Travel Essentials

Here’s the ultimate travel essentials list for Kazakhstan; everything from currency, tipping and clothing dress codes can be found below.

Currency

The local currency is called the Tenge (KZT) and can only be exchanged in Kazakhstan.  For the latest exchange rates you can review this website www.xe.com

We recommend you take your spending money in US dollars, as many restaurants, shops and bars only accept hard currency. Trying to change traveller’s cheque or British Pounds into the local currency is difficult and is not a convenient option. Please ensure the bank notes you travel with are in good condition. We recommend you take new (post 1998), good dollar bills in small denominations.

You can exchange money in most towns and your local guide can recommend where to change money. There are some ATM machines and credit cards can be used in well-established restaurants and shops in Nur Sultan, Shymkent and Almaty.

It is extremely difficult to change Tenge back into dollars at reasonable exchange rates, so it is advised that you spend what Tenge you have before leaving the country. Because of this we also recommend that you only exchange relatively small amounts of local currency at any time.

Food and Drink

As in any country the price of meals can very considerably depending on the location, type,  style of restaurant and the number or courses eaten. Local cafés and restaurants in small towns are generally less expensive than similar restaurants in major cities. Tashkent has a wide range of restaurants to suit all budgets. We have therefore provided an average price guide for restaurant meals.

  • Lunch price: £8.00 to £10.00
  • Dinner price: £15.00
  • Beer price: £2.50
  • Water price: £0.80

Vaccinations

Ensure you visit your travel clinic before travel for general advice on travel risks, vaccinations and malaria. There are no compulsory vaccinations for Kazakhstan, but your travel clinic will probably recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A. For more information regarding vaccinations and travel health visit www.fitfortravel.nhs and www.masta-travel-health.com. Vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.

Language

Kazakh, Russian

Time Difference

Kazakhstan is 6 hours ahead of GMT.

Insurance

A valid travel insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical issues is a must. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities.

It is a good idea to photocopy all relevant documents – passport, travel, insurance policy etc., and leave one copy at home. Carry another copy with you separate from the originals.

Wi-Fi and Mobile Phone Coverage

Internet access is available in Kazakhstan but is limited to the main cities and towns. The easiest internet access is by logging on to Wi-Fi hotspots available at hotels, cafes, restaurants, or shopping centres. The quality of Wi-Fi varies greatly depending on your location and often does not reach all of the hotel bedrooms. Also, in the more remote locations such as the mountainous areas, the internet will not be available.

Kazakhstan mobile phone network has thorough coverage, at least in the Urban areas.

Electricity

A round two-pin plug is required to charge your phone, camera, video camera or electronic devices. The voltage in Kazakhstan is 220 volts. In some of the remote area of Kazakhstan, electricity may not be available 24 hours a day.

Clothing

The Central Asia region is largely Muslim and therefore a conservative dressed code is advised at all times. Avoid any clothing that is too tight or revealing as well any tops and bottoms that reveal too much skin / flesh such as as short – skirts and shorts, spaghetti strap tops and blouses with no sleeves. When entering mosques and places of religious significance women will usually be asked to cover their hair with a headscarf.  It is therefore advisable to include one in you packing, as is a swimming costume for hotel pools, hot springs and refreshing lake dips.

Central Asia can get very hot in the summer so light- weight natural fabric are most suitable. In the spring and autumn when temperatures are cooler we recommend layering and warmer clothes including a fleece and a waterproof/windproof jacket for time spent in the mountains. In winter hotel heating can be inconsistent and therefore consider bringing jumpers for the evening and warm sleep wear.

Footwear

Good quality, comfortable walking shoes or boots and trainers.

Equipment

Day sack, water bottle, sunhat, sunglasses, high factor sunscreen, head scarf, torch, insect repellent, ear plugs and travel first aid kit.

Culture and Customs

The history and culture of Kazakhstan is steeped in the nomadic tribes who once roamed the Kazakh steppe. As the tribes became more settled in the last couple of centuries, their individual cultures began to mix creating a fantastic array or traditions and mixed cultures which has developed over thousands of years.  This once nomadic people have embraced settled life creating magnificent modern cities.

The nomadic lifestyle, small nuclear groups of people travelling and living together lasted for many centuries and created a rare mix of individual customs and practices that now from the base of the Kazak culture.  Each of these traditions whether based on religion, relationships or pure nomad survival are still evident today in the day to day lives of the people.

As with many nomadic and oriental cultures hospitality, especially to strangers and travellers, is at the very centre of its beliefs. Guests are usually seated in the most prominent position in the house or traditionally the yurt and provided with the very best food and sometimes gifts. It certainly a form of hospitality to experience.

Tipping

Tipping is the norm in Kazakhstan so we advise you keep small notes handy for regular tipping. For guides, drivers, hotel and restaurant staff we recommend the following daily amounts, which are subject to you receiving service worth of a discretionary tip.

  • Local full day city guide: 10 – 12 USD per day, from your group
  • Local Driver: 8 – 10 USD per day, from your group
  • Restaurants, cafes and bars automatically apply 10% service charge

Safety

Kazakhstan is a safe county to visit and travel in. Tourists, including solo female travellers all provide positive reports of feeling safe while visiting the country.  English is increasingly spoken throughout the country especially in larger towns and cities.

We always recommend that tourists stay vigilant where ever they travel and take limited valuables with them. Those that you do take, such as cameras and phones please keep out of sight when not in use. Avoid unnecessary travel in the border towns and areas near Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and always consult your guide and our local office if you wish to explore these areas alone. Be alert to altitude sickness and any sudden changes in weather especially in and around winter time. Kazakhstan is a welcoming country and one that is very easy to travel in.

Travel Safety Advice

We strongly recommend that you check your government’s travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Festivals and Holidays

As with most nomadic cultures Kazakhs love a good celebration and with over a dozen public holidays, some spanning days, there is plenty of opportunity to book a holiday so you can celebrate with them. Here are our top picks so why not include one of these in your holiday plans.

Navroz (21st March)

Navroz is held in March and is the most important festival of the year and celebrates the coming of spring and the New Year. It follows the old Persian calendar. For the nomadic tribes this marked the end of winter, the warmer weather and the spring renewal. It was then, and still is a fantastic celebration lasting for 3 days.

Chabana Festival (August)

Chabana Festival is a joint festival between the people of Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz people, which is held near the border of both countries every August. It’s a country event, as you’d expect with name Chabana, or Cowboy in English (Cowboy festival), when local herders and horseman compete in sports events. It’s everything an international festival should be. Fun and a little bit mad.

Victory Day (9th May)

Victory day celebrates the Russian victory in World War 2. It’s a tipping of the hat towards the old Soviet / Russian regimes and involves military parades in every major city. A must for WWII and communist history buffs.

National Unity Day (1st May)

National Unity Day is in May celebrates the co-existence of the different nations and cultures living peacefully together in Kazakhstan.