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Almaty

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Almaty is the former capital of Kazakhstan, located in Almaty Province.

Understand

Almaty is the former capital of Kazakhstan, and is still its largest city. Being a financial and cultural center of Central Asia, Almaty boasts moderately-sized tourist and expatriate communities.

On a clear day you can see the beautifully rugged, snow capped mountains, right at the city's doorstep to the south. The city, in general, slopes from south to north which makes navigating the streets easy. If you are traveling uphill, you're going south. There is also a small mountain range bordering the city to the east.

Almaty is in the top 50 most expensive cities worldwide. Although Almaty dropped from 30th place in 2007 to 44th in 2008, it's still more expensive than Toronto, Los Angeles or Hamburg. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful gateway to this undiscovered and distinctive country. Kazakh people are very kind and welcoming, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the hospitality. Almaty hosted the England v. Kazakhstan WC2010 football game on 6 June 2009.

Get in

By air

For people from most countries, the easiest way to get to Kazakhstan is by air. Several airlines have regular flights into Almaty, including the low-cost carrier airBaltic from Riga, Lufthansa, CSA, Etihad Airways, KLM, bmi and Turkish Airlines, to name a few. It's roughly a 7-8 hour flight from Europe. Kazakhstan Airlines is no longer operational, leaving Air Astana [1] the national carrier of the country and operator of most domestic routes. Air Astana, with a fairly modern fleet of Airbuses and Boeings, has direct flights from major European cities such as London, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, and is a comfortable and reasonably priced alternative to the European airlines. Visas must be obtained in advance of arrival, as they are no longer available on arrival at the airport, (unless you are arriving from a country that has no consulate, and that type of plane-side visa usually needs to be coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at least one week in advance).

Easy connections from Almaty include Moscow, London Heathrow, Amsterdam, Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, Turkey, Seoul, Beijing, Delhi and Dubai with direct flights. Etihad Airways, [www.etihadairways.com], flies 4 times a week to Abu Dhabi, Air Arabia flies to Sharjah twice a week and Air Astana flies to Dubai daily. The airport is small, but getting busier by the day. Sometimes, several flights depart around the same time, meaning shocking queues and waits for no apparent reason. Be early, and expect delays to your flight. Lots of departures from Almaty end up leaving a bit late, but most arrivals are pretty timely. A taxi from the airport to the city costs about $20 - $25.

When leaving by air, you need to fill out a customs declaration form. There is a multilingual computerised kiosk available but don't bother with this - it's quicker and easier to fill one out by hand at the stand immediately opposite the entrance to the check-in area. The forms are available in several languages including English and German. Check-in desks open around 3 hours before flight departure and you are not permitted into the check-in area until the desks for your flight have opened. Your customs form will be examined when entering the check-in area; there may be substantial queues.

There are usually several queues for passport control; experience says that it is best to avoid the right-most queue as air-crew commonly queue-jump this one, leading to delays at the passport kiosk.

By train

From Russia:

There are many rail connections between Russia and Kazakhstan. Train 8 goes from Moscow to Almaty, and departs from Kazanski Station. The trip takes about 82 hours, with stops in Saratov, Uralsk, Aktobe, Turkistan, and Shymkent on the way.

From Ürümqi, China:

The N955 train leaves every Saturday and Monday night (11.58 Beijing time) direct to Almaty. To buy the ticket in Ürümqi the office is in a hotel to the right of the main station. Tickets need to purchased a few days in advance and cost 541 yuan (about USD80). Ticket sale for the Saturday train starts on Monday 10am, for the Monday train it starts Friday 10am. The train on Saturday is very busy, while for the train on Monday it is possible to purchase the ticket on the same day. There will always bee free seats in the train so you may enter the train directly at the Chinese side of the border after buying the ticket there the same day (July 2010). Organizing the Kazakh visum in Urumqi takes at least 5 (July 2010) working days.

The trip takes 34 hours, six of which are spent clearing Chinese and Kazakh immigration. Taking the bus or flying are better options if you are in a hurry.

If you are leaving Almaty by train remember that there are two main train stations.

By bus

Sleeper buses leave from Urumqi at 6pm every day of the week except Saturday and take approximately 24 hours to arrive in Almaty (November 2008: only buses on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7pm). Tickets for a lower bed are Y420, upper beds are Y400, and a berth in the back bed of the bus is Y380. Buses depart from the international branch of the Nianzigou Bus Station (碾子沟客运站), which is located about 50 meters to the left of the main Nianzigou station (if facing the front of the station) on the other side of the Wenshabao (温莎堡) building. Beware that the crossing at Korgas (霍尔果斯) closes on Chinese national holidays (including the first week of October for National Day).

