Central Asia has always been the heart of the Silk-road route, but did you know that it promises an exceptional travel experience?
We went to Almaty in October 2023, and if you are looking for an off-beat multicultural experience, it is an underrated destination with unparalleled beauty, enriching culture, and delectable food—a genuinely central Asian delight.
I’ve covered everything about my time in Almaty, Kazakhstan, from what to do, places to stay, weather conditions, and many more intricate details to plan your vacation in 2024.
As Soon As We Landed In Almaty, Kazakhstan
Maybe humanity isn’t lost, just scattered. Like seeds carried by the wind, waiting to find fertile ground to sprout anew – and that’s Kazakhstan and Kazakh people.
We realized there was no way out without cash when we landed in Almaty. We quickly went to the ATM, got some cash, and searched for a taxi, only to realize we didn’t have the internet to translate or talk. At that moment, we spoke to a young man waiting for his girlfriend. Not only did he allow us to use his internet, but he helped us book a cab, find the driver, and put us inside.
Things To Do In Almaty, Kazakhstan: Central Asia’s Hidden Gem
Explore The Massive Green Bazaar
Almaty’s Green Bazaar, a century-old marketplace, is a cultural and commercial hub known for its historical significance. Established in the late 19th century during the Russian Empire’s rule, this bustling market has been a central hub for locals and travelers alike.
The Bazaar’s name, “Green,” refers to its lush, green produce section, where a colorful array of fruits, vegetables, and herbs are available year-round. You can also find various clothes, electronics, and more. Some famous products in the market are Kazy (horse meat sausage), Shubat (fermented horse and camel milk), Cream cheese, and doners.
We went there twice. The first time we reached Green Bazaar at approx 7:30 PM, it was almost closed down. It’s too bad we thought it was a market so that it will be open late at night. The next time we went there, we explored in peace and ate a tonne of doners and samsas.
FYI – they put fries inside your doners. If you do not like it that way, you can ask them for meat.
Essential Travel Tips
- Location: Green Bazaar
- Timings: Opens at 9 AM and closes at 8 PM (Tue to Sun), Closed on Monday
- Bargain to get a reasonable price for products in the market
- Carrying local currency as cash is the preferred mode of transaction.
- Accommodation: We stayed at “Colorful Studio “FRIDA KAHLO” from AirBnB; the cab will charge approx 1700 tenge to the cathedral. The mosque and green bazaar are at walkable distance.
Admire The Architectural Fusion Of Islamic And Kazakh Styles At Central Mosque
Standing tall as one of the largest mosques in Kazakhstan, the Central Mosque or Central State Mosque features impressive designs of traditional Kazakh elements with a fantastic blend of Islamic design.
The turquoise and gold dome, adorned with intricate geometric patterns, is a testament to the fusion of Islam and Kazakh architectural styles, setting it apart from many other mosques in the region. It is the perfect place to visit and experience this country’s rich heritage.
Essential Travel Tips
- Location: Central Mosque
- Timings: 5 AM to 10 AM (Whole week)
- Wear full-sleeved clothes and adequately cover your arms and legs before entering the mosque to respect their traditions.
Pay A Visit To The Architectural Marvel Of Almaty, The Zenkov’s Cathedral
Another unmissable attraction is Zenkov’s Cathedral, also known as Ascension Cathedral.
The cathedral’s construction took place between 1904 and 1907. It was designed by the architect Constantin Arkadyevich Borisoglebsky and was further modified by a local engineer, Andrei Pavlovich Zenkov, who completed the whole construction. Thus, the name Zenkov’s Cathedral.
The whole structure, with a height of 56 meters, is built of wood (Tien-Shan spruce) with an earthquake-proof design. The structure withheld its integrity under two earthquakes while the other surrounding buildings were damaged.
You can relax in the surrounding park, admiring the beauty, and kids can walk around and play, feed pigeons in the morning, and enjoy rides on tiny scooters, cars, and horse buggies.
