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Moving to Kazakhstan

Expats moving to Kazakhstan will encounter an ethnically and geographically diverse country with vast fossil fuel and mineral resources that is just beginning to make its mark on the world economic stage. 

Kazakhstan is one of the world’s top oil producers and the biggest producer of uranium. Foreign companies and international banks also have branches in Kazakhstan. And the country’s entry into the world economic stage has opened up lucrative employment opportunities for expats teaching English.

Expats usually relocate to either Almaty (the former capital) or to Astana (the current capital). Almaty is the country’s largest city and situated in the fertile, mountainous south, with a skyline that's a blend of the old Soviet and pre-Soviet era. Astana is across the windswept central steppe in the north, and by contrast, is characterised by new, modern buildings and rapid growth.

Relocating to Kazakhstan isn’t for everyone. The vast, empty steppe and lack of historical sites and attractions puts some visitors off, while others are drawn to the exceptionally beautiful landscape. As the largest landlocked country in the world, its sheer size could come as a shock to expats from Western Europe. Although buses and trains connect cities, travelling times can be long.

Expats moving to Kazakhstan from milder climes should prepare for the surprising variation in temperatures, with long, freezing winters and short, hot summers.

There are both public and private clinics and hospitals, and both are cheaper than in the USA. While medical facilities and staff in the cities are fairly good, the quality of healthcare in rural areas is likely to be far behind Western standards.

For expats moving to Kazakhstan with family, the country has a good education system with free compulsory education until the end of high school. There are also a handful of private international schools in Almaty and Astana.

While expats in Kazakhstan will have to contend with many cultural differences, the Kazakhstani people are known for their hospitality and warmth, which can go a long way towards easing the adjustment period.

Ultimately, while expat life in Kazakhstan is not for the faint of heart, those who approach it with an open mind are bound to have a rich and rewarding expat experience.

Essential Info for Kazakhstan

Population: 18.4 million

Capital city: Astana 

Other major cities: Almaty

Neighbouring countries: Kazakhstan is bordered by Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan to the south, Russia to the north and west, and China to the east.

Geography: Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world. Its terrain is comprised of mountainous areas, grasslands, steppes, wide plains and numerous rivers, streams and lakes, including the Caspian Sea. 

Political system: Unitary presidential constitutional republic

Major religions: Islam and Christianity

Main languages: Kazakh and Russian

Money: Kazakhstani Tenge (KZT)

Tipping: Tipping is not customary in Kazakhstan. Service costs are typically already included in prices.

Time: GMT+5 and GMT+6

Electricity: 220 volts, 50Hz. European round two-pin plugs are standard.

Internet domain: .kz

International dialling code: +7

Emergency contacts: 101 (fire), 102 (police), 103 (ambulance) 

Transport and driving: Drive on the right-hand side. Major cities have bus networks, trams, private taxis and shared taxis for transportation. There are also rail networks across the country and a metro system in Almaty. 

Weather in Kazakhstan

Due to its vast size, the climate of Kazakhstan is varied. Generally, however, the country has a continental climate. Summers are hot, while winters go to the other extreme and are typically extremely cold with large amounts of snowfall. Kazakhstan has such diverse climactic conditions that the north can be covered in thick snow while the south begins its agricultural season. 

Springtime may come as early as February in the south, but typically lasts from March to early June. Temperatures remain below 50°F (10°C) in early spring and rise above 70°F (20°C) by June.  

Summer, from June to early September, can be stiflingly hot with temperatures rising well above 90°F (30°C).

Autumn lasts from September to November and brings cloudy and windy days. Snowfall may begin in mid-Autumn and temperatures begin to drop below freezing in some areas.

