Places in Kazakhstan
Camel stop
Pin This
Open Media Gallery

Camel stop

© Creative Commons / Irene2005

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 Olzhas Bektenov since 2024.

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

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Kazakhstan set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Kazakh Embassy in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Kazakhstan.

Passport validity requirements

To enter Kazakhstan, your passport must be valid for at least 30 days from the date you arrive.

If you have a visa, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 3 months after your visa’s expiry date and at least one blank page

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.  

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen. 

Kazakh-British dual nationality

Kazakhstan does not recognise dual nationality. If you are found to have a Kazakh passport and another passport, you will be fined and your Kazakh citizenship will be withdrawn.

Visa requirements

You can visit Kazakhstan without a visa for up to 30 days. You can make as many visa-free visits as you like, but you must not stay more than 90 days without a visa in any 180-day period.

To stay longer (to work or study, for business travel or for other reasons), you must meet the Kazakh Government’s entry requirements. Check which type of visa or work permit you need with the Kazakh Embassy in the UK. Also see visa information from Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  

Check the validity dates of your visa and any restrictions before you travel.

Applying for a visa

You can apply for a visa from the Kazakhstan government’s visa website.   

From 1 January 2024, British nationals who apply for a visa or residency in Kazakhstan will be required to submit biometrics (fingerprints) as part of the application process.

Registering with the Kazakh authorities

Your hotel or the person hosting you must register your arrival with the Kazakh authorities. They must do this within 3 working days of your arrival in Kazakhstan. They can register you online. The visa-migration portal has more details.  

Travelling overland between Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus

Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus are in a single customs union. If you want to travel overland in your own vehicle between these countries, make sure your customs declaration and temporary import licence are valid for your whole stay in all 3 countries. You can extend the import licence for up to one year by contacting the customs authorities in any of the countries.

Vaccination requirements

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Kazakhstan guide.

Depending on your circumstances, this may include a yellow fever certificate.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Kazakhstan. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.  

Taking money into Kazakhstan

There are limits on how much foreign currency you can bring to Kazakhstan or take with you when you leave. For further information visit the State Revenue Department if you have specific questions.

Terrorism

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.

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 how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Kazakhstan

Terrorist attacks in Kazakhstan cannot be ruled out.

Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Be alert for any security related announcements by the Kazakh authorities.

Political situation

Public demonstrations are only permitted when authorised by the Kazakh authorities in advance. Occasional unauthorised small-scale public protests take place. This may put participants at risk of arrest. Avoid any demonstrations or political gatherings. If you become aware of any nearby violence or disturbance, leave the area immediately.

Crime

Robbery and violent crime

There have been violent thefts in expatriate communities in Atyrau and Aktau in western Kazakhstan and in Astana and Almaty. This happens mainly at night in and around local nightclubs and bars or when arriving home late at night. Robberies are uncommon in cities and rural areas but do happen.

Avoid walking alone and pre-arrange your transport. Do not use unofficial taxis or a taxi already occupied by a passenger. You should agree the price of your journey, or book the taxi via an app where you can see the price.

Protecting your belongings

Pickpocketing is very common in crowded places such as markets and on public transport. Criminals may target foreigners as they are assumed to be carrying valuable items. Keep valuables in a safe place and out of public view.

Thieves may target luggage on trains. Always lock your railway compartment on an overnight train.

Scams  

Beware of internet scams. Scammers may target you on dating apps or on visa-related websites.

Make sure you know the arrangements for you being met at the airport, and make sure the person is who they say they are.     

Drink and food spiking and sexual assault    

Drink spiking can happen in nightclubs and bars. Alcohol and drugs can reduce your vigilance, making you less in control.

Attacks, including sexual assaults, do occur. Avoid splitting up from your friends, do not leave drinks unattended and do not go off with people you do not know. Save the location of your accommodation on your maps app, so it’s easy to find. See TravelAware ‘Stick with your mates’ for tips and advice.

Laws and cultural differences

Kazakhstan has a secular constitution, but you should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times.

Be careful how you use social media. Take care of the context in which you use images so that they do not offend. Take particular care with any images that show the Kazakh flag. 

Personal ID

Carry original ID such as your driving licence or passport at all times. Police patrolling the streets may ask for your ID, and copies are not acceptable. You will be need to show your original ID to enter state buildings.

Ramadan    

Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims. The dates vary by year and country. In 2024, Ramadan will start 10 March and end 8 April. Cafés and restaurants may amend their menus, and be busy around fast-breaking (‘Iftar’). Areas around mosques are also likely to be busy around prayer times. Take particular care not to offend religious sensitivities at this time.

