Places in Kazakhstan
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Kazakhstan Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

2,724,900 sq km (1,052,089 sq miles).

Population

17,855,384 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

6.7 per sq km.

Capital

Astana.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Kasymzhomart Tokayev since 2019.

Head of government

Prime Minister Askar Mamin since 2019.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are standard.

Unexplored by many, Kazakhstan is a curious yet little-known land of vast plains, mountainous horizons and beautiful culture. Bordering Russia in Central Asia, it's truly massive in size – this is, after all, ranked as the world's ninth biggest country. It's also the most economically successful of those countries surrounding it, known fondly as the 'stans'. This is largely thanks to oil reserves, as well as other natural resources. The upshot? You can expect more modern, higher-quality hotels, restaurants and travel options compared to some of the country's poorer neighbours.

South Kazakhstan is a focus of Central Asian history, featuring many famous monuments. It is a scenically diverse region where the snow-capped peaks, lakes and glaciers of the Tian Shan range give way to steppe and desert. The desert is home to the Singing Barkhan - a sand dune 3.2km (2 miles) long, which, as it crumbles, produces a peculiar singing sound.

Almaty was until very recently the former capital of Kazakhstan and it enjoys a beautiful setting between mountains and plains. Still the country's biggest city, it is a hub of modern architecture, cool fountains, parks and spectacular mountain views. You can also expect irreverent nightspots, trendy cafes, and palatial malls there. The present capital of Nur-Sultan (Astana) is following in its predecessor's footsteps as a modern metropolis, with its space-age buildings clinging to the northern steppe.

The truth is, though, that travellers are more likely to be attracted to Kazakhstan's natural wonders. It's a beautiful country in its own haunting way, where intrepid travellers will enjoy hiking through the lofty mountains and down in the valleys of the Tian Shan. Its sparseness can seem mind-boggling, but you'll find plenty of wildlife if you look for it, especially in the lake-strewn steppe. It's also worth seeking out the underground mosques and villages that are scattered about the land. All in all, Kazakhstan is a special, unique country well worth discovering despite it being low on the radar of most tourists.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Kazakhstan on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

Commercial flights to and from Kazakhstan remain very limited. Check with your travel company for the latest information.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Kazakhstan.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. You should contact local authorities for information on testing facilities (available in Russian only). You should check that the test result can be provided in the correct format and language.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Kazakhstan

There are a few local restrictions and localised lockdowns in place; you must wear a face covering in public spaces, including in vehicles. Breaches of regulations can result in fines or eventually imprisonment.

Accommodation

Most hotels are open, although some close at short notice due to low demand.

Public places and services

Some quarantine restrictions remain in place, particularly at weekends when many retail and hospitality outlets are closed. Local regulations, including wearing of face masks, should be observed at all times.

Healthcare in Kazakhstan

As advised by local authorities anyone who has symptoms similar to COVID-19 should not go to the hospital, instead you should call the ambulance 103 or the hospital you’re registered with clearly explaining the symptoms. In most parts of the country COVID-19 infected patients are not hospitalised unless severe danger to health, but in Almaty anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 may be hospitalised.

For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health

View Health for further details on healthcare in Kazakhstan

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Kazakhstan

We will update this page when the Government of Kazakhstan announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

The Kazakhstan national vaccine programme started in February 2021 and is using the Sputnik V, Qazvac, Coronavac and Hayat vaccines. The Government of Kazakhstan has stated that British nationals resident in Kazakhstan are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme. Further information on the vaccination programme is available on the Government of Kazakhstan Ministry of Health website

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad page.

If you’re a British national living in Kazakhstan, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Crime

Most visits are trouble-free. However, mugging and theft occur in cities and rural areas. Foreigners can be targeted.

There have been a number of violent attacks and muggings on the expatriate community in Atyrau and Aktau in western Kazakhstan, and in Nur-Sultan and Almaty. Attacks have largely taken place at night, in and around local nightclubs and bars or when arriving at home late at night, as the majority of apartment buildings have dark stairwells and no lifts. Avoid walking alone and where possible pre-arrange transport. Keep valuables in a safe place and out of public view. Avoid travelling in unofficial taxis, particularly at night and alone, or if there is another passenger already in the car.