Essential Travel Tips
- Location: Zenkov’s Cathedral
- Timings: 7 AM to 6 PM (Mon to Fri), 7 AM to 7 PM (Saturday), 6 AM to 6 PM (Sunday)
- Great for photograph
Panfilov Park: Zenkov’s Cathedral is built in Panfilov Park. It is an urban oasis named in honor of 28 soldiers regarded as Panfilov Heroes. That is why it also features a war memorial. Admire the lush greenery, colorful flower beds, and serene ambiance.
Visit The Kazakh Museum Of Folk Musical Instruments
While visiting Zenkov’s Cathedral, you can also visit the Kazakh Museum Of Folk Musical Instruments, a golden treasure for music lovers.
This museum showcases an extensive collection of traditional Kazakh musical instruments, like Sazgen, Konyrau, Asatayak, Zhetigen, etc., each with its history and significance reflecting Kazakhstan’s deep-rooted nomadic culture.
The museum also hosts live musical performances, allowing visitors to see and hear the instruments in action, creating an immersive experience. It features thematic excursion programs and conducts master classes for everyone to learn folk instruments.
Essential Travel Tips
- Location: Kazakh Museum Of Folk Musical Instruments
- Timings: 10 AM to 7 PM (Tue to Sun), Closed on Monday
- Entry Fee: 500 Tenge for adults and reduced price for kids
- Explore the gift shop within the museum to purchase unique musical souvenirs to remember your visit.
Enjoy And Relax At The Arasan Baths
Get ready to relax your body at The Arasan Baths, a sanctuary where traditional massage techniques meet modern wellness.
Dating back to the 19th century, the bathhouses offer a variety of spa treatments, from traditional Turkish massage to detox sessions. You can even experience the conventional Russian Banya, where you slap your body with the branch of a local tree, Veniki. It has several health benefits like deep relaxation, improved blood circulation, etc. It will cost you around 2000 Tenge.
Relaxing at the Arasan Baths is the perfect pill to tackle jet lag and let your body recover from fatigue.
Essential Travel Tips
- Location: The Arasan Baths
- Timings: 7 AM to 11 PM (Whole week)
- Nearest metro stop: Zhibek Zholy
- Price: 1500 to 2000 Tenge per hour. The hour excludes 20-minute dressing time. 30 Tenge per minute for overtime.
Explore the A. Kasteyev State Museum of Arts
You can also add A. Kasteyev State Museum of Arts, one of the largest museums in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to your to-do list. It was established in 1935 with over 26000 artifacts, including sculptures, ceramics, paintings, and textiles for you to explore.
You can see the delicate works of Zeynelkhan Mukhamedzhan that are crafted using the Keste technique, a traditional crochet embroidery that was once considered lost.
There are also several exhibition halls and several educational and research spaces. Enter through the first hall, which serves as the entrance with an excellent viewpoint. There are several traditional decorative artifacts placed around the hall.
The central part of the museum houses some unique installations. The upper part suspends a Shanyark with Baskur motifs (patterned woven braid motifs), which resembles the upper part of Yurt.
The museum’s entire collection allows visitors to dive deeply into Kazakhstan’s history and culture.
Essential Travel Tips
- Location: A. Kasteyev State Museum of Arts
- Timings: 10 AM to 6 PM (Tue to Sun), Closed on Monday
- Nearest metro stop: Auezov Theatre Metro station, A ten-minute walk from the station to the museum
- Price: 500 Tenge for Adults, Free for preschool kids, World War 2 and labor veterans, and people with disabilities
- English guide price: 9000 Tenge per room. You can take an audio guide in English for 2000 Tenge
Take A History Lesson At The Central State Museum
Established in 1931, it is not only one of the oldest museums in Kazakhstan but also the largest one in Central Asia. Its comprehensive collection, spanning millennia of Kazakhstan’s history and culture, sets it apart.
The museum houses 300k objects, from ancient nomadic relics to contemporary art.
It is a vibrant cultural hub, hosting many engaging events, exhibitions, and educational programs, ensuring a dynamic and ever-evolving visitor experience. Besides this, Its architectural design, a fusion of Soviet and Kazakh styles, adds charm.
