Kazakhstan - General Information

State form: Republic of Kazakhstan
Independence: 16 December 1991
National anthem: Meniñ Qazaqstanım (My Kazakhstan)
Capital: Astana (about 0.5 million inhabitants)
Official language: Kazakh (also Russian)
Provinces: Karaganda, East Kazakhstan, Almaty, Jambul, South Kazakhstan, Kyzylorda, Aktobe, Qostanai, North Kazakhstan, Aqmola, Pavlodar, West Kazakhstan, Atyrau, Mangghystau
Surface: 2 717 300 km²
Time zone: UTC+5 et +6 (center and east)
Highest point: Zhengis Shingy 7 439 m
Population: approx. 17 million inhabitants
Population density: approx. 6.16 inhabitants / km²
Religion: Sunni Islam
Currency: Tenge (KZT)
Constitution: January 28, 1993
National Holiday: October 25th
Telephone code 007
Economy: Mineral resources (petroleum, uranium)

Neighboring countries:
North: Russia
West: China
South: Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan
Southeast: Turkmenistan


USEFUL INFORMATION

Passport and visa:
A tourist visa can be obtained through the consulate or through our travel agency. For this, you need a passport valid for at least 6 months after the return date, a current passport photo and the completed visa application form. The cost is 140 CHF including administrative costs.

Customs:
Most goods can be imported to Kazakhstan without a license, but a signed contract must be presented to the authorities. The license is obligatory for the importation of goods such as chemicals, medicines, medical devices and petroleum. Goods for personal use, the value of which is less than € 1000 and whose total weight does not exceed 31 kg, are exempted from import restriction. The maximum permissible size of the packaging is 100 cm x 60 cm x 60 cm. For goods imported to (not for personal use) Kazakhstan whose value does not exceed € 1000 or weighs no more than 31 kg, will be subjected to 30% tax and this rate applies on the excess of mentioned value and weight limits.
These rules apply to individuals. For legal persons, the limit is 200 €. The import of narcotics, weapons, and ammunition is prohibited.

Money:
The Kazakh tenge (KZT), the monetary unit of Kazakhstan, has been in circulation since 1993. Kazakhstan has one of the most advanced banking systems in Central Asia. Travelers can easily change international currencies in banks, as well as in exchange offices, shopping malls, hotels, supermarkets and train stations. During a trip to Kazakhstan, many services can be paid in cash or by credit card. VISA or MasterCard are most often used. At airports or in cities there are several vending machines from which money can be withdrawn.
Current exchange rate http://www.oanda.com/lang/fr/


Communication:
Almost everyone in Kazakhstan has a mobile phone. The best telephone operators are Activ, KCell, and Beeline which offer national coverage. Local calls are usually free. International calls can be made in some offices, such as Kazaktelekom, from call centers and some stores and kiosks with a public telephone. Most hotels, restaurants, and cafes have access to Wi-Fi.

Climate:
The climate is continental and dry, with warm summers and very cold winters. The temperature differences between night and day or desert and mountains are very pronounced. In summer the average temperature is 35°C, depending on the region, and -10°C in winter. For almost four months, the country is covered with snow. The best time to travel is autumn or spring because the steppes are the most beautiful during these seasons. For hiking and mountaineering in the mountains of Kazakhstan, the months from May to August are ideal.

Traditions and customs:
One of the most important cultural features of the Kazakhs is their hospitality. To host the traveler with dignity is a matter of honor. When he enters, they all stand up and greet him with a smile and a handshake. It is not polite to ask the visitor many questions. He is offered koumis (fermented mare's milk) to help him recover from his journey. Meanwhile, the housewives prepare Konakassa. It is a meal that is always served to guests. Nothing formal, however: the table is the place for sharing, cheerfulness, friendships and lively discussions.
In the summer the men wear long and wide white shirts. In addition, they put on narrow vests that reach down to the hips and wide trousers. The men protect their head from the sun with a "Tubeteika" or with a hat of lite felt. In winter, they wear a fur-lined coat and a vest, a fur hat or a "Schapka" made of fox fur and boots with a high shaft. The elders often wear a long "chapan".
The women's traditional dress consists of a long dress, a colorful velvet waistcoat, and trousers that are tied together at the ankle. They also love luscious jewelry (necklaces, earrings, and bracelets). The elders cover their heads with a hood of white cloth while their feet are in plush boots.

Gastronomy:
The Kazakh cuisine is similar to that of the Middle East or the Mediterranean. The basic ingredients are rice, spices, vegetables, yogurt and meat. Some dishes come directly from the nomadic kitchen, mainly sheep, dairy products and bread, while Russian cuisine dominates in the northern cities where the Russian population is the largest. In the countryside, the traditional dish consists of kazy, smoked horse sausage sometimes paired with cold noodles. The less unusual will taste a sweet plov (kind of pilaf) made of dried fruits: apricots, grapes, and plums or with famous Kazakh apples throughout Central Asia (Almaty literally means "father of apples").

Public holidays:
January 1: New Year
January 14: New Year (orthodox)
March 8: Women's Day
21 and 22 March: Noruz - New Year (Zoroastrian)
April: Easter (orthodox)
May 1: Volksfest
May 9: Victory Day
August 30: Constitution Day
October 25: National Festival of the Republic
17th December: Independence Day

Public transportation:
Train journeys are cheap but slow, often the trains are overcrowded. Buses are more comfortable for getting from one place to another, even incidents cannot be excluded. Because of the long distances, for example, from Almaty to Atyrau, the plane remains the most efficient means of transport among numerous cities. The international aircraft that lands in Alma-Ata fly mostly via Istanbul (Turkey), Vienna (Austria), Frankfurt (Germany) and Moscow (Russia). Often helicopters are also available by which one can fly to hard-to-reach ski or hiking trails.

Health:
No compulsory vaccinations. Recommended vaccinations: diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, hepatitis A and B, typhoid and meningitis. It is recommended to drink bottled mineral water. The cases of hepatitis A and tuberculosis have been reported. Similarly, some cases of anthrax have also occurred.

Security:
Kazakhstan, like most countries in Central Asia, is not really dangerous. Crime and delinquency are rarer than in most major Western cities. However, pay attention to your luggage, lock them and do not leave anything in sight in your room! In the bazaars especially, beware of pickpockets.

Shopping:
Like almost everywhere in Central Asia, you should not miss the fragrance-rich markets and colorful flavors of spices that are offered in bazaars. The different colorful silk fabrics are very seductive as well. Bring some pretty silver jewelry, sometimes decorated with precious stones, such as rubies and emeralds. But watch out for fakes!

Useful phone numbers:
Firefighters: 101
Police: 102
Emergency Medical Service: 103
Number of the telecommunication company: 160
Information Service: 7 (727) 2506623
Airport Information: 7 (727) 2703333

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