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Almaty, formerly known as Alma-Ata, is the largest city in Kazakhstan, with a population of 1,703,481 people, containing 9% of the country's total population. Almaty is considered a World City with a "Beta -" classification according to GaWC. It served as capital of the Kazakh state in its various forms from 1929 to 1997, under the influence of the then Soviet Union and its appointees. Alma-Ata was the host city for a 1978 international conference on Primary Health Care where the Alma Ata Declaration was adopted, marking a paradigm shift in global public health. In 1997 the government relocated the capital to Astana in the north of the country.
Almaty continues as the major commercial and cultural centre of Kazakhstan, as well as its biggest population center. The city is located in the mountainous area of southern Kazakhstan in the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau at an elevation of 2,300–3,000 feet (700–900 m), where the Bolshaya and Malaya Almaatinka rivers run into the plain.
|FOUNDED :||First settled 10–9th century BC|
Incorporated (city) 1867
|TIME ZONE :||UTC+6 (UTC+6)|
|LANGUAGE :||Kazakh (Qazaq, state language) 64.4%, Russian (official, used in everyday business, designated the "language of interethnic communication") 95%|
|RELIGION :||Muslim 47%, Russian Orthodox 44%, Protestant 2%, other 7%|
|AREA :||682 km2 (263 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||500–1,700 m (1,640–5,577 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||43°16′39″N 76°53′45″E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 48%|
• Female: 52%
|ETHNIC :||Kazakh (Qazaq) 63.1%, Russian 23.7%, Uzbek 2.8%, Ukrainian 2.1%, Uighur 1.4%, Tatar 1.3%, German 1.1%, other 4.5%|
|AREA CODE :|
|POSTAL CODE :||050000–050063|
|DIALING CODE :||+7 727|
|WEBSITE :||Official Website|
Almaty, in Almaty Province, is the former capital of Kazakhstan, and still its largest city and the financial and cultural center. It is an old city, once one of the main centers of the Zhetysu region along the Silk Road.
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.
As an important hub, not just for Kazakhstan but for Central Asia as a whole, Almaty has a moderately large expatriate community and is on the itinerary for most tourists in the region.
Almaty is in the top 50 most expensive cities worldwide for expats according to Mercer Human Research. 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.
If you can read English and do not have a guide-interpreter in Almaty, then you can buy Pogulay, an indispensable guidebook to the city which is printed in English and Russian and sold at newsstands. It's priced at US$3 and covers all the attractions, including photos and descriptions.
- Tourist Information Office, Kurmangazy street 33 (M. Auezov house museum). Official tourist information facility, operated by the government.
During 1000–900 BC in the Bronze Age, the first farmers and cattle-breeders established settlements in the territory of Almaty. During the Saka period (from 700 BC to the beginning of the Common Era), these lands were occupied by the Saka and later Wusun tribes, who inhabited the territory north of the Tian Shan mountain range. Evidence of these times can be found in the numerous burial mounds (tumuli) and ancient settlements, especially the giant burial mounds of the Saka tsars. The most famous archaeological finds have been the "The Golden man", also known as "The Golden Warrior", from the Issyk Kurgan; the Zhalauly treasure, the Kargaly diadem, and the Zhetysu arts bronzes (boilers, lamps and altars). During the period of Saka and Wusun governance, Almaty became an early educational centre.
During the Middle Ages (8–10th centuries), a city culture developed in Almaty. There was a transition to a settled way of living, the development of farming and handicrafts, and the emergence of a number of towns and cities in the territory of Zhetysu. In the 10–14th centuries, settlements in the territory of the so-called "Greater Almaty" became part of the trade routes of the Silk Road, which reached from China to western Asia and Europe. At that time, Almaty became one of the trade, craft and agricultural centres on the Silk Road. It had an official mint. The city was first mentioned as Almatu in books from the 13th century.
In the 15th–18th centuries, the city was in decline as trade activities were decreasing on this part of the Silk Road. European nations were conducting more trade by shipping. This period was one of crucial ethnic and political transformations. The Kazakh state and nation were founded here, close to Almaty.
The Dzungar invaded, dominating the Kazakh people for a period. The Kazakh fought to protect their land and preserve independence. In 1730 the Kazakh defeated the Dzungar in the Anyrakay mountains, 70 kilometres (43 miles) north-west of Almaty. During the eighteenth century, the city and region became part of the Russian Empire.
Foundation of Verniy
To defend its empire, Russia built Fort Verniy near the Zailiysky Alatau mountain range between the Bolshaya and Malenkaya Almatinka rivers. Construction began on 4 February 1854 and was nearly completed by the autumn of that year. The fort was a wooden palisade, shaped like a pentagon, with one side built along the Malaya Almatinka. Later, the wood fence was replaced with a brick wall with embrasures. The main facilities were erected around the large square for training and parading.
In 1855 Kazakhs displaced from their nomadic territory appeared in Verniy. Since 1856, Verniy started accepting Russian peasants. They founded the Bolshaya Almatinskaya Stanitsa (Cossack village) near the fortification. The inflow of migrants was increasing and led to construction of the Malaya Almatinskaya Stanitsa and Tatarskaya (Tashkentskaya) sloboda. It was the place of settlement for Tatar merchants and craftsmen.
In 1867 Verniy Fort was developed as a town called Almatinsk; the town soon returned to the name Verniy.
According to the First City Plan, developed by administrators of the Russian Empire, the city perimeters were 2 kilometres (1 mile) on the south along Almatinka river, and 3 kilometres (2 miles) on the west. The new city area was divided into residential parts, and the latter into districts. Three categories of city buildings were defined. Category I and II buildings were of one or two-storied construction with a high semi-basement; they were erected around and in the centre of the city, others on the outskirts.
On 28 May 1887, at 4 a.m., an earthquake almost totally destroyed Verniy in 11–12 minutes. Brick buildings were damaged the most, as they broke apart because of lack of flexibility. As a result, people were afterwards inclined to build one-storied buildings made of wood or adobe.
By 1906, the population of the city had grown to 27,000, two-thirds of whom were Russians and Ukrainians.
In 1918 following the Russian Revolution and establishment of the Bolshevik government, Soviet power was established in Verniy. The city and the region became part of the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (RSFSR). On 5 February 1921 the government decided to rename Verniy to Alma-Ata, one of the ancient names of the area.
