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.
Don’t forget to check out the Kazakhstan Overland Travel Guide, which gives an extensive overview of all things related to roads, roadmaps, navigation, traffic rules
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).
Our Overland Journey in Kazakhstan
Our first stay in Kazakhstan was a little more than two weeks, in December 2018. We used that time to drive from the Russian border along the eastern main route south to Almaty.
There wasn’t much snow but it was bitter cold. We were very happy with our Planar Heater, kindly sent to us by Tiger Exped when traveling in Siberia. We were grateful to meet people who invited us to stay with them because overlanding in winter means that you spend a lot of time in your overland vehicle.
We returned to Kazakhstan in November 2019, another winter season. We decided to stay on the southern side of the country and drove from Shymkent via Aralsk to Beyneu and to the Mangystau Region in the southwest. The Mangystau Region in particular captured our hearts.
Of course we need to see Kazakhstan in summer too, particularly to do some hiking.
So no worries, Kazakhstan. We will be back!
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 December 2019 the rate was 427 Tenge to a euro / 382 Tenge to a US dollar.
We easily found ATMs in cities for our Maestro debit card: Almaty, Shymkent, Aralsk.
We always paid with cash, so we have no info on the use of credit cards or bank cards to pay for gas, food, or accommodation.
More details about money issues on Caravanistan.
Kazakhstan country stats:
- Telephone code: +998
- Time: UTC (GMT) +5.
- Electric Voltage: 220AC (50Hz).
- Weights and Measures: Metric.
2 – Our Kazakhstan Travel Budget Report
Distances and Time Traveled in Kazakhstan:
- Time traveled in Kazakhstan: 58 days (Dec. 2018 & Nov./Dec. 2019)
- Average expenditure: € 29 /day (2 persons).
- Total kilometers driven: 5852 kilometers
- Average kms/day: 101
Not included: health insurance, electronics, new car tires
Notes on our Kazakhstan Travel Budget & Stats:
- Land Cruiser expenditures are detailed under #4 below.
- Because of our traveling in winter, we stayed in a couple of guesthouses in towns for a bit of comfort.
- Driven over 100 kilometers a day is a lot for us, which added to the costs for diesel.
3 – Documentation (Visa & Temporary Import Document)
3a- Visa for Kazakhstan
We did so twice, 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.
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.
(So, now with the corona suddenly changing everything in the world, it gives peace of mind that we don’t have to worry about our Land Cruiser being parked in Kazakhstan until January).
Coming from Russia:
- 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:
- 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 :-().
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.
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
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 Altau. 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).
5 – Diesel & Gas Stations in Kazakhstan
Diesel costs around €0,47 per liter (Jan ’20) with prices varying slightly per gas station.
On the stretch Ust Kamenogorsk – Semey – Almaty – border Kyrgyzstan 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 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.
6 – Public Transport in Kazakhstan
We did not use public transport in Kazakhstan but it was cool to check out the artistic bus stations anyways.
7 – Sightseeing in Kazakhstan
Due to cold, gray weather, our sightseeing was limited. The downtown areas of Ust Kamonogorsk and Semey are nice enough and we checked out the petroglyphs of Akbaur.
Expect a disappointment, particularly coming from Uzbekistan. For one, the main mausoleum is under restoration (Nov ’19). In fact, the entire pilgrimage site is 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 ‘real’ mausoleum treasures in Samarkand and Bukhara.
Aralsk and 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 went there.
The real treasure of Kazakhstan thus far has been the Mangystau Region for its mind-blowing landscapes of canyons and limestone rock formations. The sightseeing part of it was fascinating with incredible cemeteries and underground mosques.
8 – Accommodation & Camping in Kazakhstan
Because of winter we didn’t go wild camping. 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 always take up these invitations and they have always contributed to appreciating the country on a deeper level.
South & Southwestern Kazakhstan
In Shymkent we stayed in a lovely hostel that we can much recommend, the Sweet Home Hostel. A very nice owner, very artistic interior, good hot showers, clean. WiFi okay, kitchen a bit small (but she was building another corner for cooking). Find it on iOverlander.
We did wild camp and were fine with the Planar Heater. Temps were around freezing – not as cold as I had expected.
A separate, more elaborate post will follow on camping & accommodation in Kazakhstan.
9 – Other Expenditures in Kazakhstan
I keep a journal with the above-mentioned travel-budget expenditures. All money spent minus these registered expenditures is Other Expenditures. 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
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