January is the coldest month, and winter temperatures can reach extreme lows dropping to -6°F (-21°C) or less. Snowfall is thick and falls throughout Kazakhstan during this time of year. The extreme low temperatures and heavy snowfall make this a dangerous period. Winter is a particularly harsh time of year and it is important to pay attention to weather warnings. Flooding, snowstorms and blizzards are all possible during this time so expats should be on the lookout for any government communication regarding this.
weather in Kazakhstan

 

Embassy contacts for Kazakhstan


Kazakhstani embassies

  • Kazakhstan Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 232 5488

  • Kazakhstan Embassy, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 207 925 1757

  • Kazakhstan Embassy, Toronto, Canada: +1 613 695 8055

  • Consulate General of Kazakhstan, Sydney, Australia: +61 292 333 350

  • Kazakhstan Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 460 0086

  • Kazakhstan Embassy, Singapore (also responsible for New Zealand): +65 6536 6100


Foreign embassies in Kazakhstan

  • United States Embassy, Astana: +7 717 270 2100

  • British Embassy, Astana: +7 717 255 6200

  • Canadian Embassy, Astana: +7 717 247 5577

  • Australian Consulate, Almaty: +7 727 258 5960

  • South African Embassy, Astana: + 7 717 292 5326 

  • Irish Embassy, Moscow, Russia (also responsible for Kazakhstan): +7 495 937 5911

  • New Zealand Embassy, Moscow, Russia (also responsible for Kazakhstan): +7 495 956 3579

Public Holidays in Kazakhstan

 

2020

2021

New Year's Day

1-2 January

1-2 January

Orthodox Christmas Day

7 January

7 January

International Women's Day

8 March

8 March

Nauryz Holiday

21-23 March

21-24 March

Unity Day

1 May

1 May

Defender of the Fatherland Day

7 May

7 May

Victory Day

9 May

9 May

Day of the Capital

6 July

6 July

Kurban Ait

31 July

20 July

Constitution Day

30 August

30 August

First President Day

1 December

1 December

Independence Day

16-17 December

16-17 December

* Islamic holidays are subject to the sighting of the moon, and dates can change on the Gregorian calendar. If a a public holiday falls on a weekend, it is observed on the next working day.

Working in Kazakhstan

Although Kazakhstan's economy suffered high inflation rates and drastic devaluation of the tenge in 2015, it is slowly but steadily beginning to making a recovery. Despite Kazakhstan's past financial troubles, it is still the largest economy in Central Asia.

Most expats employed in Kazakhstan will find themselves working in the nation's capital, Astana, or in Almaty. Abundant natural resources and a variety of thriving industries offer a number of opportunities for expats considering working in Kazakhstan. 


Job market in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan has a number of valuable natural resources including oil, gas and metals. Prominent industries include engineering, construction, mining, IT and finance. As is the case with many countries in Asia, there is a high demand for English teachers. 

There are also a number of expat government workers and diplomats working in Kazakhstan, most of which are based in Astana.


Finding a job in Kazakhstan

Many of the expats working in Kazakhstan are employed by multinational companies. Others are not as lucky and have to face the daunting task of finding a job in Kazakhstan.

Online job boards and classified sections in local newspapers are a good place to start the search, but making personal connections in the country is likely to yield better results and more opportunities. LinkedIn can be a valuable resource in this case, as can local business meet-ups.


Work culture in Kazakhstan

Most businesses in Kazakhstan follow the classic 40-hour Monday to Friday work week, with an eight-hour workday.

Business dealings in Kazakhstan tend to be formal, and expats should ensure they are dressed smartly. There is usually a chain of authority in the office with the most senior members of the company making decisions. It's important to treat such individuals with a great degree of respect. 

Doing Business in Kazakhstan

With the country's rich oil and gas reserves and booming economy, many expats find doing business in Kazakhstan an attractive prospect. From mineral resources and space technology to opportunities in agriculture and finance, Kazakhstan has a lot to offer.

In the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business survey for 2018, Kazakhstan achieved a rank of 36th out of the 190 countries surveyed. The country did particularly well in categories such as protecting minority investors (1st) and enforcing contracts (6th), but ranked poorly in trading across borders (123rd).

The most common complaint among expats doing business in Kazakhstan is the bureaucracy that seems to lurk around every corner. This is a legacy of the bygone Soviet era and is something that should be taken into account when planning business operations.

Despite its lingering bureaucratic issues, Kazakhstan's economy is the largest in Central Asia and, as such, it is an excellent destination for those looking to do business.


