In Kazakhstan, once you’re someone’s guest, it’s really hard to get away – everyone wants you to stay. They believe that if you invite a guest, luck will fly into your house.
From: Tim Cope, On the Trail of Genghis Khan
In this Travel Budget Report we share our expenditures during our overland journey in Kazakhstan, and on what. We elaborate on those expenditures, detailing on visas & car papers, gas stations & fuel, car maintenance & repairs, accommodation, public transport, sightseeing, and more.
Of course, we all have our own budgets and levels of comfort that we need for our road trip and this is meant to give a general idea of what you may expect on an overland journey through Kazakhstan. Some expenditures are fixed, such as visas, whereas travel expenditures on accommodation may be very different for you.
In this blog post, we share our overland-trip experience. For all general travel information, please make use of guidebooks on the region. Two guidebooks we used in Kazakhstan were:
- Bradt Kazakhstan Travel Guide (best on where to visit what).
- Lonely Planet’s Central Asia (stronger on practicalities like where to eat and sleep).
Related Posts on Kazakhstan:
- Kazakhstan Overland Travel Guide
- Overland Camping in Kazakhstan
- Books about Kazakhstan
- A Rainy Day in Aralsk – A Random Day in Overlanding
- Why we Travel – The Tuzbair Salt Lake in Kazakhstan
- Sightseeing in Almaty – What’s the Charm of the Capital?
- Why we Travel – Wild Camp at Lake Bartogai
- The History of Kazakhstan at Otrar
- Finding our Way to Lake Tengiz
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Index for our Our Kazakhstan Travel Budget Report
Our Overland Travel Information Pages for Kazakhstan consists of two parts: The Kazakhstan Overland Travel
In this blog post we will discuss the following topics:
1 – Money Matters
The Kazakh currency is Tenge (KZT). In Oct ’22 the rate was 462 Tenge to a euro / 476 Tenge to a US dollar.
We easily found ATMs for our Maestro debit car in big cities such as Almaty, Shymkent, Aralsk, Uralsk.
We generally paid with cash, so we have little experience on the use of credit cards or bank cards to pay for gas, food, or accommodation, but we do notice it is increasingly easy to pay with cards and with contactless ways, including ApplePay.
More details about money issues on Caravanistan.
Kazakhstan Country Stats:
- Telephone code: +7
- Time: UTC (GMT) +5.
- Electric Voltage: 220AC (50Hz).
- Weights and Measures: Metric.
2 – Our Kazakhstan Travel Budget Report
Budget Pie Kazakhtan:
- Time traveled in Kazakhstan: 165 days (over7 stays between Dec. 2018 and June/July 2022)
- Average expenditure: € 34 /day (2 persons).
- Total kilometers driven: 16257 kilometers
- Average kms/day: 98
- For details on our route, see our Overland Travel Guide.
Not included: health insurance, electronics.
Notes on our Kazakhstan Travel Budget & Stats:
- Land Cruiser expenditures are detailed under #4 below. The power-steering repair was expensive (€370).
- Public Transport = 1 flight from NL.
- Because of traveling in winter, we stayed in a couple of guesthouses in towns for a bit of comfort.
- Driving 98 kilometers a day is a lot for us, which added to the costs for diesel.
3 – Documentation 4%
(Visa & Temporary Import Document)
3a- Visa for Kazakhstan
We did so once from Bishkek (to Kyrgyzstan) and once from Beyneu (to Uzbekistan), and both times not taking the Land Cruiser as those car papers were still valid. This summer we’ll cross into Uzbekistan (Tashkent border) because we (also) need to renew the TID for the Land Cruiser.
Caravanistan is an up-to-date website to check whether you need a visa or not. Or check with the embassy.
3b- Carnet de Passage / Temporary Import Document for Kazakhstan
Carnet / TID
You don’t need a Carnet de Passage for Kazakhstan but you are issued with a Temporary Import Document (TID) for your vehicle at the border. The TID is free of charge and valid for 1 year for the Eurasian Customs Unions which includes Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Although officially Kazakhstan requires a third-party insurance before issuing the Temporary Import Document, the customs officials didn’t ask for it, neither when entering from Russia nor from Uzbekistan.
Coming from Russia (winter ’18):
- We bought third-party insurance just before crossing the small border post in northeast of Kazakhstan at Shemonaika – Zmeinogorsk. GPS: 50.809630, 81.965900
- The 30-day third-party insurance cost RUB 2550 (KZT14.234).
