From USA: We elected to fly Lufthansa as we live in Denver and they offered the only 1 stop flight. British Airways, Northwest/KLM were alternatives with additional stops. International flights go to Almaty. You must find other transportation from Almaty if you are not staying there. American, United, Delta and yes even Southwest do not have service to Kazakhstan.
Waiting in Frankfurt Scat Plane unloading in Taraz
Inside Kazakhstan: We traveled between Almaty and Taraz via Scat Air, the Soviet train and the Spanish train. On the Spanish, we had a first class sleeper compartment. This consisted of two fold out beds and a restroom with toilet and shower. It was a comfortable overnight journey, leaving Almaty around 2100 and arriving in Taraz around 0600. There were a couple of very short stops but otherwise the train kept rolling. The Spanish train books fast. Our agency/coordinator seemed more organized than most and booked our train tickets while we were still in the states. There is also turbo-prop service (Russian built AN-24) on Tuesdays and Saturdays via Scat Air which takes about 90 minutes, we used this on all but one occasion and it was definitely our favorite way to go. Air Astana does not offer service at this time between Almaty and Taraz. The Spanish train was approximately $60 per person one way, the plane costs 12500 Tenge or about $95. The Soviet train was by far the least enjoyable experience. While it is about a 10 1/2 hour trip via the Soviet train, one would be well advised to avoid the restrooms if possible. The upside to the Soviet train is that it cost 1500 Tenge for all of us (about $11USD). To imagine the Soviet train, think of how it must have been to ride on the train in the days of the frontier, replace the steam engine with diesel, add electricity, subtract the Dalton Gang and the Soviet train is essentially what you will have.
Taraz Hotel: Hotel Zhambyl is a comfortable hotel in the heart of Taraz. It costs 7950 tenge, about $60USD per night. Tole bi Street 42 Taraz, Kazakhstan 484000, Telephone 7-3262-452552. The rooms are comparable in size to a Marriott Courtyard. The tv has three stations all in Russian. There is a restaurant but the dishes are different than most American tastes are accustomed to. There is a small refrigerator in each room and there is a hair salon on the main level. There is no fitness center at the hotel or anywhere in town to the best of our knowledge. If you bring a laptop you can connect to the internet via the room phone via free local call. Set up a Nursat account for free now. You can get I Cards here which are like prepaying your usage, these can also be used as calling cards. From Taraz the access number is 911911, if calling from a hotel you will need to dial 9 first so the number would be 9911911. The other hotel in Taraz is the Gazovic which is nice according to others that we have spoken to.
Interlink: They are a humanitarian organization in Taraz and one of their functions is to help the orphanages and provide assistance to adoptive families. They have many DVD’s available to loan and do not charge a fee which is reason alone to check them out. Very nice people – thanks Beth and Ken!
Favorite Taraz Restaurants:
Cafe Istanbul – Pizza, Durums (Turkish Burritos), kebobs. Menu has pictures and some English. No beer/liquor but food is good and full of locals. Average meal cost with a Coke is 350-400 tenge (about $3USD) Cafe Istanbul had our favorite pizza – either Margherita which was essentially cheese or Doner which had beef, tomatoes and corn.
Cafe Bosfor – similar menu slightly more expensive and upscale atmosphere, full bar Average cost with a tall beer would be $4.50USD Try the Brizol which has thinly sliced beef and vegetables enclosed in an egg wrap with a tasty sauce, served with rice or french fries. They bring unlimited free hot bread which is very tasty.
Cafe Marmaris – Pizza, kebabs, durums – try the Ufa Kebab which is either lamb or beef (we were told both on different occasions) on a skewer with a Turkish tortilla, rice and vegetables. Full Bar and larger tables. Most entrees with a beer or Coke would be about $5USD.
Both Cafe Bosfor and Cafe Marmaris turn into popluar night spots with dancing.
There is no such thing as a non smoking section in Kazakhstan.
What to Bring: toys (the selection here is not as good as in the US), books (for you and the kid), laptop, DVD’s (Bring an exercise DVD if you want to exercise in your room), ziploc bags (not available here but wish we had them), camera (and all necessary accessories!), electrical converters/adapters, vitamins, prescription drugs, drain stop for the sink/shower in your room (handy for washing clothes in your room)
What not to Bring: toilet paper (it’s provided and comparable to what is offered at public facilities in the US), food (plenty here though with the exception of Coke & Pepsi it will be European or Asian brands), bottled water, extra toiletries, cigarettes, liquor