Essential Travel Tips
- Location: The Central State Museum
- Timings: 9 AM to 6 PM (Wed to Mon), Closed on Tuesday
- You can take a train from Auezov Theatre to reach Abay and then walk to the museum. The train departs every 10 minutes at the Auezov Theatre subway.
- Price: 500 Tenge for Adults with additional charges for the Hall of Anthropology (1000 Tenge), Hall of Cold Collection (1300 Tenge), and Hall of N.G. Khludov (1000 Tenge)
- Excursion service price (Group of 20 people): 2000 Tenge per academic hour in English.
Serene Escape at First President’s Park
The Presidential Park is a picturesque urban oasis in Almaty, blending nature, culture, and history. As the name suggests, it was named after the country’s First President, Nursultan Nazarbayev. The park was opened in November 2011 with a vibrant recreational space of around 1.5 km wide, and both ends are lined with beautiful trees and flowers.
A breathtaking backdrop of majestic snow-capped Tian Shan Mountains offers several perfect viewpoints to capture beautiful snaps with your loved ones.
I visited the park, and the beauty was surreal. The prime highlight of the park is the massive water fountain, which features a musical light show every hour, which we missed. Moreover, it also features open-air exhibitions, sculptures, and a beautiful artificial lake.
Tip: There is a tourist information center at the outset of the Presidential Park. If you need anything, the woman there is generous and helpful. We wanted to ride the scooter, but our cards weren’t working. She paid for it through hers, and we paid her in cash. Absolutely Grateful.
Beware: Please always put the location on the map and check if it’s accurate. The Yandex driver took us around and charged us almost triple of what it should have been. We didn’t let that ruin our mood, but this is something that happened to us more than just once.
Essential Travel Tips
- Location: First President’s Park
- Timings: 7 AM to 11 PM (Whole week)
- Price: No charge
- There are no shops in the park, so I advise you to carry food, snacks, and water bottles while visiting the place.
Hike To The Big Almaty Lake
Almaty Lake is a natural wonder nestled in the scenic Trans-Ili Alatau mountains. The pristine high-altitude lake, at 2,511 meters above sea level, is renowned for its clean turquoise waters.
The lake is busy on weekends, so I suggest visiting the lake on weekdays. The area surrounding the lake is the perfect for the adventure junkies to hike. It takes around 7-8 hours to reach, so starting early in the morning is best.
You cannot swim in the lake or camp nearby as it is a natural source of drinking water enriched with minerals. However, the journey to the lake through the picturesque Bolshaya Almatinka River valley is an experience.
During our time in Almaty, we tried to visit the lake, but it was closed down due to the construction of a dam, so we missed the trek. Also, on the way back, try to stop at Sunkar Raptor Falcon Sanctuary and enjoy a summer show with the Eagles.
The center conducts the show at 5 PM every week except Monday.
- Location: Big Almaty Lake
- Timings: The timings can vary with several factors, so it is advised to check with the locals before you visit the lake
- Price: 200 Tenge per person
- While hiking, carry your passport as the lake is close to the border, and guards may check your credentials.
Indulge In Winter Sports Action At Shymbulak Resort
Located 30 to 40 minutes from the city center of Almaty, Shymbulak is a ski resort that allows you to enjoy several adventurous winter sports. The resort’s diverse slopes cater to all skill levels.
The 3,200-meter Talgar Pass is where skiers and snowboarders relish panoramic views. For a unique touch, you can experience nighttime skiing under the stars.
The ski season starts in late November and lasts till March. You can rent all the required equipment near the resort entrance for the sport you wish to try.
Essential Travel Tips
- Official Website
- Location: Shymbulak Resort
- Timings: 9 AM to 6 PM (Whole Week)
- The resort offers year-round activities, so check the official website to plan the activities according to your vacation time.
- Choose slopes that match your skiing or snowboarding proficiency. Shymbulak has runs for all levels, from beginners to advanced. If you’re a novice, consider taking lessons from qualified instructors to enhance your skills and ensure a safer experience.
