Did you know?
- Kazakhstan is the world’s 9th largest country in size, larger than all of Western Europe, and the distance from east to west is equal to London to Istanbul
- Kazakhstan translates to ‘Land of Wanderers’
- The Baikonur Cosmodrome is the world’s first and largest space launch facility
- There is incredible biodiversity here, including over 6,000 varieties of plants, 500 types of birds and 170 kinds of animals
- Apples originated here, and wild varieties can still be found in Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve, in fact the city of Almaty is named from the Kazakh word for ‘apple’
- 99 out of the total 110 elements from Mendeleev’s periodic table, have been found in Kazakhstan
- Kazakh women won the right to vote on August 26, 1920, the same month as women in American
- Snow leopards can be found in the mountains of eastern Kazakhstan. Notoriously shy creatures, the snow leopard is considered the national symbol of Kazakhstan, being admired by Kazakhs for their intelligence, courage and independence
Visas & Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to Kazakhstan need a visa at this time.
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
The Australian Embassy in Russia is responsible for Kazakhstan:
10A/ 2 Podkolokolny Pereulok
Ph. + 7 495 956 6070
Fax. +7 495 956 6170
The official currency of Kazakhstan is the Kazakhstani Tenge. Notes come in denominations of ₸20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, 1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 3 and 1.
The recommended currency to take to Kazakhstan is the US Dollar, as their local currencies are not available outside of the region. Ensure you request smaller clean notes as many places will not exchange large denominations or notes that are torn and dirty. Once there, you can exchange your US Dollar for the Tenge. Ensure you change a small amount into small denominations.
Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
If you don’t have US Dollars with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Nur-Sultan is approximately USD2
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately USD7.50
- The price of dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately USD14
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately USD1.50
The national cuisine of is Kazakhstan is typically based on the nomadic cultural legacy and revolves around meat. Expect to find a unique range of meats on offer here. Beshbarmak is the national dish, which translates to ‘five fingers’ as the nomads ate with their hands. Made from boiled horse meat or mutton, this common meal is traditionally eaten while sitting on the floor around a low-lying table, known as a dastarkhan. Sorpa is a customary hot broth normally consumed after eating beshbarmak. Sorpa is often served with a tasty ball of cheese, called Kurt, made from dehydrated sour cream, left to dry out. For a delicious treat, try the Baursaks, another national dish of Kazakhstan, often described as an Asian doughnut. Shaped into round or triangular forms, the dough is fried in oil and often cooked for special occasions where it is believed the aroma from the cooking oil will float up to their deceased loved ones to enjoy. Most meals are usually started by milk drinks. Kumis is a popular, slightly alcoholic drink made from fermented horse, or even donkey, milk which can supposedly cure anything from a cold to tuberculosis.
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
Kazakhstan has a distinct continental climate with hot summers and cold winters. Though quite a dry climate, winters throughout Kazakhstan can be extremely cold, with average temperatures of around -20°C. The hottest month is typically July, while January is usually the coldest. Given its large size you will note a great fluctuation in temperatures throughout the various subregions. Southern regions for example, tend to experience less weather extremes than the north. You can expect temperatures in Almaty to average -4°C in winter and 24°C in summer. Nur-Sultan, the capital city of Kazakhstan is actually one of the coldest cities in the world with recorded levels reaching an extreme -50°C.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
Taxis offer a faster service than most buses or minibuses found throughout Kazakhstan. You will come across a number of unofficial taxis so try to avoid these. Local buses, trolleys and trams are available in most big cities, they do tend to be overcrowded and rarely stick to the schedule. Car-sharing is growing in popularity with options including Uber, BeepCar or BlaBlaCar, particularly for intercity travel.
When catching taxis, have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. Also, ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Kazakhstan…
Your family and friends will be delighted when you bring home so of Kazakhstan’s famous chocolate, manufactured in one of the oldest and largest factories, Rakhat, dating back over 70 years. You can find these chocolate and other sweet treats at most supermarkets around the country. Sweet-tooths may also want to taste the honey produced from the camel thorn bush in the southern town of Shymkent. It is even said to have valuable health benefits. Representing famous Kazakh folklore characters, the national toy brand Bal-bala create small dolls that dance, speak and even sing in Kazakh. You’ll also find an array of hand-made local gifts made from natural stones, wood, felt, horns, bones and porcelain. Pick up a traditional chapan, the long embroidered coats worn by Kazakh men over their clothes. Top off your nomadic ensemble with a customary headdress known as a kalpak, designed with conical shape and typically made of white felt an embroidered patterns.
A great way to support the local community is to try to buy your souvenirs in smaller shops rather than larger ones. Please note that there are bans and customs restrictions on the export of art objects and antiques, especially if the item is more than 50 years old or of cultural value. If you have any concerns, please ask for a receipt or check with your tour guide.
- Typically Kazakh men will use both hands to shake the hands of all other men in the room, however for religious reasons, some will refrain from shaking the hand of a woman so don’t feel insulted if you extended hand is not taken
- Bread is considered sacred and is offered as a sign of respect
- Expect your tea to be half-filled – filling it to the top is an indication your host wants you to leave
- People are often referred to by their title and surname, so wait until asked before using their first name
- Hospitality is extremely important to Kazakhs, believing it is their sacred duty to be welcoming and should ‘meet a guest as the God's messenger’
Celebrations & Public Holidays
For an indulgent experience, visit Almaty in October for their annual ‘Toikazan’ or ‘Festive Cauldron’ celebrations. Known as the festival of friendship and unity, locals flock to present their incredible array of traditional dishes, highlighting their diversity comprising over 130 nationalities that call Kazakhstan home. In addition to the delicious cuisine, you’ll be entertained by local performances, witness various equestrian games, or join in on the construction of a yurt, along with plenty of traditional souvenir shopping on offer.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year's Day and the day after
- Orthodox Christmas Day (January 7th)
- International Women’s Day (March 8th)
- Nauryz (March 21st-23rd)
- Unity Day (May 1st)
- Defender of the Fatherland Day (May 7th)
- Victory Day (May 9th)
- Day of the Capital (July 6th)
- Kurban Ait
- Constitution Day (August 30th)
- Day of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (December 1st)
- Independence Day (December 16th)
- Independence Day Holiday (December 17th)
The largest metropolis of Kazakhstan, a visit to Almaty is sure to impress. The mountains surrounding this leafy city add to its charm, with an abundance of gardens and parks dotted amongst the historic museums and modern facilities. The capital of Kazakhstan until 1997, Almaty comes from the Kazakh word for ‘apple’. Believed to be the birthplace of the apple, you can still find wild apple orchards growing along the slopes of the Tian Shan mountain range. A stroll through the city streets will reward you with intriguing sights including the local markets of Zelyony (Green) Bazaar, the Park of 28 Panfilov Guardsmen, honouring the Panfilov soldiers, and the distinctive Zenkov Cathedral, remarkably built out of wood, without using any nails. Capture the beauty of this city from atop Kok-Tobe Hill, with a short 6 minute cable car ride the perfect way to take it all in.