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Kazakhstan

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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions in Kazakhstan. Use common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travel conditions.
  • Terrorism is a threat. Past attacks targeted public transport, transport hubs and other public places. Further attacks are possible and could target foreigners. Be alert. Follow the advice of local authorities. See Safety and security
  • Australia has a Consulate in Kazakhstan, headed by an Honorary Consul, which provides limited consular services. The Australian Embassy in Moscow provides full consular assistance to Australians in Kazakhstan. See Where to get help

Entry and exit

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Australian Government cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.

Visas

If your stay is for 30 days or less, you won't need a visa to enter Kazakhstan.

For longer stays, you'll need to get a visa before you travel. Get the appropriate visa for the purpose of your visit. Check the validity dates for your visa and any restrictions before travelling.

Penalties for visa infringements or overstaying include fines, imprisonment and deportation.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Kazakhstan for up-to-date information.

Other formalities

If you're arriving from a country where yellow fever is present, you'll need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate. More information: Yellow fever risk and certification requirements (by country, WHO)

If you plan to stay for more than three months, you'll need a valid medical certificate of a negative HIV test.

You'll be issued a migration card (white slip) on entry. Keep this card in your passport – you'll need it to exit, check into hotels and for any official business. The migration card must contain two stamps. If you are not issued a migration card on entry or your migration card contains only one stamp, contact the nearest Migration Police office.

Declare all prescription medication and other restricted items on arrival. If you fail to declare, or if the quantity held exceeds legal limits, you could face charges.

Children travelling alone or with one parent/guardian require a letter of consent for travel signed by both parents.

There are strict regulations on the export of antiquities.

Strict border controls apply to road travel between Almaty (Kazakhstan) and Bishkek (Kyrgyz Republic).

More information: Embassy or Consulate of Kazakhstan

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia and has at least two blank pages.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the Kazakh Tenge (KZT). Declare all amounts in excess of USD10,000 on arrival and departure. Only change your foreign currency for KZT at authorised commercial banks and exchange bureaux.

The economy is cash-based but travellers cheques and credit cards are accepted at large hotels catering to foreigners. Credit cards are widely accepted in Astana and Almaty.

Outside of Astana and Almaty ATMs are limited. Contact your bank to ensure your cards will work.

Safety and security

Crime

Theft, pickpocketing, purse snatching and assaults can occur on public transport, in parks, shopping areas, open markets (including the Green Market in Almaty), restaurants and near major tourist hotels and nightclubs, especially in the Almaty region. The risk of crime increases at night.

There are reports of foreign travellers being drugged and robbed in nightclubs and bars in Almaty.

The expatriate community in Atyrau and Aktau in western Kazakhstan has been the target of violent attacks and muggings in the past.  

Carjackings have been reported.

Thieves posing as police officers or unsolicited 'meet-and-greet' drivers at airports have robbed travellers. Official taxi drivers and police officers have identification.

  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
  • Avoid walking alone at night.
  • Never leave your drinks or food unattended.
  • Don't accept food, drinks, gum or cigarettes from strangers or new acquaintainces.
  • Pre-arrange your transport, where possible.
  • Avoid taking unofficial taxis or taxis that have other passengers.
  • Keep vehicles doors locked, windows up and valuables out of sight at all times, including when moving.
  • If approached by a police officer, taxi driver or official, ask to see their credentials.
  • Monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Civil unrest and political tension

Demonstrations occur and have the potential to turn violent.

In the past, there have been tensions around the border with Kyrgyz Republic. Security issues could emerge if tensions intensify in the future.

  • Avoid all large gatherings, protests and demonstrations.
  • Monitor the media for reports of planned or possible unrest. Avoid affected areas.
  • Follow instructions from local authorities.
  • If you're planning to travel between Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic monitor the media and consult local sources for information on any new safety or security risks in the border regions. More information: Kyrgyz Republic

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat in Kazakhstan. An attack could occur at any time. Targets could include locations popular with foreigners. Attacks can be indiscriminate. 

Past terror attacks have resulted in multiple deaths and injuries. Targets have included public transport and other transport hubs, and public places frequented by foreigners.

  • Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places.
  • Exercise particular caution around locations known to be possible terrorist targets.
  • Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Monitor the media for any new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so. 

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

Travel restrictions

You'll need prior authorisation from the Kazakh government to travel to:

  • areas along the border with China (Kulzhat and Kargos)
  • regions around the Gvardeyskiy village, Rossavel village, the Kulzhabashy railway station in Zhambyl Oblast
  • Bokeyorda and Zhangaly districts in Western Kazakhstan Oblast
  • the town of Priozersk and Gulshad village in Karagunda Oblast
  • Baykonur, Karmakshy, and Kazakly districts in Kyzylorda Oblast
  • any areas where military installations are located.

Border regions

If you plan to travel to areas within 25 kilometres of Kazakhstan's borders, carry personal identification in case you need to present it to the local authorities.

Crossing the land border between Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan by car can be slow. Customs checks can create significant delays.

The border between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan may close temporarily. Contact the Kazakhstan Border Service before travelling.

Road travel

You're four times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Kazakhstan than in Australia. Hazards include poor road conditions and driving standards, insufficient street lighting, pedestrians crossing streets unexpectedly and snow and ice on roads during winter. Cars often don't give way to pedestrians on roads.