Alcohol laws and bans    

Shops are not allowed to sell alcohol between 11pm and 8am. Alcoholic drinks which have an alcohol content level of more than 30% cannot be sold between 9pm and 12 noon. Bars, restaurants and cafés are not affected by this.

If you are found drunk on the street by the police, they can take you to the police station, check your ID, issue you with a fine or detain you in a police cell overnight.

Smoking and e-cigarette bans 

Smoking including e-cigarettes is illegal in and near to:

  • schools and playgrounds
  • healthcare facilities
  • public places - museums, libraries, cinemas, sport centres, public transport, nightclubs, airports, rail stations, underpasses
  • cars with children travelling

The fine for smoking in an unauthorised place is around £90, and can be more if it’s a repeat offence. 

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

If you possess or use illegal drugs, you could face a lengthy prison sentence, including:

  • possession, manufacturing of drugs with distribution purposes – 5 to 10 years
  • possession, manufacturing of drug with distribution purposes in large amounts – 6 to 12 years
  • advertising drugs – fine or up to 3 years imprisonment

Prison conditions are basic.

Using cameras and sharing images

It is illegal to take photographs of or near military sites, border areas, airports and some official buildings. There may not be any signs warning about these restrictions. Some large shops and supermarkets do not allow photography.

Do not share or publish images that could be disrespectful to religion or culture, or national symbols. If you share or publish such images, you could get a fine or short detention depending on the situation.

LGBT+ travellers

Although same-sex relationships are not illegal, they are often not tolerated, especially outside of the major cities across the country.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Wildlife, animal products and souvenirs 

You are not allowed to export:

  • art or antiques that have historical, cultural or scientific value
  • gold, precious stones, rare minerals
  • rare specimens of flora or animals

Take local expert advice.

Bringing drones into Kazakhstan

You can bring a drone to Kazakhstan without a licence. However, you must have a licence to use one. You risk a fine, detention and the confiscation of your drone if you do not have a licence. Apply for a drone licence from the Civil Aviation Committee. You should include technical characteristics of the drone and details of planned use (when, where and how long). See local regulations on drone licensing requirements (in Russian).

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Kazakhstan, see information on driving abroad and Kazakhstan’s rules of the road (in Russian).

You need a 1968 international driving permit (IDP) to drive in Kazakhstan. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel. You can buy an IDP in person from some UK post offices – find your nearest post office branch that offers this service.

The minimum legal age for driving is 16 for motorbikes and 18 for cars.

Hire car companies often have stricter requirements for their customers, such as a year of driving experience, a higher minimum age and holding an IDP.

Driving standards

Driving standards can be erratic. Many cars are not safely maintained and do not have rear seatbelts.

Many roads are poorly maintained. Roadworks and damaged roads are often not signposted. In remote rural areas, there are often stray animals on the roads. In winter, roads can be hazardous due to snow or ice.

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

Traffic police officers should provide you with official papers related to any alleged offence. 

Closed areas

The following areas are closed to visitors unless you have received prior permission from the Foreign Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the Kazakh National Security Committee:

  • Gvardeyskiy village in the Almaty region of south eastern Kazakhstan
  • the town of Baikonur
  • the districts of Karmakchi and Kazalinsk in the southern Kyzylorda region

Border crossings

Officials may close the border crossing points at short notice.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

See further information about how to be prepared for extreme weather and natural hazards.

Forest fires    

Forest fires affected east Kazakhstan in 2023. Regions in the Kazakh steppe can also be affected by grass fires. Take local advice.

Flooding and mudslides

Mudslides and landslides can occur in the mountain areas of south-east Kazakhstan.

Earthquakes 

Kazakhstan has several areas which are at high risk of earthquakes. Almaty is in an active seismic zone. 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.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Dial 103 and ask for an ambulance. The operator answering may not speak English.

Contact your insurance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccinations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip check:

Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Kazakhstan. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.

Medication

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Make sure you have enough medication to cover your trip.

Basic medications such as aspirin are available without a prescription. For prescription medication you will need a valid prescription either from a local doctor or your UK prescription translated into Kazakh or Russian. Medications often come under different brand names, so ask for the drug’s generic name. If they are not available locally, it may be possible to get drugs to be couriered through a private clinic, for example, International SOS clinic.

Healthcare facilities in Kazakhstan

The medical facilities in Kazakhstan are not as advanced as in the UK. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of medical treatment or evacuation by air ambulance and repatriation. Medical personnel do not typically speak English.

FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Kazakhstan.

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Kazakhstan.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Kazakhstan

Ambulance: 103

Fire: 101

Police:102

Emergency and rescue service: 112 

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including: 

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Kazakhstan and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Astana.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

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.