Asia and Oceania

Kazakhstan Flag of Kazakhstan

Still current at: 11 June 2008
Updated: 07 May 2008

The advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Health and General sections (HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in Kazakhstan; registering your presence with LOCATE).  The overall level of the advice has not changed. 

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)
 

Travel advice for this country


Travel Summary

  • There is an underlying threat from terrorism.  Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

  • You may travel to most places in Kazakhstan, but travel to any "closed territories" or secure areas require advance permission from the relevant authorities.  Some military/restricted areas are not clearly marked so care should be taken when travelling away from normal routes.

  • You should obtain your visa in advance of your visit and ensure it covers the entire duration of your stay.  See the Entry Requirements section of this travel advice for more details.

  • The main type of incident for which British nationals required consular assistance in Kazakhstan in 2007 was replacing lost or stolen passports. Local regulations require you to carry  your original passport at all times.  You should be aware that since the start of 2008 there have also been several westerners have been mugged across Kazakhstan.  See the Crime section of this advice for more details.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  See the General (Insurance) section of this advice and Travel Insurance for more details.

Safety and security

Terrorism

There is an underlying threat from terrorism.  Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.  In addition, you should also be alert to any security- related announcements by the Kazakh authorities, and if in any doubt, keep in touch with the British Embassy in Almaty. 
 
For further information see Terrorism Abroad.
 
Crime
 
Since August 2006, there has been an increase in the number of violent attacks and muggings on the expatriate community in Atyrau and Aktau in western Kazakhstan. There was a reported assault on a British National in Shymkent in June 2007 and in January 2008 there have also been assaults reported in Astana and Almaty involving western nationals. These attacks have largely taken place at night, in and around local nightclubs and bars. Avoid walking alone and where possible pre-arrange transport with friends, colleagues or official taxi firms. Keep valuables in a safe place and out of public view. Avoid travelling in unofficial taxis, particularly at night and alone, or if there is another passenger already in the car.
 
Robberies have also occurred on trains, so always lock railway compartments on overnight trains.  Passenger lists on aircraft are not always kept confidential.  There have been instances of people being met from an aircraft by someone using their name and subsequently being robbed.
 
As in many major cities, other incidents of crime (involving both foreign and local people) have included theft from vehicles waiting at traffic lights or parked cars, copying of cash or credit cards at fraudulent ATM machines, and spiking of drinks in bars, restaurants and nightclubs.  Keep personal belongings, especially your passport, safe and out of sight, as several incidents of passport theft have been reported in the last year.
 
For more general information see Victims of Crime Abroad.
 
Political situation
 
Kazakhstan Country Profile
 
Parliamentary elections were held peacefully in August 2007.
 
Local Travel
 
You may travel to most places in Kazakhstan, but travel to any "closed territories" or secure areas requires advance permission from the relevant authorities.  Some military/restricted areas are not clearly marked so care should be taken when travelling away from normal routes.
 
Do not cross the border into or out of Kazakhstan illegally as the absence of entry/exit stamps will cause problems (e.g.  possible detention, fines) when leaving or re-entering the country.
 
Road Travel
 
International driving licences are valid in Kazakhstan.  However if you are resident in Kazakhstan you are advised to obtain a Kazakh driving license after six months residency.

Service stations and petrol/water access can be limited outside the main cities.  Make sure you take all you need for your journey.  A significant proportion of cars are not safely maintained and do not have rear seatbelts.  In some remote parts of Kazakhstan animals can be seen regularly on the roads and can be especially difficult to see in the dark. We advise against using local buses or mini-buses as maintenance of these vehicles is generally poor. Driving can be erratic and care should be taken crossing roads. Pedestrian crossings are rarely respected.

The roads are poorly maintained and road works or damaged roads are often not clearly signposted.  During the winter, roads are often hazardous due to snow and ice.

Local Traffic Police only have the right to stop vehicles if an offence has been committed. Travellers should note that a Traffic Police Official should start immediately to complete official papers relating to any alleged offence.
For further information see Driving Abroad.
 
Air Travel
 
The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the community.  You should check the following link to see whether this will affect your travel: http://europa.eu.int/comm/transport/air/safety/flywell_en.htm.
 
It is not known whether maintenance procedures on aircraft used for internal or regional flights are always properly observed or whether passengers are covered by insurance.  However, the situation is constantly changing, and it is understood that the Air Astana company do undertake maintenance of their aircraft to European JAR-145 standards.  We therefore advise in-country and regional travellers to check these issues the carrier in addition to EU website noted above.
 
Local Airlines do not always adhere to schedules and you are advised to check your actual departure or arrival time in advance. You are also advised to keep hold of your baggage tags, as you will be required to show them when you leave the destination airport.

Local laws and customs

Possession and use of drugs is illegal and, if found guilty, you could face a lengthy prison sentence in basic conditions.

Although homosexuality is not illegal, it is often not tolerated, especially outside the major cities.

Local regulations require you to carry photo ID at all times.

Some restrictions exist on photography near military establishments, border areas and some official buildings.  Notices about these restrictions are sometimes, but not always, indicated so some caution is advised.
 
For more general information for different types of travellers see Travel Advice Relevant to You.

