Train in Kazakhstan

Taking the train in Kazakhstan is a great way to get around this vast country, provided you have enough time to roll through endless steppe country and great expanses of desert landscape. For general information about what to expect on a train journey in Kazakhstan, check the page on trains in Central Asia, which includes the Central Asian rail network map for route planning and more information on timetables.

The online booking site of Kazakh Railways has updated timetable information as well as prices, but is only available in Russian. You can use an automatic translator, but you need to fill in your destinations in Cyrillics (use Google Translate or a Russian keyboard emulator). Learn how to buy tickets here.

Remember that, like in Russia or China, all trains run on the time of the capital, in this case Astana.  All clocks in the train station are on this time. This is important for West Kazakhstan, which gets up 1 hour earlier.

Beware: in summer, most trains are sold out days in advance. You need to be prepared, or be prepared to wait.

Main routes and ticket prices

There are 2 train stations in Almaty, but the main one that you will need for all of the trains below is Almaty-2, located on Ablai Khan street, just below Rayimbek avenue. Almaty-1 is located 20 minutes out of town.

Almaty – Urumqi train: The train from Almaty to Urumqi runs twice weekly. From Urumqi, it leaves at 23.58 on Saturday and Monday night and arrives in Almaty at 6.30 on Monday and Wednesday morning. From Almaty, the train leaves at 23.58 on Saturday and Monday night and arrives in Urumqi on Monday and Wednesday morning at 8.58.

The long travel time is due to the fact that the Kazakh railroad system has a different gauge than the Chinese one, and 8 hours will be spent on the border, changing the wheels of the train carriages. Taking the bus is about 10 hours faster. Another problem with this option is that it books up fast, especially in summer. The Saturday train in particular can be booked out up to 1 month in advance in peak season. Get your tickets as soon as possible.

In Almaty, go to the train station, a travel agent or one of the many booking offices around town. In Urumqi, tickets are sold in the office at the Yaou Hotel, to the right of the main station. Ticket sale for the Saturday train starts on Monday 10am, for the Monday train it starts Friday 10am. Current price for a ticket is around 110$ one way (august 2014 report).

Platzkart seats

Platzkart © Flickr user peretzp

Almaty – Astana train: 3 to 4 trains daily run between Almaty and Astana taking about 20 hours. Prices are 3000 tenge for platzkart, 5000 tenge for kupe and 10000 tenge for lyux. There is also 1 overnight train, the sleek Spanish-designed Talgo-Tulpar, which takes only 12 hours to arrive and makes only 3 stops en route.

It’s a more European traveling experience: faster, more expensive, less spacious and plastic water coolers instead of samovars. Prices are 10000 tenge for platzkart, 15000 tenge for kupe and 20000 tenge for lyux.

Almaty – Moscow: Train number 7 leaves in the morning from Almaty, to arrive in Moscow about 80 hours later. There is a restaurant carriage. There is uncertainty about what visas are needed for this train, since it dips in and out of Russia before entering definitely. Some travelers say a single entry Kazakh visa and a single entry Russian visa suffice. Others say they needed a double entry visa for both. Careful travelers use the second option. For the Aqtobe – Uralsk train, you definitely need a double-entry visa and a Russian visa. Better to take the bus there.

Corridor of platzkart

The platzkart corridor ©Flickr: peretzp

Another, quicker option, is to take the fast train to Astana, and then hop on the Astana – Moscow service, which doesn’t have any border issues. From Moscow, train number 8 leaves from Paveletskaya station and arrives 3 days later in Almaty. The route is Moscow – Saratov – Uralsk – Aqtobe – Aral Sea – Kyzyl Orda – Turkestan – Shymkent – Taraz – Almaty.

Almaty – Tashkent: Train number 21 leaves every Sunday from Almaty to Nukus, and arrives in Tashkent 26 hours later. To go to Nukus, add another 24 hours. This train also stops at Samarkand. Most people heading to Tashkent prefer to take the train to Shymkent and do the last bit by marshrutka.

In the other direction, the train leaves Nukus on Tuesday, enters Tashkent the next day and Almaty-2 at on Thursday. Another option is the Novosibirsk – Tashkent train, known as the Turksib.

Tashkent – Almaty – Novosibirsk train: Attention: in May 2014, 1 reader was denied tickets from Ust-Kamenogorsk to Novosibirsk because the border is supposedly not open to foreigners anymore!

The Turksib goes every 4 days. It leaves Novosibirsk, arrives in Almaty-1 (!) at 3.31 am on the 3rd day, and in Tashkent on the 4th day. In the other direction, the Turksib leaves Tashkent, arrives in Almaty on day 2 and in Novosibirsk on day 4.

Astana – Moscow train: From Astana, train 71 leaves on odd days (1, 3, 5, but not on the 31st)arrives 60 hours later in Moscow Kazanski . Train 83 leaves on even days from Karaganda, and passes Astana 4 hours later. It arrives a day later in Ufa and another day later in Moscow.

From Moscow, train 84 leaves from Kazanski station on even days and arrives in Astana the 3rd day. Train 72 leaves on odd days (but not the 31st) from Kazanski at 22.45 and arrives in Astana at 10.33 the 3rd day. There is also a Bishkek – Ekaterinburg service, which runs weekly and passes Astana.

Note that there is no direct train going to Bishkek from Almaty. You could take a train to Taraz, and from there another one to Bishkek, but this would constitute a huge detour, since it only takes 5 hours to go to Bishkek from Almaty by minivan.

Trains to / from Aktau: First off, don’t look for Aktau on the train timetable, it’s called Mangishlak or Mangistau for some antiquated reason. There is one train every second day from Almaty and from Astana to Aktau (and back). There is 1 daily train to Aktobe and 1 train a day chugging through the desert to Atyrau.