In rural areas, animals on roads are an additional hazard. The road between Almaty and Bishkek in Kyrgyz Republic is particularly treacherous. Access to service stations can be limited in rural areas and fuel shortages sometimes occur.

Driving with a blood alcohol level greater than zero is illegal.

  • Check you have adequate insurance cover before driving.
  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Beware of farm animals on the roads and pedestrians crossing streets without warning.
  • Avoid travel at night, especially in rural areas.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

You can drive in Kazakhstan with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must obtain your IDP before departing Australia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Always wear a helmet.

Taxis

Use only registered taxis and limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel.

Public transport

Avoid public transport. The maintenance and safety standards of local buses and mini-buses is poor. Rail travel can be unreliable and dangerous due to petty crime.

Air travel

On 8 December 2016, the European Union (EU) lifted its operating ban on all carriers certified by Kazakhstan regulatory authorities. The European Commission website has a list of airlines that are subject to operating bans or restrictions within the EU.

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety Kazakhstan.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs are severe and include prison sentences and heavy fines. More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

Identification checks by police are common. Carry your passport, with appropriate registration, at all times. A certified copy, including of your registration, is usually sufficient.

Activities that are illegal in Kazakhstan include:

  • driving a vehicle if your blood alcohol level is greater than zero
  • photographing airport facilities
  • taking photographs near military and security establishments, border areas and some official buildings, even if there are no notices indicating photography is prohibited or restricted
  • taking photographs in premises where photography is prohibited – this includes many larger shops and supermarkets.

Serious crimes, such as murder, may attract the death penalty.

If you plan to live or work in Kazakhstan for long periods, or if you plan to get married there, you may need to get official documents organised before you arrive in Kazakhstan:

  • for any Australian-issued document to be recognised in Kazakhstan, you'll need an apostille on it – check requirements with an Embassy or Consulate of Kazakhstan before you travel.
  • if you plan to apply for a Kazakh residency permit or to get married in Kazakhstan, you'll need an official letter of no objection from the Australian Embassy in Moscow.

More information:

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Kazakhstan does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit our ability to provide you with consular assistance if you're an Australian-Kazakh dual national and you're arrested or detained.

Kazakhstan may restrict your entry or rescind your Kazakh nationality if authorities become aware of a second nationality.

Nationals of Kazakhstan are required to complete national service obligations. If you're an Australian-Kazakh dual national, you could be required to complete these service obligations if you visit Kazakhstan.

In deciding which passport to travel on, consider the possible implications for your Kazakh citizenship, national service obligations and ability to access Australian consular services if you're arrested or detained.  

More information:

Local customs

Standards of dress and behaviour are conservative in Kazakhstan. Same-sex relationships are not illegal but are not widely accepted by society.

Take care not to offend. If in doubt, dress and behave conservatively and seek local advice.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur from early May to early June 2019. During Ramadan, take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public in the presence of people who are fasting.

More information:

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. 

Regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy.
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.
  • More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some, such as sleeping tablets and medication containing codeine, may be illegal or restricted, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a dated letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

Declare all medication on arrival. If you fail to declare restricted medicines, or if the quantity held exceeds legal limits, you could face administrative or criminal charges, even with a doctor's prescription and letter.

More information:

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases

Travel in forested areas brings the risk of exposure to tick-borne diseases. Ticks are common from spring to autumn.

Protect yourself against insect-borne diseases:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect-proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • consider taking malaria prevention medication
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including typhoid, hepatitis, haemorrhagic fever, tuberculosis, brucellosis, leishmaniasis and rabies) are prevalent. More serious outbreaks occur from time-to-time.

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water in rural areas.
  • Avoid ice cubes in rural areas.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Avoid unpasteurised dairy products.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

Medical facilities throughout Kazakhstan are below Australian standards. Basic drugs and equipment are in short supply.

You'll often need to pay in cash up-front before doctors or hospitals will treat you, including for emergency care.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to the United Arab Emirates or another destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.  

Natural disasters

Natural disasters

Kazakhstan is susceptible to earthquakes.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times.
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

More information: Earthquakes

Severe weather

A number of people have been killed in snow-related accidents in recent years, including avalanches, snow falling from roofs, prolonged exposure to extreme cold and motor vehicles accidents.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • National emergency number: 112
  • Police: 102
  • Firefighting and rescue: 101
  • Ambulance or medical emergencies: 103.

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can't do to assist Australians overseas.

Australia has a Consulate in Kazakhstan headed by an Honorary-Consul. The Consulate provides limited consular services, including conducting passport interviews but excluding notarial services. You can get the full range of consular services from the Australian Embassy in Moscow.

Australian Embassy, Russian Federation

10a/2 Podkolokolny Pereulok
Moscow, Russia
Telephone: +7 495 956-6070
Fax: +7 495 956-6170
Website: russia.embassy.gov.au

Check the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

Australian Consulate, Kazakhstan

Paul Cohn
Esentai Tower
77/7 Al-Farabi Ave
Almaty 050060, Kazakhstan
Telephone: +7 727 258 5960
Fax: +7 727 258 5961

If you're unable to contact the Embassy or Consulate in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information