- The cold weather can be deceptive, and dehydration is expected at higher altitudes. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Go To Issyk Lake
Issyk Lake is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, crystal-clear waters, and a vivid turquoise hue reflecting the surrounding mountain peaks. In Kazakh, Issyk means hot, which can be a possible reference to nearby thermal springs that further add an element of relaxation to the experience.
It will take around 2 to 3 hours to reach the lake from the city via a cab.
You can take a shared cab from Sairan Bus Station in Almaty to Issyk village. After reaching the town, take a taxi to the main drop point of the lake. At the entrance, you can walk, rent a cycle, or cart to proceed. We rented two bicycles for 2000 Tenge to explore the lake.
It is surrounded by rich flora and fauna, and you can get an opportunity to see a mountain goat, Capsian red deer, and bear. If you are lucky, you can also glimpse a snow leopard.
Tip: If you want a more relaxed vacation, you can book a Yandex and talk to the driver to take you there off the app. While we didn’t do that, we spoke to one of the drivers who took us to Saty village, and he agreed to take us to Issyk in 35,000 tenge and stay there as long as we wanted to be there. It might sound like a lot, but it’s also a lot more flexible, relaxed, and not tiring.
The cab driver we hired for most of our Almaty trips was Aidar. He is a sweet, lovely guy who is ready for any adventure. You can contact him at +7 7477671990 and tell him you found us through Amit and Chhavi from India. You won’t regret!
Essential Travel Tips
- Location: Issyk Lake
- Timings: Open for the whole week
- Price: No entry fee
- The lake has an elevation of 1760 meters, so you should be mindful of altitude effects. Take it easy and stay hydrated during your trip to the lake.
Enjoy An Serene Retreat At Saty Village
Located in the Shilik Valley, just 60 Km from Charyn Canyon, the village is a perfect place to stay and explore nearby areas.
You can stay in cozy guesthouses or yurts, offering a unique blend of authenticity and comfort. There are no banks or ATMs in the village, so make sure you carry a lot of local currency in cash while traveling to the town.
Besides taking beautiful panoramas of mesmerizing views, you can enjoy traditional meals with locals or cook food. If you have some late-night cravings, you can visit Fortuna Cafe, which is open till 11:30 PM.
In short, whether you are exploring the surreal beauty of the Valley of Castles or stargazing under the vast Kazakh sky, staying in Saty Village offers a rejuvenating escape when you visit Almaty.
Essential Travel Tips
- Location: Saty Village
- You can take a bus or shared taxi from Almaty’s Sayran Bus Station or the Sayahat Bus Terminal heading to Charyn Canyon via Saty village. The journey will take around 4 to 5 hours, or you can hire a private taxi to take you to the town in 3 to 4 hours.
This is what happened to us: When we reached the Sayakhat Bus Terminal, it was under construction. There were no buses, and the shared cabs were nowhere to be seen. We kept going from point A to point B, and then C, and returned for as long as 1 hour.
A lady noticed us, came to us to understand our problem, took us to the right place, spoke to the driver, made sure we sat in the car and bid us goodbye. I didn’t think such helpful people existed on planet Earth anymore, but I met most of them in Kazakhstan-Uzebekistan.
This is where we met Aidar; he agreed to drop us at our guest house for 24,000 tenge. We could have waited more hours just to wait for people to come, but we decided to pay him for four seats and started our journey. On the way, we realized that once you start from Almaty to Saty, there is NO ATM. People from Saty village go to Almaty to withdraw money from banks. We had limited cash available after paying the 24,000 tenge.
Aidar came to our rescue. While the guest house we stayed at, “Aisha Guest House,” was great (thanks to the cat they have, and Aisha herself who was ready to help!), the owner (Aisha’s elder brother who manages the place) was hardly of any help for anything. If you ever visit Saty, I would not recommend this place unless you have your own car and want privacy++.
Anyway, getting back to our story. Aidar agreed to take us around Saty for three days and take money when he dropped us back to Almaty. This entire arrangement was agreed at 90,000 tenge, three days, morning to evening.