Revolution of 1917 to World War II
In 1921, a joint consultation of regional government representatives, professional trade associations, and local faith-based groups was summoned in an effort to rename Verniy. Alma-Ata was the preferred choice.
In 1926, the Council of Labor and Defence approved the construction of the Turkestan-Siberia Railway that was a crucial element of the future growth of Kazakhstan, especially in the east and southeast of the region. The Turkestan-Siberia Railway construction also had a decisive economic impact that strongly influenced the destiny of Alma-Ata as the capital of the Kazakh ASSR. In 1930 the construction of the highway and railway to Alma-Ata was completed.
On 29 April 1927, the government decided to transfer the capital of the Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic from Kyzyl-Orda to Alma-Ata, within the RFSFR. This attracted more trade and people working with the government, stimulating intensive development in the city.
On 31 January 1928, Leon Trotsky, leader of the 1917 October Revolution, accompanied by his wife Natalia Sedova and his son Lev Sedov, was exiled to Alma Ata by Joseph Stalin, then head of theBolshevik party in Moscow. Trotsky was expelled from Alma-Ata to Turkey in February 1929, and went into exile in Mexico City.
The Alma-Ata airport was opened in 1930, opening up a direct connection from Alma-Ata to Moscow, the center of the Soviet government. Alma-Ata became the main entry by air to Kazakhstan, a status which it retains today. Transformation of this small town into the capital of the Kazakh SSR was accelerated by the large-scale construction of new administrative and government facilities and housing. The Great Purge of the Stalin era extended to Kazakhstan, where numerous intellectuals, activists, leaders, teachers and others were killed. The Soviet government dominated the population. During the 1930s Kazakh nomads suffered starvation after disruption of their traditional living patterns.
In 1936 the Architecture and Planning Bureau developed a plan to enhance Alma-Ata as the new cultural capital of the Kazakh SSR. The plan was based on the existing rectangular system of districts. They were to be strengthened and reconstructed.
World War II
During World War II the government dramatically affected the city's population and structures. To better organize the home front and concentrate industrial and material resources, the government evacuated 26,000 people and numerous industries from the European theatre of war. Alma-Ata hosted over 30 industrial facilities removed from the European section of the USSR, 8 evacuated hospitals, 15 institutes, universities and technical schools; and around 20 cultural institutions. Motion picture production companies from Leningrad, Kiev, and Moscow were also moved to Alma-Ata at this time. This brought in so many ethnic Russians that the Kazakhs became a minority in the region.
Over 52,000 Alma-Ata residents received the title: Gratitude for Your Self-Denying Labour. Forty-eight residents were granted the title of Hero of The Soviet Union. Three rifle divisions were raised in Alma-Ata, including the well-known 8th Guards Rifle Division 'Panfilov' (originally the 316th rifle division), along with 2 rifle battalions and 3 aviation regiments that were raised on the bases of the air club of Alma-Ata.
Industrialisation in the Soviet period
After 1941, due to the mass evacuation of factories and workers from the European part of the Soviet Union during World War II, Alma-Ata became an administrative and trading centre. Although it had an underdeveloped industrial base it become one of the largest industrial centres of the Soviet Union. It was to the rear of the wartime fronts.
During the years 1941–1945 the industrial potential of the city increased significantly. Development increased during the postwar years. The population of the city grew from 104,000 in 1919 to 365,000 in 1968. By 1967 the city had 145 enterprises, with the bulk of these being light industrial and food industries.
The main industries in Alma-Ata were: food processing (36% of gross industrial output), based largely on locally abundant fruit and vegetable raw materials, light industry (31%), and heavy industry (33%). The main products of the region were:
- Food: Meat, flour and cereals (pasta factory), milk, wines, canned fruit, tobacco, confectionery, alcoholic spirits, beer, yeast, and tea (packaging)
- Light industry: textiles, fur, knitting, carpets, footwear, apparel, printing, and the Almaty Cotton combine.
- Heavy industry: electrical engineering, foundry engineering, car repair, bearing repair, building materials, woodworking, concrete structures and structural elements, and house-building.
The new General Plan of Almaty for 2030 was developed in 1998. It is intended to create ecologically safe, secure, and socially comfortable living conditions in the city. The main objective is to promote Almaty's image as a garden-city.
It proposes continued multi-storied and single-housing development, reorganization of industrial districts or territories, improving transport infrastructure, and expanding Almaty Metro. The first line of Almaty metro was launched on 1 December 2011, two weeks ahead of schedule. The extension of the line to Kalkaman was opened in 2015.
The climate in Almaty is a humid continental climate with hot summers and cold winters. It is characterized by the influence of mountain-valley circulation. This is especially evident in the northern part of the city, located directly in the transition zone of the mountain slopes to the plains.
Annual average air temperature is equal to 10 °C (50 °F), the coldest month is January, −4.7 °C (24 °F) (on average), the warmest month (July) 23.8 °C (75 °F) (on average). In average years frost starts on about 14 October and ends on about 18 April, with sustained extreme cold from about 19 December to about 23 February, a period of about 67 days. Weather with temperature above 30 °C (86 °F) is average for about 36 days a year. In the center of Almaty, like any large city, there is a "heat island" – average daily temperature contrast between the northern and southern suburbs of the city is 3.8% and in the coldest and 2.2% and in the hottest five days. Therefore, frost in the city center starts about 7 days later and finishes 3 days earlier than in the northern suburbs. Annual precipitation is about 650 to 700 mm (25.6 to 27.6 in). April and May are the wettest months, during which about a third of the city's annual precipitation is received.
It is not uncommon for snow and a cold snap to hit Almaty as late as the end of May. For example, in the last quarter century, such snowfalls were recorded on 13 May 1985, 1 May 1989, 5 May 1993 and 18 May 1998. The record latest snowfall in Almaty was on 17 June 1987.
Almaty sometimes experiences winter rain, despite heavy preceding snowfall and low temperatures. The most memorable winter rain took place at 16 December 1996 during a military parade to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Independence of the Republic.
Almaty Weather Station's GM mostly records south-easterly wind (30%), its resistance increases during the summer (37%) and falls in winter (19%). Wind speeds exceed 15 m/s on about 15 days a year, on average.
