Posted: 11/18/19 | November 18th, 2019
Kazakhstan is a rustic I’ve at all times needed to go to. Actually, I’ve at all times needed to go to all of the “Stans”. It’s the area of the world I most likely wish to go to essentially the most. After having lived in Kazakhstan for eight years, Doug Fears is aware of a matter or two in regards to the nation and find out how to navigate it. On this visitor put up, Doug provides some in-depth recommendation about find out how to journey round Kazakhstan by prepare!
Evening spilled throughout the Kazakh steppe. The prepare’s metal wheels clickety-clacked beneath, gently prompting me to level towards a bowl of plastic-wrapped apples. Immediately, my drunken eating automotive companion started gesticulating wildly whereas repeating his favourite, and maybe solely, English-language phrase, “No drawback!” With a shake of the pinnacle and wave of the hand, this newfound pal appeared to dismiss all different apples as second-rate. Apples originated from Kazakhstan, in spite of everything, and we had simply departed the town of Almaty, “the daddy of apples.” I merely needed to attempt one. (It was scrumptious.)
Taking the prepare by way of Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth largest nation, presents a altering cultural tapestry each time. Think about an enormous land, as soon as secretive and closed to outsiders, the place vacationers can now expertise an eclectic mix of Silk Street tradition, offbeat Soviet-era historical past, and wide-open areas spiced with heat Kazakh hospitality.
I’ve shared cabins with younger troopers, border police, language professors and martial artists, simply to call a couple of. My favourite recollections are the meals and card video games loved with these of us, even after I didn’t have a typical language.
So overlook every part in regards to the film Borat, and climb aboard as you browse historical bazaars, journey the rails, and trek to pristine mountain lakes.
Planning Your Route
I counsel the next itinerary: flying into the capital, Nur-Sultan (previously Astana) (airport code TSE), heading north to close by Lake Burabay, taking a quick prepare again south to Karaganda, then an in a single day traditional prepare to Almaty within the southeast, with a doable extension to Turkistan (a metropolis and area within the south of the nation).
If you wish to proceed on in Central Asia, you may simply prolong your journey from Almaty to see the beautiful mountain vistas of close by Kyrgyzstan or proceed by prepare from Turkistan south to Uzbekistan.
The very best time to go is between Could and October, as northern Kazakhstan is blanketed in snow from November by way of April, with typical temps within the minus-20 vary. These desirous to snow ski or expertise the joy of New 12 months’s, the nation’s largest vacation, nevertheless, ought to think about a wintertime journey.
Visas are not wanted for many guests to Kazakhstan (for 30 days) and Kyrgyzstan (for 60 days), although advance visas are required for Uzbekistan, Russia, and China.
Shopping for Practice Tickets
There are three forms of trains: the quick business-class Talgo, common long-distance trains, and regional electrics. Finances vacationers ought to go for common trains for many journeys. Regional electrics are usually sluggish and can be of restricted use.
On common trains — extremely really useful for the most effective cultural expertise — the 2 fundamental courses are kupe (a four-person closed compartment with two higher and decrease bunks) and platzkar (an open rolling dormitory holding 54 vacationers on two-level bunks). The kupe is quieter and extra personal, however single girls would possibly wish to select the considerably safer open platzkar, as they might be in a locked cabin with three males (no gender distinctions are made when making reservations). Additionally notice that not all trains run each day.
The brand new Kazakhstan e-ticket web site will not be simple to make use of: whereas there may be an English menu, it requires you to enter vacation spot cities utilizing a Russian keyboard! Some international bankcards gained’t work for cost, and even profitable ticket purchases are sometimes blocked by spam filters. Nonetheless, there may be an possibility to talk on-line with an English-language advisor who might help you discover and buy tickets.
My suggestion is to make use of this website as a reference to search out prepare timetables and to buy long-distance prepare tickets which might be extra more likely to be offered out. You should utilize the useful website Actual Russia for worldwide prepare ticket purchases (particularly for touring from Moscow to Central Asia).
