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.
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.
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.