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 road-worthiness 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. For a complete overview of the state of roads in Kazakhstan, see driving in Kazakhstan.
Blablacar is not available in Central Asia yet, but InDriver is a Russian alternative that works in-city like Uber, Didi, Yandex Taxi etc. but also between cities like Blablacar; they even do freight.
For more info on timetables, general bus travel in Central Asia, see bus and shared taxi travel in Central Asia. Read on to find out your options to get from Kazakhstan to Mongolia on public transport.
Booking tickets in advance
You can buy tickets in advance at the bus station and at the Qiwi payment terminals you find in shops and kiosks.
For booking at a Qiwi terminal, you need to call the bus station and reserve your seat. The bus station will then give you a number code, which you can fill in on the terminal. You can then proceed with payment through the terminal.
If you are not in Kazakhstan yet, you need to use a travel agency or friendly local to book for you. We do not know how far in advance you can book the seats.
Bus stations always have a luggage storage room where you can leave your bags while exploring town. Sometimes there is also a (very basic) hotel attached to the bus station.
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.
To China, there are 3 options for overlanders: a bus to Yining, a bus to Urumqi and a train to Urumqi. Neither of these is comfortable, although a new train has made travel to Urumqi quicker since 2017. The bus is cheaper and quicker, but it is a sleeper bus sized for Chinese format people. The choice is yours.
From Sairan, about 8 buses a day leave for Taraz. Other destinations are Shymkent, Ust-Kamenogorsk (23 hours), Karaganda and Balkhash. The sleeper buses to Urumqi and Yining (24 hours) also leaves from here. 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.