Fast facts

Business hours

9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.

Business language

Russian is the language of business, although multinational corporations with offices in Kazakhstan may operate in another language such as English.

Dress

It is best to dress in formal business attire as dressing too casually may be taken as an insult.

Gifts

Small gifts are acceptable in a business setting and are generally opened right away.

Gender equality

Women are largely seen as equals in business settings.

Greetings

Handshakes are the appropriate greeting in a business setting. If greeting a woman, expat men should wait for her to extend her hand first.


Business culture in Kazakhstan

Meetings

Interpersonal relationships are of great importance to Kazakhstani businesspeople, and those doing business in Kazakhstan should be prepared to spend some time getting to know their business associates. Small talk is common at the start of a meeting.

When it's time to get down to business, Kazakhstanis can be tough negotiators and may even raise their voice during negotiations. Expats are free to hold their ground, but should never argue or contradict someone more senior than they are.

Hierarchy

Seniority is greatly respected in Kazakhstan, and expats will notice that there is a definite hierarchy when it comes to decision-making in Kazakhstani companies. The higher-ups will tend to make all of the company's decisions without consulting the company's employees, and employees will tend to look to their supervisors when unsure of something.

Hospitality

Kazakhstanis are known for being extremely welcoming to foreigners, and it is likely that expats will be invited to the home of a business associate during their time in Kazakhstan. Such an invitation should always be accepted, as turning it down would be considered a slight to the host. It is polite to bring along a small gift, such as sweets or pastries. As many Kazakhstanis are practising Muslims, it is best not to give alcohol as a gift.


Dos and don'ts of business in Kazakhstan

  • Do ask questions about your Kazakhstani business associate's family and health at the start of meetings

  • Don't try to rush the initial small talk in meetings

  • Don't ask questions related to ethnicity

  • Do get business cards printed in English on one side and Russian on the other

  • Do make eye contact when shaking hands

Visas for Kazakhstan

Depending on one's reasons for wishing to enter, the process of obtaining a visa for Kazakhstan can either be a breeze or a complex procedure requiring extensive documentation. In some cases, it is possible to enter Kazakhstan with no visa at all.

There is an extensive list of countries whose citizens may enter Kazakhstan without a visa for a designated period of time – usually up to 30 or 90 days. More than 50 countries have this beneficial arrangement with Kazakhstan, including but not limited to the US, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Russia and all EU member states.

Travellers planning to visit Kazakhstan are advised to confirm with their local Kazakhstani embassy whether they will need to obtain a visa or not, and if so, which one. Those that do require a visa to enter Kazakhstan will be faced with a daunting list of the various visa categories available, so it's always best to do a bit of research to make sure one is applying for the correct visa.  

Those wishing to take up employment in Kazakhstan will need to obtain a work visa.


Visitors visas for Kazakhstan

F1 Tourist Visa

If visiting the country to explore and see the sights, the F1 Tourist Visa is the appropriate visa. The F1 visa comes in single-, double- or triple-entry varieties. F1 visas allow the holder to be present in Kazakhstan for a period of up to 30 days and are valid for a total of 90 days after being granted.

G1 Private Visa

Travellers wishing to visit family members in Kazakhstan can apply for a G1 Private Visa. This usually requires a letter of invitation from a friend or family member residing in Kazakhstan. Once a G1 visa is granted, the holder is allowed to be present in the country for up to 90 days.


Family reunion visas

K1 Visa for a Family Reunion

This visa is intended for those wishing to join a family member who is either a citizen or permanent resident of Kazakhstan. The K1 Visa is a multiple-entry visa and is valid for a year.

M2 Work Visa

Although the name implies that this visa is based on the applicant receiving a job offer, it is in fact a visa allowing dependents of foreigners working in Kazakhstan to join the working expat in Kazakhstan. The M2 Work Visa does not allow the holder the right to work; if they obtain employment, they must apply for their own M1 Work Visa.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Kazakhstan

Expats are likely to find that the cost of living in Kazakhstan can vary greatly from city to city, not to mention the ever-fluctuating value of the tenge, which makes it extremely difficult to generalise about common costs.