Then go to a prepare station or prepare ticket workplace within the metropolis, as some have kiosk machines that you may attempt. Another choice is to write down your vacation spot and date on a bit of paper and current it to a ticket agent at a station or prepare workplace for assist.
After you have your ticket, an important matters to know are the date and time of departure, and wagon quantity. Verify the posted indicators within the station to search out which platform quantity your prepare is on and stroll towards that wagon — the conductor will examine your ID and ticket and assist you board.
Touring by prepare is way safer and pleasant than by bus, and an unimaginable worth for the lengthy distances traveled. A regular in a single day prepare ticket from Karaganda to Almaty can be about $9 USD for platzkar and $14 for kupe. By comparability, the business-class Talgo on the identical route prices $25 in a four-berth kupe, nevertheless it does cut back journey time by six hours (and has a lot cleaner bogs!). An evening prepare offers double worth, serving as each mattress and transport; they’re cooler and extra snug in the summertime journey season too!
Native metropolis buses are low-cost, about $0.20 per journey, no matter distance.
Resort rooms within the metropolis facilities of Nur-Sultan and Almaty vary from $30 to $50 per evening with breakfast. Full flats ($25/evening) or shared visitor rooms ($10/evening) may be booked on Airbnb.
Meals can also be fairly priced. I counsel discovering a lodge with breakfast included on reserving.com, consuming picnic-style meals on the prepare, and having fun with a streetside café for different meals (grilled shashlik skewers, bread, salad, and drink for about $4), although if you happen to can’t peel it or cook dinner it, it’s finest to overlook it. And ensure to attempt the native apples!
Important Kazakhstan Journey Hacks
- Do reserve an higher bunk if you happen to like enjoyable onboard (decrease bunks are shared throughout the daytime and used for communal meals), however you’ll want to be fairly match to climb the mini-ladder.
- Do carry a snug change of garments to put on onboard (observe swimsuit, shorts, and T-shirt). It’s completely regular to ask others to step exterior whilst you change.
- Do carry additional meals to share (tea/espresso, prompt noodles, sausage, cucumbers, bread, biscuits, apples, sweets). Word: there may be at all times a steaming samovar of sizzling water in every automotive for making tea or noodles.
- Do pack a small prepare package (mug, fork/spoon/knife, rest room paper, plate, moist wipes, plastic sandals, collapsible hand fan, deck of playing cards, bottled water).
- Do take your avenue footwear off when getting into a prepare compartment.
- Do plan your rest room visits, because the bathrooms are locked about 15 minutes earlier than and after station stops (learn the timetable posted in every wagon).
- Do take some small items from your own home nation (magnets, key rings) to share.
- Don’t purchase unsold seats from touts lurking round stations — I’ve been caught sharing a four-berth kupe with six folks plus a giant-screen TV!
- Don’t get scolded for mendacity on a naked mattress, however don’t pay additional for sheets and towels in kupe class. They’re now included within the kupe ticket fare, however beware you could be woke up very early by the conductor accumulating them on in a single day trains!
- Don’t be bullied by transport police or immigration officers at borders — present your passport and ticket and nothing extra.
- Don’t miss your cease, get stranded on the platform shopping for ice cream, or, above all, be pressured to leap off a shifting prepare!
Greatest Kazakhstan Practice Routes
Due to the challenges with the ticketing web site, I’ve listed essentially the most useful prepare routes for getting round. Word that every one of those run each day.
Whereas northbound trains from Nur-Sultan cease at Borovoye/Shchuchinsk, it could be simpler to take a shared van or minibus for the brief 2.5-hour journey. Simply pay attention or ask for “Borovoye” on the Nur-Sultan-1 prepare station, the place vans wait to replenish and go away all through the day. You are able to do the identical if heading immediately south from Nur-Sultan to Karaganda, as a brand new tollway has opened, chopping the journey time between these two main cities to 2 hours, though all Nur-Sultan-to-Almaty trains additionally cease there. Word that each Nur-Sultan and Almaty have two prepare stations in several components of the town — be sure you go to the fitting one!
Practice #031 from Almaty to Semey within the northeast traces the historic “TurkSib” route — from right here you may head east to discover the Altay Mountains or proceed north into Russia to attach with the legendary Trans-Siberian route.
