The state language is Kazakh, while Russian, being the lingua franca, is more widely used in the political, economic and cultural life of the society. Travellers may communicate in English generally in public places, e.g. restaurants, hotels and recreational places.
Almaty and Astana are 6 hours ahead of GMT, while the western part of Kazakhstan (e.g. Atyrau and Aktau) is GMT+5. There is no seasonal time shift in Kazakhstan.
Working time in most places usually starts at 9 am and lasts till 6 pm. Saturday and Sundays are not working days. However, some branch offices of major banks work seven days a week. The list of public holidays can be found in the ‘Public Holidays’ section. Large supermarkets (e.g. METRO Cash & Carry, GREEN, SILK WAY) are open 24/7 and shopping centres are generally open from 10 AM to 10 PM.
The Tenge is the national currency, and it is the only method of cash payment in Kazakhstan. It is strongly recommended to have small notes while travelling in cities because change is not readily available from taxi drivers or merchants in small shops. For more information about currency and customs rules, see the section labeled 'Currency and Exchange'.
Tips in Kazakhstan are welcome but not obligatory. It is appropriate to leave a tip for a good service although there is no set percentage. It is a gratuity, but a good tip always means good service when you return.
Internet & Phone
High speed internet services are available in many cities in Kazakhstan. Most hotels, restaurants and bars offer Wi-Fi free of charge. Leading mobile operators, such as Kcell and Beeline, provide high speed 3G internet which allows you to make free Skype calls. GSM is the most popular mobile system in the country. Almost all cities and rural places have mobile phone access. SIM cards can be purchased at the airport and from many shops.
The power supply in Kazakhstan is 220 volts with the frequency of 50 Hz. Use a 'Soviet' and European style rounded tip two-prong plug for access to electric current.
Vaccinations and Health Care
Kazakhstan has no vaccination requirements. However, it is highly recommended that you get vaccinated against tick borne encephalitis before visiting mountains during the Spring period.
There are a fair number of clinics and hospitals with medical specialists in Kazakhstan. Foreigners can get free medical assistance in case of an emergency, but non-emergencies require a fee. Be advised that in most cases local medical personnel do not speak English.
Alcohol and Smoking
The law prohibits smoking in public places, including restaurants and bars. Occasionally,restaurants have designated rooms for smoking. Drinking of alcohol is allowed in restaurants and bars, but not in public places.
Most public restrooms are free, while a small number of them will charge approximately 30 tenge (20 cents).
Although private taxi drivers are widely available across the country, we highly recommend that for personal safety you use official taxi services clearly marked as such.
Kazakhstan enjoys a relatively low crime rate. For peace of mind, follow these simple rules:
1. Always carry your passport with you.
2. Although local drivers are respectful towards pedestrians, always be careful crossing streets.
3. As in most countries, traffic in Kazakhstan drives on the right. Be prepared for traffic jams during rush hours.
4. Bazaars and train stations are the places where robberies may take place. As tourists to all countries of the world are aware, it would be prudent to carry with you at all times the telephone numbers (see the section, 'Useful Telephone Numbers') of the police and other numbers useful in emergency situations.