Kazakhstan is in the top 20 of oil producers worldwide, a fact that bodes well for the economy. However, a few years ago, the tenge took a massive dip against the dollar and prices soared. Recently, Kazakhstan seems to have recovered somewhat – Mercer's 2018 Cost of Living Survey ranked Almaty as 187th out of 209 cities. The situation remains unpredictable, though, so it's important for expats to make sure they're up to date with Kazakhstan's current financial situation.


Cost of accommodation in Kazakhstan

Some expats are lucky enough to have accommodation provided as part of their employment contract, in which case they need not worry about the expenses involved. Unfortunately, most expats will need to bear this expense themselves.

Generally, accommodation costs more the closer it is to the city centre. There are a few modern apartment complexes but most are old, Soviet-style apartments – naturally, these are cheaper, but might not be up to the standard of living that many expats are used to.

Utilities can be costly, especially in the areas of Kazakhstan that are subject to extreme heat in summer and extreme cold in winter.


Cost of transport in Kazakhstan

Most public transport is inexpensive, with a flat rate being charged for buses, trams and the metro. Taxis are generally expensive. It's costly to purchase a car, even second-hand, although petrol prices are usually reasonable.


Cost of food in Kazakhstan

The cost and quality of food in Kazakhstan varies according to season. In summer, local fruit and vegetables are inexpensive and of a good quality. In winter, however, fruit and vegetables are expensive and tend to be poor quality goods.

To keep costs down, expats should do the bulk of their shopping in local bazaars and markets.


Cost of living in Kazakhstan chart 

Prices may vary across Kazakhstan, depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Almaty in August 2018.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

KZT 240,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

KZT 150,000

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

KZT 130,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

KZT 85,000

Groceries

Milk (1 litre)

KZT 310

Eggs (12)

KZT 400

Loaf of white bread 

KZT 100

Rice (1kg)

KZT 250

1 packet of cigarettes (Marlboro)

KZT 350

Public transportation

City centre bus/train fare

KZT 80

Taxi rate per kilometre

KZT 120

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

KZT 1,500

Coca-Cola (330ml)   

KZT 170

Cappuccino

KZT 750

Bottle of domestic beer

KZT 300

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant

KZT 4,500

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

KZT 12

Uncapped ADSL internet (per month)

KZT 4,000

Utilities (average per month for standard household)

KZT 23,000

Culture Shock in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is still seen as a rather unusual expat destination, and there are very few online resources or even guidebooks to help prospective expats prepare for their new life. This little-known country – famous in the past for a nomadic lifestyle marked by camels and yurts – has now become a regional economic superpower with modern cities to match, while the remnants of the older way of life can still be seen in the villages out on the steppe. Expats moving to this gargantuan country will likely experience some degree of culture shock in Kazakhstan, though less so in its major cities.


Language barrier in Kazakhstan

While Russian is acknowledged as the ‘language of business’  in Kazakhstan there has been a push to increase the use of Kazakh and to re-introduce lost traditions in the country. Most expats working in Kazakhstan will need to learn Russian as this is universally understood in the workplace. However, even a few words of Kazakh will be highly appreciated by locals.

Although there is some discussion about altering the alphabet and moving the Kazakh language over to Roman script, both Kazakh and Russian are written in the Cyrillic alphabet. This can seem a little daunting on arrival but it makes sense to learn the letters as quickly as possible. This helps expats adapt to life in Kazakhstan through language acquisition and is useful in everyday situations, such as understanding menus in a restaurant or signage at the supermarket. 

Most Kazakhstanis are keen to learn English and there is no shortage of opportunities to learn Russian and/or Kazakh through a language-exchange agreement. 


Bureaucracy in Kazakhstan

The post-Soviet bureaucracy in Kazakhstan is highly developed, confusing and often frustrating to both expats and locals alike. The bureaucratic nightmare, more than anything else, is often the biggest cultural shock for expats arriving in Kazakhstan. 

