Kazakhstan is a Central Asian nation that was once part of the Soviet Union. It stretches from the Caspian Sea in the West to the Altai Mountains in the East. It is one of the rare places in the world that remains relatively undiscovered by tourists. Kazakhstan shares borders with Russia and China and is the world’s 9th biggest country, offering a lot of diversity for travellers. The name Kazakhstan means ‘the Land of the Nomads’.
You will be amazed by the contrast between the dry plains, vast steppes, and sandy villages where camels outnumber humans; and the green valleys, snowy peaks, and modern cities that Kazakhstan has to offer.
However, before you pack your bags and head to this amazing destination, here are 10 things you should know to make your trip more enjoyable and hassle-free.
Kazakhstan now offers a visa-free entry regime for Indian citizens, allowing for a visa-free stay in Kazakhstan for up to 14 days. The maximum duration of the visitor’s visa-free stay is 42 days within any 180-day period. This means you can explore Kazakhstan without worrying about applying for a visa or paying any fees. However, you still need to have a valid passport with at least 90 days of validity post-travel and a minimum of two blank pages.
Indian travellers will also be pleased to know that there is a direct flight from Delhi to Almaty, the largest city and former capital of Kazakhstan. The flight, operated by Air Astana, the national carrier of Kazakhstan, takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes and runs four times a week. Almaty is a great starting point for your Kazakhstan adventure, as it offers a mix of modern and Soviet-era architecture, cultural attractions, and easy access to the nearby mountains.
The official currency of Kazakhstan is the Kazakhstani tenge (KZT), which is divided into 100 tiyn. As of January 2024, 1 KZT is equal to 0.17 INR or 0.0023 USD. You can exchange your money at banks, exchange offices, or ATMs, which are widely available in major cities. you can also use US dollars in some places, especially for larger purchases or tipping. It is advisable to carry some cash with you, as not all places accept credit cards or foreign currencies.
Kazakhstan is a huge country, so getting around can take some time and planning. The most popular and convenient way to travel between cities is by train, which is comfortable, affordable, and scenic. You can book your tickets online or at the station, but make sure to do it in advance, as they can sell out quickly. You can also take buses, which are cheaper but slower and less comfortable. Alternatively, you can rent a car and drive yourself, which gives you more flexibility and freedom but also requires more skills and caution, as the roads can be rough and the traffic can be chaotic.
Kazakhstan has a continental climate, which means it has four distinct seasons and a wide range of temperatures. During the hot and dry summers, temperatures can soar up to 40°C in certain regions. In contrast, winters are cold and snowy, with temperatures sometimes plunging below -20°C in some areas.
The spring and autumn are mild and enjoyable, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 25°C. Your travel experience in Kazakhstan can vary greatly depending on the timing and location of your visit, offering diverse landscapes and weather conditions, from verdant valleys and blooming flowers to golden steppes and peaks.
Kazakhstan's culinary landscape reflects its nomadic roots and the influences of neighbouring countries like Russia, China, and Turkey. The main staples are meat, dairy, bread, and noodles, which are prepared in various ways and with various spices.
Some of the most popular dishes are beshbarmak, a dish of boiled horse or lamb meat with noodles and onion sauce; kazy, a type of smoked horse sausage; plov, a dish of rice, meat, carrots, and raisins; and baursak, a type of fried doughnut. For beverages, you might want to sample kumys, a fermented mare's milk, shubat, a fermented camel's milk, or kvas, a drink made from fermented bread.
The official languages of Kazakhstan are Kazakh and Russian, which are both spoken by the majority of the population. English is not commonly used, particularly outside of major cities, so knowing some basic Kazakh or Russian phrases can be very useful.
Greet people with “salem” in Kazakh or “zdravstvuyte” in Russian; express gratitude with “rahmet” in Kazakh or “spasibo” in Russian; and say farewell with “sau bolyn” in Kazakh or “do svidaniya” in Russian You can also use gestures, smiles, and Google Translate to communicate with the locals.
Kazakhstan is home to over 100 ethnic groups and a variety of religions, creating a vibrant multicultural atmosphere. The majority of the people are Muslims, followed by Christians, Buddhists, and others. Renowned for their hospitality and kindness, Kazakhs often welcome visitors into their homes and offer refreshments. It's important, however, to be mindful and respectful of local customs and traditions.
Dress conservatively, especially at religious sites; always remove your shoes when entering a home; abstain from consuming alcohol in public areas; and steer clear of discussions on sensitive subjects like politics and religion.
Kazakhstan is home to some of the most amazing and unique attractions in the world, which will appeal to all kinds of travellers. In the futuristic capital, Nur-Sultan, marvel at groundbreaking architecture like the Bayterek Tower, the expansive Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center, and the majestic Nur-Astana Mosque. Explore the natural wonder of Charyn Canyon, with its grand red cliffs and deep gorges, reminiscent of the Grand Canyon in the USA.
Space enthusiasts should not miss the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the world's premier space launch site, where you can experience a live rocket launch or explore the space museum. You can also visit the Aral Sea, which was once the fourth-largest lake in the world, but has now shrunk to a fraction of its size due to human intervention, creating a surreal and haunting landscape.
If you are planning a trip to Kazakhstan and wondering how much it will cost, you will be happy to know that it is a cheap destination compared to other regions. You can enjoy a delicious meal at a local eatery for about USD 3 (INR249), stay at a hostel for around USD 7 (INR 581) per night, and travel by train for only USD 15 (INR 1245) for every 1000 kilometres. Kazakhstan is not very developed for tourism yet, but this also means that you can find affordable options for sightseeing and entertainment as more tourists come every year.