The airport of Almaty (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airport, and has been improved in recent years – the horror stories you read online from before 2014 are mostly out of date.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. See Kazakhstan flights for a guide to national and international flights, or check out the Almaty transport guide for all transport 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. It also gets cold in winter, and is brightly-lit.
Almaty airport to/from city center
Unofficial taxi drivers will try to get you in their taxi as soon as you enter the arrivals hall. Although you can use them, an official taxi gives you more safety, a better vehicle and a fixed, honest price. A booth of Eko-Taxi can be found inside the airport, their taxis are clearly marked. See taxis in Almaty for more taxi companies should you need one.
1500 – 3000 tenge is the price for a taxi, depending on where you need to be in Almaty.
The private shuttle bus has closed down since November 2016.
The cheap way to get in and out of the airport. Bus number 3 runs from the city center to the airport and back, 24/7, every 30 minutes. You can check its route here.
Additionally bus number 32 drives a central route as well but stops a few hundred meters before the gate to the airport. Bus 32 runs every 15 minutes from 6am to 9pm. Read more on Almaty city buses.
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. See visas to Kazakhstan for all the details.
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.