Buses also leave from Yining and it takes about 10 hours to go to Almaty. They cost USD 30 or Y150. These buses leave two or three times in a week, ask the busdrives in Yining when they will go. You could also take a bus to Korgas from Yining (Y30 - Y38) and go to Kazakhstan by foot from Korgas. After being on the other side of the border you could take a taxi which will cost about 3000 Tenge to go to Almaty. The trip from Korgas to Almaty is about 4 to 6 hours. The city of Tacheng city (north of Korgas and south of Yining) also has buses that run several times a week to Almaty and back.

Registration

As of May 2010, you can drop off your passport (copies not accepted, nor letters from embassies confirming that they are holding your passport)with the aforementioned documents in the morning, and they will ask you to return later in the day to pick it up. If you do not register within 5 days(beware this duration starts from the day you landed in first kazak airport on your arrival till you take off on your departure from the final kazak airport, this is important considering that the cities are not well connected by international flights on daily basis due to which you spend in stopovers at domestic airports), the penalty fee is $100, otherwise you will prevented from leaving the country.

The new number for the OVIR is 87272-544132

Get around

Remember that the mountains outside of town are critical to direction. When someone tells you to head "up," they are telling you to head towards the mountains. When someone tells you to head "down," they are telling you to head away from the mountains. It is very easy to get around Almaty, since most of the roads are either parallel or ortogonal to each other. The destinations are usually determined by intersections. Therefore, for instance, if you know that Kazakhstan Hotel is located in intesection of Abaya street and Dostyk street, local people will be able to help you out with ease.

See

Do

Take bus number 6 in front of Hotel Kazakhstan on Dostyk Ave. to go to the Medeu (50T), every 20 minutes.

Buy

As of 26 February 2009, $1 equals about 150 tenge and 1 Euro is 190 tenge. As a comparison: a Snickers bar is 54 tenge; a can of Coke is 55 tenge; a cheese pizza at il Patio is about 800 tenge; a cinema ticket for a movie is about 850 tenge; a small trip about 10 minutes in length in a taxi - 300-400 tenge; cigarettes 50-100 tenge; vodka 350 tenge+, beer 500ml 70 tenge+, a litre of juice is around 135 tenge. Beef is 500-1500 tenge a kilo, pork 400 tenge a kilo, horse meat 1500 tenge a kilo. A loaf of bread is 35 - 50 tenge. A 2 bedroom modern apartment is $2000 a month. Clothing is expensive unless buying knock-offs at Baraholka. Green Market is generally expensive. Ramstor is a large, modern, high profile hypermarket on Furmanov. It is REALLY expensive compared to other stores. Buy in smaller local shops, or Baraholka, to save on costs. If money is not a problem, LOTS of over the top European designers have stores on almost every street throughout Almaty.

Eat

Menus are in English, Russian and Kazakh, and the place has the funkiest cocktail menu in Central Asia. Open till midnight 7 days a week. Boudoir is located on Bogenbai Batyr underneath the Kazpost (near Ablai Khan).

Pizza restaurants

Individual restaurants

What to eat

"Five fingers", a traditional Kazakh food. "Beshbarmak", a stew with leaves of noodles and pieces of lamb. "Baurzaki", heavy, spongy bread dough cooked in deep fat (similar to a donut, but not sweet). "Plov", a rice dish with meat and carrots or other vegetables. "Shashlik" (Russian: Шашлык) is the most tasty Kazakh food. It is a kebab that is made out of chicken or lamb. Shashlik is not fried, but is grilled over charcoal. Shashlik is popular throughout this part of Central Asia. You can also easily find "doner kebab" or "shaurma" at any number of stands through the city. Just be sure to use the stands with the most customers - it is often the best food, and it is freshly prepared.

Almaty has many modern supermarkets, offering everything from a bakery section to toiletries to vodka. Any food you could possibly want to find is readily available.

There is a chain called "Gros" (really) that has convenient locations around town and a good selection of drinks and snacks. Ramstore also has at least three locations, but is a bit pricier as it caters to expats willing to spend a lot of money on imported food. The favorite stores among locals are Stolichni (super helpful staff and decent fruits/vegetables year 'round, on corner of Ablai Khan and Kabanbai Batyr), but vegetable prices are very expensive, Dasterkhan (excellent baked goods, especially cakes and cookies!!! on Gogol between Ablai Khan and Furmanova), and Silkway City (a few locations).

Of course, if you really want to save money and enjoy an adventure, go to the Green Market and bargain with the old ladies selling Korean salads, apples, eggplants, cheese, honey, and even arucola and rosemary sprigs!

Drink

Beer

Wine

Try the local variety, a good one can be had for less than $ 4.00 a bottle. Bebigul is perhaps the most consistently good wine, and it comes in a semidry red or semidry white. Foreign wines, even Georgian ones, are very costly. Do not drink wine in restaurants, it's usually sickly sweet and very expensive. Also, many expensive, imported "wines" sold in stores (even reputable stores) are actually well-made counterfeit labels pasted on bottles of red-tinted water, so beware! It i spot luck as to if a bottle of white will be served chilled, so make sure you check before they open it.