Admire The Beauty Of Kolsai Lakes 1 And 2
Referred as the crown jewel of the Northern Tien-Shan, the Kolsai Lakes form a natural oasis with mesmerizing natural beauty. They are a popular stop when you are set to explore Kazakhstan’s famous Golden Triangle on your vacation.
The three interconnected lakes are surrounded by lush coniferous forests and snow-capped peaks, creating a picturesque landscape. However, the third lake is currently out of bounds for tourists.
The pristine water of the lakes reflects the surrounding greenery and the blue sky, making it a perfect spot for nature enthusiasts and photographers.
The Kolsai lakes are 300 km away from Almaty city center. You can reach the first lake by car, and the entry fee for the lake is 2000 Tenge for two people. You can park the car and descend to the actual lake to explore it. You can go boating, rent a horse to explore the lake or spend some leisure time.
Horse rides will cost you 10000 Tenge for Kolsai Lake 1.
If you like adventure, you can hike up to Lake 2, 6 km above Lake 1. The altitude of Lake 2 is 2250 meters above sea level. It will take around five to six hours to hike up and down from Lake 2. If you want to rent a horse for hiking, it will cost 20,000-30,000 Tenge per person.
When you go hiking, the guards will keep your passport on the way so you don’t cross over to Kyrgyzstan. By evening, you can prepare to return to your accommodation as there are limited options to stay near the lakes.
Essential Travel Tips
- Location: Kolsai Lakes
- Price: 2000 Tenge entry fee for two people
- Make sure to carry supplies if you want to camp near Lakes 1 and 2, with limited food options. Also, take a warm sleeping bag.
Info: If you have the time, I recommend going to Kolsai 2. We were short on cash for a horse ride and didn’t have enough time to hike back (approx 6-7 hours).
Enjoy A Picturesque Scene At Kaindy Lake
In 1911, an earthquake ripped through the Tian Shan Mountain, resulting in a landslide that created a natural dam. The meltdown from the glacier could not flow down, and thus, the Kaindy Lake was formed. The rainwater collected in the lake sank the old Shrenk spruce trees.
The roots of the trees drowned in the water, but their top halves remained above the water, which created a scene of ghostly ship masts or giant spears coming out of the water. The clear water of the mountain allows you to see deep into the sea.
The Kaindy Lake is around 320+ Km away from Almaty. The roads are not in good condition, and you must cross river streams in your car. The locals and guide will tell you to 4X4, but we took an Innova car (thanks to Aidar again). He spoke to his friends, but everyone quoted a bit too much. He finally asked us if we’re ready for the adventure, we were on. The ride was slow and long, but we did reach the lake. 4X4 is more comfortable and faster with the most mesmerising views to cherish (we would have missed that in the scooby-doo buses that run there!).
The taxi will drop you at a point where you can proceed by walking on foot, taking another 4X4, or renting a horse.
We took horses by paying 12,000 Tenge for two people. The horses are trained, so don’t get scared even if the guides leave you. The horses will drop you and comfortably get you back to the starting point.
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Essential Travel Tips
- Location: Kaindy Lake
- Price: 750 Tenge entry fee per person
Explore The Breathtaking Canyons
Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan’s natural wonder, mesmerizes with its vibrant hues and dramatic rock formations, earning it the nickname “Valley of Castles.” The Charyn River carved it over millions of years.
When you arrive, you will be stunned by the vast 150-meter-deep canyon. You can start exploring the canyon from the parking space itself.
After exploring Charyn Canyon, you can move to Lunar Canyon, also called Yellow Canyon. It is a segment of the Charyn and gets its name from unique rock formations, rugged terrain, and jagged cliffs. There is a picnic spot by the river to relax with your family.
At last, you can end your journey of exploring the canyons by visiting the Black Canyon. The raw beauty of nature provides a thrilling escape for hikers and photographers. The canyon’s dark granite walls showcase a dramatic interplay of light and shadow. It is the perfect spot to click beautiful snaps and capture vacation memories.
