Backpacking Kazakhstan

Hello to all seasoned and aspiring backpackers!

Coupled with largely untouched breathtaking landscapes, Kazakhstan offers a diverse culture which is sure to make your trip truly authentic.

We’ve already created the perfect itinerary, so all you have to do is pack your bags and get ready for your next adventure!


Important Basics

Official Language ( Kazakh & Russian )
EnglishKazakh
HelloSälemetsiz be
GoodbyeSaw bol
Thank youRaxmet
YesÏä
NoJoq
Capital City

Nur-Sultan

Form of Government

Presidential system

Best Time to Visit

April to September

Fun Facts
  • Lake Balkhash is part fresh water, part sea water.
  • Horse meat is popular in Kazakhstan.
  • The soviet satellite Sputnik was launched from Kazakhstan.

Cities

Nur-Sultan

The first stop on our Kazakhstan itinerary is Nur-Sultan – stay here for at least two full days to explore it to the fullest.

 This capital city, located in the northeast of Kazakhstan, impresses visitors with its modern architecture – you’ll even forget that you’re still in the desert. The city is a colorful mix of Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Soviet Russian influences, which are all reflected in this architecture.

 To really get to know the city, check out both the modern and sophisticated left bank and the traditional right bank, home to the historic old town. One iconic building you shouldn't miss is the futuristic Baiterek Tower, which offers a breathtaking view from the top. The National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan is also a good place to learn more about the country, its people, and its culture.

 During your stay in Nur-Sultan, sleep at a local hotel for just €9 a night for a single room.

Almaty

Your next stop is Almaty. Get there from Nur-Sultan by night train for €20. We recommend staying in Almaty for about three days to experience the whole city.

 Almaty is located in the southeast of Kazakhstan and is one of the best places to visit in the country, and for good reason! The city offers amazing cultural and historic sites like the Arasan Bath, Zenkov’s Cathedral, and the Central Mosque. The Green Bazaar and the pedestrian area offer the perfect opportunity to take part in the city’s life and try some fresh local products and dishes.

 If you want to take a short break from the city to immerse yourself in nature, head to the Big Almaty Lake in the Zailiysky Alteau mountain range. It’s the perfect spot to get out and go hiking while enjoying the spectacular views of the turquoise water.

 If you’re looking for suitable accommodation, you can find a hostel for €7 a night for a bed in an 8-person dorm.

Zhabagly

You can reach the next stop of your trip through Kazakhstan, Almaty, by night train for about €25. Zhabagly is located in southern Kazakhstan and is home to one of the most beautiful nature reserves you will ever see. The Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve, the oldest in Central Asia, is home to mountains, rivers, canyons, and meadows.

 While visiting the reserve, there are many activities to take part in – from bird watching to hiking and climbing. If you’re there in spring, there are also fields of tulips adding a pop of color to the verdant valleys. We recommend hiring a guide, as many of the trails are not properly marked.

A guesthouse is the perfect accommodation for your stay in Zhabagly, costing €27 a night for a double room.

Turkistan

Travel from Zhabagly to Turkistan by taxi and train for €18. Try and stay here for about two days to be able to see everything.

 We’re headed to the southwest of Kazakhstan, to the city of Turkistan. The city is strongly connected to the culture and history of the country. The Juma Mosque and the Historical and Cultural-Ethnographic Center are only a couple of the places worth visiting in Turkistan.

 We recommend checking out other popular attractions, too, like the Mausoleum of Khawaja Ahmed Yasawi, the Mausoleum of Rabia-Sultan Begum, the Hilvet Semi-Underground Mosque, and the Sauran – preserved ruins of a Silk Road city. The medieval architecture behind the mausoleum is simply beautiful with its turquoise domed roofs. These places are full of Kazakh history and are perfect for getting to know the country's past. 

 You can find affordable hostels here from €16 a night for a bed in a 4-person dorm.

Aral

Take the night train to head further west to Aral, which will only cost about €16.

 The main reason for visiting Aral is to see the Aral Sea, or rather what is left of it, and to learn the history behind it. The Aral Sea used to be a thriving body of water that housed fishing towns along its coast. However, in the 1960s, when the rivers that flowed into the Aral Sea were used for cotton harvesting, the lake no longer received the required amount of water and started to dry up.

 Today, several tourist stations within the town tell the story behind the Aral Sea. The Fisherman’s Museum, a small history museum, is one of them. You can also explore the ship graveyard that this shrinking sea left behind. 

 However, you'll also see that the locals are trying to revive the Aral Sea! People have become aware of their mistakes and are working to restore the sea to its original size. It will take many years to achieve this, but they have made progress, which has given a little boost to the cities’ economy.

 Stay in an affordable hotel nearby for €15 a night for a double room.

Kyzylorda

Kyzylorda is the perfect place to end your trip. The easiest way to travel from Aral to Kyzylorda is by train, with the prices starting from as low as €12. Kyzylorda is a great place for a short stay, so you won't need more than a day.

