Depending on your budget and needs, you may travel inside the nation via cab, bus, rail, or aircraft. Renting a vehicle is more expensive than other modes of transportation.
A minivan costs KZT35 in Semipalatinsk (Semey), while a big bus costs KZT35-40 (in Astana, it varies about KZT60-65), and a typical taxi price is KZT300 (in August 2013, approximate currency rates were €1 = KZT200, GBP1 = KZT240, USD1 = KSD150).
By public buses
Public transit is widely used in major cities. Buses, trolleys, trams, and minibuses are all available. One major disadvantage of all of them is that they never arrive on time and are very packed during peak hours. Furthermore, there is no strategy in place with bus stops and schedules. Taking the bus if you don’t speak Russian will be difficult, but not impossible.
Taxis are inexpensive (€2 to €6 inside the city). In most places, you are not required to utilize licensed taxis; instead, you may stop virtually any vehicle on the street by raising your hand. It works well in Almaty and Astana, but the easiest method to get about Karaganda is to call a cab. It is less expensive and quicker than hitchhiking.
A word of caution: traveling to the Almaty airport may be costly. The cost of a taxi to the airport varies significantly. Any foreigner will be quoted an extremely high fee, but most drivers will come down once they realize they won’t be able to collect that much. USD50 is ludicrous. Accepting the initial price will result in you getting overcharged. It should cost less than USD10, however there is no assurance that a foreigner would get that price. Minibuses and buses to the airport are a better choice. The words “airport” are almost same in Russian and English.
Unofficial taxis are a popular mode of transportation. Just wave your hand and someone will come to a halt at any time of day. This is something the locals do all the time. Before you agree to travel, negotiate the fee and the location. A ride inside Almaty’s center should cost about USD2-4. If your Russian is poor or non-existent, you will be charged much more than locals; to prevent this, try to utilize public transportation as much as possible and don’t be afraid to inform the driver how much you are willing to pay (do this before he tells you how much he wants). To be safe, avoid getting in a vehicle if more than one person is driving. Also, do not use these cabs for long trips or anyplace that passes through rural regions, since thefts, particularly of foreigners, are common.
Always attempt to have the correct amount of money in cash (the price you agreed with a taxi driver), since they will not typically offer you change. So, if the price is KZT350, give the driver KZT350, not more (since he or she may not provide change).
The train is the most common mode of transportation for traversing the vast distances between Kazakhstan’s major cities. The principal railway stations are in Astana, Karaganda, and Almaty, although there are stations in virtually every major city.
The rolling equipment, train classes, ticketing, and reservation procedures were all inherited from the old Soviet Railways and are therefore extremely similar to the Russian railway system.
Tickets are somewhat less expensive than in Russia. Kazakh Railways has an e-shop, however it only accepts Kazakh and Russian credit cards and does not take many non-CIS credit cards, so you’ll probably just use it for pricing comparisons.
Kazakhstan is a vast nation. For example, it will take you about 24 hours to go from Almaty to Astana. Traveling by train, on the other hand, is a lot of fun since trains are a fantastic way to meet new people. A lot has been written about the dangers of joining a vodka drinking party on a train, but for the most part, your other passengers are pleasant and eager to learn about you (“why aren’t you married?” and, if you are, “why don’t you have children?” and, if you do, “why don’t they have children?”!). Most travelers bring food for the trip since restaurant car service is intermittent (and they want you to share yours as well!). If you don’t have enough to survive the journey, the trains usually stop for 15–20 minutes at each station, and there are always people on the platform offering food and drink at all hours of the day and night.
There is also the Talgo railway, which can travel between Almaty and Astana in 9 hours. The ticket costs about KZT9,000.
By long distance bus
They’re a popular alternative to trains, and although they’re quicker, they’re less pleasant. Similarly to rail travel, you must purchase your ticket in advance and will be assigned a seat number. Be cautious when the bus stops for a bathroom break; the driver does not check to see whether all passengers are on board before driving away!
Fares are quite inexpensive; for example, a single trip from Almaty to Karaganda (14 hours) costs KZT2,500, which is much less than the cost of a flying ticket.
Air Astana has offices in a few large hotels in major cities; for those who can afford it, it is the quickest method to travel inside the city. The planes are completely new and meet European quality requirements.
Taking a “marshrutka” is a fun and inexpensive way to get about. These are the run-down vehicles that ply the streets of town. They typically have a sign (in Russian) with the destination listed on it, and the driver will usually shout out the destination. They are, however, not available in Almaty.