Hobo Advice

You've probably seen Borat... Kazakhstan in real life is incredibly different. The country is very large, dotted with a few cities within a large sparsely-populated steppe. I was only in the south region, near Almaty, which is pretty amazing, but is pretty unique from the rest of the country. By this point, the steppe has ended and is replaced by huge mountains and dark green forests. I absolutely recommend going here, as the nature is incredible and the culture is a unique mix of Russian, Kazakh, and other Central Asian influences. And just in case you need a break from roughing it during a trekking/backpacking trip, pretty much all the major cities here are very modern, clean and comfortable. You'll have no trouble finding nice and affordable accommodations. If you go to Almaty, I recommend Almaty Dom Hostel. It's awesome!

Kazakhstan itself is far more developed (and developing more by the day) than much of the surrounding area, especially the neighboring Kyrgyzstan. So if you're doing a Central Asian trip, any of the Kazakh cities like Almaty or Astana, for example, are good places to stock up on goods. Plus, since the infrastructure is probably the best in the region (still not particularly great though), it is pretty still easy to take public transport around the country and into neighboring regions. It'll help a lot though if you can speak some Russian. People are very friendly and helpful as long as they can understand you, but English is hardly spoken at all.

Overall Impressions

  • Kazakhstan is big
  • There is such a diverse variety in the nature
  • People are very helpful and friendly
  • English is basically unknown
  • A knowledge of Russian helps a lot
  • The mountains around Almaty are some of the most amazing things I've ever seen.
  • People drive pretty recklessly
  • Almaty's Green Market is an interesting place to find (and haggle for) pretty much anything you could need
  • Camel milk isn't the easiest thing to drink (although I thought it was going to be worse)
  • The society seems pretty open and relaxed towards foreigners
  • As of last year (2016), North Americans and most Europeans do not need a visa for up to 30 days.