Okay, so you’re headed to Kazakhstan. Here are a few handy travel tips to keep in mind:
Don’t forget to pack a few extra: wet wipes & ‘gut problem’ tablets. Mutton fat & Central Asia can play havoc with a delicate western constitution.
If you only have 24-48 hours in Kazakhstan, you must visit: Almaty. It’s the Big Apple of Central Asia, let alone Kazakhstan.
If you’re going to haggle, keep this in mind: if it is in a bazaar, it is usually a good policy. In a Western-style shop - nyet.
The one food I totally loved was: laghman. (Noodle soup with a very generous-anything-goes-equal-opportunities-topping-employment-policy.)
And the one food I will pass on in the future is: Fat tailed sheep.
I know it may sound weird, but you absolutely have to try: Shubat or Kumiss. Camel milk or horse milk.
But as an independent traveler in Kazakhstan, the one thing I would avoid is: the taxi drivers at the Almaty airport arrival hall.
I was really surprised by: how much fun a 12-hour train ride in 35 degree Celsius heat can be.
The best way to fit in and not draw too much attention to yourself is to: rename yourself Tatiana.
When it comes to getting around, I recommend: sticking your hand out on the street - every car in Kazakhstan is a potential taxi.
A good place to get basics (bottled water, toothpaste, a snack, stamps, phone cards) is: stopping at a kiosk in a big town; at a corner shop in anyplace else. And if you have time – The Green Market in Almaty.
And it’s always nice to say ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘how much?’ in the native tongue. And that is: strangely complicated to say please in Kazakh. It’s more a question of doing or not doing something. But ‘Rakhmit,’ is ‘thank you’ & ‘Qansha’ is a straightforward ‘how much’ in Kazakh. Russian is useful too: ‘Spasiba’ ‘Palzhalsta,’ & ‘Skolk Stoit.’