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.