Most officials may deal with expats only infrequently and therefore may not be aware of the exact requirements to fulfil a particular request, for example to register a car to an expat owner. Therefore, it helps to research the exact requirements before meeting with the relevant authority and bringing along evidence of what is required.  Remain polite at all times and keep a sense of humour and you will find most people willing to do their best to help.


Business culture in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstanis want to be perceived to be helpful and always avoid letting people down. The Soviet legacy also means that people's roles within an organisation are very heavily defined with a clear chain of responsibility.

This combination means that people will often avoid giving a negative answer to any question and will simply ‘table’ difficult issues hoping that they will be resolved by someone else. This can be very frustrating for the newly arrived expat and therefore adapting to Kazakhstani business practices can be a challenge. Make an effort to understand the structure of any business, who is responsible for what areas, and address all queries to the appropriate person.


Socialising in Kazakhstan

People can appear superficially rude on the streets, so do not expect people to hold open doors or help carry a pram. However, expats will soon see that this is very much a superficiality, as Kazakhstanis are extremely friendly and very hospitable. 

New arrivals should not be surprised if they get invited to the home of a Kazakhstani they’ve recently met. If invited for a meal it is polite to bring a small gift for the hosts and to try a bit of every food offered.


Family in Kazakhstan

Family is very important in Kazakhstan; elders are respected as wise and knowledgeable and children are cosseted and adored. The idea of a child-free wedding or celebration would be anathema in Kazakhstan, so expect to see children at all large events from weddings to New Year’s Eve parties. Do not be surprised if invitees bring young toddlers to an evening meal.


Religion in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is a secular state, home to people of many different ethnicities. Kazakhstanis are proud of the diversity of their population and the country strives to promote peace between religions worldwide. 

There is freedom of worship but expatriates should not proselytise. The majority of the population (about 70 percent) are Muslim with the second largest religious grouping being Christian.  

Alcohol is freely available, although imported wines are extremely expensive. Pork is also available, but only at certain stores. Furthermore, pork products are kept separate from the other meat products. Most Kazakhstanis will enjoy a drink or, if not, will not object to expats drinking. When inviting people for a meal do check their dietary preferences beforehand to ensure that they can eat the food being served.  

Accommodation in Kazakhstan

Expats in need of accommodation in Kazakhstan will find that their budget will largely determine the quality of housing available to them. While the constantly expanding cities of Almaty and Astana always seem to have new apartment blocks springing up, some expats will find they can only afford to live in older Soviet-style apartments.

Although accommodation allowances are no longer a given when it comes to expat relocation packages, it's worthwhile trying to negotiate the inclusion of such an allowance. Accommodation in Kazakhstan can be expensive, especially if expats are looking to maintain a high standard of living.


Types of accommodation in Kazakhstan

Most of the accommodation found in Kazakhstan is in the form of apartments. These are usually one of two types: newly built apartments with modern finishings and amenities, and old Soviet apartments, most of which lack elevators despite being several storeys high.

If expats prefer to live in a free-standing house or cottage, they may be able to find something suitable in the suburbs, though this comes at the cost of a long commute into the city centre for work.


Finding accommodation in Kazakhstan

By far the easiest way to find somewhere to live in Kazakhstan is by hiring a real estate agent to do the necessary legwork. Though this will incur a fee, hiring a reputable agent is also the surest way to avoid getting scammed by fraudulent apartment listings online.

For those planning to go it alone, online property websites and local newspapers should yield plenty of options, but it pays to be cautious about any deal that seems too good to be true. It is also imperative that expats go and see potential accommodation in person before handing over any money. Many expats arrange short-term accommodation in advance to have a place to stay while they search for something more long-term.


Renting accommodation in Kazakhstan

To overcome any language barriers with a potential landlord, it is best to hire a translator or bring along a trusted friend when looking for apartments and signing leases. In most cases, only a passport and possibly a deposit will be needed to rent an apartment – and some landlords don't even charge a deposit. 

Utilities are generally not included in the rental price, but expats will find that despite freezing cold conditions in winter, water and central heating are very reasonably priced in Kazakhstan.