Climate data for Almaty
|Record high °C (°F)||18.2|
|Average high °C (°F)||0.7|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||−4.7|
|Average low °C (°F)||−8.4|
|Record low °C (°F)||−30.1|
|Source #1: Pogoda.ru|
|Source #2: NOAA|
Almaty generates approximately 20 per cent of Kazakhstan's GDP (or $36 billion in 2010). The nation is the most powerful economically in Central Asia and Almaty is a key financial center. It is considered to be a Beta- Global City as of the 2012 GaWC study.
One of the largest industries in Almaty is finance, and its financial exports make it a large contributor to Kazakhstan's balance of payments. Almaty is home to BTA Bank, which is the largest bank in Central Asia,Kazkommertsbank, and other major banks. The Kazakhstan Stock Exchange is based in Almaty.
Almaty is also developing as a regional financial and business centre (RFCA).
Under construction is the 'Almaty Financial District and Esentai Park'. This was designed by T.J. Gottesdiener, who designed both World Trade Center in New York City and Time Warner Center in Tokyo Midtown, respectively. Its goal is to become the largest business centre in Central Asia. Esentai Tower, a 37-floor building in the park, is the tallest mixed-use building in Kazakhstan, housing offices of companies such as Ernst & Young, HSBC and Credit Suisse. The first Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Kazakhstan opened in 2013 in Esentai Tower.
Along with professional services, media companies are concentrated in Almaty. The media distribution industry has been growing rapidly since 2006. Major broadcasting channels KTK and NTK are based in Almaty, as are several national newspapers.
There are plans to construct a Western Europe-Western China highway, passing through Almaty. A new airport in Almaty expects to handle about 45 million tonnes of cargo each year. Air Astana is headquartered in the Air Astana Centre 1 in Almaty. Prior to their dissolution, Air Kazakhstan and Kazakhstan Airlines were also headquartered in Almaty.
The economy of Almaty city and Almaty Region continues to grow, and is expected to increase at nearly 6 percent per year until 2020. The city generates approximately 20 percent of the national GDP. To mitigate the rapidly increasing electricity demand caused by this growth, the Kazakh authorities decided to upgrade the power system by building the new transmission line and modernizing the substations. The Alma Transmission Project, supported by the World Bank, has helped achieve this goal.
Free wifi is common in hotels but it may be unreliable. Some bars and restaurants offer free wifi.
- Internet (Corner of Baytursnuly & Karasay Batyr, near the OVIR). Eight computers and a telephone service but you can't use USB devices.KZT240/hour.
- Internet (In the underpass of Zhibek Zholy & Tolebaev, near the Silk Way Mall). KZT240/hour.
- Omega Sector BiG Internet Cafe (Corner of Abai & Baytursnuly, near the main station). KZT200/hour.
- Supermarket, Samal-3 micro-district, Online Club (Silk Way City).There is free Wi-Fi inside the supermarket. Best signal is on second floor in the middle.
Prices in Almaty
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$0.65|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$4.50|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$19.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$31.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$50.00|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$4.20|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$1.25|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$0.98|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$4.50|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||$5.50|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||$0.04|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||$|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$1.15|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||$48.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||$38.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||$75.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$0.25|
50 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
120 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
- Almaty International Airport (Kazakh: Xalıqaralıq Almatı Äwejayı/Халықаралық Алматы Әуежайы, Russian: Международный Аэропорт Алматы (IATA: ALA, ICAO: UAAA)), Ul. Beimbeta Maylina (ул. Беимбета Майлина), 2 (15 km northeast of Almaty. Take bus № 79, 86, 92, 106 (20-45 mins.)), . (Flight Information)This is a hub for the national carrier Air Astana. It is also a major Central Asian cargo hub.
- Air Arabia - Sharjah.
- Air Astana - Abu Dhabi, Baku,Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi,Barcelona, Beijing-Capital, Bishkek, Delhi, Dubai-International, Dushanbe, Kazan,Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong,Istanbul-Atatürk, Kiev-Boryspil,Kuala Lumpur, London-Heathrow, Moscow-Sheremetyevo, Saint Petersburg,Samara, Seoul-Incheon,Tashkent, Tbilisi, Ürümqi
- Asiana Airlines - Seoul-Incheon.
- Fly Dubai - Dubai.
- China Southern Airlines -Ürümqi
- Czech Airlines - Prague
- Etihad Airways - Abu Dhabi.
- Flyvista - Tbilisi.
- Hainan Airlines - Beijing
- KLM - Amsterdam.
- Lufthansa - Frankfurt.
- Mahan Air - Tehran-Imam Khomeini.
- Pegasus Airlines - Istanbul-Sabiha Gökçen.
- Rossiya- Saint Petersburg.
- S7 Airlines - Novosibirsk.
- SCAT- Jeddah, Mineralnye Vody, Samarkand, Sanya,Sharjah.
- Sky Bishkek - Osh.
- Somon Air - Dushanbe.
- Tajik Air - Dushanbe.
- Transaero Airlines - Moscow-Domodedovo, Moscow-Vnukovo.
- Turkish Airlines - Istanbul-Atatürk
- Turkmenistan Airlines-Ashgabat.
- Ukraine International Airlines- Kiev-Boryspil.
- Ural Airlines - Yekaterinburg.
- Uzbekistan Airways-Tashkent.
For people from most countries, the easiest way to get to Kazakhstan is by air. It's roughly a 7-8 hour flight from Europe. Air Astana, with a fairly modern fleet of Airbuses and Boeings, has direct flights from major European cities. Also there is the low-cost carrier airBaltic from Riga.
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 planeside visa usually needs to be coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at least one week in advance).
The airport is small, and sometimes several flights depart around the same time, meaning shocking queues and waits for no apparent reason. Be early, and expect flight delays. 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 USD20–25 (KZT3,000-3,500). You can also take a bus to the center, which starts at 07:00 and costs KZT80 . The best is to ask at the airport information booth to order you a cab (it will be about a 10 minute wait for one to arrive), which they will, and it will cost you half the price of getting one outside the airport (KZT1,200).
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.
- Air Astana - Aktau, Aktobe, Astana, Atyrau, Sary-Arka Airport, Kyzylorda, Oskemen, Pavlodar, Shymkent
- SCAT Airline - Aktau, Aktobe, Astana, Atyrau, Karaganda, Kokshetau,Kostanay, Oral, Oskemen, Petropavl, Semey, Shymkent, Taraz,Urdjar, Zhezkazgan
There are two railway stations, Almaty-1 and Almaty-2. Almaty-2 is in the city centre, Almaty-1 is about 4km from the centre. Most trains end at Almaty-2, but some lower-class trains end at Almaty-1.