Here are a few photos
Essential Travel Tips
- Always bring plenty of snacks and drinks, as canyons can get hot, especially in summer. Also, bring a hat or umbrella to protect yourself from harsh sunlight.
Tip: When you get down the stairs, there is a jeep of sorts taking people till the river (end point of the canyon). You can take that for 500 tenge. We walked to the end point, and took a jeep back. It was perfect.
Explore Altyn-Emel National Park: A Kazakh Treasure
Located in southeastern Kazakhstan, Altyn-Emel National Park is a reserve known for its rich flora, fauna, and mesmerizing beauty. There is a stunning variety of landscapes, including vast steppes, desert dunes, and the striking Katutau and Aktau mountain ranges. The colorful sedimentary mountains create a surreal and photogenic backdrop to capture beautiful snaps.
The park is 176 Km away from the Almaty city center. You have to rent a car to reach the location.
There are two entrances to the park, namely eastern and western. You can access the park through the east entrance by passing through the Basshi village that hosts the park’s headquarters, where you can get all the permits. Alternatively, you can access Katutau, Aktau, and the Singing Sand Dune through this entrance easily.
If you are accessing the park through the western entrance, you must get all the permits from Almaty’s main headquarters. You have to pass through Shengeldy village to access it.
Altyn-Emel is famous for the Singing Dunes, a natural phenomenon where the sand emits a musical sound, particularly during dry weather.
Moreover, the park offers opportunities to experience traditional Kazakh falconry. Visitors can witness skilled hunters, the golden eagles, in action, showcasing an age-old nomadic tradition.
Essential Travel Tips
- Location: Altyn-Emel National Park
- Timings: Open 24 hours for the whole week
- Price: 800 Tenge entry fee per person for a single place. Check the official website for all information on prices.
- Consider hiring a local guide to enhance your understanding of the park’s diverse ecosystems, history, and cultural significance. You can get a guide for the whole day for 1000 Tenge.
Where to stay in Almaty
We stayed at the hostel for a night by booking a private bedroom. The setting was clean, with a working kitchen and shared bathroom. The staff was friendly and welcoming. It is within walking distance of Zenkov’s Cathedral. There is free Wi-Fi, too. You can check the location here.
The famous hotel offers stylish rooms with stunning views of the Almaty city and Ile-Alatau Mountain. The hotel is located on Dostyk Avenue, allowing you to access the city center without any trouble.
Colorful Studio “FRIDA KAHLO”
We stayed in this Airbnb, which offered a cozy place to stay. You will get a bedroom with two beds and one bathroom. There is Wi-Fi, a dedicated workspace, and free parking.
Tip: Do not stay in AirBnB’s. It was a great place, with a great host, but in a country with a language barrier, you are better off with a place with a reception and someone available to help 24*7. If you do pick this place (which is beautiful and so comfy), try out &Milk cafe. We had breakfast there, and it was yum yum!
If you are looking for budget-friendly accommodation in the heart of Almaty, you can opt for Ambassador. The accommodation offers spacious and comfortable rooms at cost-effective prices.
Renion Park Hotel
The hotel is near the Golden Square of Almaty city, just 6 minutes from Ascension Cathedral. Offering beautiful city views, visitors can enjoy private parking, an indoor pool, a sauna, and a fitness center. There is free Wi-Fi and airport transportation service, too.
Weather in Almaty
Almaty experiences different seasons throughout the year but offers various attractions depending upon your time of visit.
The best time to visit Almaty for sightseeing and exploring the region is early May to early November. During this time in Almaty, the weather is pleasant and welcoming.
We visited Almaty in the first 15 days of October and only required a jacket at night. The weather was pleasant for day tours and exploring the attractions.
The winter season starts in December and ends in February. It is the perfect time for adventure lovers to enjoy ice skating, snowboarding, and skiing. However, you must be prepared for the harsh winter weather in the region.
