Kazakhstan Travel Guides for Backpackers

Tips you should know before your first time in Astana

Astana has been the capital of Kazakhstan only for 20 years. During this time, it has grown from a small town with 300,000 citizens into a futuristic city where people flock from all over the country. This is the place of inspiration for businessmen and artists, and for tourists who are ready to break the stereotypes about the nomads of Central Asia. I would like to give you some tips that will make your trip to Astana enjoyable and productive. Choose the right time Astana is known as the second coldest capital in the world, so better plan your visit in the summer, not in the winter, when you will not meet a living soul in the street. You will still experience the weather’s caprices even in July because Astana is very windy no matter what the season is. I try to take a hooded jacket when I go outside, just in case, so I will not be caught by sudden rain showers. Anyway, I still believe that wind makes Astana special because it forms clouds as in Disney cartoons. Do not forget to look above in Astana – its sky deserves to be in your must-see list. Have a cheap trip Once you arrive at Astana International Airport, don’t get into a random taxi. Choose an official one with a mark on it, or use Uber on your phone. Unfortunately, unofficial taxi drivers can trick foreigners and charge high prices. Actually, taxi is affordable here, especially comparing to other world capitals. The cost of your trip from the airport to the city center should not exceed 4-5$, and the prices are even lower in the city. And a bus ticket is even cheaper (less than 0.5$). That is why I prefer to take a bus if my bags are not heavy and if I have enough time. See as much as possible in a short time The river Esil goes across the city and divides it into the right and the left bank, the old and the new part of the city, respectively. The majority of popular sightseeings are located on the left bank. Although the city is scattered on the steppe, most of the must-see places in Astana are close to each other. If you want to see the most of Astana in a short time, you should be aware of locations. Download 2GIS app and save the offline map on your phone. Ask for help to find out what is nearby. Throwback to EXPO-2017 On the way from the airport to the city you will see Nazarbayev University and the huge shopping mall called Mega Silkway. You have to be someone’s guest to enter the university campus, but it is worth to look at even from the outside. You can go shopping and have a lunch at the food court in Mega Silkway. If you go through the mall, on the other side of it you can find the area where EXPO-2017 was held last year. Despite […]

Astana – Kazakhstan's glittering capital

If you’re coming to visit Kazakhstan soon, probably your first destination will be its’ capital – Astana.  Astana is the fast developing modern city in Central Asia, and best known for it’s futuristic and cutting-edge buildings. Since I moved to Astana 10 years ago, I was observing how fast the city is growing each year. It’s so fascinating to witness changes happening every year, so I wanted to share with you the best ways to enjoy your holidays in Astana. A bit of history As you already may know, Astana is a very young city which became capital in 1997. Before becoming capital, it’s historical name was Akmola, than Tselinograd during the Soviet times. Akmola was established in 1830 as a Cossack outpost. Suffered from the raids of roving steppe robbers, local sultans and the foremen requested Russian Governor to construct protective outpost against raids. Later, it expanded as a city and called Akmolinsk. Under Soviet authorities in 1961, Akmolinsk was renamed Tselinograd, becoming the center of the virgin land – the largest grain producer within USSR. After USSR collapse, the city returned its original name Akmola which means “white shrine”. It also translates as “white grave”, which probably more describes the times when it was one of the three “islands” of the Gulag Archipelago, 1938 to 1953 there was the so-called “?.?.?.?.?.” (Alzhir) – Akmola internment camp for wives of the betrayers of the homeland – the largest Soviet women’s camp. 1998 capital of Kazakhstan moved from Almaty to Akmola. Akmola became Astana, which translates simply and unpretentiously – the Capital. When to visit? I suggest you visit Astana in Summer, Fall and in December to experience the winter. Astana is known as the coldest capital city in the world, so winter time here is crazy cold and temperature in January drops till -40! It starts to snow in mid of November and snow will lay till the end of March. April is very windy and the city looks gray. Summer is a touristic time, a lot of entertainments, concerts, fairs, festivals are going on. Summer Ethno Aul, Nomad Festival Winter is also fun here, everywhere located ice skating rinks, so you can ski in every part of the city. Sledding from the hills, tubing, riding the banana boat, riding a sleigh etc. I hope it will help you to plan which time is the best suits you to visit Astana! Now, let’s talk about general tourist information. Transportation Landing at Astana International Airport you can either catch a taxi or take a bus (#10, #12) which goes to the center. Usually, taxi costs 1000-1500 tenge ( $3-4) to the center, and bus charges 90 tenge ($0.3) or you can also, take the express bus for 150 tenge ($0,4). Currency: 1USD= 325Tenge Apps which will ease your navigation: 2GIS is the best and accurate map application which perfectly works offline, shows which bus to take and calculates estimate payment for a taxi. Uber, Yandex taxi are the popular apps for taking a taxi, could be quiet high at peak times. Also, InDriver […]
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