- Almaty 1 Train Station (Станция Алматы-1), Ulitsa Rikhard Zorge(Turksib District. - Trolley №7 connecting with centre (50 min.)).
- Almaty 2 Train Station (Железнодорожная Станция Алматы-2), Ave. Abylai Khan (Trolley №5, №6 connecting with centre (30 min).).
There are many direct trains 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, Turkestan, and Shymkent on the way.
From Urumqi, China
The N895 train leaves every Saturday and Monday night (23:58 Beijing time) direct to Almaty. To buy the ticket in Urumqi the office is in the Yaou Hotel to the right of the main station. Tickets need to be purchased a few days in advance and cost around ¥870 (about USD110).
Ticket sale for the Saturday train starts on Monday, 10:00, for the Monday train it starts Friday, 10:00. 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 be 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 (Jul 2010). Organizing the Kazakh visa in Urumqi takes at least 5 working days (Jul 2010). The trip takes 34 hours, eight of which are spent clearing Chinese and Kazakh Immigration. Taking the bus or flying are better options if you are in a hurry.
- Sayakhat Bus Station, Zhetysu District, Rayimbek Prospekt(Located one km east of the railway station Almaty 2. -). Marshutkas run from here to the north and east of Almaty, as to Talgar, Esik, Kegen, Narynkol.
- Sayran Bus Station (Sairan, Междугород автовокзал «Сайран»), Ulitsa Sadovnikov (yлица Садовникова 294) (Tole bi and Otegen Batyr corner. - take tram 4 to Center). International buses to:Kyrgyzstan (Bishkek $7), Tajikistan, China (Urumqi $56). - Daily buses to: Taraz and Shymkent ($2), Ust-Kamenogorsk (23 hours), Tomsk($100), Astana ($26), Türkestan ($17), Karaganda und Balkhash.
Sleeper buses leave from Urumqi at 18:00 every day of the week except Saturday and take approximately 24 hours to arrive in Almaty (Nov 2008: only buses on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 19:00). Tickets for a lower bed are ¥420, upper beds are ¥400, and a berth in the back bed of the bus is ¥380. Buses depart from the international branch of the Nianzigou Bus Station (碾子沟客运站), which is located about 50 m 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 Almaty. They cost USD30 or ¥150. These buses leave two or three times in a week, ask the bus drivers in Yining when they will go. You could also take a bus to Korgas from Yining (¥30-38) 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 KZT3,000 to go to Almaty. The trip from Korgas to Almaty is about 4-6 hours. The city of Tacheng city (north of Korgas and north of Yining) also has buses that run several times a week to Almaty and back.
From Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Minibuses travel to Almaty Sairan station from Bishkek's western bus station, and cost about KGS400/KZT1,300 and take up to 5 hours depending on how long the Kyrgyz/Kazakh border crossing takes. Enter the station in Bishkek and look for the minibus bay with Almaty written above it. They go when they fill up, so expect to wait about 20 minutes to an hour after arriving. Just get on and take a seat and payment occurs when the bus is full and about to leave.
The trip to the Kazakh border doesn't take long from Bishkek and when you arrive you must get out and take your luggage through the border crossing yourself. Each passenger and the minibus must clear the border individually, and hopefully the bus will still be waiting for you on the other side when you complete the ordeal. Unless you individually experience a major delay it is likely the minibus will wait for you. Once through the border crossing, the minibus will stop again after an hour for a rest stop at a gas station.
Kyrgyz/Kazakh border crossing
The border crossing involves several lengthy, disorganised queues which frequently see large groups of people skipping to the front of the queue claiming young children or infirmity as an excuse. Forget any queuing etiquette and do your best to stand your ground. The border crossing begins with clearing Kyrgyz immigration. If you're a non-Kazakh/Kyrgyz national you simply have to go and present your passport to a man who resides in a room behind a mirrored door at the back of the first building you come across. You can either skip the scrum of people and try to walk around to the back of the building and knock on the mirrored door behind the immigration booths, or you can line up and have the man at the immigration booth point you through to the door.
Once through the Kyrgyz immigration point you must enter Kazakhstan, and at this point the scrum of people becomes even more intense as you are lined up through a green cage or sorts, although it doesn't seem to apply to everyone as large groups of people will attempt to skip to the head of the queue by waiting outside the end of the green fenced area. Once at the end of the green cage area, there is a larger area where you line up into three queues, one of which is let go at a time into the area with immigration booths. Once into the Kazakh immigration booth area, grab an immigration form and fill it out while you line up at one of the booths. Expect a lot of standing around, pushing, yelling, and queue jumping.
Transportation - 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 orthogonal to each other. The destinations are usually determined by intersections like in New York City. Therefore, for instance, if you know that Kazakhstan Hotel is at the intersection of Abaya and Kurmangazy, local people will be able to help you out with ease.
Central Almaty benefits from the underground system launched in 2011. It boasts some great architecture, and is relatively cheap. There is only one metro line consisting of the following stations: Alatau, Auezov Drama Theatre, Baikonur, Abay, Almaly, Zhibek Zholy, and Raiymbek Batyr. The second line is under construction, which will reach more remote parts of the city.
A single trip costs KZT80 (USD0.52). Payment does not depend on the length of the trip. The tickets (plastic yellow coin tokens) are sold at booths within the stations ("kassa") only (Dec 2013).
There are no day tickets or similar offers tailored to visitors, but for those who use Metro often and for an extended period of time, there is a rechargeable unlimited trips smart-card (small refundable deposit is required), which can be recharged for a period up to 3 months. If you lose it, you will not get any refund or replacement.
The Metro is open from 06:00-24:00. The Metro is safe and guarded by police at all times.
From North to South(west)
- Raiymbek batyr (Russian: Райымбек батыра, Kazakh:Райымбек) (Almaty 2 Train Station).
- Zhibek Zholy - Dostyk (Russian: Жибек Жолы) (Ascension Cathedral, Kazakh-British Technical University).
- Almaly (Russian:Алмалы) (Hotel Almaty, Opera and Ballet House).
