Kazakhstan Visa Free for US + 9 Countries Starting July 15

Kazakhstan is going visa-free in a one-year trial from July 15, 2014 to July 14, 2015 for nationals of the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Malaysia, Netherlands, UAE, South and Japan.

For US citizens, Kazakhstan joins neighbors Kyrgyzstan in offering visa-free entry. Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan remain among the more involved visas to obtain, in particular Turkmenistan.

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Central Asian crossroads at Almaty

The announcement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Kazakhstan specifies:

Over this period, citizens of these 10 countries holding valid diplomatic, official and national passports can multiply enter, exit and follow transit through the territory of Kazakhstan without a visa for up to 15 calendar days from the moment of crossing the state border. If there is a proved necessity for a foreign citizen from above mentioned countries to stay in the Republic of Kazakhstan longer than 15 days, they need as prescribed by law of Kazakhstan to obtain appropriate visa of “business” category at the bodies of internal affairs and of “investor” category in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the US has made a similar announcement.

Bidding for the 2020 Olympics, Kazakhstan perhaps wants to open up a bit.

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Soviet winter sports complex at Medeu

Kazakhstan visas have been both expensive and troublesome, charging a reciprocal US$160 for US citizens and requiring significant documentation.

When I was working in China and went to Kazakhstan as a tourist in 2009 the embassy in Beijing would only process the application within a reasonable if I booked with state carrier Air Astana. I was already on China Southern so they quoted several weeks as processing time. Eventually I had to pay a local travel agency for a special LOI to permit a visa on arrival and it was not cheap. Nor was it easy to convince Chinese immigration officials in Ürümqi that I would be allowed in to Kazakhstan based on a fuzzy, scanned letter in Russian. Finally they said, “We’ll let you go, but it’s not our fault if they send you back.”

Of the 5 ex-Soviet ‘stans, Kazakhstan does not stand out as a tourist destination, lacking significant Silk Road attractions, but there are both natural and authoritarian megalomania gems as well as multi-country routes that this makes easier. Next post I will outline 2 trip ideas.

Hat tip to reader Mike C who spotted this article in Radio Free Europe.

Note: I have not watched the film Borat.

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  • Ken Y.

    Heading to Almaty next month. Debating over spending four days or two days there what’s your suggestion?

  • @Ken Y – 2 is enough, 1 for the city, perhaps 1 for Medeu. Other places of interest are significant distance away that limit what you can do from Almaty. It makes a good departure point for Kyrgyzstan’s east.

  • Joey

    I wouldn’t say it’s troublesome getting the Kazakhstan visa here in New York City. I applied for a Kazakh visa last year and there were no queues at all at the consulate. I don’t recall the Air Astana requirement either. After a few days, I came back and voila! My visa was there. Yes, the only downside was that $160 fee.

  • @Joey – good to hear they have improved. I only did it in China and many of the ex-Soviet countries have big hang-ups about applications not in your country of citizenship so I got put through the wringer on a number of them.

  • Ken Y.

    One follow up — so the national parks and the Big Almaty Lake — these outdoor day trips are worthwhile or not? Thanks!

  • ptahcha

    I was in Almaty back in 2010 for a work trip. The visa took longer than expected, and it cut pretty close to another trip where I needed my passport back. Had to harass them a couple times to expedite the process.

    The local host wanted me to stay at a “sanitarium”. I chose the $300/night Holiday Inn instead. Managed to secure the exit row on LH since they had few people spoke English or German to qualify to sit there.

    The Almaty airport lounge was basically a 7-11 with sofas: everything had a price tag on it, including water. however, at 3am, there was no one there to collect the money, but everything was locked away.

  • Aptraveler

    One can always count on you for this kind of info on out-of-the-ordinary destination.

  • Aptraveler

    Follow up comment – I had a stop-over in IST recently & thought about a ‘side’ trip to Kazakhstan with one of those ‘cheap’ TK fares, but the whole visa process & fee thing changed my mind. I can now try to incorporate it into my next Asia trip. Thanks for the info Stefan!

  • John

    Looking forward to your next post on trip ideas

    Just hoping Uzbekistan makes it easier for travel as well

    Easy to get flights but visa is a PITA

  • @John – BoardingArea is having issues for some of us so have been unable to post since mid Friday, will post when so can.

  • @John – I do not think it is likely that Uzbekistan will loosen up any time soon, too bad since Tashkent is the main flight hub of the region. The political situation there is much more repressive, ethnic issues are much more prevalent, and their neighborhood is much more tense than Kazakhstan. Tajikistan is a bit more flexible, in some instances allowing visa on arrival at Dushanbe’s airport, and in my case, my agent was able to arrange a visa on arrival for the land border with Uzbekistan that did not require my passport or an embassy visit to obtain.

  • @ptahcha – thanks for sharing your amusing experience. “a 7-11 with sofas,” I love it!

    Sorry for the delay in moderating your comment, the BoardingArea site host had problems this weekend that prevented me from posting and performing admin actions.

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