The Almaty airport (ALA) is 25 minutes north from the city center. It is a small, quiet, functional airport, and has been improved in recent years – the horror stories you read online from before 2014 are mostly out of date.
The airport website works and publishes arrivals and departures. For flight search from and to Almaty, we recommend Momondo, Skyscanner and Dohop. They will not find all flights though. See Kazakhstan flights for a guide to national and international flights and more options.
ATM’s work with most international cards, it’s preferred over the money exchange, with very bad rates. There is free wi-fi since 2015, apparently of decent speed. Go upstairs to the departures hall for good reception. The selection of food and drinks in the 3 cafes is small, overpriced and of terrible quality. A few shops sell overpriced souvenirs, the city offers better deals. No lockers. A business class lounge exists, but service is poor/nonexistent.
Almaty airport is open all night, but don’t count on laying down. Seats all have armrest and are not comfy for sleeping. If you would try, you would probably be poked by a security guy. It also gets cold in winter.
Visa on arrival
Getting a visa on arrival in Almaty airport
It is possible to get a Kazakhstan single entry visa on arrival in the airport of Almaty. In theory it is only possible if you are a national of one of the 47 countries with simplified visa procedure (see countries list on the bottom of this article), but some travel agents say they can issue this no matter where you come from, if you hold a western passport.
The Kazakhstan visa on arrival is valid for 1 month and does not require additional registration with the Migration Police (OVIR) IF you get the two stamps at the border control (see registration chapter). You will need a special letter of invitation for visa on arrival from a tourist agency. This can only be issued 1 month in advance and is quite pricey.
The transfer desk works Monday-Saturday during office hours. If you arrive outside of these times, you will have to wait. If that takes more than half an hour, you will be questioned by the police and possibly be detained.
If the transfer desk is open, you can show your letter of invitation, pay another 70$ and receive your visa on the spot. Check to see if you have 2 stamps on your registration paper (the little white thing), it means you do not have to register with immigration services again.
Passengers in transit
Before 2014, there was no transit zone in Almaty airport and many travelers were detained for not having a Kazakh visa while transiting (as they needed to exit and enter the passport control to go to the new gate). A new transfer zone has been built now: you can now safely transfer to your connecting flight.