- Abay (Russian:Абая, Kazakh:Абай) (Kazakh National Agrarian University, State Academic Russian Drama Theatre).
- Baikonur (Russian:Байконур,Kazakh: Байқоңыр) (Sport Palace/Central Stadium).
- Auezov Theater (Russian: Театр имени Мухтара Ауэзова, Kazakh: Мұхтар Әуезов атындағы театры) (Auezov Theater, Circus, Rahat Palace Hotel).
- Alatau (Russian:Алатау).
By trams, buses, and trolleys
There is an extensive network of buses and trolleybuses in the city. The trams lines are limited and serve only specific areas of Almaty. The fare is universal, KZT80. You need to put coins inside a dedicated machine inside every vehicle or pay the conductor when exiting. Make sure that you have the correct change; you won't please the conductor by giving her notes. Younger conductors speak a bit of English and are more than happy to help point you in the right direction and tell you about where to get off or connecting buses.
There are both official and informal taxis. Official taxis can be booked in advance and normally show up rapidly. The fare difference between official and unofficial taxis may vary up to 3 times. Just raise your hand and a car will eventually stop. You should negotiate the price and direction in advance. Normally the fare varies from KZT200-1,000 depending on the remoteness of the area. These are really efficient, and, although it takes a bit of getting used to, it is the perfect solution to getting around. Nevertheless, single travellers should be aware of muggings late at night. Avoid cars with more than one male occupant at night. Usually a car will stop within 30 seconds to 3 minutes of having your hand out. If the driver does not wish to drive to your destination, no problem. The next one will stop a minute or two after. You will need the name of your destination street and the nearest cross street, in Russian, in order to get to where you want to go. Very few people speak or understand even basic English. It is necessary to have small money. Usually drivers avoid giving change, so it is better to have the exact amount in hand.
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USD1 equals about KZT300 and 1 Euro about KZT340 (Mar 2014). As a comparison (2011): a Snickers bar was KZT80; a can of Coke KZT70; a cheese pizza at il Patio about KZT1,200; a cinema ticket for a movie about KZT1,000; a 10 minute taxi trip about KZT300-400; cigarettes, KZT50-150; vodka KZT500+; beer 500ml KZT120+; a litre of juice around KZT150. Beef, KZT 900-1,500 a kilo; pork KZT800 a kilo; horse meat, KZT1500 a kilo. A loaf of bread, KZT40-70. A 2 bedroom modern apartment about USD1,000 a month. Clothing is expensive unless buying knock-offs at Baraholka. (Green Market is relatively expensive).
- Handmade carpets
- Felted goods. Handmade dolls, rugs, and slippers made with boiled lamb's wool and natural dyes
- Handcrafted metal jewelry, including a "tumar", which is a pendant that opens like a locket
- Handcrafted leather chess sets in a leather folding case with a board pattern stitched on. In most souvenir shops, and on ground floor of Silk Way (Zhybek Zholy and Furmanova).
- Kaspi Bank, Sharipov St 90.
- Arbat (Zhybek-Zholy "Silk Road"). Almaty's artist's row on a tree-lined pedestrian street. "Arbat" is a nickname of the street. On the same street you can visit the big mall - TsUM (in Russian - ЦУМ - Центральный Универсальный Магазин). At the east end of this pedestrian street there is the Silk Way Mall. Here you can find Wi-Fi Internet access at Cafemax on the second level (KZT500 for 100 minutes) and a selection of upscale shops. Most of these shops are imitations of Western chain stores such as Zara. They also imitate Western prices.
- Barakholka. Cheap shopping at a large vendor-style market, find name brands (knock-offs) for cheap. You can find virtually anything there, and if the price isn't right, you can easily haggle with the merchants. You want to find a USD300 winter coat for about USD45? It's possible. Be wary of pick-pocketing.
- Green Market (Zelyoni Bazaar), Zenkov Street (M: Zhibek Zholy (Жибек Жолы)). Fresh vegetables, dairy products, and meat, as well as a number of non-food household items. Fruit and vegetables are on the lower level. On the upper level you will find dried fruits, nuts, spices, honey and plants, as well as cheese and meat. The meat section includes horse sausages and is a bit challenging to the nose, so vegetarians beware. The prices increase seasonally, and unless you come from Tokyo or London, you will find it quite expensive, as opposed to your typical Asian market shopping experience. Wallet in your front pocket, lest the pickpockets relieve you of your hard-earned money.
Almaty has many modern supermarkets, offering everything from a bakery section to toiletries and vodka. Any food you could possibly want to find is readily available. There are four major supermarket chains: Ramstore, SM-Market, Gros, and City. And plenty of single supermarkets and small local grocery shops. The chain called "Gros" 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. The favorite stores among locals are Stolichni (Ablai Khan and Kabanbai Batyr). Super helpful staff and decent fruits/vegetables year around, but vegetable prices are very expensive. Dastarkhan (Gogolya St between Ablai Khan and Furmanova) has excellent baked goods, especially cakes and cookies. Silk Way City (Tole Bi and Nauryzbai Batyr) shopping center has a supermarket in the ground floor.