You’re back to bustling city life here, which is a great way to end the trip! Try some of the amazing restaurants and enjoy local cuisine. Be sure to check out Victory Park, Aytbay Mosque, and Central Square.

For your last night in Kyzylorda, a hotel is the perfect choice – double rooms are reasonably priced at €26 per night.

To conclude your trip, take the plane back to Nur-Sultan for about €60 to catch your flight back home.


Nur-Sultan

Nur-Sultan

The first stop on our Kazakhstan itinerary is Nur-Sultan – stay here for at least two full days to explore it to the fullest.

 This capital city, located in the northeast of Kazakhstan, impresses visitors with its modern architecture – you’ll even forget that you’re still in the desert. The city is a colorful mix of Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Soviet Russian influences, which are all reflected in this architecture.

 To really get to know the city, check out both the modern and sophisticated left bank and the traditional right bank, home to the historic old town. One iconic building you shouldn't miss is the futuristic Baiterek Tower, which offers a breathtaking view from the top. The National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan is also a good place to learn more about the country, its people, and its culture.

 During your stay in Nur-Sultan, sleep at a local hotel for just €9 a night for a single room.

Almaty

Almaty

Your next stop is Almaty. Get there from Nur-Sultan by night train for €20. We recommend staying in Almaty for about three days to experience the whole city.

 Almaty is located in the southeast of Kazakhstan and is one of the best places to visit in the country, and for good reason! The city offers amazing cultural and historic sites like the Arasan Bath, Zenkov’s Cathedral, and the Central Mosque. The Green Bazaar and the pedestrian area offer the perfect opportunity to take part in the city’s life and try some fresh local products and dishes.

 If you want to take a short break from the city to immerse yourself in nature, head to the Big Almaty Lake in the Zailiysky Alteau mountain range. It’s the perfect spot to get out and go hiking while enjoying the spectacular views of the turquoise water.

 If you’re looking for suitable accommodation, you can find a hostel for €7 a night for a bed in an 8-person dorm.

Zhabagly

Zhabagly

You can reach the next stop of your trip through Kazakhstan, Almaty, by night train for about €25. Zhabagly is located in southern Kazakhstan and is home to one of the most beautiful nature reserves you will ever see. The Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve, the oldest in Central Asia, is home to mountains, rivers, canyons, and meadows.

 While visiting the reserve, there are many activities to take part in – from bird watching to hiking and climbing. If you’re there in spring, there are also fields of tulips adding a pop of color to the verdant valleys. We recommend hiring a guide, as many of the trails are not properly marked.

A guesthouse is the perfect accommodation for your stay in Zhabagly, costing €27 a night for a double room.

Turkistan

Turkistan

Travel from Zhabagly to Turkistan by taxi and train for €18. Try and stay here for about two days to be able to see everything.

 We’re headed to the southwest of Kazakhstan, to the city of Turkistan. The city is strongly connected to the culture and history of the country. The Juma Mosque and the Historical and Cultural-Ethnographic Center are only a couple of the places worth visiting in Turkistan.

 We recommend checking out other popular attractions, too, like the Mausoleum of Khawaja Ahmed Yasawi, the Mausoleum of Rabia-Sultan Begum, the Hilvet Semi-Underground Mosque, and the Sauran – preserved ruins of a Silk Road city. The medieval architecture behind the mausoleum is simply beautiful with its turquoise domed roofs. These places are full of Kazakh history and are perfect for getting to know the country's past. 

 You can find affordable hostels here from €16 a night for a bed in a 4-person dorm.

Aral

Aral

Take the night train to head further west to Aral, which will only cost about €16.

 The main reason for visiting Aral is to see the Aral Sea, or rather what is left of it, and to learn the history behind it. The Aral Sea used to be a thriving body of water that housed fishing towns along its coast. However, in the 1960s, when the rivers that flowed into the Aral Sea were used for cotton harvesting, the lake no longer received the required amount of water and started to dry up.

 Today, several tourist stations within the town tell the story behind the Aral Sea. The Fisherman’s Museum, a small history museum, is one of them. You can also explore the ship graveyard that this shrinking sea left behind. 

 However, you'll also see that the locals are trying to revive the Aral Sea! People have become aware of their mistakes and are working to restore the sea to its original size. It will take many years to achieve this, but they have made progress, which has given a little boost to the cities’ economy.

 Stay in an affordable hotel nearby for €15 a night for a double room.

Kyzylorda

Kyzylorda

Kyzylorda is the perfect place to end your trip. The easiest way to travel from Aral to Kyzylorda is by train, with the prices starting from as low as €12. Kyzylorda is a great place for a short stay, so you won't need more than a day.

You’re back to bustling city life here, which is a great way to end the trip! Try some of the amazing restaurants and enjoy local cuisine. Be sure to check out Victory Park, Aytbay Mosque, and Central Square.