Budget For 6 Days in Almaty
We had broken our trip in a way where we came to Almaty twice. The first time we landed in Kazakhstan was in Almaty, so we stayed for one night and almost 6 PM till the next day (before we left for Shymkent). After a few days, we returned to Almaty and directly went to Saty village. I stayed for two nights, came to Almaty, and stayed there for almost two days (on the second day, we had a flight back post-midnight).
So, we had a total of 6 days to explore Almaty and Saty.
Here is the breakup of our trip:
- Airfare for 2 (from India) – $580
- Frida Kahlo for a night – $70
- Aisha Guest House (2 nights) – $61
- Wanderlust hostel – $28 + $14 (to let us stay for the day past the checkout time the next day)
- Cab costs for city transport for all days – $40 (and this is a bit much because we had to pay more because of wrong drop-offs)
- Cab costs to drop to Saty – $52
- Hire Aidar’s private car for Saty and Issyk Village (total 3 days) – $271
- Airport transfers – $11
- Food on average – $100 (including 2 bottles of vodka)
- Entry fees and extra – $100
- Sim – $7.6
Total = Approx $1335 (it can be a lot less if you do not hire private transfers for Saty)
How To Get Around and To Almaty, Kazakhstan
The Almaty International Airport is just 15 km from the city center. You can find cheap options on Skyscanner and Kiwi platforms. Set an alert for lower fares and book when you feel the price fits your budget.
Trains allow you to explore Kazakhstan while meeting new people. However, they are slow and time-consuming modes of transport. So, avoid them if you have limited time to explore the region. You can check out this website to book the trains. I have used it personally to book tickets to Shymkent and to Tashkent.
The best way to explore and get around Almaty is through cars. You can opt for Rentalcars and Hertz platform to explore the rental options. However, the price will differ for regions within and outside the city.
Saty, Altyn Emel National Park, and Canyons are outside the city, so you must pay extra. There will be an additional charge if you have to cross borders to Kyrgyzstan. Moreover, most of the places require 4X4 to reach them comfortably. If you are interested in hiring cabs, use the Yandex app or platform.
Recommendations For Visiting Almaty, Kazakhstan Safely And Comfortably
Here are some tips I share from our time in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
- Use a translation app to connect with locals and reduce the communication barrier. I relied on the translate app on my iPhone.
- Download the Yandex app on your smartphone before you leave the city.
- Opt for a local sim to avoid any international roaming charges. I still have my Kazakh SIM in Delhi, and it is working with 22GB of internet data remaining in it. Try to get it from the airport because it can get tricky outside of that. You need a Kazakh bank account to recharge, and you must find a MAXIM store; there is no other way. We met a few Indian students there who paid for us, activated the sim, and we settled in cash. It took as long as 3 hours to get this sorted.
- Book accommodation near the famous attraction of the city. You will be able to explore them easily without any trouble.
- When booking accommodation in Almaty, try to opt for hotels and B&Bs over Airbnb. While hotels and B&Bs offer the reassurance of on-site staff to address any concerns, Airbnb may not always provide such immediate support.
- Make friends with local taxi drivers and fix a price for a location far from the city center. You can call the driver anytime you want to go somewhere and even save some bucks.
- If you travel by train, book your tickets in advance as they are filled out pretty quickly.
- You can use your debit cards to withdraw money at the bank, as they offer a reasonable conversion rate.
- If you have more time, club at least 1 or 2 neighboring central Asian countries to the travel plan.
- Learn some essential Russian words to communicate with locals
- Ticket counter: Kassa
- Hello: Salom
- Thank You: Rah-mat
- No: Nyet
- Girl: Devochka
- Water: Va-da
- Chicken: KUritsa
- Meat: Myaso
- Veg: ovoshchnaya yeda
Things to know about Almaty
Is Almaty in Russia?
No, Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan, an independent country. Formerly, Almaty was the capital of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic from 1929 to 1991 and even remained its capital after becoming Kazakhstan from 1991 to 97.
Why is Almaty famous?
Almaty is renowned for being the city of Apple trees. Besides that, the idyllic natural beauty is truly mesmerizing. It is also well-known for being the “Golden Triangle” of Kazakhstan, owing to its three exquisite natural attractions – the Kolsai Lakes, Altyn-Emel National Park, and Charyn Canyon.