- Ramstore Atrium Supermarket Trade Center (Рамстор Атриум), Ul. Raiymbek Nauryzbai Batyr (Райымбек даңғылы) (Metro: Raiymbek batyr), , fax: . Open: 09:00-23:00. International retrail store chain. - 9 cashdesk with electronic scales; - Accept Moneycards as: Visa, Master Card, Euro Card, American Express, China Union Pay, Altyn. - More units: Samal Shopping center, Address: Furmanov str., 226 (Phone:+8 727 330-5501, Fax:+8 727 258-7570, Open: 9:00-24:00); - Tastak Supermarket, Address : Almaty, Tole Bi str., 229, (Phones:+8 727 2414008, Fax: 8 727 2414015, Open: 09:00-23:00). - Aynabulak Supermarket, Address: Almaty, micro-district Aynabulak, 98 B. (Phones: +8 727 299-4009, 2994069, Fax : +8 727 2994009, Open: 09:00-23:00). - Atakent Supermarket, Address: Almaty, Temiryazev str., 42. (Phones:+8 727 275-6833, +8 727 275-6835, 275-6838, Fax:+8 727 275-7289, Open: 09:00-23:00). - Mega Supermarket, Address: Almaty, Rozibakiyev str., 247 А. (Phones: +8 727 232-2612, +8 727 232-2614, +8 727 271-9740, Fax:+8 727 232-2613, Open: 09:00-23:00). - Hyper Aport Hypermarket, Address : Moll А’port, Karasay district (200 m from the Market Altyn-Orda, Six km west of the City Center. Phone:+8 727 312-15-61, Fax:+8 727 312-1563, Open: 09:00-23:00). - Mango Supermarket, Address: Almaty, st. Sholohova/Seyfullina 29. (Phone:+8 727 313-7522, 313-7520, Fax:+8 727 313-7522, Open: 09:00-23:00). - Globus Supermarket, Address: Almaty, st. Abaya/Auezova 109 b. (Phone:+8 727 356-7564, Fax :+8 727 356-7562, Open: 09:00-23:00. - Almagul Supermarket, Address: Almaty, microdistrict Almagul 18a. (Phone:+8 727 396-2507. Fax :+8 727 396-2508, Open: 09:00-23:00). - 5 . Hyper Altyn Taraz Hypermarket /Рамстор Алтын Тараз/, Address: Str. Abylai Han 3 Moll - Altin-Taraz , Желтоқсан көшесі (Near to Astan - 2 Station). Phone:+8 727 244-6102, Fax :+8 727 244-6106, Open: 09:00-23:00).- Sputnik Supermarket, mkr-n Mamyr-1, 8a Moll Sputnik. (Phone:+8 727 244-7519, Open: 09:00-23:00). - Shemyakina Supermarket, Address: Shemyakina str. 121, (Phone:+8 727 303-4048, Open: 09:00-23:00). - Timiryazeva Supermarket, Address: Almaty, Str. Timiryazeva 37, (Phones: +8 727 248-4631, 248-4633, 248-4635, Open: 09:00-23:00).
- Passage Shopping Center (M: Zhibek Zholy (Жибек Жолы)).
- Tsum Shopping Center (Centralniy Universalniy Magasin), Abylai Khan Avenue (M: Zhibek Zholy (Жибек Жолы)). Every post-Soviet town has this department store. It's filled with hundreds of identical little counters selling electronic goods on the first floor, and souvenirs and clothes can be found on the second. There is a good selection of souvenirs. One Saturday a month, there is an ad hoc market on Ablai Khan across from the Tsum. Craftsmen from all over come and sell their wares. It's worth checking out.
Cheaper Kazakh restaurants are all over the place, selling shashlik, soup, salad and others. Fast food places are also everywhere - the local favourite is gamburgers, with sliced kebab meat on a hamburger bun with pickles and garlic sauce.
- Boudoir (On Bogenbai Batyr underneath the Kazpost, near Ablai Khan). Daily till 24:00. Lounge restaurant offers "contemporary global cuisine" in an intimate underground space. The menu includes kangaroo and crocodile dishes, and specialties of the house are the live mud crabs cooked in 5 different ways, and the chef's selection of homemade ice creams. Menus are in English, Russian, and Kazakh, and the place has the funkiest cocktail menu in Central Asia.
- Ciao Pizza, Tole Bi Street 87 (Next to Kazakh National Medical University).
- Emporio Armani Bar (Al-Farabi and Shashkin). Moderate prices and excellent service. Live DJ and cosy atmosphere.
- Gakku, 7 Nikitina St (Between Nauryzbay Batyr St and Seyfullin Ave). One of the best restaurants serving Kazakh national food for reasonable prices. One should try "beshparmak", "kuyrdak" and other traditional Kazakh dishes.
- La Grenouille, Shevshenko 18 (Corner of Dostik). Certainly the best French restaurant in town. Friendly atmosphere and tasty food (try the frog legs!)
- The Grill (On top of the hill at Kok-Tobe. Take the cable car up, near Hotel Kazakhstan on Dostyk). In a picturesque setting overlooking Almaty. You are perched over the city on a wooden verandah (some parts nice & shady) and it is an awesome setting. The beers are a bit pricey, but the shashliks are awesome and a few drinks here is a must-do experience.
- Jantik Club, 138 Bogenbay Batyr St (Corner of Shagabutdinov). Western-style bar. Live music and 20th century super hits. Beatles fans will be very pleased to visit this bar. Moderate prices.
- Mama Mia's (On Gogol between Ablai Khan and Panfilova, across from Dastarkhan grocery store, and the second Mama Mia is on Tole Bi and Zharokova). Pizza restaurant, but with a large assortment of fresh salads (a good place to go when you tire of carrots and potatoes in the winter time). A small, separate non-smoking section. For a change, stop in and order your dishes to go, then walk across the street to Dastarkhan to buy some sodas and pastries for dessert; then walk two blocks east on Gogol and eat in Panfilov Park.
- Namaste (On the corner of Kosmonaft and Satpaeva, about mid-way between the Intercontinental and the Hyatt). One of the more popular Indian restaurants. Service is very slow, but if you have time the food is pretty good.
- Il Patio / Planeta Sushi. Predictably passable pizza and decent sushi in a clean and efficient atmosphere at decent prices.
- Pirosmani (On Ablai Khan, two blocks down from Tsum). Georgian restaurant. Features khachapuri, cheese filled bread, eggplant stuffed with nuts, spinach with nuts, and various savory kebabs. Georgian restaurants are great places for vegetarians to dine.
- Soho. Lunch isn't bad, a buffet with a nice assortment of breads, soups, salads, and main dishes called a "business lunch" at a reasonable fixed price. However the evenings are quite pleasant with live music and reasonable drink prices. No entrance fee during the week. Soho is a great place for a single businessman. It is not a very classy joint and is usually packed with Almaty's working women. They have one of the best bands in Almaty and they sing in English. Some of their covers are better than the originals. It's a must-see event. Try making a booking to avoid having to stand at the bar.
- Taj Mahal, 59, Masanchi St (Corner of Kababai Batyr St, near Celinni Cinema).The most authentic Indian restaurant, with traditional hukkah and special pizzas. Has started to attract an expat crowd due to their traditional interior.
- Tau Dastarkhan (Halfway up the mountains). In a large area made up of "islands" with Kazakh, Russian, Georgian, and Uzbek kitchens. Not to be missed in the summertime. It's as fun to walk around and see the various settings as it is to eat.
