you can take advantage of the Talgo: a sleek, Spanish-built, fast overnight train with lovely clean bathrooms. Unfortunately it can’t travel at full speed because the Kazakh track isn’t up to that. Train 1 departs Almaty-II just after 7pm (it doesn’t stop at Almaty-I), reaching Astana at 8.20am. The one-way fare in 3rd/2nd/1st class to Astana is 9400/15, 800/17, 300T (2nd class is a two-person compartment).
The only direct train to Moscow (23, 000T) is train 7, leaving at 6am on even dates and taking a cool 81 hours via Shymkent, Aqtöbe, Uralsk and Saratov. You can get there half a day quicker by changing trains two or three times en route. There are also direct daily trains to Novosibirsk.
Flights, nearly all by Air Astana or SCAT, go once or more daily to Aktau (22, 500T to 27, 000T), Aqtöbe (28, 200T), Astana (20, 000T), Atyrau (35, 000T), Karaganda (19, 000T), Kyzylorda (16, 500T to 18, 400T), Pavlodar (27, 400T), Shymkent (16, 000T) and Ust-Kamenogorsk (18, 500T to 25, 000T); five times a week to Semey (16, 500T); four times to Kokshetau (24, 500T) and Petropavlovsk (24, 500T); three times to Uralsk (32, 500T); and twice to Taraz (12, 500T). For international flights see below.
Tickets can be bought at many agencies around town including the Gorodskoy Aerovokzal (City Air Terminal; cnr Zhibek Zholy & Zheltoqsan; 8am-10pm).
Not all airlines have offices in Almaty, but agencies such as CATC, which sells tickets for all airlines, should be able to help if you can’t contact an airline. Airlines flying from Almaty to international destinations include the following (subject to change, of course) :
Air Astana (250 68 50; www.airastana.com; Hotel Otrar, Gogol 73) Moscow twice daily, Amsterdam, Beijing and Dubai four times weekly, Frankfurt and Istanbul three times weekly, Delhi and London twice weekly, Hanover and Seoul once weekly.
British Airways (272 40 40; www.britishairways.com; Dostyq 43) London three times weekly.
Lufthansa (250 50 52; www.lufthansa.com; Hyatt Regency Almaty, Satpaev 29/6) Frankfurt daily.
Pulkovo (273 26 11; www.pulkovo.ru; Furmanov 65) St Petersburg three times weekly.
UM Air (257 19 49; www.umairlines.com; Akhmetov 6) Kiev twice weekly.