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November 25, 2017

Things to do in Almaty Kazakhstan

Visited Almaty in October 2017 on a flight from Baku Azerbaijan, my first time travelling on Air Astana, good food and drinks, one of the better airlines I few on, on my Silk Route adventures in October/November 2017. Arrival in Almaty, immigration and costumes is quick and easy. I withdrew money from an ATM and got out looking for transportation to my hotel.

Airport Taxi Scam - 1 USD = 337.611 KZT Kazakhstani Tenge. Once outside the airport, I was approached by a taxi, I showed him on Google Maps where my hotel was, he said 1000 Tenge, that's 3 USD, a trip from the airport to my hotel would be somewhere around 15 USD, I asked him again twice and he was stuck at 1000 Tenge. I said okay. Before I got into the Taxi I took a picture of his number plate with my cell phone. 2 or 3 Kilometers down the road he said by the way that was 1000 tange per kilometer. That would make it 60 USD as my hotel was 20 KM away. Now I wasn't going to  get scammed without a fight, to cut a long story short after much haggling we agreed on 5000 Tenge, with sounded reasonable to me.

Food: After Checking in to the hotel, I went to explore the city on foot, and I wanted to eat when I discovered Kafahat, a cafe serving local food, for around 2 USD, one can get a decent meal. There are several Kafahat around Almaty, I went there 2 to 3 time a day during my stay in Almaty.

Transportation: I used Uber a lot, now Taxis don't have meters or sign. Just stand on the side of the road with your hand out and someone will stop, decide on a price before you get in.

The grocery stores sell Camel and Mare (horse) milk in Kazakhstan.

Next day I went to see the Church of the Holy Ascension in Panfilov Park is a can’t-miss site.  The bright, yellow church is the second tallest wooden building in the world.  The colorful exterior is matched only by the exquisite interior and magnificent altarpiece. From I took the subway and went exploring the city, ended the evening at Presidents Park.

The following day after breakfast at Kafahat I went to see Kok-Tobe

Kok-TobeAbai Qunanbaiuly

Kok-Tobe is a hill with a Ferris wheel and a recreational area, I took a cab and a bus to get there and took  a cable car to get down. It was a nice sunny day, I sat at a cafe there, the only one, eating a pizza and overlooking the city. The second Picture is a statue of Abai Qunanbaiuly who was a famous  Kazakh poet.

From there tit was time to hit  the mountains and trek, burn off those carbs all the pizza I ate. I took a cab to Medeu. Medeu is a speed skating rink located in mountains just outside Almaty. From Medeu I took a bus to Shymbulak. Shymbulak is a ski resort, what was a sunny nice day turned to be quiet cold in the mountains. I walked the road to the top till it got real cold and headed back to the cable car to take me back down to Medeu.

medeu almatyShymbulak

The first picture above is Medeu and the second I took on my trek in Shymbulak. Of all the place in Almaty I highly recommend Shymbulak.

From Shymbulak I took the cable car to Medeu, at Medeu I was hoping to get s bus or a cab to take back to Almaty, no such luck and it had started to get colder. After waiting by the road side for half an hour when a Lexus SUV with 3 beautiful Kazakh girls pulled up and offered me a ride to the city. I took them on their offer, I didn't take any any picture, that wouldn't be right, though I did take a small gopro video, I'll edit and post it.

On my 4th day, I crossed the border to Kyrgyzstan, I wrote a border crossing post http://www.arvinder.com/2017/11/how-to-get-from-almaty-to-bishkek.html 

I am leaving the city of Astana fora future trip, Air Astana offers several flights to Asia, and will catch a stopover soon. Until then...

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  1. If I had a dollar for the number of times a taxi driver has tried to scam us, when we are in a new city where they don't speak English too well (and try to use that to their advantage), I'd be a rich person! I have begun to be apprehensive everytime while taking a taxi on landing in a new city because I sort of expect to be scammed now. Good that you didn't give up without a fight, I don't either! Almaty looks like an interesting city although I believe it's the outskirts, the countryside so to say, that make Kazakhstan beautiful. I live in Dubai and we have short duration direct flights from here, so I have it on my list for a long weekend visit. Thanks for sharing!

  2. The taxi scam that you fell victim too seems like one from a new, cunning sort of scam. He clearly has got wind of the fact that most travellers are now wise to agreeing on the fare before getting in the car, so he waited until you were in there before he said ‘oh, by the way...’ Glad you go6a good fare though. This place looks great - particularly loving Shymbulak. Loooks very beautiful there :-)

  3. The aiport taxi scammers strike again - You know it really doesnt matter where in the world you travel to taxi drivers always seem play the same trick and it just doesnt wash. However in saying that Almaty sounds like a city worth visiting even though it's never really been on my radar before and I had no idea you could drink camel milk. Great little read though :D

  4. I wouldn't have thought to take a picture of the drivers license plate, but I guess you never know when that might come in handy! Almaty sounds so interesting. A friend of mine lived there for a while, teaching English. Hope I can make it sometime. I'm not sure if I want to try the camel and horse milk though! Thanks!

    1. Camel Milk was very salty. They add salt for preservation and offset the taste.

  5. Taxi scams are seriously the worst! It's hard to catch it too if you're visiting a place for the first time and haven't done much homework. Guess you evened it out with a $2 meal tho!


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