The Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan border crossing in a Soviet train is a pretty cool journey. The Tejen border crossing is particularly useful for those coming from or traveling to Azerbaijan over the Caspian Sea, as well as those interested in exploring the remote western part of Kazakhstan.

Read:

Backpacking in Kazakhstan – 1 to 4-week itinerary
Backpacking in Uzbekistan – 1 to 4-week itinerary

 

Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan border crossing

 

Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan border crossing by train – Nukus to Beyneu

Overland border crossings are very exciting and crossing from Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan was no exception. I boarded a train in Samarkand and got off in the Kazakh town of Beyneu. It was an epic 32-hour journey but, in case you are wondering, there is no need to make it that long.

I am going to tell you, step by step, how to cross it successfully.

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Do you have a valid visa?
Do you have a valid insurance?
Train tickets
Highlights of the journey
Customs process
The arrival
Packing list

 

First, do you have a valid visa?

If you are crossing into Kazakhstan

If you are traveling to Kazakhstan, most nationalities get a 30-day free visa on arrival.

If you are crossing into Uzbekistan

However, if you are traveling to Uzbekistan, most likely you will need to arrange your visa in advance.

For more information, read: How to get a visa for Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan border
The Uzbek steppe – Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan border

 

Travel insurance

Just make sure that your travel insurance is valid for your next destination.

If you don’t have insurance, I strongly recommend World Nomads, as it gives unlimited medical coverage, including for an endless number of adventure activities.

Get your free quote!

 

Get your train ticket for the Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan border crossing

Wherever you are crossing into, try to book your tickets as early as possible. 

If you are crossing into Kazakhstan

You will need to buy a train ticket to a city called Beyneu, which is a very ugly Kazakh border town. You can travel there directly from Tashkent or Samarkand, which are located on the other side of Uzbekistan. 

However, the train it only leaves from these 2 cities 2 or 3 times a week. You should ask at the station for the exact days and timings, as they may vary depending on the season. I personally joined it in Samarkand and it was a 32-hour journey which cost 416,000UZS (52USD), in economy class. It left on Saturday at 10pm and arrived on Monday at 5am.

Alternatively (and much easier) you can take the train in Nukus, which is the main city in western Uzbekistan. It only takes 8 hours and, apparently, leaves every day at 6am. However, go to the train station to confirm timings.

If you are crossing into Uzbekistan

You can take a direct train to Uzbekistan from Aktau, which is a town located on the Caspian Sea shore, from where you take the ferry to and from Baku.

Also, if you came from Russia, you could also get the train in Atyrau, a transit city for travelers heading or coming from Russia.

Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan border
Our train, at the arrival in Beyneu – Border of Uzbekistan and kazakhstan

 

Highlights of the train journey

As per the journey, you are going to cross a massive desert where there is nothing but endless steppe. However, the real highlight of the journey is talking to the locals and doing some people watching at all the train stations.

All the old women offered me bread, fruit and cookies and, basically, everybody was more than happy to see me wandering around with my camera. Nobody speaks English, by the way, but when I did this journey it was my fourth month in Central Asia, so I could speak a bit of Russian.

Read: A guide to the Pamir Highway

People Uzbekistan
Locals in the train – Here you can see how ethnically diverse Central Asia is

 

Arrival at Tejen border – The customs process

My train arrived at the border at 1:30am in the morning.

When the customs authorities get in the train, everybody has to wake up and sit on the bottom of the bunk beds. They go through all passports and make some random baggage checks.

The Kazakh authorities were pretty cool and relatively quick, but the Uzbeks took forever. They asked me a lot of questions, including if I had medicines. Nevertheless, unlike the day I crossed from Tajikistan to Uzbekistan, they didn’t check any of my electronic devices.

By the way, the whole process took 3 hours and 30 minutes.

For more information on Uzbek borders, check my travel guide to Uzbekistan, where I explain everything to take into account.

Beyneu Kazakhstan
Beyneu station

 

Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan border crossing – The arrival

Crossing into Kazakhstan – Arrival in Beyneu

Beyneu is a real shit hole where there is nothing to do but wait for your next train or find a hotel to stay for one night. I arrived at 5am in the morning and my next train to Atyrau was not until 4am on the next day, so I definitely had to look for a hotel. If you are traveling to Azerbaijan, you need to buy a train ticket to Aktau.

 

Where to stay in Beyneu

Beyneu is a mere transit city, so don’t expect to find nice accommodation with friendly service. However, you can find one or two decent options for spending the night:

Hotel Aknur – I think this is the best option in town and the cheapest, as well. It is located right next to the train station and, practically, all travelers stay here. If you want a budget room, try to book it in advance. 

Click here to see the latest prices

 

Crossing into Uzbekistan – Arrival in Nukus

Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan, is a lovely town, home to the finest art museum in Uzbekistan and the perfect base for visiting Moynaq and the Aral Sea.

 

Where to stay in Nukus 

Jepek Joli – This always busy hotel is the only option in town. It’s actually a mid-range kind of fancy hotel but, for budget travelers, they have a yurt in the courtyard. It does get really busy, so try to book it well in advance.

Click here to see the latest prices

train Uzbekistan
The desert in Uzbekistan

 

What do you need to bring for the Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan border crossing

Food and drinks – You can actually get anything you want on the train. There is a wagon-cafeteria and, at every station, plenty of sellers come to offer you snacks and drinks. However, I recommend bringing your own food, basically because it tastes better. Moreover, each wagon has a boiling water dispensary to make tea, coffee or even instant noodles, so it’s wise to bring a cup or a glass. At the cafeteria, beers cost 12,000UZS (1.50USD) and meals like lagman or plov cost around 15,000UZS (1.80USD). 

Exchange money – On the train, you will also meet loads of people who are exchanging money. They accept American Dollars, Kazakh Tenge, Uzbek SUM and Russian Rubles. I am not sure whether they also accept Euros or British Pounds.

 

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