Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Almaty Basic Guide

Introductory guide to Almaty
Please find here some advices and recommendations about general travel in this beautiful Central Asian metropolis.

As soon as you exit the arrival area, you will feel that your name changed to “Taxi” and everyone is greeting you as a superstar. Just ignore them (they can be quite insistent following you until the exit or the checkpoint). From there you can get local buses #32,#79,#86 and #92... To the city center from 6.30am to 9.30pm. Price of the bus is 80Tг. Taxi around 2000Tг.

Local currency
The local currency of Kazakhstan is the Tenge (Tг). They have coins from 1(barely used)5,10,20,50 &100 and notes 200,500,1000,2000,5000 & 10000 Tг (the last two I wasn’t lucky to get and found to change 2000 quite difficult). Today December 2012 the exchange rate is raftly 1$=150, 1€=198.5 ,1£= 244.5 (check the link for the most accurate rate)

Tenge coins

The soviet mentality and way to think is still there and will remain still 1 or 2 generations more. Kazakhstan still to be more open to foreign influence  (even if I prefer that remains like now).

Kazakhstan is a multicultural country with many different ethnic groups. The predominant groups are the Kazakhs (60%), followed by Russian, Tatar, Ukrainian, Tajik, Kyrgyz, Ubzbeks, Germans, Dungan (Muslim Chinese) and many others. Kazakhs in general are very proud of their origin ethnics and even in the identity card is stated.

It can be quite difficult to find in Almaty. I was incredible lucky to find a wonderful host through the couchsurfing network, but the research I found was not very pleasant. Almaty is not a budget friendly place. The cheapest place I heard was the Third Dormitory in Satpaev Street with shared dormitory from 1000TG, however quite bad reputation from fellow travelers about getting stolen and unfriendly staff.

Dangers or annoyances
Police was present everywhere and usually carrying inspections of documents, although I was never stopped (do I look like Kazakh?)
Everything, absolutely everything is in Russian and writing in Cyrillic. No tourist office or maps(or I couldn't find it). Not many helpful people. Hard to get the right orientation as all the streets look the same.
The streets conditions are also quite hazard. Not many wheelchair facilities.

Almaty symbol is undoubtedly the apple
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