Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
ChinchillaWhiplash
Posts: 506
Joined: Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:40 pm
Location: Colorado

Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by ChinchillaWhiplash » Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:01 pm

We want to go to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan next summer from the US. Is this a difficult enough trip that a travel agent might be the best way to get this organized with flights, hotels, guides, etc? Trying to this on the cheap with family of 4. We have someone in our family that speaks and reads Russian, that should be helpful. Son plans to go to college in Almaty, so wanted to check it out 1st hand before he packs up and leaves the US for a few years. He might change his mind after actually going there, but we will see.

Niemanterry
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Jul 25, 2016 6:11 pm

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by Niemanterry » Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:31 pm

Since you have someone who speaks and reads russian, have that person make all of your land and tour. Have that person do it with k&I hotels and tours, perhaps an agent there.
Air, make on your own, remember tine zones!

denovo
Posts: 4310
Joined: Sun Oct 13, 2013 1:04 pm

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by denovo » Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:50 pm

ChinchillaWhiplash wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:01 pm
We want to go to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan next summer from the US. Is this a difficult enough trip that a travel agent might be the best way to get this organized with flights, hotels, guides, etc? Trying to this on the cheap with family of 4. We have someone in our family that speaks and reads Russian, that should be helpful. Son plans to go to college in Almaty, so wanted to check it out 1st hand before he packs up and leaves the US for a few years. He might change his mind after actually going there, but we will see.
If you want to discourage him from going, I would make the trip inconvenient as possible :twisted:
"Don't trust everything you read on the Internet"- Abraham Lincoln

User avatar
VictoriaF
Posts: 18525
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:27 am
Location: Black Swan Lake

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by VictoriaF » Wed Aug 15, 2018 2:26 pm

denovo wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:50 pm
ChinchillaWhiplash wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:01 pm
We want to go to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan next summer from the US. Is this a difficult enough trip that a travel agent might be the best way to get this organized with flights, hotels, guides, etc? Trying to this on the cheap with family of 4. We have someone in our family that speaks and reads Russian, that should be helpful. Son plans to go to college in Almaty, so wanted to check it out 1st hand before he packs up and leaves the US for a few years. He might change his mind after actually going there, but we will see.
If you want to discourage him from going, I would make the trip inconvenient as possible :twisted:
Or just let him watch the 2006 film "Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." (Yes, I know that the film is somewhat exaggerated.)

Victoria
WINNER of the 2015 Boglehead Contest. | Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)

Isabelle77
Posts: 291
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2015 1:43 pm

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by Isabelle77 » Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:07 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 2:26 pm
denovo wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:50 pm
ChinchillaWhiplash wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:01 pm
We want to go to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan next summer from the US. Is this a difficult enough trip that a travel agent might be the best way to get this organized with flights, hotels, guides, etc? Trying to this on the cheap with family of 4. We have someone in our family that speaks and reads Russian, that should be helpful. Son plans to go to college in Almaty, so wanted to check it out 1st hand before he packs up and leaves the US for a few years. He might change his mind after actually going there, but we will see.
If you want to discourage him from going, I would make the trip inconvenient as possible :twisted:
Or just let him watch the 2006 film "Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." (Yes, I know that the film is somewhat exaggerated.)

Victoria
Sorry, have to respond on behalf of my Kazakh children :) Borat is totally false and was filmed in Romania. Kazakhstan is a primarily Asian country.

Ok, now that that's off my chest! OP, I would probably employ a guide. While Russian is helpful, Kazakhstan has really tried to move away from Russia in the past decade or so. Kazakh is the language of government and Russian is becoming more scarce, especially in the south like Almaty. Russians are leaving Kazakhstan because of discrimination and lack of jobs for them.

https://thediplomat.com/2016/02/why-are ... azakhstan/

I think it's fascinating that your son is considering university in Almaty. I'm not sure if you live in the US or not but it will be quite a culture shock in many ways. I will be interested to hear what you think. Almaty is a beautiful city and more sophisticated than many would think. I would be very concerned though about health care, the hospitals were considered unsafe when we were there (we were told not to go even in a serious emergency) and the general culture of corruption. Be aware too of terrorism issues in Kazakhstan, especially near the southern borders. Which other cities are you planning on visiting?

I haven't been to Uzbekistan but would love to go (we were Kazakhstan for 3 months). It is really the only part of Central Asia that was not completely destroyed by the Russians.

Let me know if you have any city-specific questions, I've been to Almaty, Uralsk, and Astana.

ChinchillaWhiplash
Posts: 506
Joined: Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:40 pm
Location: Colorado

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by ChinchillaWhiplash » Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:33 pm

Definitly Almaty and Astana. They both look like beautiful cities. Son want to study astrophysics. He is learning Kazak too. We are in the US in SW CO mountains. Another reason he is interested is mountain biking and skiing. Will probably fly between Almaty and Astana. Will need to get visa to go to Uzbekistan. Tashkent and Samarkand are places he wanted to visit there for the ancient cities. That is a little scary to hear about the hospitals since my son likes extreme sports.

