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Entering Kazakhstan

As long as you have your visa organised, you should have no problems getting into Kazakhstan. Keep the migration card you receive in your passport: you have to hand it in when you leave the country. What you must pay special attention to is registration.

Air

Airports & Airlines

Kazakhstan has excellent international air connections through numerous carriers including the good national airline, Air Astana. Between them, Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport and Almaty Airport have numerous direct connections to Europe, Asia and Central Asia, as well as the Gulf States. Aktau and Atyrau serve the Caucasus, and several cities, including Atyrau, Shymkent, Semey and Ust-Kamenegorsk, have direct Moscow flights.

Almaty Airport

Almaty International Airport is the country's busiest. Destinations include the following:

Amsterdam

Airline

Air Astana, KLM

Cost (US$)

650

Frequency

2 weekly

Baku

Airline

Air Astana

Cost (US$)

249

Frequency

4 weekly

Bangkok

Airline

Air Astana

Cost (US$)

345

Frequency

daily

Beijing

Airline

Air Astana, Hainan Airlines

Cost (US$)

273

Frequency

daily

Bishkek

Airline

Air Astana

Cost (US$)

55

Frequency

daily

Delhi

Airline

Air Astana, Air India

Cost (US$)

287

Frequency

daily

Dubai

Airline

Air Astana, flydubai

Cost (US$)

195

Frequency

1-2 daily

Dushanbe

Airline

Air Astana, Somon Air, Tajik Air

Cost (US$)

109

Frequency

1-2 daily

Frankfurt

Airline

Air Astana, Lufthansa

Cost (US$)

734

Frequency

4 weekly

Hong Kong

Airline

Air Astana, Hong Kong Airlines

Cost (US$)

450

Frequency

2 weekly

Istanbul

Airline

Pegasus, Air Astana, Turkish Airlines

Cost (US$)

181

Frequency

up to 4 daily

Kyiv

Airline

Air Astana, Ukraine International Airlines

Cost (US$)

212

Frequency

2 daily

Kuala Lumpur

Airline

Air Astana

Cost (US$)

412

Frequency

3 weekly

Minsk

Airline

Belavia

Cost (US$)

231

Frequency

3 weekly

Moscow

Airline

Aeroflot, Air Astana

Cost (US$)

213

Frequency

4 daily

Novosibirsk

Airline

S7 Airlines

Cost (US$)

122

Frequency

daily

Seoul

Airline

Air Astana, Asiana Airlines

Cost (US$)

515

Frequency

2 daily

St Petersburg

Airline

Aeroflot, Air Astana

Cost (US$)

208

Frequency

1-2 daily

Tashkent

Airline

Air Astana, Uzbekistan Airways

Cost (US$)

95

Frequency

2 daily

Tbilisi

Airline

Air Astana

Cost (US$)

218

Frequency

daily

Tehran

Airline

Air Astana

Cost (US$)

248

Frequency

5 weekly

Ürümqi

Airline

Air Astana, China Southern Airlines

Cost (US$)

176

Frequency

2 daily

Xi'An

Airline

SCAT

Cost (US$)

192

Frequency

weekly

Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport

With the construction of a new terminal, Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport has increased its range of international flights.

Abu Dhabi

Airline

Air Astana, Etihad Airways

Cost (US$)

195

Frequency

2 weekly

Amsterdam

Airline

KLM

Cost (US$)

736

Frequency

2 weekly

Antalya

Airline

Air Astana, AtlasGlobal

Cost (US$)

370

Frequency

1-2 daily

Baku

Airline

Air Astana

Cost (US$)

236

Frequency

3 weekly

Bangkok

Airline

Air Astana

Cost (US$)

493

Frequency

3 weekly

Beijing

Airline

Air Astana, Air China

Cost (US$)

336

Frequency

daily

Bishkek

Airline

Air Astana

Cost (US$)

118

Frequency

4 weekly

Budapest

Airline

Wizzair

Cost (US$)

102

Frequency

2 weekly

Delhi

Airline

Air Astana

Cost (US$)

276

Frequency

2 weekly

Dubai

Airline

Air Astana, flydubai

Cost (US$)