Word: +1 means “arriving the next day”; p = individuals
What to See Alongside the Means
The foremost cities of Nur-Sultan, Karaganda, and Almaty are all on the principle rail line and make each good stopovers and bases for exploring the encircling pure and historic websites. Different off-the-beaten-track places, such because the Baykonur rocket base and Altay Mountains, require particular permission and advance planning. Right here’s an summary of the foremost locations:
- Nur-Sultan, previously Astana) – one of many world’s youngest capital cities, a futuristic Tomorrowland-esqe mix of gleaming buildings, purchasing facilities, and sculpted monuments.
- Lake Burabay (previously Borovoye) – a scenic, forested lake resort simply 2.5 hours north of Nur-Sultan, that includes a variety of lodging and sights.
- Karaganda – Kazakhstan’s “third metropolis,” with its leafy huge boulevards, is an efficient base for exploring Soviet-era historical past, significantly the museum of political repression at close by Dolinka, one of many largest labor camps within the Gulag system.
- Almaty – Central Asia’s most cosmopolitan metropolis. The beautiful backdrop of the Tien Shan Mountains frames this busy enterprise heart, an incredible base for making day journeys to the close by mountains, the skate/ski heart at Medeu/Chimbulak, and the pink rock Charyn Canyon.
- Turkistan – Kazakhstan’s holiest website, and the nation’s finest place to see Silk Street structure and tile work.
- Baykonur Cosmodrome – the world’s most lively launch website for manned house missions. Rocket fanatics might want to ebook nicely prematurely with an company like Nomadic Journey Kazakhstan to attempt to see a launch.
- The Far Northeast – Properly off the overwhelmed path, Semey, Ust-Kamenogorsk, and the pristine Altay Mountains are in a good looking area value the additional effort to see. Visiting the delicate border zone or former Polygon nuclear take a look at website would require particular permits and advance planning.
As a baby of the Chilly Battle period, I recall hiding beneath my desk throughout drills to the sound of air-raid sirens, as we lived in real concern of nuclear warfare. I by no means dreamed I might go to the large clean spots on the map labeled “USSR,” particularly the Siberian steppe and Central Asia.
These days, with web communication and open borders, an incredible alternative awaits to wander throughout these once-forbidden zones, sharing goodwill and studying one thing too.
And one ultimate tip: ensure that to purchase apples earlier than you board the prepare! Although I solely visited the prepare’s eating automotive as soon as, I did buy the pack of shiny apples that night, munching on what I figured was a real native delicacy. The following morning when unpacking, although, one lazily rolled throughout the desk, revealing a shock sticker studying “Product of USA”!
Douglas Fears has at all times cherished every part about trains, boats, and maps. After working a marathon on each continent and dealing as a pc advisor for 20 years, he moved to Kazakhstan and spent eight years working in training and administration. He at present lives on the Black Sea and spends his time studying, mentoring younger folks, serving to his spouse train English and writing humorous journey tales for his weblog Rails, Whales and Tales.
Guide Your Journey: Logistical Suggestions and Methods
Guide Your Flight
Discover a low-cost flight by utilizing Skyscanner or Momondo. They’re my two favourite search engines like google and yahoo as a result of they search web sites and airways across the globe, so that you at all times know no stone is being left unturned.
Guide Your Lodging
You may ebook your hostel with Hostelworld as they’ve the biggest stock. If you wish to keep someplace aside from a hostel, use Reserving.com, because it persistently returns the most affordable charges for guesthouses and low-cost lodges. I take advantage of them each on a regular basis.
Don’t Neglect Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will defend you towards sickness, harm, theft, and cancellations. It’s complete safety in case something goes mistaken. I by no means go on a visit with out it, as I’ve had to make use of it many instances up to now. I’ve been utilizing World Nomads for ten years. My favourite corporations that provide the most effective service and worth are:
Searching for the most effective corporations to economize with?
Take a look at my useful resource web page for the most effective corporations to make use of while you journey! I record all these I take advantage of to economize after I journey — and they’ll prevent money and time too!