- Tbilisi (On Zheltoksan). Georgian restaurant. Features khachapuri, cheese filled bread, eggplant stuffed with nuts, spinach with nuts, and various savory kebabs. Georgian restaurants are great places for vegetarians to dine.
- Turandot (Two locations: one on Abai Ave between Baitursynuly St & Zhandosov St attached to the theater building, the other on Abylai Khan Ave just below Makataev St). A very cheap and very tasty Chinese eatery. Servings are huge, so don't go overboard. There are plenty of vegetarian dishes to choose from, including tofu dishes.
- Ultra's (Satbaev St between Baitursynuly St & Seifullin Ave). Fun restaurant with its own microbrewery on site. It is one of the Staut chain. The restaurant has an excellent array of beer, albeit a little costly.
- Unnamed Chinese Restaurant (On Gogolya and Tulebayeva, not far from Panfilov Park, on the ground floor of an apartment building). Popular Chinese restaurant. Strange location, but very popular and clean.
- Unnamed Korean Restaurant (In the square in front of the entrance to the exhibition on Temirazova, a few blocks away from the Intercontinental and the new Holiday Inn). One of the more Korean popular restaurants. You'll often see businessmen from Samsung and LG here lunching with people from the Korean Embassy.
- Venezia (On Dostyk (Lenina) between Satpaeva and Abaya). Four pages of choices. The pizza has very good thin crust. The restaurant has two rooms.
- Zheti Qazyna (Ablai Khan Ave & Makataev). The restaurant with three kitchens: Uzbek, Chinese, European. The Uzbek room has wonderful wood decorations, blue-tiled kitchen you can see into.
Sights & Landmarks
- Ascension Cathedral (Zenkov's Cathedral, Voznesenskiy sobor Zenkova, Свято-Вознесенский собор Зенкова), Kazybek Bi St (Middle in the Park the 28 Guardsmen, Metro 'Zhibek Zholy' (Жибек Жолы) station 400 m away). Completed in 1907, it is the second-tallest wooden building in the world.
- Kazanskiy sobor (Казанский собор), Khaliullina str (Халиуллина) 45(NE three km of Metro). A Russian Orthodox Church
- St. Nicholas Cathedral (Никольский собор.), Ulitsa Baytursynov (Near to Nikolsky Bazaar.- The Baykonur Metro Station three blocks away). Was built in 1909. It was converted to a barn for cavalry horses by the Soviets but was eventually restored and reopened as a church in 1980.
- Central Mosque of Almaty (Мечети города Алматы), Ul. Pushkin (ул. Пушкина), 16 (Metro: Raiymbek batyr), , e-mail:[email protected].
- Sophia Cathedral (Софийский собор/Sofiyskiy sobor, Свято-Богоявленский храм), Ulitsa Sadovnikov (Садовникова улица), 196., .
- Heroes Memorial Park, Between Kunaev St, Gogol St, Zenkov St and Kazybek Bi St (Metro 'Zhibek Zholy' station in the nearby). Honors the men and women from Kazakhstan who died on the battlefields of the WWII against the Nazis. There is an eternal flame by the war memorial where schoolchildren put flowers on the last day of school, and newlyweds also come to have their photos taken there. In the park is an Orthodox church built from 1904-1907, painted in dollhouse colors with a metallic steeple. You can often hear beautiful singing inside.
- Presidential Palace, Furmanov St (ул. Фурманова), 205. You will not be allowed to go inside. Nonetheless, the scenery and architecture is breathtaking. If the guards are out front, it means the president is there.
- Republic Square (New Square, пл. Республики). Former administrative center. Since the capital was moved to Astana, this square has been renovated. TV stations occupy some buildings. There are flower gardens. There is also a Kazakh memorial, consisting of a tall statue of the golden boy, an early Kazakh figure, whose name is Altyn Adam, and circled by metal bas relief panels recounting the history of Kazakhstan, from the time of the fierce Amazon-like queen, to independence 10 years ago.
- Charyn Canyon (Шарын шатқалы, Шарын каньоны) (3 hr from the city, close to the Chinese border.). Gorgeous red and orange sandstone layers. The "Singing Dunes" are also not too far. A day trip.
Museums & Galleries
- Akhmet Baytursynov Memorial Museum (Ахмета Байтурсынов дом-музей).
- Museum of Archeology of the Academy of Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Ulitsa Kaldayakov.
- Museum of Books (Республиканский музей книги.), Ulitsa Shevchenko 28(Academy of Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan).
- City History Museum, Ulitsa Nauryzbai Batyr (M: Almaly).
- Geological Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Dostyk Ave.
- National Museum of Fine Arts (Республиканский музей изобразительного искусства им. А. Кастеева.), Ulitsa Satpaev (M Auezov Theater).
- National Museum (Central State Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan), Furmanov St (ул. Фурманова), (Opposite the Presidential Palace, Metro 'Abay' the nearest station), . Blue-roofed. Features displays on Kazakh history, from prehistoric times through the Mongol periods to the present. Guided tours in English (and other languages) are available if you call the museum ahead of time to reserve. English guided tours are KZT2,000 and Russian guided tours are KZT600.
- Museum of musical instruments (Республиканский музей музыкальных инструментов им. Ыкыласа.), Zenkov St, (East side of Heroes Memorial Park).
- Railway Museum (Алматинский железнодорожный музей.).
- Scientific and cultural center (the M. Auezov house museum), Tulebaev street 185. 10.00 - 17.00, closed Sunday and Monday. 50 Tenge.
Things to do
- Arasan Baths, Kunaev St 75. Tuesday - Sunday: 0800 - 2400. A large public bathing complex with a magnificent Samarkand style domed pool. The perfect place to spend a few hours relaxing. Due to its cold and windy conditions, visiting saunas with friends is very popular in Kazakhstan. Saunas (Russian "banyas") are an excellent place to discuss business issues or just socialize with friends. Having parties (birthdays, New Year, etc.) in saunas is normal practice. In fact many modern saunas in Almaty are fully equipped with karaoke, billiards, swimming pools, relax rooms, massage rooms, etc.