206

Frequency

5 weekly

Frankfurt

Airline

Air Astana, Lufthansa

Cost (US$)

456

Frequency

1-2 daily

Istanbul

Airline

Air Astana, AtlasGlobal, Turkish Airlines

Cost (US$)

219

Frequency

up to 4 daily

Kyiv

Airline

Air Astana, Ukraine International Airlines

Cost (US$)

196

Frequency

2 daily

London

Airline

Air Astana

Cost (US$)

533

Frequency

5 weekly

Minsk

Airline

Belavia

Cost (US$)

204

Frequency

daily

Moscow

Airline

Aeroflot, Air Astana

Cost (US$)

203

Frequency

2-3 daily

Novosibirsk

Airline

Air Astana

Cost (US$)

168

Frequency

daily

Paris

Airline

Air Astana, Air France, KLM

Cost (US$)

337

Frequency

3 weekly

Seoul

Airline

Air Astana

Cost (US$)

555

Frequency

3 weekly

St Petersburg

Airline

Aeroflot, Air Astana

Cost (US$)

178

Frequency

1-2 daily

Thessaloniki

Airline

Ellinair

Cost (US$)

395

Frequency

weekly

Tbilisi

Airline

Air Astana

Cost (US$)

230

Frequency

4 weekly

Ürümqi

Airline

Air Astana, China Southern Airlines

Cost (US$)

170

Frequency

1-2 daily

Warsaw

Airline

LOT

Cost (US$)

462

Frequency

4 weekly

Yekaterinburg

Airline

Air Astana

Cost (US$)

159

Frequency

daily

Yerevan

Airline

SCAT

Cost (US$)

210

Frequency

2 weekly

Aktau Airport

Aktau Airport in the far west is a hub for trans-Caspian flights.

Astrakhan

Airline

SCAT

Cost (US$)

132

Frequency

4 weekly

Baku

Airline

Azal, SCAT

Cost (US$)

93

Frequency

1-2 daily

Istanbul

Airline

Onur Air, SCAT

Cost (US$)

149

Frequency

up to 10 weekly

Moscow

Airline

Aeroflot, SCAT

Cost (US$)

189

Frequency

6 weekly

Sochi

Airline

SCAT

Cost (US$)

196

Frequency

3 weekly

Tbilisi

Airline

SCAT

Cost (US$)

135

Frequency

5 weekly

Yerevan

Airline

SCAT

Cost (US$)

155

Frequency

weekly

Airlines

Kazakhstan has four airlines.

Air Astana Flagship carrier, with comfortable planes, excellent safety records and numerous international departures as well as domestic flight.

Bek Air Originally a business jet service, with inexpensive flights to numerous domestic destinations. Due to rebrand itself as Halyk Air by the end of 2017.

Qazaq Air New regional airline based out of Almaty. Serves destinations in western and northern Kazakhstan.

SCAT Shymkent-based airline with inexpensive flights to all major Kazakhstan destinations and some international services.

Departure Tax

There is no departure tax when leaving Kazakhstan.

Land

Border Crossings

To & From China

Buses run daily to Ürümqi (24 hours) and Yining (12 hours) from Almaty's Sayran bus station, via the border at Khorgos. Sleeper buses leave for Ürümqi at 7am (16,000T) daily. You can book three days ahead but tickets are usually available on departure day: be ready to show your Chinese visa. Sleeper buses to Yining (6500T, 12 hours), about 100km beyond Khorgos, also depart daily at 7am. The crossing is often crammed with Kazakh and Uyghur families and traders with vast amounts of baggage.

Train 014 departs Almaty-II station for Ürümqi at 12.14am on Sunday and Tuesday, taking a scheduled 32 hours and crossing the border at Dostyk (Druzhba). Kupeyny (2nd-class couchette) tickets cost 37,200T. Tickets are sold in the main ticket hall at Almaty-II and are usually still available in the last few days before departure: press 'Mezhdunarodnaya Kassa' on the machine next to the information bureau to get a number for the ticket queue. Be ready to show your Chinese visa. The trains have restaurant cars but the food is poor and overpriced. At Dostyk, you have to wait four or five hours while the train bogies are changed and customs checks take place. The train toilets are locked during this time except for the 20-minute dash between the Kazakhstan and China border posts: get in line early for this!

