kamila

Can't live without travels! Wherever she goes she always looks for alternative spots or street art. A huge fan of Central Europe and off the beaten path places and a living proof that you can balance full time job and extensive travel!

Random impressions from visiting Kazakhstan

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I didn’t really know what I was expecting from visiting Kazakhstan. Well, I didn’t even know if and why it’s worth going there in the first place. I had a very vague idea of the huge country located in Central Asia, the one that used to be part of Soviet Union and where Polish citizens (among other nations) were deported to after the Second World War. It was more the neighbor small Kyrgyzstan that brought my attention, I even was supposed to go there last spring. But when I found a really decent multicity deal, flying to Almaty and back from Bishkek, I’ve quickly decided it’s time to visit Central Asia, the area I’ve been dreaming of for such a long time!

visiting Kazakhstan

In the meantime there were more good deals to get there and couple of my friends were visiting Kazakhstan too. From them I learnt quite a lot about the country and especially places I wanted to see. Still it was Kyrgyzstan that got me more excited and that I had big hopes for, Kazakhstan was supposed to be only kind of a transit country. My feelings have changed very quickly, I started loving Kazakhstan and its people from the very first moment and I was actually very sad when I was leaving for Bishkek couple of days ago. Of course I’m not even close to call myself some kind of expert, not after a week in such an enormous country and after visiting only its two main cities. But I can still share some of my observations with you! So, here are my impressions from visiting Kazakhstan!

visiting Kazakhstan

People! Some of the friendliest and most helpful I’ve ever met! From the moment I arrived I felt really taken care of. When I got off the airport to the bus stop there were at least 3 people asking where I’m going and explaining how to get there (and so what I’ve already knew my way). When my bus has arrived one older man literally took my hand to drag me to it. Then, when buying the ticket the driver asked me where I’m going and when we approached my stop he made sure I know where to go. When leaving the metro station (through the entrance door as I had to take some money from the ATM) someone asked me for some directions but I just answered with my favorite sentence here „я только чуть-чуть говорю по-русски” (I speak very little Russian). At that time a young student was passing by, heard me not speaking Russian and immediately asked if I need any help. In every single shop, cafe, restaurant people were more than friendly. In the train they shared their food with me and made me feel super comfortable. Even when I kind of caused some small riots at the train station (I blocked one of 3 working ticket desks for over 3 hours) no one from the workers seemed to be mad at me, they were sincerely apologizing for wasting my time and for not being able to help me. So, if you ask me what was the best thing about Kazakhstan I’ll answer people, no doubt about that. I just really regret that my Russian is so poor (and so was the English of everyone I met) that all of my conversations were just a small talk. And I so would have loved to learn more about the country and life there!

visiting Kazakhstan

I’m not much a car person (ok, I’m not at all a car person!), I have no idea about them, I don’t even have a driver’s license. But I could easily tell that the cars I could see on the streets of Astana and especially Almaty were really fancy ones, mostly 4×4. And the best thing – in 80% of cases the drivers have stopped to let me cross the street.

visiting Kazakhstan

Almaty and Astana, two main Kazakh cities, couldn’t be any more different from each other. Almaty is this cozy place where you just feel good and it’s hard to say why: could be the majestic mountains at the footsteps of the city, could be a lot of green spaces or just the laid-back vibe. It just reminded me of Yerevan – the city where I have left a piece of my heart – so much. There’s just something about both cities that make me feel like it’s my kind of place. On the other hand Astana is overwhelming and with no soul at all. The modern architecture can be spectacular and not like you’d imagine Kazakhstan but there’s nothing behind that. I literally had no feelings for Astana, there was no connection between me and the city. I’m glad I went to see it, it was interesting and somehow intriguing but I have no reason to go back there, or even to think about the city. Almaty wins over Astana big time!

visiting Kazakhstan

I was surprised how both Almaty and Astana had an European vibe. I definitely felt much more like in Europe than in Asia in Kazakhstan, and all the cool cafes (often with hipster clientele) in Almaty didn’t help here. Also everywhere around I could see the adjective „Eurasian”. There were Eurasian banks, restaurants, shops – just about everything. Looks like Kazakhstan tries really hard to be part of Europe even if geographically it’s definitely Asia!

visiting Kazakhstan

I was also surprised how diverse people of Kazakhstan look, it was especially seen very clear in Almaty. I didn’t even think about that before arriving but probably uncounsciously I have expected the majority of people be more Asian, with slanting eyes. Well, the recent history of Kazakhstan is probably the answer here. The Soviet past has brought so many various nationalities to what now is Kazakhstan, not only Poles were deported there. That said, Kazakh girls are so very pretty! I was impressed!!