Healthcare in Kazakhstan

Expats will find that the quality of healthcare in Kazakhstan is highly variable, especially in the public sector. Although the government has been making attempts to improve the level of service, the quality of public healthcare has fallen dramatically since the end of the Soviet era. The public healthcare sector is chronically underfunded, and there are rumours that bribery and corruption have become rife among underpaid medical professionals.

For this reason, most expats avoid public healthcare services, and instead invest in comprehensive private health insurance in order to make use of Kazakhstan's private hospitals and doctors.

Expats may notice that the bedside manner of Kazakhstani doctors is quite different from that of Western doctors. While they may come off as unsympathetic or impatient, especially when facing time constraints and a language barrier, this is quite common and shouldn't be taken as a personal slight.


Public healthcare in Kazakhstan

Public hospitals are easy to find in Kazakhstan, as around 70 percent of the country's hospitals are government-owned.

Although expats legally resident in Kazakhstan are entitled to use the public healthcare system, it's difficult to predict the quality of treatment. While some expats report receiving adequate to good care, others have noted that the standard of treatment is low with a constant shortage of medication and equipment.

English-speaking medical professionals are rare in the public healthcare sector, and expats making use of public healthcare should either be proficient in a local language or should come armed with a fluent speaker that can act as a translator.


Private healthcare in Kazakhstan

Although private hospitals offer better treatment than public hospitals, expats may still face some challenges. While English-speaking doctors are more prevalent in the private healthcare sector, they can still be somewhat hard to find, especially in smaller towns and rural areas. Insurance companies should be able to recommend English-speaking doctors if there are any in the area. Otherwise, some medical insurance schemes include the services of a translator for doctors' visits.

Private healthcare in Kazakhstan will still most likely not measure up to the standards that expats from America or Europe may be used to, but they are a definite step up from the country's public services. For major operations or serious medical emergencies, expats are usually advised to utilise medical evacuation services to be airlifted to a nearby country for improved standards of medical treatment.


Health insurance in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan has recently implemented a law requiring mandatory monthly public health insurance contributions from both employer and employee. This is expected to improve the standard of public healthcare.

Regardless, expats may wish to purchase additional coverage to access the private sector and its benefits.


Pharmacies in Kazakhstan

Pharmacies are prevalent in Kazakhstan's larger cities, but expats should be aware that options may be limited. Over-the-counter medications common in other countries may not be readily available in Kazakhstan, so it's best for expats to bring their own from home.

Kazakhstani pharmacists may not be able to answer questions about medication in English, so it is best to get full details from one's doctor on how to take the prescribed medication.


Health hazards in Kazakhstan

While Kazakhstan's main health concerns are non-communicable illnesses like cardiovascular disease, cancer and respiratory illnesses, cases of HIV and tuberculosis have been on the rise, so expats should take appropriate precautions to avoid becoming infected.


Pre-travel vaccinations in Kazakhstan

Expats should ensure that routine vaccinations are up to date before travelling to Kazakhstan. Expats should also get vaccinations for typhoid and hepatitis A as there is a slight risk of contraction through contaminated food or water.


Emergency services in Kazakhstan

In a medical emergency, expats can dial 103 for an ambulance. Operators are not likely to speak English, though, and ambulance arrival times can be slow. For this reason, it may be preferable to drive to the hospital or take a taxi instead.

Education and Schools in Kazakhstan

The quality of public schools and education in Kazakhstan varies. The country has a literacy rate of close to 100 percent, but due to a history of underfunding, local schools may have a shortage of facilities and teachers. In addition, teaching is done in local languages.

For these reasons, most expats prefer to make use of Kazakhstan's international schools, most of which are based in Almaty and Astana.


Public schools in Kazakhstan

Education in Kazakhstan is divided into three stages: primary school, lower secondary school and higher secondary school. Tuition for state schools is free of charge for citizens and residents. Classes are taught in either Russian or Kazakh – for most expat parents, this is a dealbreaker.

Those who do decide to make use of the country's public school system should be aware that school is typically run in two sessions a day, with one session held in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Each child attends only one of the sessions per day, although some schools have homework programmes so that learners can stay at school while their parents are at work.