To get to the border at Khorgos, go to Almaty-I and either take daily train 702 at 8.01am (3483T, 3¾ hours) or train 394 at 11.51pm (2422T, 5¼ hours). A 15-minute bus transfer to the Khorgos border is included in the fare. From the border you will need a bus or taxi for the 100km on to Yining, from which there are three daily trains to Ürümqi. The return trains 701 and 393 depart Altynkol at 3.10pm and 10pm, respectively.

Ürümqi also has bus connections with Ust-Kamenogorsk and Semey. Cyclists may cross into China via Khorog on bicycles, but are obliged to take the bus from Semey or Ust-Kamenogorsk.

To & From Kyrgyzstan

Official Kazakh–Kyrgyz border crossings are largely hassle free, but the ‘green border’ – trails through the mountains, without border posts – has been closed for several years.

From Almaty's Sayran bus station, there are plenty of minibuses (1500T, three to four hours, hourly 6am to 11pm) and shared taxis (3500T) to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, crossing the border at Korday. Minibuses and shared taxis also run from Taraz to Bishkek, and there are also buses from Shymkent and Turkestan to Bishkek – all crossing the border at Chaldybar.

From May to October, the scenic and laid-back Karkara valley border crossing offers an alternate route between Almaty and Issyk-Köl. No public transport makes this crossing but a taxi from Almaty/Kegen to the border should cost around 8000/5000T while onward transit from the border to Karakol is around 3500 som (around $51). Taxis rarely wait at this little-used border, so it's best to make transport arrangements in advance.

To & From Russia

Most main Kazakhstan cities have train service to/from Moscow via other Russian cities, daily or every two days; direct services from Almaty have been discontinued.

Many Kazakh cities also have trains to/from Siberian cities. Daily trains along the ‘Turksib’ line take 37 to 39 hours between Novosibirsk and Almaty (US$85), via Semey. Daily trains from Moscow’s Kazansky station to Nur-Sultan take around 56 hours for US$258.

To & From Turkmenistan

The remote Temirbaba border point is 165km south of Zhanaozen, which is 150km east of Aktau. Turkmen 4WDs from Zhanaozen bus station take around 10 hours, including two to three hours at the border, for the trip to Turkmenbashi (6000/24,000T per person/vehicle). You're most likely to find a shared vehicle early in the morning. The road is unpaved for about the last 45km to the border and 30km south of it.

A railway runs from Zhanaozen (called Uzen on some timetables) to Bereket in western Turkmenistan, and beyond, to Ashgabat and Iran. However, it is used for freight only and there are currently no plans to introduce passenger services.

To & From Uzbekistan

The main road border between Shymkent and Tashkent, at Chernyaevka (Zhibek Zholy/Gisht Koprik), is connected with Shymkent’s Avtovokzal Samal bus station by fairly frequent marshrutkas (1000T, two hours) – more frequent in the morning. Queues of four to six hours are not uncommon for crossing into Kazakhstan, due to the numbers of Uzbeks heading north in search of work; waits are generally shorter going southbound. For the short ride between the border and central Tashkent you need a taxi.

Crossing the border by train is a way to avoid queues. The railway border at Saryagash, a few kilometres north of Tashkent, is crossed by about a dozen trains each way per week, the majority heading to/from Moscow or the Urals via Turkestan, Kyzylorda and Aktobe, but two or three heading to/from Shymkent and Almaty. From Almaty, the new high-speed train 001 (18,065T, 16¾ hours) departs from Almaty-I via Almaty-II on Mondays and Saturdays.

For travellers with their own vehicles, the Yallama crossing, about 60km southwest of Tashkent, is a quicker option than Chernyaevka.

A remote desert road and rail crossing exists at Tazhen (also called Oazis) between Beyneu, western Kazakhstan, and Nukus, Uzbekistan. Trains from Russia to Tashkent via Samarkand (three weekly) use this route, coming into Kazakhstan via Atyrau, and there is a handy daily service between Aktau and Nukus for 10,492T, platskartny (3rd class) only; 24 hours. The little-used road is paved on the Uzbek side but unpaved (and terrible) between the border and Beyneu.

