Coronavirus (COVID-19) and travel: The situation around the world is changing dramatically. Various governments have changed their travel warnings to restrict travel during this time. To understand how this may impact cover under your policy, please go to our FAQs and select your country of residence.
For the latest travel warnings and alerts around the world, read about lockdowns and border restrictions.
Travel restrictions in Kazakhstan – updated 20 January 2022: Due to violent protests, the country is in a State of Emergency. See the government of Kazakhstan website for further details.
When it comes to personal safety in the central Asian country of Kazakhstan, there are some concerns. Transport, travel scams, thieves, and corrupt police are just some of the issues you might encounter. But, being prepared is one sure way to stay safe.
Despite what you might have seen on Borat, Kazakhstan is an incredible destination for travelers to discover. Here are our top tips to stay safe and types of crime you should know about before traveling to Kazakhstan.
In the 2020 Global Peace Index, Kazakhstan ranks 70 out of 163 countries when it comes to safety and peace in the country. In Russia and Eurasia overall, Kazakhstan ranks #1 in peacefulness out of 12 countries in the region. However, political hostility and human rights abuses are widespread in the country.
Most urban areas are safe to travel during the day. However, you should avoid walking alone at night, as there are some urban areas where travelers have been robbed after sunset, and the general advice is to avoid walking the streets alone in the dark.
Even in a group, it's smart to avoid arguments with locals. Leave the area if a fight does break out. An extremist element does exist in and around Kazakhstan, and terrorists, including suicide bombers, have targeted civilians in restaurants and at night clubs.
Travelers have also reported unfriendly attitudes by locals toward foreigners in parts of western Kazakhstan – so travel with extra caution here if you visit.
During periods of civil unrest, the situation can become hostile in Kazakhstan. Stay across the news before you go and while you are there, and avoid large crowds which are unpredictable during periods of unrest.
Areas to stay away from at night include all parts of Almaty below Tashkentskaya Street – muggings and drink spiking has been reported in nightlife areas bars.
Smaller districts within Almaty, including the Shanyrak area, should be avoided. Check with your accommodation provider for their tips and advice. Foreign travelers and residents have been attacked and mugged in Atyrau and Aktau, but security is improving.
Smaller towns like Uralsk, Taraz, Semey, Shymkent, Taldykorgan and Ust-Kamenogorsk are to be avoided after dark due to the risk of mugging. Shar, Temirtau and Stepnogorsk also may turn violent at night. Check your government's travel advice before you go, and avoid traveling anywhere with a specific warning in place.
Thieves may target Western hotels and tourist areas, so you should always keep your doors and windows locked in your accommodation; criminals may wait in unlit stairwells for their next target. Open-air markets are also hot targets for thieves, so keep your belongings secure and in sight at all times.
Like elsewhere, public transport is a hotspot for thieves who are on the lookout for easy targets on trains, buses and at transport stations. Some unlicensed taxi drivers may take advantage of solo travelers, so be extra cautious before hopping in a cab and negotiate an appropriate fare before they drive off.
Criminals also operate at airports by finding out passengers' names through the often non-private plane lists and gaining their trust by standing with a sign with the their names when they arrive. They will then offer to take you to your hotel, but instead take you to a remote area and rob you. Provincial airports are more known for this type of activity.
There are a number of common travel scams in Kazakhstan. One such scam is the "lost wallet ploy", where a thief claims to find a wallet and then tries to split the money with you. His partner saunters up and says it's his wallet, and forces you to give him money.
The twist on this scam is the person who comes looking for a lost wallet and demands you show your purse or pockets to prove you haven't stolen it. The thief then grabs all your belongings and darts away.
There is another scam where locals pose as cops and demand money from you. You can tell who's a legitimate police officer by his approach – the real ones will always show their badges or produce them upon request.
Unfortunately, the authorities you would seek to help our if a crime ocurs are often involved in corrupt behavior.
Police are very easily bribed in Kazakhstan, partly due to low salaries, and may rob visitors by pretending to arrest them for being drunk in public places such as Atyrau and Tengiz, where such behavior is illegal.
Other public officials might also play games with travelers. In the Almaty airport, for example, visitors have reported customs officials demanding they pay up to US $500 for some vague violation.
Others might be forced to pay a fine just for leaving the country. You can reduce the likelihood of having to pay legitimate fines on things like video cameras and mobile telephones by declaring them when you arrive in the country.
Even non-corrupt officials might do some questionable things to travelers. It's not uncommon for security personnel to put foreign visitors under surveillance in their hotel rooms. This extends from tapping telephones to actually going through your belongings.
Police may also conduct random checks on the street that require you to show your passport; they don't need probable cause to search. You also may be questioned or apprehended if you photograph anything thought to be a matter of national security – so ask before you take photographs of official buildings.
Before you buy a travel insurance policy, check your government travel warnings and health advice – there may be no travel insurance cover for locations with a government travel ban or health advice against travel.
You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.
James Montague shares how travelers can act responsibly when visiting countries ruled by authoritarian regimes.
You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.Get a quote