Vodka

Good vodka at 4-5 $ per bottle - an alcoholic's paradise. In restaurants that do not usually cater to foreigners you get 20(!) cl if you order a vodka, smaller servings not available.

Buy a bottle of Kazakhstan Vodka to take back. It is in a pretty bottle with a picture of Kazakh hunting with a falcon seen through a "window".

Try Edil vodka, which is made with the pantacrene of local deer antlers.

You might want to stick to Glavspirttrest vodka imported from Russia. Smooth taste and no hangover.

Sleep

Budget

e-mail : sisyoungs@hotmail.com Skype : kzsoyoung


Mid-range

*INTERNATIONAL ALATAU HOTEL & BUSINESS CENTER 80 usd single address : Dostyk 105 Almaty /Kazakhstan tel : +7(727)258 11 11 fax: +7(727)258 15 55 e-mail: alatauhotel@mail.ru


121 Zheltoksan Street Almaty-Kazakhstan 050000 Tel: + 7 - 7272 - 50 89 88 Fax: + 7 - 7272 - 72 64 41

Quiet place in East Center. Clean and Asian style. Singl 100$ Doubles 120$

Splurge

Contact

Internet

Stay Safe

In case of emergency, please call "01" (Fire services), "02" (Police), "03" (Ambulance), "04" (Gas Service), "051" (Rescue service in emergency situations). Starting from 15 March 2009, all these phone numbers will be amended as follows: "101" (Fire services), "102" (Police), "103" (Ambulance), "104" (Gas Service), "112" (Rescue service in emergency situations).

As with most major cities, avoid traveling alone at night, and never get into altercations with locals first.

Kazakh driving is wild. Drivers attack their art with an equal mix of aggressiveness and incompetence. Guidelines are lax and rarely followed. As a pedestrian, take great care when crossing the roads.

Kazakh people are extremely friendly and welcoming towards foreigners and nothing should happen to you unless you really want it yourself. If you don't care about them, they don't care about you and nothing should be in your way of having a great holiday!

Always carry a national passport with a valid entry clearance with you. Police officers may request to show an identity document.

Cope

Get out

Tamgaly –Temple of Sun.In 170 km from Almaty, in the North-West direction, a unique sanctuary in the open air- Tamgaly is located. In the desert lands, where ancient rocks and gorges tower their crowns, a chain of kurgans-burial grounds lie. This is the very place, where a gallery of rock drawings left by ancient people of Saks and Turks tribes could be found. On the petroglyphs you can see deities, that Kazakh ancient people worshiped, zoomorphic and anthropomorphic creatures, spiritual rites. Nearby Chimbulak is a skiing village. There are a number of ski resorts in the area.

There are the gorgeous Tian-Shan mountains and lakes around Almaty, the most famous of which is the beautiful Big Almaty Lake.

There is a nearby desert park with a giant canyon (Charyn Canyon), although it does not approach the Grand Canyon in size. It also has petroglyphs and waterfalls.

If travelers have several days to spend (and are craving a beach experience), Lake Balkhash, the largest lake in the nation, can be reached by bus within 12 hours or private car within 8 hours. Lake Balkhash is half fresh (the eastern half where the river enters from China) and half salt (the western half). There are a couple of 2-star hotels in the village of Balkhash, which is the half-way point between Almaty and Astana if you want to drive 800 km instead of flying or taking the train.

The Tamgaly petroglyphs, a UNESCO site, are about 2-1/2 hours away by car (on the road to Bishkek). The petroglyphs range from ancient (3,000 years) to "modern" (75 years), and feature pictures of the Sunman and hunting nomad tribes. There are also several grave sites. Not to be missed in the spring, summer, or fall, but watch out for snakes when it's hot!

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, is a 3-1/2 hour drive away on the best highway in Kazakhstan (pot holes are rare and you can keep a 100km pace easily after leaving the Almaty oblast, but watch out for crazy oncoming passers). You can catch a taxi to Bishkek at "Sayran" international coach station. Approach a group of cars with Kyrgyz number plates and negotiate the price in advance. As of 19 January 2009, the average fare is KZT2,500-3,000 per person. It is definitely worth the drive if you have a day or so to spend. You'll wind along the foot of the Tien Shan range through incredible landscape created by young volcanoes. Most of the "local" felt goods and rugs sold in Almaty come from tribes in Kyrgyzstan, and can be bought for a quarter of the cost in Kyrgyzstan. Make it into a two-day excursion and stop at Tamgaly petroglyphs on the way from or the return trip to Almaty.

WikiPedia:Almaty

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