Coming from Uzbekistan (winter ’19):
- We bought
a third-partyinsurance in Shymkent. You can find multiple offices in town.
- Here you could
a third-partyinsurance for two weeks, one month or three months (and three months was cheaper than twice one month, but we forgot how much that was or where we bought it :-().
Coming from Kyrgyzstan (summer ’22):
- We bought a third-party insurance right behind the Kordai border, on your right side next to the petrol station.
- We paid KZT 17.000 for one month.
3c- Leaving Kazakhstan without the Land Cruiser
Winters are long in this part of the world. So we organized a long-term parking spot for the Land Cruiser and flew out for a long-distance hike in Israel (the 1000-km National Trail). Thanks to a local friend we found a good place to store the Land Cruiser, it ended up staying there over a year due to covid.
We didn’t organize any paperwork to leave the country without our Land Cruiser and no questions were asked.
Read More: What is a Temporary Import Document
4 – The Land Cruiser Repairs & Maintenance 25%
1. Worn Tires
Coming from Russia, we arrived in Kazakhstan with the Land Cruiser’s shoes about to be thrown out:
- One car tire was pretty much gone and had put it on the rear as a spare tire.
- As a result we drove on 3 studless winter tires and one regular tire.
A second studless tire gave out as well and was beyond fixing. This required us to buy two second-hand studless tires just to drive to Almaty, the first city where we could buy a new, good set of tires.
Note the word ‘got’ in the sentence! These beautiful BF Goodridge tires were a super generous Christmas gift from a fervent follower of our journey: Ben Steiner (read the full story here)
When you arrive in Almaty and find a tire store, pick out a pair of tires and let me know what the total cost is of the tires installation is. Hopeful to travel the world soon. I believe in Karma and someday I will be in need no doubt. I have the means to help you know and hope when I am in need I will have someone willing to help. Let me know the total and have a happy holiday. ~Ben Steiner
2. Too Many Rough-Road Problems
The rough 800-km steppe crossing from Aralsk to Beyneu cost us dearly:
- The passenger door hardly opened anymore, only with force.
- The rooftop tent had come loose and needed to be reattached.
- Two broken leaf springs.
- In the middle of nowhere we lost the brakes due to a leakage in the
hard line– that is, the joint was broken at the brake master. How we got it fixed is for another story.
- The steering wheel somehow came to sit almost an inch higher than normal and so missed the connection with the horn contacts and the automatic return of the blinker switch.
So we had the necessary work done in Aktau. The guys were kind enough and solved the problems, however, none were long-term solution (e.g. they added a spring leaf from a Kamaz Master but couldn’t properly curve it, and so the right rear suspension is much flatter now).
3. No more Power Steering & Fried Voltage Regulator
The power steering had been giving problems for over a year. A repair in Tashkent didn’t bring the solution. This time they worked on the problem in Almaty, thanks to ARB who connected us with Vadim. Via other contacts, a workshop eventually found a problem with the steering gearbox and pump.
They replaced the pump with a Toyota Camry version, and due to lots of testing – thus taking it in and out – Coen suspects they must have touched something else because soon after this problem was solved, the voltage regulator fried.
As we speak we have not been able to get it solved in Almaty or Shymkent. We’ll try in Tashkent.
5 – Diesel & Gas Stations 15%
Diesel costs around €0,48 per liter (Summer ’22). Prices used to vary slightly, but don’t seem to do so this summer (new government policy?).
On the stretch Ust Kamenogorsk – Semey – Almaty – border Kyrgyzstan (winter ’18) were plenty of gas stations. However, there was no winterized diesel except in Ust-Kamonogorsk and we needed to buy a bottle of liquid that you add to the tank when fueling up.
On the stretch Shymkent – Aralsk (winter ’19) were a couple of gas stations and we could find winterized diesel (240-280 KZT / liter) as well as regular diesel (around 190-200 KZT / liter). No winterized diesel in the Mangystau Region, but then temps in that part of the country never go much below freezing. If they do, you can buy anti-gelling additives at the more modern fuel stations. Don’t expect diesel on the off-road stretch from Aralsk to Beyneu except in Bozoy.
In the southeast it was no problem to find gas stations, but oddly enough there are very few on the highway driving westward from Almaty.
6 – Public Transport 8%
The money spent on Public Transport = our flight to NL.
We did not use public transport in Kazakhstan, but we love some of the artistic bus shelters.
