First time to Kazakhstan? Check this out.

As the 9th largest country in the world, you can be sure that Kazakhstan is filled with diverse people, landscapes and experiences. Not sure what to do there or how to travel around this beautiful country? Here are some things you need to know before your big trip.

Interacting with locals

In Kazakhstan, the majority of the locals speak Kazakh and Russian, so it is best to learn a few basic phrases that will help you to interact with them. However, some of them do speak English, Mandarin, Korean, Uzbek, and Arabic.

Getting around

In cities, people rely on buses, trains, trams and trolleybuses. If navigating in a foreign country seems daunting to you, you can also take a taxi. Some taxi companies have apps, with the most common being Yandex — a popular ride-hailing app similar to Southeast Asia’s Grab. You can set the default language on the app to English, and opt to pay for your ride in cash.

Where to go

There are 112 cities within Kazakhstan, but most first-timers start their trip in Almaty or Nur-Sultan — the two most populous cities. Almaty, which used to be Kazakhstan’s capital until 1997, is a modern city with a developed metro network. The city is often used as a base for travellers taking short trips out to see the nearby lakes and mountains. Nur-Sultan, in comparison, is a way younger city — much of it was developed after 1997. But it has big ambitions to be the finance hub of Central Asia. One will find futuristic architecture, megamalls and wide, open parks in the city.

The food

As a result of its nomadic roots , horse meat and mutton are in most of the dishes served in Kazakhstan. In most restaurants, you will find shashlik, pilaf, dumplings, and noodle soup. Fret not if you need time to warm up to Central Asian cuisine — you can easily find European, Turkish, Chinese and Korean restaurants too.

What to do

In Kazakhstan, you are spoilt for leisure options. You could visit a wild apple forest, go horseback riding, visit the highest mountain skating rink in the world, or take a trip to a beautiful lake. All of these activities reward travellers with extraordinary sights. If you’re looking for some offbeat thrills, you can visit Soviet-era sites such as Bayzhansay Ghost Town, an abandoned mining town in the mountains of South Kazakhstan, about 4 hours from the city of Shymkent.