Kazakhstan is the largest Central Asian state, bordering with Russia, China and the Central Asian countries of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. It is the world’s ninth biggest country by size, and more than twice the size of all the other Central Asian states combined. Many tourists avoid going to Kazakhstan due to its lack of significant historical and culture sites and the presence of its endless featureless steppe, while there still are many that are captivated by its vast emptiness and mystery.
Kazakhstan is the richest country in Central Asia, because of its large oil and natural gas reserves and it is also the largest landlocked country in the world. Since it is so rich, Kazakhstan is relatively stable and safe for tourists, although their safety could vary from very safe to relatively safe throughout the country, depending on the area.
Warnings & Dangers in Kazakhstan
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Overall, it is relatively safe to go to Kazakhstan, but you should be aware of dangerous areas to avoid and stay vigilant at all times for any possible dangers.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Transportation isn't very safe in Kazakhstan. There is a risk of criminals and thieves roaming around trains, and there are, of course, unlicensed taxi drivers trying to extort money from solo travelers. Also, be wary of individuals acting as your drive at airports and then, once in the vehicle, taking you somewhere else and robbing you.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
Pickpocketing exists in Kazakhstan, and carrying expensive personal belongings such as phones, laptops, jewelry and watches can only draw unwanted attention from pickpockets and thieves. Avoid this and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
There is a variety of natural disasters that represent a threat to Kazakhstan, including earthquakes, floods, mudflows, avalanches, landslides and landfalls, as well as flooding of the coastal areas where Kazakhstan meets the Caspian Sea. Approximately 75% of the country is exposed to a risk of different types of natural disasters.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
Mugging is an issue in Kazakhstan, it only depends on where you are. In some cities such as Taraz, Balkhash, Shymkent, Taldykorgan, Uralsk, Semey and Ust-Kamenogorsk, it is a rare occurrence although infrequent muggings do occur, and in places like Shar, Stepnogorsk, and Temirtau there is a higher risk of getting robbed or attacked. Criminals also operate at airports by eliciting the passengers' (they already found the names of) and acting as their contact or drive. They then offer to take you to your hotel, but instead take you to a remote area and rob you.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
There is a risk of terrorists trying to carry out attacks in Kazakhstan. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Stay informed and pay attention to any possible security-related announcements by the Kazakh authorities.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
Scams are also common in Kazakhstan and there are several that are already known, such as the "lost wallet scam", where an individual claims they've found a wallet and ask you if you want to share the money inside. Then their partner appears and claims it's their wallet and asks to see your purse or wallet to see if you've stolen something and then grabs your belongings or asks for more money. Most scams are performed by someone posing as someone else, like a police officer. Bear in mind that the real police officer will show their badges or produce them upon request.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
When it comes to women traveling alone, they shouldn't encounter any incidents if following common sense and basic precaution measures. Not going out at night is implied and recommended.
So... How Safe Is Kazakhstan Really?
As for safety in the central Kazakhstan, you’ll probably encounter some problems. Transportation, scams, petty thefts and corrupt police are just some of the issues you might face. Kazakhstan is a country where the population has a long history of balanced and multi-ethnic relationships, where locals as well as guests and visitors are always treated with respect and kindness. Tourists will feel welcome and experience hospitality in this country where, unlike in former Soviet Union countries, the black, South Asian and Middle Easter people are also more than welcome.
However, your safety as a tourist depends on the location, and there are some parts of Kazakhstan that you should definitely avoid. Generally speaking, most of Kazakhtstan is safe during the day, but certain parts of big cities should be avoided at night, for example all parts of Almaty below Tashkentskaya street and all micro-district areas within these areas. In some small towns like Uralsk, Taraz, Semey, Shymkent, Taldykorgan and Ust-Kamenogorsk, there is a higher risk from getting mugged or attacked. Another area to be avoided are smaller districts within Almaty and areas like Shanyrak with dodgy-looking homes. There have been reports of foreign travelers and residents being attacked and mugged in Atyrau and Aktau. Don’t linger near your hotels and accommodation, since criminals often target those places and attack tourists near them.
Worst of all, police is easily bribed and not trustworthy. They will often rob tourists by pretending to arrest them for being drunk in places like Atyrau and Tengiz, where such behavior is illegal. Other public officials might also try to rip you off, asking for you to pay large amounts of money for a vague violation of some kind.
- Visas - Visitors planning on staying longer than 30 days in Kazakhstan need to apply for a visa. Persons seeking longer period of stay may apply for 10-year Kazakhstani visas, with a maximum stay of 60 days for business and 90 days for tourism. If you are not sure about your visa status, visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will let you know whether or not you need visa based on your nationality and the country you want to visit.
- Currency - Kazakhstani tenge is the currency in Kazakhstan. Credit cards are accepted in restaurants, shops and hotels, and you can use ATMs to collect your money. Tipping is not a custom in Kazakhstan as hotel and restaurant bills often include a service charge, but it is definitely appreciated.
- Weather - You can experience all four seasons in Kazakhstan with freezing winter, mild spring, scoarching hot summer and crispy autumn. Cold winter starts in November and lasts till the end of April. The climate of Kazakhstan (excluding south) is sharply continental with average temperature between -4 °C and -19 °C in January and between 19 and 26°C in July. In winter temperature may decrease down to -45°C, reaching as high as 30 °C in summer.
- Airports - Almaty International Airport is the largest international airport in Kazakhstan, located about 15 km northeast of Almaty.
- Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to Kazakhstan, since it covers not only the costs of medical problems, but also theft and loss of valuables.