A common complaint for budget travelers in the past has been the price tag on travel in Kazakhstan. I am happy to say: things have changed. A currency devaluation against the dollar in summer 2015 has slashed prices in half for foreigners, making it much more affordable for budget travelers. Kazakhstan now suddenly competes with Kyrgyzstan as the best value-for-money destination in Central Asia.
Transport to other cities is not expensive, seeing how huge the country is. Getting to remote destinations will weigh heavier on the budget, though, since you will need to take a taxi, a tour, or a rented car. Try to find travel buddies to split the cost.
- Train Almaty – Shymkent: 6-12$/€ (platzkart), 10-15$/€ (kupe)
- Flight Almaty – Astana (budget airline): 35$/€
- Bus or metro in Almaty: 25 cents
- Taxi from the airport to the center in Almaty: 4$/€
Accommodation is less of a problem for backpackers than it was a few years back. Most cities have a hostel nowadays, and Almaty suddenly has an unsustainably large amount of them. For stylish travelers, it is a similar situation: the boom years have seen decent hotels constructed all over the country, and now that Kazakhstan is bust, prices are no longer ridiculous.
Homestays are still overpriced for what they offer (but less overpriced thanks to the devaluation).
- Dorm bed: 4-10$/€
- Double in a cheap hotel/homestay: 15-30$/€
- Apartment: 15-40$
- Double in a nice/very nice hotel: 50-140$/€
- Double in a 5-star hotel: 150-200$/€
A decent meal and a drink in a simple local restaurant will cost around 3$/€. Fast food sells for 1-3$/€. At the market you can expect prices to be around 30-70% of Western prices for basic foodstuff. Don’t be afraid to try a slightly fancier restaurant, prices for a meal will rarely go above 10$. Upmarket restaurants charge 15 to 30$/€ for a meal.
Almost all mid-range restaurants offer a filling lunch special, which goes for 4-7$/€. Take advantage of it.
Tours, activities and entrances
Things are also moving in the right direction here. The tourism industry is slowly developing: guides are getting better, more tourists are coming and it is pushing prices down. Transport is often a big chunk of the price of a tour in Kazakhstan, but if you join a scheduled group tour (previously not available due to not enough tourists), you can squeeze costs considerably there and get a really good deal. Besides, getting there is also a big part of the adventure.
It’s very difficult to give estimates due to the huge variation in distances, activities and accommodation. Use the filter in our tours section to get an idea for your wishes.
Horse riding is still a better deal in Kyrgyzstan, although the gap is closing. Skiing is very much a luxury sport in Kazakhstan and prices are Western or above; go to Kyrgyzstan to ski, if you can.
Classical performances are very cheap, but going out to clubs or concerts is not – expect Western prices at the bar. Entrance to museums is usually negligible, say, 1$/€. A nice left-over from Soviet times.
How much does it cost to get into Kazakhstan? Depends on your nationality. 20-something countries get the visa for free. Another 30 or so pay around 35$/€. If your passport is from the wrong neighbourhood, you will need an extra letter of invitation, which will cost you around 80$/€. See the visa page to find out which box you belong in.
If you are flying in and out of the country, expect to pay around (this is a very rough estimate) 500$/€ for a return flight from Europe or Asia.