Kungrad – Beyneu – Aktau: In Kungrad get to the railway station with your passport and som. Queues can last an hour. There is a daily train to Aktau (Mangyshlak). Only two of the train cars go all the way to Aktau the rest just to Beyneu. But there are additional Beyneu – Aktau trains running.

A traveler regales: The Kungrad to Beyneu train was fantastic! Lots of food and drink supplies throughout. Even som-tenge money changers. No dollar changers. I’d advise eating from the vendors all day, get the passengers to haggle for you. Our change in Beyneu was fairly traumatic. A rush to the ticket counter to find all sleeper tickets sold. Sold a ticket for 7500 som that had a seat number but carriage number “00”. This means no seat. You have to fight for it!

And there were fights! Two men got arrested , handcuffed and beaten by police! We managed to get bums onto seats, but we were lucky. No petty crime on board, just drunks and fights for sleeping space. Advice: book your direct Aktau to avoid this problem at 1am. 2-3 days beforehand should be enough. Then it’s 9 hours to Aktau from Beyneu. Shared taxis to the city cost 500 tenge.

Bon voyage!


View from the window

Comments have closed. If you have questions or remarks, head to our forum’s transport section.


  1. Jeremy says

    Hi Steven
    I am currently in Georgia and will be getting to Baku around late June. I aim to catch a ferry to Aktau and then want to catch a train to Shymkent. Can you advise the route and costs? Thanks

    • says

      Trains to / from Aktau: First off, don’t look for Aktau on the train timetable, it’s called Mangishlak or Mangistau for some antiquated reason. There is one train every second day from Almaty and from Astana to Aktau (and back).

      Cost to Shymkent around 40 euro platzkart, I am guessing.

  2. nicholas says

    Do you have any idea how it is to transport a bike (bicycle) in the trains in Kazakh?
    It is allowed? Have something special to do, or is just go?

  3. Ethan says


    I’m hoping to take trains this summer from Guangzhou to Wales in the UK. I write to see if anyone knows any current info about the Urumqi to Almaty (Alma-ata) route. Some places I read online say it leaves twice a week (Monday Saturday nights, – Ürümqi) and here it says only on Saturdays ( Does anyone know (or can anyone check for me) which of these is true?

    Also, I’d love to know if anyone has booked tickets recently without a travel agent. Can I somehow buy these online? Might there be an international ticket office in Guangzhou? How early do these tickets go on sale? How can I buy them without a travel agent?

    Also, has anyone applied for a Kazakh visa in Urumqi recently? How long should this take? If I arrive from Xian on a Tuesday morning…would I have enough time to apply for the visa and take the Saturday night train? the Monday night train?

    Any info on this train or visa would be incredibly helpful!!

    • says

      If you are not a chinese citizen nor hold a chinese id card you cannot buy tickets online.if your train journey is across provinces you are not even allowed to buy tickets on the vending need to either go to trainbooking office or the train station. Train stations in china are very very busy so if you can find a booking office it will be much faster and easier. Note that you can book tickets in advance and for the urumqi to almaty you should. However it is unlikely that you willbe able to get the visa in time to take the train you want.
      Kazakhstan visa in Urumqi takes five working days and it is a very very unfair, disorderly crazy process so you need to get there very early. Read the relevant threads of this in thorntree. Myself and some other people have had our visas there last month. Good luck

  4. Su says

    Hey guys. I want to travel from Astana to Dushanbe. Can you give me any hints? Where can I buy tickets? How long is the journey? How much is the ticket? Thank you so much!

    • says

      If you want to do this by train, you need to get on the Moscow-Dushanbe train, or hop on different trains through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It’s not something I would recommend. Take trains in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, but to cross to Tajikistan, take a minibus or shared taxi. To buy tickets, you need to be in the country. The Moscow-Dushanbe train is 72h I think. A ticket costs maybe 150$? See other trains to gauge the costs.

  5. Aspland says

    Trying to work out the best way to get from Aralsk to Baku. All very convoluted. On any online train timetables I can’t find the Mangistau station or any equivalent for Aktau. The easiest way I can find at the moment is train or bus on to Kyzylorda, then fly to Aktau and change planes. Any help appreciated!

    • says

      Aktau is called Mangyshlak on the train timetables. There is 1 train a day from Aralsk west to Aktau. After that, plane or boat to Baku.

  6. says

    I ended up buying through Real Russia. To get a refundable ticket, you need to show them visas for Kazakhstan and China, but they will send you a confirmation which will enable you to apply for your Chinese visa. Note that you will have to pick your ticket up in Almaty.

    Well, off to take the 55-hour train to Astana. Wish me luck!

  7. Anita says

    Just to let you know: We took the Train from Moscow to Almaty. A single entry Russian and Kazakh visa is sufficient.

  8. Sarah Chiy says

    We would like buy train tickets of from Almaty to Tulkubas for 8 Jun at 20:00 in Almaty Train station II on 7 Jun. any online booking ?

  9. says

    Great advice, thanks! But one question: do you know if there’s a way to buy a train ticket from Almaty to Urumqi online? In order to get a Chinese visa I’ll need to show proof of my entrance route to China, but how can I get that without a ticket?

        • Gavin says

          Hi Sarah, did you have any luck finding out how to buy a ticket from Almaty to Urumqi? I am in the same situation myself, should be doing the trip in August.

        • An says

          Hi, Sarah! We faced the same issue, and got to know that Halyk Bank, which does the transaction, closed on-line ticket purchase option to FOREIGN bank card holders, due to many fraud cases. The on-line ticket purchase is available to ONLY KZ card holders as well as CIS card holders. Though if you have Visa Electron, you won’t be able to make payment anyway.
          And all that is very silly and oh, so much inconvenient!