From Mongolia

Kazakhstan has no border with Mongolia but it is possible to get to Khovd via bus or taxi from Urumqi, China, from Almaty.

Overland from Russia

Kazakhstan's 6846km border with Russia has 18 'multilateral' road crossings (open to all nationalities), and around 15 rail crossings.

Western Europe–Western China Highway

The new 'Western Europe–Western China' highway, a massive project to boost trans-Asia commerce, will provide the best driving option from European Russia into Kazakhstan when it is completed. The 8445km highway runs from St Petersburg to Moscow, Kazan and Orenburg, then across Kazakhstan via Aktobe, Kyzylorda, Shymkent, Taraz and Almaty, into China at Khorgos then across China via Ürümqi to the seaport Lianyungang. Long sections of new four- and two-lane highway are open across Kazakhstan, with the Almaty–Khorgos section in the process of being completed at the time of research.

Buses & Shared Taxis

Bus services, and in some cases shared taxis, connect cities within striking distance of the border. Daily bus services include Astrakhan–Atyrau (3400T, eight hours), Samara–Uralsk (2750T, six hours), Orenburg–Aktobe (2200T, six hours), Tyumen–Petropavlovsk (4500T, 10 hours), Barnaul–Semey (4200T, 11 hours) and Novosibirsk–Ust-Kamenogorsk (6300T, 18 hours).

Road Crossings

The main multilateral road crossings (listed from west to east):

  • Kotyaevka (between Astrakhan and Atyrau) The westernmost entry point, but some roads on the Kazakh side are very poor, notably the appalling 230km Makat–Bayganin stretch between Atyrau and Aktobe.
  • Taskala (between Saratov and Uralsk)
  • Mashtakov (between Samara and Uralsk)
  • Zhaysan (between Orenburg and Aktobe)
  • Podgorodka (Kayrak; between Chelyabinsk and Kostanay)
  • Kazantsevskoe (between Kurgan and Petropavlovsk)
  • Roslavka (Karakoga; between Omsk and Petropavlovsk)
  • Auyl (between Rubtsovsk and Semey)
  • Shemonaikha (between Rubtsovsk and Ust-Kamenogorsk)

Train

The major rail routes:

  • Moscow–Saratov–Uralsk–Aktobe
  • Moscow–Samara–Orenburg–Aktobe–Kyzylorda–Tashkent/Bishkek
  • Moscow–Volgograd–Atyrau–Beyneu–Uzbekistan (Nukus, Samarkand, Tashkent)
  • Moscow–Chelyabinsk–Petropavlovsk/Kostanay–Nur-Sultan–Karaganda
  • Novosibirsk–Barnaul–Semey–Almaty (the 'Turksib')
  • Vladivostok–Irkutsk–Novosibirsk–Omsk–Petropavlovsk (from the east)

Sea

To & From Azerbaijan

A ferry sails roughly weekly between Aktau and Baku (in Azerbaijan). It’s a cargo ship that carries some passengers and a small number of vehicles and leaves when its hold fills, and there can be anything from two days to two weeks between sailings (on average it's about once a week in summer). Tickets (20,000T for a bunk in a windowless four-person cabin) go on sale at the Paromnaya Kassa when the ship leaves Baku for the 30-hour crossing – in theory that's about 24 hours before it departs Aktau. 'In theory' because the ship sometimes waits a long time outside Aktau – three days is not unknown (and the same can happen arriving at Baku). Leave a photocopy of your passport and a contact number at the Paromnaya Kassa and they'll call you when tickets become available. Take food for the voyage: the food on board is expensive and of poor quality. Note that immigration officials may require all travellers leaving Aktau on the ferry to have registered their Kazakhstan visas, even if they are leaving within the normal five-day registration-free period.

In Baku, tickets are only sold on the day of departure: you must check with the ticket office near the Turkmenistan ferry dock every morning to find out if there's a sailing. The ferry actually leaves from one of two places: either the old seaport or the roll-on, roll-off port about 7km further east, and you will only know which one on the day.