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Learn about the various modes of transportation to and around Kazakhstan including the metro, as pictured, bus, train, plane, taxi, and marshrutka.

Transportation in Central Asia: How to Get To and Around Kazakhstan

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Привет друзья!

If you are traveling to Kazakhstan, you definitely need to do some thorough research ahead of time regarding transportation. Although the region has experienced steady growth over the last few years, Central Asia’s tourism industry is not as developed as other travel destinations around the world. As a result, traveling around Kazakhstan, and Central Asia in general, requires a bit extra planning and preparation.

Trains and planes are generally reliable and have their timetables posted online, but buses, marshrutkas, and taxis don’t run as systematically. Depending on where you are, it can be difficult to know how to get from one city to another if you don’t know where transport leaves from and when.

But before you write off traveling in the region, don’t fret! In this article, I will detail exactly how to get to and around Kazakhstan so that you can see everything the country has to offer!

How to get to Kazakhstan

Lines bee Lines

BY PLANE

Almaty and Nur-Sultan are the two major cities in Kazakhstan and are therefore home to the largest airports in the country – Almaty International Airport and Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport. Nur-Sultan is located in the north of KZ and Almaty is located in the south, so depending on your destination preferences, these are two cheap options.

Alternatively, Bishkek, the capital city of neighboring country Kyrgyzstan, is only three hours south of Almaty. If you’d like to ultimately head north, starting in Bishkek can allow you to visit an additional country. 

  • For a full list of airports in Kazakhstan, see here.

BY TRAIN

Photo by Against the Compass

Trains – You can take a train into Kazakhstan from the following cities via Silk Route trains:

  • Nukus, Uzbekistan
  • Kungrad, Uzbekistan
  • Tashkent, Uzbekistan
  • Astrakhan, Russia
  • Barnaul, Russia
  • Chelyabinsk, Russia
  • Moscow, Russia
  • Novosibirsk, Russia
  • Omsk, Russia
  • Saratov, Russia
  • Volgograd, Russia
  • Yekaterinburg, Russia
  • Urumqi, China
  • For schedules & pricing, visit their website here.

BY MARSHRUTKA

Marshrutka Buses – You can take a marshrutka bus into Kazakhstan via the Sairan Bus Station in Almaty and the Saparzhay Train Station in Nur-Sultan from the following cities:

  • Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
  • Urumqi, China
  • Barnaul, Russia
  • Chelyabinsk, Russia
  • Novosibirsk, Russia
  • Omsk, Russia
  • Yekaterinburg, Russia

How to get around Kazakhstan

Lines bee Lines

BY TRAIN

Trains – There are three main train station hubs in Kazakhstan – Almaty, Nur-Sultan, and Karaganda. The cost of train tickets in Kazakhstan depends on a) how quickly you’d like to arrive at your destination and b) your comfort level.

a) Speed

  • Slower & Cheaper Option – This is the perfect option for budget travelers looking for an authentic Soviet travel experience. The prices are shockingly cheap, however the trains are shockingly slow so this is not an ideal option for travelers in a hurry. At an underwhelming average speed of 50km/hr, these trains take just under 23 hours to go from Almaty to Nur-Sultan (a one-hour flight equivalent). See below for cabin options in ascending order according to their price and their descriptions.
  • Faster & More Expensive Option: TALGO – With an average speed of 200km/hr, TALGO trains are a quicker option for travelers with more of a time constraint. TALGO trains are, however, roughly double the price and don’t have the same Soviet, kindred-fellow-traveler spirit that is typically seen on the slower Soviet-era trains. The TALGO trains offer two cabin options.

b) Cabin Levels

  • Seat (Сидячий) – As the name suggests, this is just a seat. Not recommended for overnight travel.
  • Platz (Плацкарт) – Ever thought “Hey – What’s the best way to have a giant bunk bed sleepover with 50 of my closest Kazakh friends?” Well then Platz is the cabin class for you!
  • Sleep (Купе) – Compartments with 4 beds each.
  • VIP (Люкс) – Compartments with 2 beds each.

Train travel in Kazakhstan is a fantastic way to see the steppes of Central Asia and meet the locals. For more information about schedules, destinations, and ticket purchasing, kindly visit their website here.

  • Note: All departures/arrivals are in Nur-Sultan local time, which is different from Almaty local time. Be sure to double check and plan accordingly. Also, in both Almaty and Nur-Sultan there are two different train stations (Alma-Ata 1, Alma-Ata 2 & Nur-Sultan 1, Nur-Sultan 2), be sure to select the one closest to your destination.

BY MARSHRUTKA

Marshrutka Buses – Although marshrutkas, or mini buses, are more common for intracity transport, they can also offer cheap transport between neighboring cities. Marshrutkas are usually overcrowded and are the opposite of glamorous – but they are cheap as hell. Intercity marshrutkas leave from all cities’ major railroad or bus stations.

BY BUS

Buses – Buses are a good option for traveling between cities as they are, hilariously, faster than the 50km/hr trains and relatively cheap. Buses are convenient for intercity travel, but not recommended for traveling long distances due to their low level of comfort. Their timetables also don’t offer buses between cities as frequently as trains, and do not offer online ticket purchasing, so you must buy tickets in person at the bus station ahead of time.

BY PLANE

A plane ticket from Almaty to Nur-Sultan

Planes – The quickest and most convenient way to travel between Northern Kazakhstan and southern Kazakhstan is definitely by plane. Air Astana, the primary aviation company in KZ, offers daily one-hour flights between Nur-Sultan and Almaty. Prices start at $42 on SkyScanner – search here for specific dates.

BY TAXI 

Taxi & Private Drivers – Due to the relatively cheap cost and convenient nature of having your own personal driver, hiring a private taxi for the day is not uncommon for travelers. Local drivers gather at the main train/bus stations in cities waiting for tourists to approach them and make them an offer. Be sure to look up the standard price so you don’t get swindled.

  • Something to be aware of: Drivers in Kazakhstan are among the most aggressive I’ve experienced. I spent two months in the country and every taxi driver I had swerved between lanes, texted, and drove incredibly fast. If this is something you’re not comfortable with, you should be prepared to ask your driver politely in Russian or Kazakh.
Lines bee Lines

And that’s a wrap! If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.

And if public transportation isn’t your thing . . . there are plenty of horses to get around on in Kazakhstan 🙂

January 8, 2021

Melissa Miller

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Russian-Speaking Travel Destinations

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central Asia

central Asia

Eurasia

Belarus

Russia

Kyrgyzstan

armenia

Moldova

Kazakhstan

EASTERN EUROPE

eastern europe

read »

read »

read »

read »

read »

read »

The caucasus

travel guides

Kyrgyzstan

central Asia

Read »

Kazakhstan

central Asia

Read »

Belarus

eastern europe

Read »

Moldova

eastern europe

Read »

Armenia

The caucasus

Read »

Pssst - Where are the rest?

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