User avatar
VictoriaF
Posts: 18525
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:27 am
Location: Black Swan Lake

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by VictoriaF » Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:42 pm

Isabelle77 wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:07 pm
VictoriaF wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 2:26 pm
denovo wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:50 pm
ChinchillaWhiplash wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:01 pm
We want to go to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan next summer from the US. Is this a difficult enough trip that a travel agent might be the best way to get this organized with flights, hotels, guides, etc? Trying to this on the cheap with family of 4. We have someone in our family that speaks and reads Russian, that should be helpful. Son plans to go to college in Almaty, so wanted to check it out 1st hand before he packs up and leaves the US for a few years. He might change his mind after actually going there, but we will see.
If you want to discourage him from going, I would make the trip inconvenient as possible :twisted:
Or just let him watch the 2006 film "Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." (Yes, I know that the film is somewhat exaggerated.)

Victoria
Sorry, have to respond on behalf of my Kazakh children :) Borat is totally false and was filmed in Romania. Kazakhstan is a primarily Asian country.
I was misinformed.

Victoria
WINNER of the 2015 Boglehead Contest. | Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)

Isabelle77
Posts: 291
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2015 1:43 pm

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by Isabelle77 » Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:15 pm

ChinchillaWhiplash wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:33 pm
Definitly Almaty and Astana. They both look like beautiful cities. Son want to study astrophysics. He is learning Kazak too. We are in the US in SW CO mountains. Another reason he is interested is mountain biking and skiing. Will probably fly between Almaty and Astana. Will need to get visa to go to Uzbekistan. Tashkent and Samarkand are places he wanted to visit there for the ancient cities. That is a little scary to hear about the hospitals since my son likes extreme sports.
Tashkent and Samarkand should be amazing! I would love to go :)

Definitely, check the state department for information on health care in Kaz and on safety, I always check the UK sites too as they are often more up to date. Almaty is a beautiful city, and the skiing area in Tien Shan mountains is amazing. But like most of Kazakhstan cities, Almaty is very Soviet feeling. A lot of communist block apartment buildings interspersed with new malls. But, Almaty is the cultural and business heart of Kazakhstan, there are expats there. I actually have a neighbor here in Portland that flies to Almaty regularly for work. I will tell you though that the government, businesses, everything, is very corrupt. Bribery is a way of life and simple things like getting someone to come fix something can involve greasing palms. The foreigners we met working in Almaty and Uralsk complained a lot about having to bribe everyone to get anything done. I'm also a little uneasy about what will happen when Nazarbayev dies. I'm not sure anyone knows.

Astana is a bizarre city. When we were last there in 2007 it was really new. Kazakhstan built it pretty much from scratch to have something that was not Russian. It's surreal looking and kind of sterile. We were only there for two days so I didn't spend that much time there, it was primarily government buildings.

I wish you guys the best of luck. I'm fascinated by your son's determination to go to school in Almaty, I know it isn't until next summer but you will have to let us know what you think.

PS: Slate Magazine did a whole series on Kazakhstan several years ago, you and your son may find it interesting. Here's the first entry, there are several.
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_ ... _king.html

Isabelle77
Posts: 291
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2015 1:43 pm

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by Isabelle77 » Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:17 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:42 pm
Isabelle77 wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:07 pm
VictoriaF wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 2:26 pm
denovo wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:50 pm
ChinchillaWhiplash wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:01 pm
We want to go to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan next summer from the US. Is this a difficult enough trip that a travel agent might be the best way to get this organized with flights, hotels, guides, etc? Trying to this on the cheap with family of 4. We have someone in our family that speaks and reads Russian, that should be helpful. Son plans to go to college in Almaty, so wanted to check it out 1st hand before he packs up and leaves the US for a few years. He might change his mind after actually going there, but we will see.
If you want to discourage him from going, I would make the trip inconvenient as possible :twisted:
Or just let him watch the 2006 film "Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." (Yes, I know that the film is somewhat exaggerated.)

Victoria
Sorry, have to respond on behalf of my Kazakh children :) Borat is totally false and was filmed in Romania. Kazakhstan is a primarily Asian country.
I was misinformed.

Victoria
You are not alone! It's a funny movie but if I ever meet Sascha Baron Cohen we're going to have a discussion about at least getting the ethnicity of the country he's satirizing correct. :twisted:

retired recently
Posts: 301
Joined: Sun Oct 04, 2009 6:09 pm

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by retired recently » Wed Aug 15, 2018 5:09 pm

I lived/worked in the Former Soviet Union for 13 years, including 2+ in Kazakhstan. I spent a bit of time in Tashkent but unfortunately did not get to travel around Uzbekistan, but it should be worth doing. I left in 2008 and have not been back so cannot speak to what has happened in the last decade. Kazakhstan is very beautiful and the people are warm, friendly. When I was in Almaty it was quite expensive but I believe the Tenge crashed and it is not too bad these days.

