Taking a bus or shared taxi in Kazakhstan is a good idea for smaller distances. For long, multi-day journeys, the train is a slower, slightly more expensive, but much more comfortable option. In Kazakhstan, big buses of various age and roadworthiness are used for long distances, and minivans (marshrutkas) are used for routes of a few hours.
Shared taxis usually make the same route as minivans faster, for a slightly higher price. Roads in Kazakhstan are the best in Central Asia. The main roads are asphalted and well maintained. In the countryside, roads are often not asphalted. In the West of Kazakhstan, roads can be so bad that a 4WD is needed.
For more info on timetables, general bus travel in Central Asia, see bus and shared taxi travel in Central Asia.
Bus and shared taxi from Almaty
Almaty has 2 bus stations: the long-distance bus station Sairan, located in the west of town at the crossroads of Tole bi and Otegen Batyr streets, and the shorter-distance station Sayahat, near the big mosque at the crossing of Rayimbek and Suyunbai avenue.
From Sairan, about 8 buses a day leave for Taraz. Other destinations are Shymkent, Ust-Kamenogorsk (23 hours), Karaganda and Balkhash. The sleeper bus to Urumqi (24 hours) also leaves from here. It is quite comfortable. Within Almaty oblast, it also serves Kapchagai (every 20 minutes until 20.00), Zharkent (5 daily), Taldykorgan (10 daily) and towns to the west of Almaty such as Fabrichnoe, Uzunagash and Kargaly. Minivans to Bishkek leave when they are full, which doesn’t take long. Outside of the bus station, shared taxis await to make many the same routes. A price estimate: Almaty – Biskek: 1200 tenge, Almaty – Shymkent: 1500 tenge, Almaty – Urumqi: 10000 tenge.
From Sayahat, marshrutkas connect to towns east and north of Almaty: Talgar, Esik, Kegen, Narynkol, Kapchagai and Taldykorgan among others. Prices range between 100 – 300 tenge.
Bus from Astana
The bus station of Astana is marked by a large sign saying ‘Saparzhai’, at the eastern end of the square outside the railway station. There is a bus every 30 minutes to Karaganda, 12 daily to Stepnogorsk, 7 a day to Semey, 7 a day to Korgalzhyb, one to Borovoye, several to Kokshetau and Petropavlovsk and Pavlodar. It is also the gathering place for shared taxis.
Bus from Shymkent
Overnight buses from Almaty are filled with shuttle traders and packed with goods. They arrive and depart from Samal bus station, 5 km out of town. Samal is the main long-distance bus station. There are 3 other bus stations used for other destination: Aina, Saule and Koktem.
Bus from Pavlodar
The situation can be confusing in Pavlodar. Two bus stations exist. The main bus station stands on the western side of the square in front of the railway station and has a big ‘A’ on the front. Another bus station run by PAvlodarvoksalservis has its ticket office inside the railway station. From the main bus station, buses go from Pavlodar to Ekibastuz (every 30 minutes), Bayanaul, Karaganda, Astana and Semey, and Russian destinations such as Omsk and Novosibirsk. The other bus station serves mainly Russian destinations.
Bus from Ust-Kamenogorsk
Ust-Kamenogorsk also has 2 bus stations. One, at the central terminus of the city’s tram lines, has several buses daily to Semey, Ridder and Zyryanovsk. The other bus station sits along Abai avenue, and serves long-distance destinations such as Almaty, Karaganda, Pavlodar (minimum 1 daily), and 2 a day to Katon Karagai in Altai mountains. Destinations in Russia include Omsk, Tomsk and Nobosibirsk.
Bus from Aqtobe
Long-distance taxis are to be found on the square in front of the railway station in the center of town. 2 bus stations in Aqtobe as well. The long-distance Ekspress station focuses mostly on destinations in Russia with daily departures to Orsk, Orenburg and Samara and less frequent buses to Kazan, Ekaterinburg, Moscow, Krasnodar and St-Petersburg. It is located north of the center, above Aliya Moldagulova street over the railway bridge. The Sapar bus station is further east on the same road, and collects buses driving to locales within Aqtobe region and a bus every second day to Astana.