- Hike Big Almaty Lake (Bus 28 bus goes from the roundabout at Al-Farabi and Navoi up Dulati St and ends at the last left turn before Almaarasan. This is a good ways up towards Big Almaty Lake; the remainder can be done on foot: the hike is about 15 km and a 1,000 m altitude increase (to 2,500 m) Follow the road about 8 km until you reach a big water pipe, and then follow the water pipe. The first bit is steep, but beyond that it gets easier. If you don't take the water pipe the journey is much longer. When you get off the Bus 28 there are taxis waiting: they will take you up to within 4 km of the lake for KZT2,000 (Oct 2011). From the roundabout at Al-Farabi and Navoi a taxi will take you to within 4 km of the lake. You should be able to barter them down to KZT2,000 (Oct 2011) for a one-way trip.). There is good hiking around the Big Almaty Lake area up in the mountains (the lake is at 2,500 m and there are peaks overlooking it, some of them above 4,500 m.) The lake and surrounding area are beautiful. The lake freezes in the winter and in the autumn it is a stunning turquoise.
- Kazakhstan English Language Theater, Ave Abay 2 or 30? (On the campus of KIMEP Institute in the heart of Almaty, Moscow Subway Station a couple meters away), e-mail: [email protected]. Started in 2001, the Kazakhstan English Language Theater (KELT) is the only English language theater in former Soviet Central Asia. KELT does two shows a year, and runs English language theater classes and workshops periodically throughout the year.
- Kok-Tobe (The cable car leaves from near the corner of Abay and Dostyk (still sometimes referred to as Lenin St), next to the cinema, and costs KZT800 (about USD5) one way or KZT2,000 both ways. Or take buses 95 & 99 (KZT50)). Take the cable car up to Kok-Tobe for wonderful views of the mountains, vineyards, and Almaty. Buy souvenirs and have a cup of hot chocolate at a table under the shadow of the TV tower or take a ride on an unpowered roller coaster.KZT100.
- Medeu Ice Skating (Outside town, on the road to Chimbulak. Take Bus 6 in front of Hotel Kazakhstan on Dostyk Ave to go to the Medeu (KZT50 on weekdays, KZT70 on weekends), every 20 min). The world's highest Olympic-sized ice stadium. More than 180 world records were made on this ice. Fun to visit in winter. Skate rentals are available. Tipsy teenagers teeter across the ice, coloured lights and loud pop music create a slightly surreal, but fun ambience. There is also a large mountain-water swimming pool just below the ice rink, open in summer. The water is extremely invigorating, about 15°C.
- Panfilov Park (City center, surrounded by Gogol, Zenkov, Kazybek and Kunaev streets). Stroll this beautiful park, featuring Soviet-era architecture, the cathedral, and spectacular WW2 monuments that are popular for wedding photographs.
- Picnic at Tamgaly Petroglyphs (Drive 2 hr out, about 30 km past Copa off the road to Bishkek). Pack a picnic and. The famous "Sunman" is worth the drive.
- Ski or Snowboard. At Chimbulak, Ak-Bulak and Tabagan ski resorts.
- Tau Spa. Relax at this mountain spa, worth a visit summer or winter. Try the plunge pool at -15 degrees C!
Festivals and events
Voice of Asia
This festival is one of the major tourist attractions in Almaty. Voice of Asia also known as Azïya Dawısı, is an annual music festival held in Almaty, Kazakhstan. This festival is usually held at Medeo. It is a speed skating rink located on the outskirts of Almaty, Tian Shah, 1693 meters above the sea level. This rink has witnessed many official Olympic records. Several Asian and European Artists participate in this annual event. The award function encompasses different categories like best music composer and sound designer.
Almaty International Film Festival
The Almaty International Film Festival is an annual film festival held at Almaty. This festival is currently in its seventh year of running and is a major attraction among film enthusiasts, both tourists and locals alike.
The seventh edition of the Almaty International Film Festival was held in the month of May. Silk Way City is the official Center of the movie festival. Renowned actors and filmmakers attend this prestigious event and collectively honor the stalwarts from the industry. This annual festival aims at encouraging young talent in this field. Those present can get a chance to watch different movies produced and directed by filmmakers across the globe.
International Nauryz Holiday
This is the official holiday in Kazakhstan. Nauryz is the symbol of the New Year. It is also considered as a symbol of peace and unity. This tradition is also followed in other countries like Iran and Afghanistan. Several tourists time their visit to coincide with this international holiday. Many competitions are held during this annual festival. Horse races and hand to hand combats are also arranged during this festival. Some of the other activities include song and dance competitions. Almaty residents share a special yoghurt soup with guests during the festival. It is a belief that Nauryz brings good luck to the people of Almaty. March 21 marks the official commencement of this festival and it lasts for at least one month.
International Almaty Jazz Holiday
This festival was earlier known as the Jazz from A to Z. It is now an annual festival in Almaty. The events during this festival are arranged at the Republic Schoolchildren Palace. Jam sessions also take place at the Cinema Bar club. International Jazz artists like Dennis Rollins, Roy Dackus and Philippe Renault have attended the Jazz festival.
- Queens Pub (Shevchenko & Seifullin). Modern English pub with live bands and evening shows.
- Sapphire. Late-night club and restaurant for young people. Basic Chinese menu and live DJ with a dance floor. The main draw here is the shisha, or water pipe. Other places in Almaty also have shisha (fruit-flavoured tobacco, smoked for an hour or two from a hookah), but this is one of the few to use real charcoal and authentic Al Fakher shisha tobacco from UAE. The bar delivers the vodkas pretty promptly too.
Safety in Almaty
Almaty enjoys a relatively low crime rate and is, generally, a safe place to travel. Use common sense at night, particularly on Friday and Saturday when the youth hit the streets to get drunk, and in some unfortunate cases, look for trouble. You should abstain from any arguments with locals; otherwise you may end up in the hospital. Kazakh people are extremely friendly and welcoming towards foreigners and nothing should happen to you unless you really want it yourself. Never go to places which you don't trust or don't know about, unless you have a local person with you to help out with the language. Racism is a generally of very minor concern although the average visitor is highly unlikely to encounter any problems. You must be always respectful to the country and locals. In this case, you will feel comfortable with anyone.
Central streets such as Furmanov, Abay, Zheltoksan, Dostyk, and Abylay Khan are strictly regulated and constantly monitored by police officers. Video cameras are installed on 70% of city crossroads. There are some Kazakh drivers who reveal their aggressiveness on the roads. Therefore, it is always best to take great care when crossing the roads.
In the event of an emergency, call:
- 101 Fire
- 102 Police
- 103 Ambulance
- 104 Gas Service
- 112 Emergency rescue