Robberies have occurred on trains, so always lock railway compartments on overnight trains.

Passenger lists on aircraft are not always kept confidential. There have been instances of people being met from an aircraft by someone using their name and then being robbed.

Local travel

Closed areas

The following areas of Kazakhstan are closed to visitors unless prior permission has been received from the Foreign Ministry and the Interior Ministry, with the agreement of the Kazakh National Security Committee:

  • the Gvardeyskiy urban-type village in Almaty region (south eastern Kazakhstan) 
  • the town of Baykonur
  • the districts of Karmakchi and Kazalinsk in southern Kyzylorda region

Borders

Do not cross the border into or out of Kazakhstan illegally.

Most land borders are currently closed to foreign nationals due to Coronavirus restrictions.

Road travel

If you wish to drive in Kazakhstan you should apply for a 1968 International Driving Permit (IDP). 1949 IDPs previously issued by the UK may no longer be accepted in Kazakhstan. You can get IDPs over the counter from most UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.

Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus are a single Customs Union so if you’re planning to travel overland in your own vehicle make sure your customs declaration and temporary import licence are valid for the entire period of stay in all three countries. Your import licence can be extended for up to a year if necessary by contacting the customs authorities in any of the three countries.

Service stations are limited outside the main cities. Make sure you take all you need for your journey including water. Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained and in good condition for lengthy journeys.

Many roads are poorly maintained and road works or damaged roads are often not clearly signposted. Driving standards can be erratic. In some remote areas there are often stray animals on the roads. These are especially difficult to see in the dark. In winter, roads can become hazardous due to snow and ice.

Local traffic police only have the right to stop vehicles if an offence has been committed, but you should obey any request from the police to stop. The police officer should complete official papers relating to any alleged offence.

Many cars are not safely maintained and do not have rear seatbelts.

Take care when crossing roads as pedestrian crossings are rarely respected.

Air travel

The FCDO cannot offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation has carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Kazakhstan.

Following a relaxation in the coronavirus lockdown restrictions, flights resumed between most major cities on 1 May.

On 27 December 2019, an internal flight operated by the carrier ‘Bek Air’ crashed in Almaty, killing a number of people. Kazakhstan’s civil aviation authority has suspended the company’s licence. A list of further incidents and accidents in Kazakhstan can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

Local airlines do not always run to flight schedule. Check your actual departure or arrival time in advance. Keep hold of your baggage tags, as you will need to show them when you leave the airport.

Political situation

Public demonstrations are only permitted when authorised in advance. Unauthorised small-scale public protests do take place occasionally, in contravention of local law, putting participants at risk of arrest. You should avoid any demonstrations or political gatherings. If you become aware of any nearby violence you should leave the area immediately.

Terrorist attacks in Kazakhstan can not be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Be alert to any security-related announcements by the Kazakh authorities. If in any doubt, keep in touch with the British Embassy in Nur-Sultan.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Kazakhstan has a secular constitution. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs.

Possession and use of drugs is illegal; if found guilty, you could face a lengthy prison sentence in basic conditions.

Although homosexuality is not illegal, it is often not tolerated, especially outside the major cities. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

You must carry your passport at all times (not a photocopy).

There are restrictions on photography near military establishments, border areas and some official buildings. Notices about these restrictions are not always indicated. Photographing airport facilities is prohibited. Many of the larger shops and supermarkets also prohibit photography.

You can import a drone into Kazakhstan at airports or land border crossings without a licence. However, unlicensed use of drones in Kazakhstan will attract a fine, detention and confiscation of equipment. You can get a licence to use a drone from the Aviation Committee in Nur-Sultan. Applications for licences should include technical characteristics of the drone and details of planned use (when, where, how long). You can find more information about licensing requirements on the Zakon.kz website (information portal of the Republic of Kazakhstan) (only in Russian).