International schools in Kazakhstan

Expats who are concerned that sending their child to an international school in Kazakhstan will cut them off from the local culture need not worry too much, as many of Kazakhstan's international schools are favoured by well-off local families. Popular curricula on offer include the International Baccalaureate as well as the British and American curricula.

There is often a high demand for spaces in international schools, so expats should apply as far in advance as possible. Schools should be contacted directly for information about application requirements and processes.

International schools worldwide are renowned for having extremely high fees, so prospective expats with children should endeavour to negotiate an education allowance as part of their relocation package.

International Schools in Kazakhstan

Many expat families opt for international schools in Kazakhstan due to the language barrier they face in Kazakh-speaking state schools. The good news is that there are several international schools in Kazakhstan providing an excellent level of education. Most teach in English, though some have additional foreign-language streams such as French. Globally recognised and respected education systems are on offer, including the Cambridge IGCSEs and A-levels, American SATs and Advanced Placement subjects, and the International Baccalaureate.

Kazakhstan's international schools are mainly located in the expat hubs of Astana and Almaty. A few schools can also be found in Atyrau. Expats can expect a high standard of education from international schools, which are often set in modern, purpose-built facilities and staffed by well-qualified, highly trained teachers.

Below is a list of some of the most prominent international schools in Kazakhstan.


International schools in Kazakhstan

Galaxy International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Kazakhstani and Cambridge International Curriculum, IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 5 to 18
Website: www.galaxy.edu.kz

Haileybury Almaty

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 4 to 18
Website: www.haileybury.kz/en/almaty

Haileybury Astana

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.haileybury.kz/en/astana

Kazakhstan International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2.5 to 18
Website: www.kisnet.org

Miras International School Almaty

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Kazakhstani and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.miras.kz/en

Miras International School Astana

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Kazakhstani, French and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.miras-astana.kz

Spectrum International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Kazakhstani, Cambridge International Curriculum, IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 5 to 18
Website: www.spectrum.edu.kz

Transport and Driving in Kazakhstan

As the world's largest landlocked country and one of its most sparsely populated, getting around in Kazakhstan is not always an easy task. Because of the country's sprawling size, an expat's experience of driving and transport in Kazakhstan will vary greatly from place to place.

While there are various public transport options and well-developed roads in large cities like Almaty and Astana, the country's more rural areas are likely to have considerably less to offer in this regard.


Public transport in Kazakhstan

Metro

Almaty is home to the country's only metro system, although a light metro system is currently being planned in Astana. The metro in Almaty is clean and a cheap and fast way to get around. However, with just one line of 11km (7 miles), the metro has limited usefulness.

Train

Trains can be a good way to travel locally and regionally within Kazakhstan, and can even be taken to neighbouring countries, provided that time is not an issue. Trains in Kazakhstan are a slow but cheap way to travel. Countries like Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan can be reached by train.

Tram

There are tram systems in the cities of Pavlodar and Temirtau. There used to be a tram service in Almaty too, but the service has been suspended indefinitely since October 2015.

Buses

Travelling by bus in Kazakhstan is faster than travelling by train, but slower than travelling by taxi or car. However, buses tend not to stick to any particular schedule, and most bus drivers will only speak Russian, making this an inconvenient way to travel for most expats. On the upside, fares are cheap.

Marshrutkas

marshrutka is a kind of minibus or van that is larger than a regular car but smaller than a bus. They run on fixed routes around town and tend to be rather dilapidated.


Taxis in Kazakhstan

Taxis can usually be found outside bus and train stations throughout Kazakhstan. While more expensive than trains or buses, they are still relatively cheap, and the cost can be reduced further by sharing a taxi ride with other passengers.

Most taxi drivers will speak only Russian, and it's a good idea to brush up on the language to avoid being overcharged. Most taxis don't use meters so the cost of the trip will need to be negotiated beforehand.

Ride-hailing applications such as Uber are also available in some parts of Kazakhstan. This is a useful way to overcome the language barrier and gives the passenger an upfront price.


Driving in Kazakhstan

Despite the availability of cheap petrol for cars, expats planning to drive in Kazakhstan may have a difficult time ahead of them. Road quality throughout the country is highly variable, with some roads being in excellent condition and others being in dire need of repair and replacement. One constant is that drivers in Kazakhstan are known for being reckless on the road.

