Atyrau (population170,000), 30km up the Ural River from the Caspian Sea, straddles the Europe/Asia boundary. The cheapest sleep is the Komnaty Otdykha, entered from the train station platform. It’s basic and short on security, but clean, and half-price for less than 12 hours. The central Ak Zhaik Hotel has comfy rooms and a slew of facilities including a British-style pub.
Atyrau lies on the Moscow-Volgograd-Uzbekistan rail route. Within Kazakhstan, trains go daily to Aktau (Mangyshlak; 3520T, 21 hours), Aktobe (2830T, 16 hours) and Almaty (9660T to 30,250T, 36 to 50 hours); for Uzbekistan there are trains to Nukus, Samarkand and Tashkent (29,390T, 45 to 50 hours) four times weekly; for Russia, trains head to Astrakhan (7900T, 13 hours), Volgograd and Moscow (28,960T, 41 hours) several times weekly. Buses (2800T, nine hours), minibuses (4500T, five hours) and shared taxis (7000T, five hours) leave for Uralsk from the bus station until early evening.