Entry requirements

Visas
 
All British passport holders must have a valid visa prior to travel.  A visa for Kazakhstan is normally valid for 30 days from the date of issue and should be obtained from your nearest Kazakhstan Embassy before travelling: Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, website:  http://www.kazakhstanembassy.org.uk There is also a Consulate based in Aberdeen although at present they are unable to issue visas.
 
Passport validity
 
You should ensure that your passport is valid for at least three months after your proposed date of leaving Kazakhstan.
 
Visits of up to 90 days
 
British Passport holders travelling to Kazakhstan do not need to register with the local authorities (OVIR –The Department for Visas and Registration under the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA))  providing you arrive at one of the 12 Kazakhstan International Airports.
 
In such cases British Passport Holders MUST ensure that they keep their white Immigration Card stamped by Kazakhstani Immigration throughout their journey and ready for inspection upon departure.  Failure to do so could result in you having to register with the local authorities.  If you intend to travel through any of Kazakhstan’s border points you should check with the nearest Kazakhstan Embassy to see whether registration with OVIR is required.
 
Visits for more than 90 days and long-term visitors
 
If you intend staying for longer than 90 days you will need to register with the local authorities.  In such circumstances you may be registered through the organisation that invited you to Kazakhstan or the tourist agency organising your visit. As your registration includes details of where you work or study and your residence in Kazakhstan the MIA should be informed in writing of any changes to these details.
 
For long-term visitors (including Work Permit holders), you should check with your prospective employer in Kazakhstan whether you must provide  an original HIV/Aids-free certificate as sometimes this is needed  by the local authorities where you live/work. You should ensure you have the original with you, as copies are not accepted.
 
Caspian Sea ferry services
 
If you intend to take one of the Caspian Sea ferry services from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan you should be aware that you need a valid visa for that country before you travel.  You may find that if you arrive at your destination without a valid visa you will be returned back to Kazakhstan.
 
Transiting Kazakhstan
 
There is no agreement allowing visas issued in one Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) country to be used to transit Kazakhstan.  If you intend to visit two or more CIS countries you should contact the relevant embassies for advice before travelling.
 
Travelling with children
 
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.

Health

The medical facilities in Kazakhstan are not as advanced as those in the UK.  You should ensure that your medical insurance includes evacuation by air ambulance.

Tick-borne encephalitis is common to Kazakhstan, especially in mountains and forests, particularly from April to June.

Cases of TB have been reported in the Aral Sea and Semipalatinsk regions, as well as in prisons.  There have also been occasional outbreaks of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome in southern Kazakhstan, most recently in June 2006. In rural areas there are occasional cases of brucellosis picked up from infected meat.

In the 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 12,000 adults aged 15 or over in Kazakhstan were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 1.5% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%.  You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see the “HIV and AIDS” page of the FCO website.

You should seek medical advice before travelling to Kazakhstan and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.  For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should check the websites of NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
 
For more general health information see Travel Health.
 
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
 
There were reports of outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) around Northern Kazakhstan in July and August 2005 and in the Caspian Sea region in January 2006.  The Kazakh authorities believe that the situation is now under control and preventive measures are in place.  No human infections or deaths have been reported.
 
The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low.  As a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
 
You should read this advice in conjunction with Avian and Pandemic Influenza, which gives more detailed advice and information.
 
Natural Disasters
 
Almaty is in an active seismic zone.  But the last major earthquake involving loss of life was in 1927.

General

Insurance

We strongly recommend that you have comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  If you are planning an adventure holiday (including skiing or climbing in the mountains near Almaty) you must ensure that your medical insurance includes air ambulance evacuation.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  See Travel Insurance.
If things do go wrong when you are overseas then this is how we can help.

Registering with the British Embassy

Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency. More information about registering with LOCATE can be found here.

Replacing a lost or stolen passport

If you lose your passport you must report this immediately to the police and obtain a police report.

The British Embassy Office, 97 Zholdasbekova Street Samal Towers, 9th Floor (Tel: (00 7 3272 506191) does not issue full passports and, before setting off, you should ensure that your passport has sufficient validity and a good number of unused pages. However the Embassy is able to accept applications for new passports, which will be forwarded to the British Embassy in Moscow for processing. Please be aware that this may take between 4-6 weeks. Temporary passports, valid for one year, are available in Almaty and can usually be produced within 24 hours. You should ensure that you have entered your next of kin details into the back of your passport.
 
Money
 
You should bring enough money for your trip.  Travellers' cheques are not normally accepted.  US$ are the most widely accepted foreign currency.  However cash dispensers are now available in most towns. If you are bringing more than 3,000US$ into Kazakhstan you should declare these amounts on arrival into the country and when exiting.

Travel advice for this country

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contacts

Kazakhstan, Astana, British Embassy

Address:

British Embassy
62, Kosmonavtov Street
Renco Building 6 Floor
Astana 010000

Telephone:

(77172) 556200

Fax:

(77172) 556211

Email: mailto:britishembassy@mail.online.kz

Office hours:

GMT: Mon-Thurs: 0300-1130; Fri: 0300-1000
Local: Mon-Thurs: 0900-1730; Fri: 0900-1600

Website: http://www.britishembassy.gov.uk/kazakhstan