visiting Kazakhstan

Traveling to Kazakhstan in November wasn’t my smartest idea ever as it felt like I’m the only tourist there (hence I couldn’t do any day trips from Almaty as I planned since they were simply canceled and it was pretty impossible to do it with public transport). But also it seemed like the tourism didn’t really get to Kazakhstan yet. Every single person asked me if I came there for business and was really surprised when I denied. Then all the questions about my motivation to visiting Kazakhstan came. Another shock was when they found out I’m traveling alone – the concept of solo female travels isn’t probably very well known in Kazakhstan. Literally everywhere – in the train, in the bus, in the cafe, in the hostel… – the question if I’m alone was asked. But now, when I think of this I know maybe less than 10 people who have visited Kazakhstan and only two of them were women traveling solo (Megan and Katie).

visiting Kazakhstan


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At first I was supposed to spend a week or less in Kazakhstan but I enjoyed the country much more than I expected and I was actually very sad to leave after 9 days (this could have been also because of the winter wonderland that was around on my last day). Of course I’m no expert here, after all I’ve been only to Almaty and Astana but at least I learnt about all the amazing places I still would love to see there: Charyn Canyon, Big Almaty Lake, Kaindy Lake, Turkiestan, Aralsk, Sajram… There are so many reasons for me to go back there that I’ll eagerly looking for another good chance (aka cheap flights) to visit Kazakhstan again. Just this time I’d do it in a better time of the year and with (hopefully) a better knowledge of Russian.

visiting Kazakhstan

Is visiting Kazakhstan on your bucket list? How much do you know about the country? Do you travel off season too?


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24 Lis '15

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There are 45 Comments.

  1. I haven’t been to Kazakhstan yet, but it’s definitely on my list. However, I heard it’s a bit painful to get a visa. Maybe if wait long enough, I have so much luck like with Mongolia – just before my trip there they changed the rules and Polish don’t need visa any more :)
    Concerning Kazakhstan, a friend of mine, showed me, a long time ago, amazing pictures from mountains, it’s my motivation to visit one day some of -stan countries :)
    Traveling Rockhopper latest post…Madeira – Vereda dos BalcoesMy Profile

    • kami
      13:56 05/12/2015

      it’s not that difficult to get a visa actually! just filling some papers, going to the embassy and paying the fee, nothing really special. I don’t know all that many people who have gone to Kazakhstan but everyone got their visa easily. And Kazakhstan is definitely worth visiting! The mountains are indeed spectacular! Hope you will go one day!

  2. im so glad you enjoyed your time there! KZ is a fantastic country filled with really cool people. and im laughing about astana because that is exactly how i felt there. was just soulless. i visited both the new and old and was there for like five days (maybe it was a week, i dunno) and neither had much to offer. i cant wait to go back sometime as i no longer need a visa for there so it is one less thing to worry about! i actually think i could live in almaty for some time if i had a job there. maybe some day ;) excited to read more about your trip here soon!
    Megan latest post…A Pit-Stop at Bahia Honda State ParkMy Profile

    • kami
      13:59 05/12/2015

      I was reading your post just after visiting Astana and I was really laughing hard! Such a weird city it was but I’m definitely glad I’ve decided to visit (and there’s no way I’m returning there, ever!). And I feel exactly the same about Almaty, I could easily see myself living there for a while, things just felt good there!

  3. I also don’t have a driving license, high-five! ;-)
    I am very, very curious, how exactly did you block those ticket decks? Will you write more about it. :D
    Kinga latest post…Barcelona – Sunday in MontjuïcMy Profile

    • kami
      14:02 05/12/2015

      who would need the driving license ;) ? I’d faster learn how to drive a train than a car ;)

      let’s just say I’m not an easy customer… ;)

  4. I am dying to go to Central Asia. Sounds like you had a memorable time there! The only issue is finding the time to go – I don’t want to only go for two weeks when it takes so long to get there from North America, and think three weeks is the shortest amount of time I’d want to spend there to make it worth the long trip (and I’d love to take a road trip on the Pamir Highway as well…)

    The good thing is, though (and I may kick myself for saying this now), that it doesn’t seem to be that mainstream tourists will be swarming to the region anytime soon…I hope! :)
    Nick @ concrete and kitsch latest post…Visiting the Dancing Bears Sanctuary in Belitsa, BulgariaMy Profile

    • kami
      17:43 05/12/2015

      I think you’d really love it there, sounds like your kind of place! And I’m sure it won’t get touristy anytime soon, it’s way too off the path! I totally get you with wanting to go there for a longer time, 2 weeks was maximum I could get this time but I haven’t seen all I wanted to. I need to go back there. And Pamir is definitely on my list too!

  5. I was booked for Kazakhstan back in June but after spending six weeks in China. I was mostly in Tibet without any real public transport, and I just melted down before I even got to where I was crossing to Kazakhstan from. I could not bare the thought of an overnight bus that is leaving at (no one knows for sure what time, or even if you are given a time, is it local time or Beijing time, I QUIT) so I just skipped it.

