Kazakhstan is economically the most advanced country in Central Asia which is also the largest in size in the region. With its massive area Kazakhstan is also ranked as the 9th largest country in the world. It borders on Russia to the north and northwest, China to the east, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan to the south and the Caspian Sea to the west.
The capital city is Nur-Sultan (renamed in 2019), which was formerly known as Astana. However, the largest city in the country is Almaty, situated in the south-east.
There are around 18 million people living in Kazakhstan. It has a very diverse population as Kazakhs make up over 65% of the population and the remaining percentage is represented by different ethnicities. They are Russians, Uzbeks, Ukrainians, Tatars, Uyghurs, Belarusians, Germans, Koreans, Azerbaijanis, Dungans, Kalmyks, etc. Compared to the other central Asian countries Kazakhstan is the most urbanized one, as more than half of the population lives in the cities.
People here are very friendly and always ready to welcome tourists. Don’t be surprised when they invite you to their houses for tea or coffee. They are smiley and interested and may try to make small conversations with you.
The official language is Kazakh, which is spoken by 80% of the country. It belongs to the Turkic branch of languages The most spoken language of the country is Russian, which is kind of interethnic language for communication for Kazakhs, Russians, Uzbeks, Koreans and others.
English is not wide-spread in the country. Youngsters might know it because of their classes, people working in international organizations, the hotel staff and people somehow connected with tourism.
Kazakh people are Muslim, so the main religion in the country is Islam. The majority of kazakhs are Sunni Muslims. There are also some Shia Muslims and the Ahmadi in some places. The second largest religion is Christianity, primarily Eastern Orthodox practiced by Russians, Belorussians, Ukrainians. There are also some ethnicities following different religions and atheists. Religion is not a very big part in everyday life, that’s why it doesn’t cause any tensions between people.
Best time to visit
Kazakhstan is a massive state with unique geography, so many things depend on which part of Kazakhstan you are. Due to its continental climate, there are hot summers and cold winters. The northern regions most of the time are relatively colder than the southern regions.
The best time to visit is autumn and spring because the weather is mild and pleasing. You can do a lot of sightseeing, enjoying the views. You don’t need to worry about the country to be crowded. The only thing that you will miss in spring and autumn is hiking in the mountains. The snow is still going to be there. So if your main goal is mountaineering and hiking, then your best option is summer. Just be prepared for a scorching sun, especially in July.
As we mentioned winters are cold, and cold here is regularly below -20°C. Winter is a low season for tourism. But there are quite a lot of winter activities to try: skiing, horse-riding in snow, eagle hunting, etc. Just make sure to carry all your warm clothes.
Do you need a Visa?
You need to have a Visa to enter Kazakhstan unless you’re in the lucky list. The list of countries with the visa-free regime. Kazakhstan offers a visa-free regime for up to 30 days for citizens from all the EU countries, Canada, the US, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, etc. You can find the full list in our Visa Guide.
It’s also visa-free for up to 90 days for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia & Ukraine. Citizens of 117 countries can apply for an e-visa, which was introduced in the country in 2019. The e-visas are obtained on the basis of an invitation. The visa is single-entry and valid for 30 days.
Money in Kazakhstan
The national currency of Kazakhstan is tenge (KZT). Currency exchange is also available in most of the places. Main currencies that can be changed with tenge are US dollar, Euro, British pound, Kyrgyz sum, Chinese yuan, Russian rouble. It will be a bit difficult to get rid of Uzbek som, Tajik somoni or Mongolian tugrik.
Making an international money transfer in Kazakhstan will not be a problem. In all the cities the local banks cooperating with international banks will make it possible.
ATM machines won't be a problem in Kazakhstan. You can find them easily in big cities. However, they might not be available in small towns. You can withdraw tenge or US dollars (some ATM also dispense dollars, but you need to check the location). You can use your Visa, Master or Maestro cards.
Where to stay in Kazakhstan?
There is a variety of choices for accommodation in big cities like Almaty, Nur-Sultan, Karaganda, etc. In Almaty and in Nur-sultan (Astana) there won’t be a problem finding hotels, just make sure to make the reservations in advance. However, there might be hotels, which won’t meet Western standards.
Hostels and Couchsurfing are also available. Compared to the neighboring countries yurts are not that popular here. Homestays, in the other hand, are available, where you can learn more about rural life and stay far from the cities. Camping is another great option, as there are a lot of places with beautiful sceneries.
What to Eat in Kazakhstan?
Kazakhs are fond of meat. The widely used ones are beef, lamb and horse meat. Let’s start with the traditional dishes like Beshbarmak which is also popular in the region. It is translated as “five fingers” as the nomads used to eat it with hands. Kazy -traditional sausage with horse meat, Manti dumplings, shashlik, baursak- puffy fried bread, kurt-dried cheese, kumiss-fermented horse milk, shubat- sour beverage from milk, laghman- noodles with vegetables, plov- rice cooked with broth and vegetables, chak-chak-rice krispt treat, samsa-pastries filled with meat, etc. Tea is really popular here. Kazakhs love drinking tea, especially black tea with milk.
When entering the country overland or sea and staying longer than 5 days, you might need to register within 5 days at the Migration Police. You will get a registration card on entry, which you need to fill out, get stamped and keep with you throughout your stay.