Kazakhstan

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Tuesday, 13 January 2015.   This advice contains updated information under Entry and exit (visa requirements, medical certificates, medication) and Where to get help (local emergency numbers). The level of advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Kazakhstan. You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia, and monitor the media and other sources for information on local travelling conditions.
  • Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Kazakhstan. The Canadian Embassy located in Astana, provides consular assistance to Australians in Kazakhstan. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The Australian Embassy in Moscow can also assist Australians in Kazakhstan.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Australian citizens are required to obtain a visa prior to arriving in Kazakhstan. Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Kazakhstan for the most up to date information.

Kazakhstan strictly polices visas. Australians are advised to ensure they hold the appropriate visa in relation to their visit to Kazakhstan, especially business and work visas. Check the validity dates for your visa and associated restrictions before travelling. Penalties for visa infringements, including overstaying, include fines, imprisonment and deportation.

All visitors intending to stay for five days or more are required to register with their local Visa and Registration Office (OVIR) within five days of arrival. Visitors should contact their inviting organisation (listed on the visa) for assistance with registration with migration authorities. Failure to register with local migration authorities can result in fines and significant delays on departure. For additional information on registration requirements, contact the nearest OVIR.

Children travelling alone or with one parent/guardian will require a letter of consent for travel signed by both parents.

There are strict regulations on the export of antiquities.

Strict border controls apply to road travel between Almaty (Kazakhstan) and Bishkek (Kyrgyz Republic).

To be allowed entry into Kazakhstan, you will be required to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate if you are arriving from a country infected with yellow fever. You will also require a valid medical certificate of a negative HIV test if you are intending on staying for more than three months.

Some medications available over the counter of by prescription in Australia, such as sleeping tablets or medication containing codeine, may be illegal or restricted in Kazakhstan. You should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Kazakhstan for advice. You should also carry a copy of the prescription, a letter from your physician and declare all prescription medication and other restricted items on arrival. If not declared, or if the quantity held exceeds legal limits, possession of such items even with a doctor’s prescription, could lead to administrative or even criminal charges.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Crime

Robbery, pickpocketing, purse snatching and assaults, including with violence, occur on public transport, in parks, shopping areas, open markets (including the Green Market in Almaty), restaurants and near major tourist hotels and nightclubs, especially in the Almaty region. The risk of crime increases at night.

There have been reports of foreign travellers being drugged and robbed in nightclubs and bars in Almaty.

Avoid walking alone at night and pre-arrange transport if possible.

The expatriate community in Atyrau and Aktau in western Kazakhstan has been the target of violent attacks and muggings.

Carjackings have been reported.

Thieves posing as police officers or unsolicited 'meet-and-greet' drivers at airports have robbed travellers. Official taxi drivers and police officers have identification.

Civil unrest/Political tension

Australians planning to travel between Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic should monitor the media and other local sources of information regarding possible new safety or security risks in the border regions. You should also read our travel advice for the Kygyz Republic.

You should avoid all protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.

Money and valuables

The Kazakhstan economy is cash-based, though travellers cheques and credit cards are accepted at large hotels catering to foreigners and credit cards are widely accepted in Almaty. Automatic teller machine (ATM) services are limited and you should confirm ATM locations with your credit card provider before travel.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

Government authorisation is required prior to travel to areas along the border with China (Kulzhat and Kargos), regions around the Gvardeyskiy village, Rossavel village, the Kulzhabashy railway station in Zhambyl Oblast, Bokeyorda and Zhangaly districts in Western Kazakhstan Oblast, the town of Priozersk and Gulshad village in Karagunda Oblast, and Baykonur, Karmakshy, and Kazakly districts in Kyzylorda Oblast and to areas where military installations are located.

Driving standards and road conditions are poor. Roads can be particularly hazardous at night because of insufficient lighting, and during winter because of snow and ice. Access to service stations can be limited in rural areas and fuel shortages can occur. The road between Almaty and Bishkek (Kyrgyz Republic) is particularly treacherous. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Rail travel can be unreliable and dangerous due to petty crime.

Travel on local buses, mini-buses and taxis is not recommended because of poor maintenance and safety standards.

Airline safety

The European Union has imposed an operating ban on all carriers certified by Kazakhstan regulatory authorities, with the exception of Air Astana. The European Union (EU) website has a list of airlines that are subject to operating bans or restrictions within the EU.

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Kazakhstan.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Kazakhstan, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Under Kazakhstan law, you must carry your passport, with appropriate registration, at all times. Identification checks by police are common.

Penalties for the possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs are severe and include prison sentences and heavy fines. See our Drugs page.

Driving with a blood alcohol level greater than zero is an offence in Kazakhstan.

It is illegal to take photographs of or near military and security establishments, some official buildings, airport facilities and border regions.

Same-sex relationships are legal in Kazakhstan, but are not widely accepted by society. Information for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and inter sex travellers can be found on our LGBTI travellers page.

Serious crimes, such as murder, may attract the death penalty.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in mid-June 2015. During Ramadan, Australians travelling to countries with significant Muslim communities, including Kazakhstan, should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, people who are not fasting are advised to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting. For more information see our Ramadan travel bulletin.

Standards of dress and behaviour are conservative in Kazakhstan and you should take care not to offend. If in doubt, dress conservatively and seek local advice.

Information for dual nationals

Kazakhstan does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian/Kazakh dual nationals who are arrested or detained. We strongly recommend you travel on your Australian passport at all times.

Australian/Kazakh dual nationals may be required to complete national service obligations if they visit Kazakhstan. For further information, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Kazakhstan before you travel.

Our dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you are away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities throughout Kazakhstan are below Western standards. Basic drugs and equipment are in short supply. Most doctors and hospitals will require payment in cash, regardless of whether you have travel insurance. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with the appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation costs could be considerable.

Travel in forested areas brings the risk of exposure to tick-borne encephalitis. Ticks are very common from spring to autumn. We recommend you take precautions against being bitten by insects and use insect repellent at all times.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, typhoid, hepatitis, haemorrhagic fever, tuberculosis, brucellosis, leishmaniasis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water. Avoid ice cubes, unpasteurised dairy products, and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police at the nearest police station, or call the national police emergency number on 101. You should always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

Emergency numbers for fire-fighting and rescue is 102, and ambulance or medical emergencies is 103.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and cannot do to assist Australians overseas.

Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Kazakhstan. By agreement between the Canadian and Australian governments, the Canadian Embassy in Astana, provides limited consular assistance to Australians in Kazakhstan. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. Contact details are:

Canadian Embassy, Astana

13/1 Kabanbay Katyr Street
Astana, 010001, Kazakhstan
Telephone: 7 (7172) 475 577
Fax: 7 (7172) 475 587
Email: astnag@international.gc.ca
Website: www.canadainternational.gc.ca/kazakhstan

You can also obtain consular assistance through the Australian Embassy in Russia. Contact details are:

Australian Embassy, Moscow

10a/2 Podkolokolny Pereulok
Moscow, Russia
Telephone +7 (495) 956-6070
Facsimile +7 (495) 956-6170
Website www.russia.embassy.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to Kazakhstan, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the above Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

A number of people have been killed in snow-related accidents in recent years including motor vehicles accidents, avalanches, snow falling from roofs and prolonged exposure to extreme cold.

Kazakhstan is subject to earthquakes and floods. Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If you are in an area affected by a natural disaster, you should monitor the media and follow the advice of local authorities.

For information on travelling in earthquake-prone areas, see our Earthquakes travel bulletin.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.