7 – Sightseeing 1%
1- Sightseeing in East Kazakhstan
Due to the cold, gray weather, our sightseeing in this region was limited. The downtown areas of Ust-Kamonogorsk and Semey were nice enough and we checked out the petroglyphs of Akbaur.
2- Sightseeing in South Kazakhstan
We were disappointed, but then we had seen the great architectural pieces in Uzbekistan… Additionally, the main mausoleum was under restoration (Nov ’19). In fact, the entire pilgrimage site was being renovated and we expect it to turn into one big Disney-type affair. If that’s what you like, go. If not, head to Uzbekistan and find the true mausoleum treasures in Samarkand and Bukhara.
Aralsk and the surroundings of the Aral Lake:
We found Aralsk a depressing town, but bad weather made have added to that feeling. No matter the weather, the story of the Aral Sea dying is tragic. However, it’s partly being brought back to life and that story is fascinating and I’m glad we paid it a visit.
3- Sightseeing in Southwest Kazakhstan
The real treasure of Kazakhstan thus far has been the Mangystau Region for its mind-blowing landscapes of canyons and limestone rock formations, particularly the Ustyurt Plateau.
The sightseeing part of the region was fascinating with incredible cemeteries and underground mosques.
4- Sightseeing in Southeast Kazakhstan
This clearly is the touristy part of Kazakhstan, and understandably so. The Charyn Canyon (and adjacent Temerlik and Yellow Canyon) are mind-blowing beautiful, as are the otherworldly landscapes of the Aktau Mountains in Altyn Emel National Park.
The famous Kordai Lakes and Kaindy Lake are part of an incredibly scenic landscape, for sure, but attracts thousands of visitors and many leave their garbage in the picnic spots. If you like crowds, visit in the weekend or holiday seasons. If not, go in spring or autumn, on week days.
It’s good region for those who love petroglyphs. We found Tamgaly (east of Almaty, UNESCO site, Iron & Bronze Age) and Tamgaly-Tas (northeast of Almaty, Buddhist carvings) both very impressive. Tamgaly-Tas is on the Ili River and great for camping (expect mosquitoes though). There’s another petroglyph site in the Altyn-Emel National Park.
Note on the Altyn-Emel National Park: to enter the west side (and see the petroglyphs), you need to organize your tickets in Almaty. We didn’t and couldn’t enter. To enter the east side for the fabulous Aktau mountains and the Singing Sand Dune, you can buy the tickets in Basshi.
5- Sightseeing in Central Kazakhstan
Among the many places we visited were Zeshqazkhan, the Ulytau Mountains, Lake Tengiz, the incredible impressive Alzhir museum (about the women gulag), Astana (or Nur Sultan as it was called then), and a second impressive museum about the gulag (karlag) system in Dolinka,
8 – Accommodation & Camping 12%
1- Accommodation/Camping in East Kazakhstan
Because of winter we didn’t wild camp. We stuck to parking lots of roadside cafes – convenient but boring. In cities we stayed with local people, either through Couchsurfing (find us under ‘Coen Wubbels’) or through invitations of locals. We like to take up these invitations, which have always contributed to a deeper appreciation of the country.
2- Accommodation/Camping in South & Southwest Kazakhstan
In Shymkent we stayed in a lovely hostel that we can much recommend, the Sweet Home Hostel. A friendly owner, artistic interior, good hot showers, clean. WiFi not so good, we used our mobile data. Find the guesthouse on iOverlander.
We did wild camp in south and southwest Kazakhstan in winter, and were fine with the Planar Heater. Temps were around freezing – not as cold as I had expected.
3- Accommodation/Camping in Southeast Kazakhstan
This summer we spent wild camping everywhere in southeast Kazakhstan in some gorgeous landscapes, particularly the earlier mentioned Altyn Emel National Park and in/around the Charyn Canyon.
Here is an elaborate post on Overland Camping in Kazakhstan.
9 – Other Expenditures 35%
I keep a journal with the above-mentioned travel-budget expenditures. All money spent minus these registered expenditures is ‘Other Expenditures’, of which I don’t keep the details. This basically comes to money spent on groceries and eating out.
Tips, Suggestions, Feedback?
We hope you find this Kazakhstan Travel Budget Guide useful. Do you have questions or your own experiences to add? Feel free to do so in the comment section below. Thanks!
Don’t forget to check out the Kazakhstan Overland Travel Guide, which gives an elaborate overview of all things related to roads, roadmaps, navigation, traffic rules
Fist published in 2020 / updated October 2022
Don’t forget, the Kazakhstan Overland Travel Guide!
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