Kazakhstan is a very strange country, really.
On the one hand, this is home to the most Westernized city in Asia, Almaty, whose inhabitants are very European-minded.
Moreover, it also has some of the most striking mountain scenery you will ever see but it also has thousands and thousands squared miles of absolutely nothing but steppe.
And on the other hand, this oil-rich country is home to some of the weirdest places on Earth, like an old nuclear testing town, a drought sea, the Russian Cosmodrome and an extremely vast steppe with the occasional 2-humped hairy camel.
Kazakhstan is an amazing off the beaten track destination which you cannot miss.
For all the practical information, read my 35 Travel tips for visiting Kazakhstan
Capital – Astana
Population – 18.3 million (62nd)
Language – Kazakh (a Turkic language) but Russian is widely spoken.
Visa – Around 60 countries, including all Western nationalities, can get a free 30-visa on arrival at any entry point. For more information, don’t forget to read my tips for visiting Kazakhstan.
When to go – If you want to do some trekking you must come in summer, late-spring or early-autumn. Moreover, the north of the country (and that includes Astana) is literally frozen during the winter months, so be aware of that. Last, the south part also gets pretty cold but not as much. I was there in November and it was pretty bearable.
Travel insurance – Kazakhstan is a real off the beaten track country, so remember to get proper insurance. I recommend World Nomads:
- It is the only company that covers with an unlimited budget
- It provides coverage for a very big bunch of adventure activities, including trekking in high altitudes
- You can hire it while on the road
5 Top experiences in Kazakhstan – My favorites:
- Travel in a Soviet train through the steppe – Epic multi-day journeys through remote Kazakh lands. Read: How to travel by train in Kazakhstan.
- Discover the gorgeous mountains of southeastern Kazakhstan – Unbelievable scenery.
- Hang out in Almaty – The most European city in Asia.
- Visit the Aral Sea – The worst environmental disaster caused by men. Read (Guest Post): A guide to the Aral Sea.
- Check out the forbidden village of Baikonur – You are not allowed to visit it but there is a way. Read: How to visit Baikonur without a permit
For all the places I visited, read my 4-week itinerary to Kazakhstan
Typical costs – It is pretty cheap. These are just some of the costs:
- Dorms – 2,000 to 4,000TEN (5 to 10USD)
- Private rooms – from 5,000TEN (15USD)
- Meals in local restaurants – Mains from 1,000 to 2,200 (2 to 6USD)
- Meals in international, cool places – Mains from 2,000USD (5,50USD)
- Trains – Atyrau to Aralsk, 20 hours, 1,400km, 2nd class (4,000TEN – 12USD)
Transportation – You can travel by train pretty much everywhere. In remoter places, you may need to get a shared taxi. Remember to check my guide to travel by train in Kazkahstan.
Accommodation – There are hotels and hostels all across the country and you can find them on booking.com