What is Special About Almaty, Kazakhstan?
Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, is highly multi-cultural and has 131 ethnicities. Besides that, it is the most beautiful city with the backdrop of the Tien Shan Mountain ranges (that remain snow-covered in scorching heat as well). The city has wide tree-lined streets with orchards and well-maintained parks. Many people describe Almaty as a majestic city with amazing scenic views that are full of surprises.
Do You Need a Visa to Visit Almaty?
Yes and no, It will depend on which country you are traveling from.
Recently, Kazakhstan has opened gates for visa-free travel for Indian citizens for about 14 days, which is excellent news for Indian travelers looking for a unique travel experience in Almaty.
Is Almaty Safe to Visit Now?
Yes, Almaty is safe to visit with relatively cheap accommodation and food costs. You can travel comfortably with a budget of $20-21 per person daily if you don’t go on tours. Also, a meal for two people at a decent restaurant can cost nearly $27.
Can You Drink the Water in Almaty?
While Almaty has numerous tap water spots owing to its excellent water treatment system, it is best to avoid it and rely on only bottled water. This will reduce your chances of getting any stomach ailments. So, you must stay hydrated with bottled water.
Do People Speak English in Almaty?
No, most people only speak Kazakh or Russian in Almaty. Although the hospitality staff in hotels and restaurants may know English, the locals don’t know English at all. During our time in Almaty, Kazakhstan, we faced many language issues and kept the translation app handy to avoid inconvenience.
Can Americans Drive in Kazakhstan?
All tourists of America or any other nationality require an IDP (International Driving Permit) to drive any two-wheeler or 4-wheeler in Kazakhstan. So, you need to carry both your driver’s license and an International Driving Permit for hassle-free driving in Kazakhstan.
How is Almaty for Tourists?
Almaty is greener, beautiful, and friendly to the tourists.
Almaty, the oldest city in Kazakhstan, beckons tourists with its serene tranquility and breathtaking natural beauty, offering a respite from the stresses of everyday life.
Does Almaty Have A Beach?
Kazakhstan is a landlocked country, but there is Balkhash Beach is the nearest beach to Almaty (It’s a lake). It is perfect for your fishing endeavors and serene beach experience. Alternatively, you can visit the many lakes near Almaty city like the Big Almaty Lake. You will find spectacular views there even though you can’t get closer.
Time in Almaty, Kazakhstan
Since the USA covers multiple time zones, you may have to check online for your specific destination in the US. Almaty generally has a time difference of 10 hours ahead of Washington in DC, USA.
Almaty, Kazakhstan, has a time difference of 30 minutes ahead of India. This means when it is 12:00 pm in India, the time in Almaty will be 12:30 pm on the same day.
Where is Kazakhstan?
Kazakhstan is a country located in Central Asia. Europe surrounds it on the western end, Russia on the northern and north-western end, China on the eastern end, and Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan on the southwestern end.
Things to buy in Almaty
Some things are a must-buy to cherish Kazakh’s culture and as souvenirs :
- Almaty is known for its premium-quality dried fruits, spices, and nuts. Buy raisins, apricots, cherries, apples, mulberries, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios.
- Buy freshly prepared jams and cookies.
- Kazakhstan’s chocolates use the finest cacao beans to exhibit a unique taste.
- Kazakh ethnic carpets are hand-woven using silk and wool to provide intricate details that make them an exquisite purchase item.
- Kurt is a great sour milk product that stays long and helps handle extreme conditions and heat without hassle.
- Felt products like vests, slippers, and jackets
- Yurts can also be bought.
- Magnets (FYI – those are available only on stations, so if you see one, grab it)
Ready To Visit Almaty?
Almaty is a city that has something to offer everyone. From its stunning natural beauty to its rich cultural heritage, Almaty is a place that will stay with you long after you leave. Whether looking for an adventure-filled vacation or a relaxing getaway, Almaty is the perfect destination.