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to Kazakhstan

Most foreign nationals, including those from the UK, are currently prevented from travelling to Kazakhstan. For details of exceptions please see the government of Kazakhstan website

Testing / screening on arrival

Travellers need to show a coronavirus free certificate issued within three days of arrival.

If you need further information about entry requirements, contact the local immigration authorities or the nearest Kazakh embassy. You should also check with your airline or travel company for the latest information.

Quarantine requirements

Travellers entering Kazakhstan who test positive for coronavirus currently need to self-isolate for 14 days. Those needing medical assistance may be confined in state facilities.

Data collection

Travellers need to provide details of where they are staying in Kazakhstan and to confirm they will abide by all coronavirus restrictions.

Testing on departure

Travellers will be screened by having their temperature taken and assessed for other coronavirus symptoms on departure from Kazakhstan.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

A visa is needed to enter Kazakhstan. This is a recent change, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

You should contact your nearest Kazakh Embassy for further information.

Make sure you have the right visa for the purpose of your travel, especially for business visas or work permits. Check the validity dates of your visa and any associated restrictions carefully before you travel.

Anyone who has overstayed their visa needs to apply to the local migration service for an extension and may have to pay a fine.

Registration

As of 10 January 2020, it is the responsibility of the host person or hotel to notify immigration authorities of a foreigner’s arrival. The notification should be made within three working days from the date of the guest’s arrival in country and can be done online on the Visa and Migration portal or in writing to the Migration Service.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of three months beyond the expiry date of your visa. Your passport should also have at least 1 blank page for your visa.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry (together with a valid visa), airside transit and exit from Kazakhstan. If using an ETD to leave Kazakhstan, you may need to get an exit visa from the Migration Service (formerly the OVIR). This process can take five working days or longer. Check with the Migration Service for more information before confirming your travel plans.

Dual nationality

Dual nationality isn’t recognised in Kazakhstan. If you enter Kazakhstan on a Kazakh passport and also hold British nationality the British Embassy can only provide very limited consular assistance. In cases of arrest or detention, consular access is unlikely to be granted.

Customs

The government of Kazakhstan imposes limits on how much foreign currency can be imported or exported, and certain goods are subject to custom regulations. For further information please visit the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Kazakhstan on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Kazakhstan.

At least eight weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate
of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Healthcare

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 103 and ask for an ambulance, although the emergency services operators only speak Kazakh or Russian and waiting times for ambulances can be lengthy. If possible it is often quicker to take a taxi to the hospital. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

There is no reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and Kazakhstan.

The medical facilities in Kazakhstan are not as advanced as those in the UK. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad, evacuation by air ambulance and repatriation.

It is not common for medical personnel in Kazakhstan to speak English. View guidance on medical facilities in Kazakhstan for a list of English-speaking doctors.

Pharmacies and chemists are widely available in Kazakhstan and some remain open 24/7. They are often marked by a red or green cross.

Basic medications (aspirin etc.) are available without a prescription. For prescription medication you will need to present a valid prescription either from a local doctor or your doctor in the UK. Pharmacies will often accept prescriptions from the UK. You may need to get your UK prescription translated into Russian or Kazakh. Make sure you have adequate medication to cover your trip.

Some prescription medicines used in the UK are not widely available in Kazakhstan. Your local doctor or pharmacy is best placed to advise on availability of specific medications. Medications are often supplied under different brand names in Kazakhstan so it is important to ask for the generic name of the relevant drug. If your prescription medication is not available locally, it may be possible to get supplies couriered from abroad through some private clinics.

Health risks

There are regular outbreaks of haemorrhagic fever (a tick-borne disease) in southern Kazakhstan in spring and summer, which have caused deaths.

There are reports of lead pollution in the southern city of Shymkent and immediately surrounding areas.

Almaty is in an active seismic zone, but the last major earthquake involving loss of life was in 1927. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the FCDO in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can not provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can not offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can not find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.