Kazakhstan sees itself as a bridge between East and West. This mixture is also evident in everyday life, western luxury with corresponding prices and, for example, permanent traffic jams on the one hand – the simplest living conditions, great hospitality and old traditions on the other result in a sometimes irritating but also fascinating mix.
Estimated GDP: US $ 170 billion (2019)
Per capita income (estimated, nominal): 9,139 US $ (2019)
Human Development Rank (HDI): Rank 50 (out of 189), 2019
Proportion of poverty (less than $ 2 per day): 2.7% (2015)
Distribution of income (Gini coefficient): 27.5 (2017)
Economic Transformation Index (BTI): 54 (out of 137), 2020
Currency: Tenge (KZT)
Exchange rate: 1 € = 503 tenge (November 2020)
Time zone: AQTT (UTC +5); QYTT / ALMTT (UTC +6)
Country code (phone): +007
Climate (for capital): strictly continental
In Almaty and Nur-Sultan / Astana, property prices are high, despite heavy building activity and the economic crisis, and rents are very high. A three-room apartment in a new building in a good location can cost several thousand US dollars in rent, simple, non-modernized small apartments may only cost a fraction of that, but are also expensive compared to the standard. The additional costs, based on the actual consumption or the number of people living in the apartment, must be paid additionally. Landlords sometimes collect the rent personally (monthly or quarterly). The search for an apartment is usually carried out through various brokers and therefore causes additional costs. (Expat Pages, Almaty / Nur-Sultan, or the search via predecessors / colleagues offers a cheaper alternative.) In addition to new buildings, there are also unrenovated apartments / houses from the Soviet era or after “Ewroremont”, a complete renovation that at least visually rejuvenates the rooms by decades – the entrance and stairwell are however, this is often not affected. Apartments are usually rented out furnished.
According to a2zgov, Kazakhstan is large – and so is the range in terms of supply situation and prices. In the large shopping centers of Almaty and Nur-Sultan there is nothing that does not exist and there is a large selection: (Western) luxury goods, everyday items, groceries (including those from companies we know). Supermarkets and smaller shops also offer a good selection, although this can vary considerably even between branches of the same chain. The same goes for restaurants. The prices in shops and restaurants are like the total cost of living, relatively high for locals and roughly comparable to those of European capitals, for western foreigners often moderate due to the favorable exchange rate for them. Basic foods and, above all, locally produced fruit and vegetables can be bought very cheaply everywhere. In addition to the shops that are familiar to us, there are usually more markets and – more idyllic – green bazaars on the outskirts of the city, where you can also try typical Kazakh food, such as kumys. The price is usually negotiated there.
The selection in the regional cities is usually much smaller, but so are the prices. Basic foods and for example chocolate bars, chips and the like. Practically every village shop runs. Alcohol can no longer be sold in shops after 9 p.m.
Most shops are open every day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., while some smaller grocery stores are open around the clock. Opening hours may be shorter on Sundays.
Money and transfer
The tenge can only be purchased in the country itself. Money can be exchanged in banks and exchange offices. The rate can fluctuate by up to 10% within a city. The course of the tenge has been changing continuously since it was released in September 2015.
There are also ATMs in smaller towns that accept credit cards and sometimes also EC cards. In Almaty and Nur-Sultan there are several on every corner. Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets in major cities. Cash transfers via Western Union are possible at the post office and some banks.
Nur-Sultan and Almaty now have a wide range of leisure activities for almost every taste. The selection of restaurants and cafes is now huge, it includes traditional Kazakh cuisine as well as that of other European or Asian nations, retro style to global fast food. There are many cinemas and a nightlife without curfew – from which you can relax in various fitness studios, spas and saunas. A health certificate is required to visit public swimming pools.
As with the entire capital relocation, no expense has been spared to offer high-quality culture in Astana (now Nur-Sultan). The opera, founded in 2013, strives for recognition beyond the region of Central Asia with a Kazakh and international repertoire. There are also several theaters, museums and galleries. The opening of the new National Museum in summer 2014 was particularly celebrated, as it offers an official self-presentation of Kazakhstan’s past and present. Weekend trips can lead to Borovoje / Burabai or the nature reserve Korgalzhin, for example, winter sports fans try to make the best of the cold and snow.
The former capital Almaty has a variety of museums, for example the state museum, which gives an overview of the history of Kazakhstan, or the Kastejew art museum, the largest of its kind in Kazakhstan, an opera and several theaters. While a visit to most stages requires knowledge of Russian (or Kazakh), in the Deutsches Theater, despite the migration of its target group, the ” Kazakh Germans “, modern productions are sometimes also offered in German. An independent art scene with many small galleries etc. has also established itself in Almaty. The area around Almaty offers outdoor sports enthusiasts, be they hikers, Alpinists, cyclists / mountain bikers, skiers, ice skaters or canoeists – there are many possibilities, at least at the beginning the company of an experienced guide is recommended. Those who are not so sporty can reach their destinations by car or organized bus tours.
All regional capitals have a Kazakh and a Russian theater, cinemas, mostly a concert hall and a local museum. In some there is also a small off-scene, which only becomes apparent after a long stay and acquaintance with locals. There is no shortage of restaurants anywhere. Natural beauties worth seeing are also scattered across the country.
The south-east of Kazakhstan lies in an earthquake-prone zone. In Almaty there are occasional minor tremors, in 1887 the city was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake. The last great earthquake (magnitude 8) took place 100 years ago. That being said, participating in road traffic is the greatest safety risk. Those who observe the security rules, which are also advisable in major European cities, have no problem with crime.