For your last night in Kyzylorda, a hotel is the perfect choice – double rooms are reasonably priced at €26 per night.

To conclude your trip, take the plane back to Nur-Sultan for about €60 to catch your flight back home.

Kazakhstan Route Map

Itinerary and Stops.

Tag
Route/Station
Transport
Unterkunft
1. Home – Nur-Sultan
Home – Nur-Sultan
Flight
175
Single room
9
2. Nur-Sultan
Nur-Sultan
-
Single room
9
3. Nur-Sultan – Almaty
Nur-Sultan – Almaty
Night train
19
Night train
4. Almaty
Almaty
-
8-person dorm
7
5. Almaty
Almaty
-
8-person dorm
7
6. Almaty
Almaty
Boat
10
8-person dorm
7
7. Almaty – Zhabagly
Almaty – Zhabagly
Night train
19
Night train
8. Zhabagly
Zhabagly
-
Double room
27
9. Zhabagly
Zhabagly
-
Double room
27
10. Zhabagly
Zhabagly
-
Double room
27
11. Zhabagly
Zhabagly
-
Double room
27
12. Zhabagly – Turkistan
Zhabagly – Turkistan
Train
9
4-person dorm
16
13. Turkistan
Turkistan
-
4-person dorm
16
14. Turkistan - Aral
Turkistan - Aral
Night train
10
Night train
15. Aral
Aral
-
Double room
15
16. Aral
Aral
-
Double room
15
17. Aral – Kyzylorda
Aral – Kyzylorda
-
Double room
26
18. Kyzylorda
Kyzylorda
-
Double room
26
19. Kyzylorda – Nur-Sultan
Kyzylorda – Nur-Sultan
Flight
60
Single room
9
20. Nur-Sultan
Nur-Sultan
-
Single room
9
21. Nur-Sultan – Home
Nur-Sultan – Home
Flight
175

Total price.

Flights 410,00
Transportation 67,00
Tours 0,00
Accommodation 279,00
Total756,00

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Dos and Donts, Food & Drinks, Costs.

Breakfast

Porridge: A common breakfast for Kazakhs.

Soups

Shurpa: This soup consists of a meat broth with vegetables and traditional spices.
It is often served as the first course.
Borschtsch: A soup made from beetroot and white cabbage. 

Main courses

Beshbarmak: This is the national dish and translated it means “as much as five fingers,” since it’s traditionally eaten with the hands. It’s usually made with noodles, chopped meat, and an onion sauce.

Manty: These are dumplings filled with meat and cooked vegetables, accompanied by a dip usually made of chilli and local spices.

Plov: This is a classic dish made of carrots, rice, and meat. Raisins are also often added.

Samsa:  These savoury dumplings are made of puff pastry and are filled with all kinds of ingredients. Vegetarians may even find something suitable as well. 

Drinks

Kumys: This is mare’s milk, which is traditionally offered to guests in Kazakhstan. As a backpacker, don’t drink too much of it, because our stomachs aren’t used to it.

Kazakhstan

The exchange rate for 100 Kazakhstani Tenge (KZT) is around €0.22 (as of May 2022). See prices for certain products and the cost of living below:

Cost of Living 

Food

Free Time

Personal Hygiene

Dos

If you’re a man, be prepared to shake hands with every other man you meet. So, if you’re offered a handshake, be sure to accept it, as it is very important in Kazakhstan.

Talk to the people! The best thing is to learn a few words in the local language so that you can make small talk and communicate with people. The locals are very open, so it’s definitely worth talking to them!

Respect your elders! In Kazakhstan, Soviet structure is still clearly present. This is mainly true for Almaty. There’s an unspoken rule that says that everyone older than you has more rights. It doesn't matter if it's only a few years. So, you should let these people go first, offer them your seat, and, above all, treat them with respect. On the other hand, you can also expect younger people to do the same for you.

Don'ts

Don't give too many compliments. In Kazakhstan, if you compliment too much on something, people feel obliged to give it to you. Even if you're just being polite and complimenting a house or a work of art, for example, try to keep it as brief as possible.

If you’re a woman, don’t grab a taxi with men, especially in Almaty. You should never sit in a car with other men and, in general, you have to make it clear that you will not accept other passengers.

Don’t wear revealing clothes! Cover up, because skimpy outfits are not tolerated in this country, no matter what area you’re in. So, if you want to have a good relationship with the locals, it’s important to dress appropriately.

Visa, Visa, Passport & Vaccinations

Passport

Yes

Temporary passport

Yes

National ID

No

Temporary national ID

No

Child’s pass

Yes

Visa

(Not necessary)

Vaccine

Robert-Koch-Instituts

Additional Remarks.

We recommend making sure that your travel documents are valid for 6 months beyond the intended duration of your stay. Please also inform yourself on the current entry regulations regarding the Corona virus. Current information about this can be found at your country’s Foreign Office.

The team at Backpacker Trail wishes you lots of fun and an unforgettable trip!

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