To add further complications, the traffic police in Kazakhstan are notoriously corrupt. They will often stop cars to search for even the most minute of irregularities. If they find something, they may try to solicit a bribe on the spot, with the alternative being a costlier fine and a long-winded bureaucratic process. To avoid this situation, expats should drive extremely carefully at all times and make themselves familiar with all of Kazakhstan's driving laws.

Expats wishing to drive in Kazakhstan will need an international driving permit.


Cycling in Kazakhstan

There is little to no cycling infrastructure in Kazakhstan, although that doesn't stop a few enthusiastic locals from dusting off their bikes every year and taking a few rides once summer has arrived. The only real option is to cycle on the road, but cyclists will need to be prepared to encounter irate drivers and must keep their wits about them at all times.


Air travel in Kazakhstan

Due to the vastness of the country, air travel is typically the best way to travel regionally within Kazakhstan. There are a number of Kazakhstani airlines providing well-priced domestic flights. Almaty International Airport and Astana International Airport are the country's two major air travel hubs.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Kazakhstan

Despite some uncertainty following the global recession, Kazakhstan’s banking sector is viewed as one of the most robust of the former Soviet states and expats will find that managing their money and banking in Kazakhstan is relatively easy and straightforward. 


Money in Kazakhstan

The local currency is the Kazakhstani Tenge (KZT), which is divided into 100 tïın.

  • Notes: 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 KZT

  • Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 KZT


Banking in Kazakhstan

Expats have a wide variety of banks to choose from, with many offering services specifically tailored for expats. The main local banks include Kazkommertsbank, Halyk Bank and Bank Center Credit.

Banks are usually open every weekday from 9am to 6pm, with an hour lunch break, and are closed on weekends.

Opening a bank account

There are no restrictions on non-residents opening a bank account in Kazakhstan and expats are able to open a local account, in either the local or a foreign currency (usually US dollars, British pounds, or euros).

Expats will need their passport and an RNN number (Kazakh tax number), and in some cases a letter from their employer, to open a bank account in Kazakhstan. A minimum deposit will also be required.

Employers in Kazakhstan sometimes specify which bank they want their expat employees to use, so expats should seek the assistance of their company before opening an account.

ATMs and credit cards

ATMs are widely available in Kazakhstan’s main cities, but can be scarce in smaller locations. Most ATMs will accept foreign bank cards. Most machines only dispense cash in tenge, but some in the larger cities also stock US dollars.

All major credit cards are accepted in Kazakhstan.


Taxes in Kazakhstan

Although Kazakhstan’s tax system is relatively uncomplicated, it’s best for expats to employ the services of a qualified tax consultant to assist them in managing their taxes while in Kazakhstan.

Employment income is taxed at a flat rate of 10 percent in Kazakhstan. Tax residents are subject to personal tax on their worldwide income, while non-residents are taxed only on their income generated in Kazakhstan.

Expat Experiences in Kazakhstan

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real-life stories from other expats who have lived there. Here are some interviews on expat life in Kazakhstan. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Kazakhstan and would like to share your experience.


Jolene is a South African expat who moved to Kazakhstan in 2019. She lives and works in Nur-Sultan with her husband and young daughter. This is her first experience as an expat, and she is thoroughly enjoying it. Read more about her expat experience in Kazakhstan.

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Kristina Gray is an American expat who, after living abroad for more than 15 years, is now back in the US. In her interview with Expat Arrivals, she talks about her expat experience of life in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Steven Hermans is a Belgian expat living in Almaty, Kazakhstan. He moved to Almaty in July 2011 with his wife and is enjoying the good weather and outdoor lifestyle that Kazakhstan offers. Read more about Steven's expat experience of life in Kazakhstan

Ersatz is a Dutch-Irish expat living in Kazakhstan. She moved to Astana from the UK in 2011 with her husband and children. Find out more about expat life in Kazakhstan, the friendly locals and the extreme climate in her interview with Expat Arrivals.