For general tips on how to deal with the police,the local driving style, some basic driver’s Russian as well as GPS files with fuel stations and places to stop over, see the driving overview page. Here we discuss the state of the roads, where to find parts, repair shops, and how to deal with transporting, customs and selling a car.
Roads in Kazakhstan range from the terrible to the terrific. We recommend you to get a good road map of Kazakhstan in advance. If a dirt road is indicated on the map, think lunar landscape. Examples are the road between Karkaralinsk and Semey or the one running along the northern shore of Lake Balkhash.
In terms of asphalted roads, most are in good state. Areas around Almaty and Astana, and the highway connecting the two cities, are mostly very good. Almaty – Bishkek or Almaty – Shymkent is also quite ok. Atyrau to Uralsk recently had a brand new tarmac fitting and the Aralsk – Qarabutaq – Aktobe road is in perfect condition now.
Main roads that still need work:
- Uralsk – Aktobe: Still under construction for the last 100km coming into Aktobe.
- Atyrau – Aktobe: 250 unenjoyable kilometers, followed by 250 abominable kilometers. No road works spotted recently. Exhausting.
- Aktau – Beyneu: really, really bad desert track.
- Aktobe – Kostanay: 80 kms of bad road.
- Aktau – Turkmenbashi: A desert track.
- Shymkent – Turkestan: under construction (still a lot of work), speed limit 50 km/h
- Turkestan – Kyzyl Orda: under construction, but you can drive fast on the back-up road.
- Kyzyl Orda – Qazali: under construction, provisionary gravel road is very bumpy.
Aktau – Turkmenbashi is probably best left alone without a 4WD, but as I am not a driver myself, I do not want to say it is impossible without a 4WD. The other roads are all doable with 2WD cars.
In winter, driving around in the steppe can be very dangerous. Every year people freeze to death after their car got stuck due to a mechanical failure or a sudden snowstorm. At -40° this happens very fast. A piece of road about 70 km away from Kordai in the direction of Almaty is especially known for sudden snowstorms, watch out if you’re going in the direction of Bishkek in December – February.
This being said, Kazakhstan is very beautiful in winter, and there is little that warms the soul as much as when, during a pit stop, squinting your eyes against the bright winter sun to spot an eagle soaring overhead, his faint cry filling the silence, you are suddenly surprised by a scared bunny rushing to safety, kicking up snow over the endless plain.
Insurance and border payments
You don’t have to pay anything at the border when coming into Kazakhstan. You are, however, obligated to get a 3rd party insurance once you are in the country. Nomad seems to be the biggest insurance company.
You can get one with Centras for 20 thousand tenge, and when you are leaving the country, get back part of your money at another one of their offices (one driver got back 17 thousand tenge: bought insurance in Almaty, got refund in Pavlodar).
It pays to shop around, as there can be considerable price differences from station to station. Prices also differ from city to city, with South and West Kazakhstan being the cheapest, and East and North the most expensive.
The following prices are for big cities (last update May 2012). For remote villages, you can add up to 20 tenge per liter.
- Diesel: 71 – 81 tenge/liter
- LPG: 40 – 75 tenge/liter
- Petrol AI 95: 103 – 109 tenge/liter
- Petrol AI 92: 91 – 100 tenge/liter
- Petrol AI 80: 67 – 82 tenge/liter
Car parts, motorcycle parts and repair shops
For car parts and car repair, see the following sources of information:
For motorcycle tires, Almaty is the only place you will find them, at 2 motorcycle shops. Russia is easier and more reliable. If you’re looking for someone to repair your motorcycle, Almaty is once again the place to be.
Buying/selling/leaving a car/motorcycle in Kazakhstan
Probably the best place to sell a car in Central Asia is Kyrgyzstan. There is a big market for second-hand cars from Lithuania in Kyrgyzstan, implying that import duties are the lowest here.
Selling your car or motorcycle in Kazakhstan is difficult, as the person who wants to buy your vehicle will need to pay a heavy import duty. Also, you cannot sell a car more than 20 years old, or a car with the steering wheel on the right-hand side.
It should be noted though, that second-hand cars have a much higher value in Central Asia than they do in Europe or USA.
Leaving a car
Leaving a car is also a problem. From the HUBB forum: You get an import permit for your car. In Kazakhstan it has a maximum time of 6 months on it. If the car is in the country longer than that, then you are liable for import duty as you have imported the car.
Maybe you could get around it by wrecking the car and getting a police statement that the car is wrecked, then take that to customs to exempt you from taking it out … maybe there are other ways around it … but I doubt they will be legal.
Basically when you bring a vehicle into any country on a tax free temporary import basis, you have an obligation to take it out again, and you are only allowed to use it for personal use when in the country. If you don’t, then it’s a permanent import and you pay import duty.
Buying a car
We refer you to KZblog, which has a well-documented article on buying a car in Kazakhstan.