    I am now planning Central Asia again, for April. Hopefully nothing stops me this time. I am looking very forward to seeing what your itinerary was.
    jennifer latest post…Las Vegas Trip Report: 37 Hours in Vegas, Part OneMy Profile

    • kami
      22:46 07/12/2015

      You did the right thing, otherwise you might have hated Kazakhstan and it’s really an interesting country! I’m sure your trip in April will be awesome!! I was there just for 2 weeks and covered both Kazakhstan and Kirgizstan but my itinerary wasn’t the best, I spent the majority of time in Almaty as I couldn’t do any daytrips around – they were simply not running. Going there in November wasn’t the best idea ;) But I loved it anyway!

  6. pewnie, że chcielibyśmy :D

  7. to Almaty? Wyglada jak Abu Dhabi :-)

  8. Faktycznie tytułowe zdjęcie robi wrażenie i mi bynajmniej nie kojarzy się z Kazachstanem. Mam nadzieję, że gdzieś, kiedyś.. tam pojadę:)

  9. Marcin
    09:10 25/11/2015

    I would like to visit Kazakhstan :)

  10. ze zdjęć to wygląda jak połączenie Moskwy z Toronto albo innym Szanghajem ;) a kierowcy, którzy przepuszczają przez jezdnię – pewnie byli zdziwieni widząc kogoś, kto przyjechał turystycznie ;)

  11. Super ujęłaś na zdjęciach różnorodność. Szczerze mówiąc nie spodziewałam się, że są tam też takie nowoczesne centra. Chyba mam w głowie taki komunistyczny stereotyp.

  12. Szok że w takim Kazachstanie takie rzeczy! :)

  13. Miałem tam lecieć, potem znalazłem tanie loty do Biszkeku :)

  14. Marzę! Jako każdym kraju byłego ZSRR. Nieustannie, zawsze, z wracaniem.

  15. 12:41 25/11/2015

    It’s great when a country surprises you like that, isn’t it?! That’s interesting about the people being so helpful. I wonder how much of that was because you were a woman on your own (sorry if that seems cynical!). I’m the same as you with cars, by the way! Ask me to describe a car I’ve seen the only thing I could probably tell you about it would the colour!
    Sam latest post…Travel Accessories: The Little Things I LoveMy Profile

    • kami
      22:59 07/12/2015

      It really is! I think people there are not really used to seeing a tourist so it wasn’t probably because I’m a woman, I felt they’d help anyone who would seem to be lost. And yes, colours are the only thing I can recognize about cars!!

  16. I really want to visit Kazakhstan – I’m just curious about this country. And I’m a little bit ashamed that I didn’t know there are such a modern buildings :) You encouraged me to go there !
    Agnieszka latest post…Kilka godzin w WarszawieMy Profile

    • kami
      22:59 07/12/2015

      I’m glad to read that and I really hope you will go soon!

  17. Ja akurat bardzo lubię podróżować poza sezonem, nie lubię tłumów, bo wtedy spokojniej jest. Jeszcze nie byłam, ale po przeczytaniu chętnie bym się wybrała, szczególnie, że ludzie tacy życzliwi.

    • kami
      23:00 07/12/2015

      ja tylko poza sezonem jeżdżę! ale tu chyba zbyt ekstremalnie wybrałam ;)

  18. Next time give yourself more time and go to see Kazach nature – mountains and lakes. It’s amazing!!!! My friends, Poles, businessmen, spend much of their time in Kazachstan and don’t want to go back to Poland :) no wonder!
    Tatiana latest post…Soljanka rybnaMy Profile

    • kami
      23:01 07/12/2015

      I know, I know :) I always first go just for a short time to see how I like the place and then I come back for more :) And next time I will not go in November, that’s for sure ;)

  19. OK, now you’ve really made me excited about Almaty… :)

  20. Widzę, że teraz TOP 1 na blogach:)

  21. Piotr
    09:09 09/12/2015

    Cześć, a jak tam sytuacja z wizami, masz jakieś wieści?
    Zniosą od przyszłego roku dla Polaków, czy się ociągają :)
    pozdrawiam
    Piotr

    • kami
      09:04 13/12/2015

      a nawet nie wiem, w sumie się nie interesowałam, bo wiedziałam, że i tak się nie załapię :) ale wizę nietrudno dostać, tylko 35€ trochę boli ;) a tak to zwykła papierologia, bez żadnych fanaberii! pzdr!

  22. minas
    22:17 23/03/2016

    Hey!

    Have you visited Tbilisi yet? If not I recommend it really much. If you liked Armenian then you’ll definitely like Georgia. If you like mountains then Georgia is a paradise for hikers and mountain lovers. Food is so great aswell! Like check out this and you’ll get about the food part :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWomR7OM9qE

    • kami
      08:48 13/04/2016

      yes, I’ve been twice to Georgia and really enjoyed it! Thanks for the link, haven’t seen that one :)

  23. Anubhav
    11:18 25/11/2016

    I actually read – 80% drivers stopped to let me cross the street.. and the pic below that line did seem like many stopped for you.. i was like Wooah!! what a country :-D

    • kami
      20:58 03/12/2016

      hehe, it wasn’t THAT great but still, amazing country to visit ;)

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