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Country Reports

Kazakhstan Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Travelers to Kazakhstan (population 18 million) should note that some regions are off-limits to foreign visitors, including the area along the Chinese border (towns of Kulzhat and Kargos), the provinces of Jambyl, Karaganda, and Kyzylorda (town of Baikonur), and the Bokeiordinsky and Zhangalinsky regions in West Kazakhstan province.

TERRORISM

Visitors should be aware of several significant risks before traveling to the oil-rich country, including the serious threat of terrorism. On October 31, 2011, two terrorist attacks - including a suicide attack - took place in the town of Atyrau (1500 km [930 mi] southwest of the capital Astana).

SOCIOECONOMIC RISKS

Between December 16, 2011, and January 5, 2012, Kazakh authorities declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew in the city of Zhanaozen (Mangystau province) following clashes between recently laid-off workers and security forces that resulted in ten deaths.

CRIME

The country experiences high levels of petty crime; as such, visitors should take certain precautions: do not walk around alone at night; do not take unregistered taxis; keep a photocopy of your passport as well as your identity card, credit cards, and plane tickets in a safe place; do not walk around with large amounts of cash; be especially vigilant when entering and leaving your home or hotel, when in bars and nightclubs, late at night, while changing money at kiosks, or in public areas frequented by foreigners. Always keep an eye on your drink and do not accept food or drink from a stranger.

POLITICS

Finally, criticizing the regime, or - even worse - the authority of President Nazarbayev (in power since the country’s independence a quarter century ago), could lead to serious consequences (e.g. imprisonment) for visitors and residents alike. It should also be noted that Nazarbayev’s health (75 years old) raises some concern about the future political stability of the country, due to possible contentions and rivalries that could develop in the event of the president’s sudden exit from the political stage (e.g. his death).

Presidential elections were held on April 26, 2015, and incumbent Nazarbayev was unsurprisingly reelected with 98 percent of the vote. Presidential elections will be held in April 2020.

NATURAL RISKS

The zone to the south of the towns of Kurchatov and Semipalatinsk, as well as the area along the Chinese border, should be avoided at all costs. These areas are considered an “ecological disaster” zone due to nuclear experiments conducted there during the Soviet era.

Kazakhstan is also situated within an active seismic zone. In May 2003, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 struck Jambyl province (south), leaving 36,000 residents homeless.

HEALTH

Hospitals are scarce throughout the country and the quality of care offered is below Western standards.

Tap water should not be considered safe to drink.

TRANSPORTATION

Before planning a trip to the country, foreign visitors should be aware that tourist installations (e.g. hotels, restaurants) are rare, especially outside Almaty and the capital Astana. Air travel is frequently disrupted (delays and cancelations) in the winter due to extreme weather conditions. It is worth noting that authorities in this vast country which is as big as Western Europe, encourage residents to travel by plane instead of by road.

OTHER

Although Kazakhstan is a secular country, the majority of its citizens are Muslim and Islamic beliefs and practices are strictly observed. As such, travelers are advised to dress modestly, to remain discreet, and to respect local religious values.

Climate

Kazakhstan's climate is continental. Summers are very hot (35°C to 40°C) with mild nights (20°C). Winters are very cold (-10°C), even in the desert. Conditions are globally dry, with very low levels of rainfall in the desert regions and more significant levels in the mountains. Violent thunderstorms often strike the steppes. Fall and spring are the most pleasant times of the year.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +7 Criminal Police: 02 Fire Dept.: 01 Ambulance: 03

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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