If you are not a Kazakh citizen, you need a permit to visit the area in Kazakh Altai close to the border with China and Russia. The main sights inside the border area are, on the southern road, Lake Markakol and Kiin Kerish, and on the northern road, Rachmanov springs and Mount Belukha.
The actual permit area starts, in the south, on the other side of Bukhtarma once you get off the ferry in Kurshim, or on the turn-off north from Kogeday east of Zaysan. In the more northern Katon Karagai valley, you only need a permit starting from Uryl.
There is no checkpoint between Kogedai and Kurshim, so if you are going Oskemen – China (without visiting Markakol!) and prefer to take the (better, more interesting) road north of Lake Zaysan, you could risk it without a permit. Your responsibility, of course.
Applying for the permit
- From the start of your application, it takes 10 business days
- You do not need a local guide
- The permit is valid for 1 month, starting from the day you enter as your start date
- You need to pick it up yourself in Oskemen
- Price is 20 euros
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All questions are answered in this forum topic.