About Kazakhstan (KZ)
The largest country in Central Asia, and the ninth-largest country in the world, Kazakhstan (KZ) shares borders with China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.
It’s also the largest landlocked country and richest country in Central Asia. The overwhelming majority of its land mass is uninhabited highlands and desert, and its economy is completely reliant on development of massive oil and gas reserves. Outside of the Russian-style beach resorts on the western edge of the Caspian Basin, very few international visitors come seeking leisure, and even fewer visitors from countries outside of Eastern Europe will ever set foot in Kazakstan.
The port city of Aklau is the primary focus of nightlife and entertainment, while the capital city of Astana, located in the northern plateau, holds little attraction for tourism, unless of course, you’re interested in modern Kazakh culture. Opportunities to mingle with some of the nomadic ethnic minorities in the remote regions of Kazakhstan are almost non-existent. However, being among the first foreign tourists to visit this magnificent country will undoubtedly result in some soft adventure.
Getting around will be next to impossible for visitors who don’t rent a car in Kazakhstan.
On the other hand, it’s skeletal network of highways and roads offer singular routes to remote destinations spread out across vast distances. There are huge tracts of land where people simply don’t go, regardless of whether someone builds a road across the tundra.
The handful of major cities and towns that do exist are all laid out on some form of a grid, and navigation in the country is rudimentary at best.
Your sense of direction and orientation are satisfied by the lack of options. There’s basically only one way to get anywhere in Kazakhstan, and the condition of that particular highway is anybody’s guess, mainly because very few people actually visit Kazakhstan.
Generally speaking, the major routes are paved roads; everything else is unpaved and gravel surface. However, the country is rapidly expanding it’s road infrastructure so expect this information to be superseded over the next few years with quality roads and some freeways between all major cities and towns.
Choosing your car
Cheap car rentals in Kazakhstan are available from Alamo, Enterprise, National, Sixt, and Hertz. Select from compact, intermediate, and fullsize 4-door sedans, midsize and fullsize SUVs, and 7-12 seater minivans. Key pickup points are Almaty International Airport and other airports that provide a good range of vehicles to rent.
Tips and advice
Inform your Kazakhstan car rental vendor if you plan to take the car out of the country. They may allow it — with a fee — but be advised that it may take up to 36 hours to get processed at the border crossings.
Kazakhstan car hires include limited mileage, typically 150 km free per day. Check your booking conditions for exceptions.
Your Kazakhstan car rental may incur a cleaning (valeting) fee if you return a dirty vehicle. Keep this in mind when driving on the predominantly dusty Kazakh roads.
Inspect the car hire with a fine-toothed comb, checking the primary features of the vehicle to make sure they’re in working order.
The next fuel station may be more than 100 km down the road from any point in Kazakhstan, frequently a lot farther than that. Keep an eye on the fuel gauge.
If you see a sign reading, “Foreigners Not Allowed Beyond This Point” turn around and go back.