Going to Kazakhstan? These tips will help

The place seems kinda far, and there are no direct flights from Singapore. It is hardly a well-trodden destination so information is limited. And, yes, language will likely be a problem.

Photo by Alexandr Kuznetsov

But Kazakhstan, with its pristine nature, friendly people and rich history and culture, is well worth a visit. Here are some tips to help you plan your holiday.

Photo by Alexandr Kuznetsov

Visa-free entry for many

Citizens from the United States, all European Union nations and other countries including Japan, Korea and Singapore can enter Kazakhstan without a visa for up to 30 days. Check here to see if you need a visa – Kazakhstan offers a quick way to apply for one online.

*Kazakhstan has temporarily suspended its visa-free regime for citizens of 57 states due to the Covid-19 virus. Do check back for updates! 

Photo by Alexandr Kuznetsov

Affordable destination

Kazakhstan sports a fast-growing economy, but prices for food and day-to-day spending are pretty affordable. A main course at a restaurant would cost about S$5. Entry fees to many attractions such as the Baiterek Tower in Nur-Sulta costs cheaper, at just S$2.50. A night’s stay at a three-star hotel in the capital, such as The Prestige or the Ibis hotel, range from S$40 to S$60 a night. 

Local public transport is cheap too. A general trip on the bus on the metro in major cities such as Almaty and Nur-Sultan often cost no more than S$0.50. Almaty is the only city with a metro system, while buses are more common in other cities. You can also use the ride-hailing app Yandex app to call for a taxi. Rides to the Almaty International Airport, from Almaty city centre, costs about S$5. You can request to pay in cash too. 

The country uses the Kazakhstani tenge as its official currency, and most shops and businesses accept only the local currency. For reference, S$1 is equivalent to about 300 tenge. 

Friendly locals

Kazakhstanis are hospitable people who are fiercely proud of their country and traditions. Some may even offer you gifts or invite you to their homes. Though Islam is the most commonly practised religion in Kazakhstan, its restaurants serve alcohol and most women do not don headscarves. While travellers are not expected to dress conservatively in the country, do remember to abide by basic etiquettes when visiting places of worship. In mosques, men are expected to wear long pants and shirts, while women should dress modestly to cover their skin, and don a headscarf. 

Arm yourself with basic Kazakh

Some basic Kazakh phrases will be useful on your trip. This quick list will help you with simple greetings when interacting with locals. 

Salem (Hello)
Kierly tan (Good morning)
Kierly kesh (Good afternoon/evening)
Kierly toon (Good night)
Rahmet (Thank you)
Iya (Yes)
Zhok (No)
Qansha turadi? (How much does this cost?)

Top photo by Alexandr Kuznetsov

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