You can probably get online and book everything you need without using a travel agent. As others have said, corruption is part of life there and medical care is not great. I am sure that if you have anyone that can get by in Russian you will be more than fine as ten years ago, you never even heard Kazakh being spoken on the streets.

Borat really has nothing to do with Kazakhstan, it is a serious overstatement to even consider it an exaggeration.

If I am not mistaken, Astana was built as they wanted to move the capital from Almaty to the center of the country. Almaty basically sits by the Chinese border. I do no think it had much to do with not being Russian.

If you are going to make that trip, I would add a few days in Baku and Tblisi for sure.

User avatar
VictoriaF
Posts: 18525
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:27 am
Location: Black Swan Lake

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by VictoriaF » Wed Aug 15, 2018 6:04 pm

retired recently wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 5:09 pm
Borat really has nothing to do with Kazakhstan, it is a serious overstatement to even consider it an exaggeration.
I was born in the USSR and have a personal connection to Alma-Ata (Almaty) even though I have never visited it. My reference to Borat was tongue-in-cheek as was my use of the word "exaggeration." As I was writing it, my tongue was not actually in my cheek.

Victoria
WINNER of the 2015 Boglehead Contest. | Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)

2015
Posts: 1833
Joined: Mon Feb 10, 2014 2:32 pm

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by 2015 » Wed Aug 15, 2018 7:06 pm

Isabelle77 wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:15 pm
ChinchillaWhiplash wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:33 pm
Definitly Almaty and Astana. They both look like beautiful cities. Son want to study astrophysics. He is learning Kazak too. We are in the US in SW CO mountains. Another reason he is interested is mountain biking and skiing. Will probably fly between Almaty and Astana. Will need to get visa to go to Uzbekistan. Tashkent and Samarkand are places he wanted to visit there for the ancient cities. That is a little scary to hear about the hospitals since my son likes extreme sports.
Tashkent and Samarkand should be amazing! I would love to go :)

...

Astana is a bizarre city. When we were last there in 2007 it was really new. Kazakhstan built it pretty much from scratch to have something that was not Russian. It's surreal looking and kind of sterile. We were only there for two days so I didn't spend that much time there, it was primarily government buildings.

I wish you guys the best of luck. I'm fascinated by your son's determination to go to school in Almaty, I know it isn't until next summer but you will have to let us know what you think.

...
I would love to go too! One of the best ways to increase optionality in life is through travel and geographical arbitrage. My nephew spent a lot of time in Japan and is now travelling around the world with his girlfriend millennial style. I am also fascinated by your son's desire to go to school in Almaty. Good for him.

retired recently
Posts: 301
Joined: Sun Oct 04, 2009 6:09 pm

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by retired recently » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:18 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 6:04 pm
retired recently wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 5:09 pm
Borat really has nothing to do with Kazakhstan, it is a serious overstatement to even consider it an exaggeration.
I was born in the USSR and have a personal connection to Alma-Ata (Almaty) even though I have never visited it. My reference to Borat was tongue-in-cheek as was my use of the word "exaggeration." As I was writing it, my tongue was not actually in my cheek.

Victoria
Did you ever eat any of the apples from Almaty back in Soviet times? My understanding is that they were quite large and tasty. By the time we got to Almaty, most of the orchards had apparently been cut down. If I am not mistaken, Alma-Ata means something along the lines of "father of apples".

adamthesmythe
Posts: 2218
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2014 4:47 pm

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by adamthesmythe » Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:27 pm

> Son want to study astrophysics.

I have a hard time understanding the 'stans are a good idea.

Presumably he would be getting an undergraduate degree and looking to go to grad school. He really needs to go to a place with an internationally known physics program.

User avatar
jpsfranks
Posts: 907
Joined: Sun Aug 26, 2007 11:45 pm

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by jpsfranks » Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:52 pm

I visited Uzbekstian in 2011. After arriving we flew from Tashkent to Khiva via Urgench, then worked our way back overland through Bukhara and Samarkand before returning to Tashkent. We didn't use a travel agent and made no reservations prior to visiting other than to buy the domestic plane tickets since our planned flight to Urgench was the same day as our arrival.

Neither I nor my traveling partner had any knowledge of Uzbek or Russian. We stayed at small bed and breakfast style places showing up without prior reservations, and hired cars ad hoc, sometimes shared, for the long trips between cities (some of them quite long). The trip was very enjoyable and we didn't encounter any major issues.

GreenGrowTheDollars
Posts: 351
Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2015 11:09 pm

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by GreenGrowTheDollars » Thu Aug 16, 2018 12:02 pm

ChinchillaWhiplash wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:33 pm
Definitly Almaty and Astana. They both look like beautiful cities. Son want to study astrophysics. He is learning Kazak too. We are in the US in SW CO mountains. Another reason he is interested is mountain biking and skiing. Will probably fly between Almaty and Astana. Will need to get visa to go to Uzbekistan. Tashkent and Samarkand are places he wanted to visit there for the ancient cities. That is a little scary to hear about the hospitals since my son likes extreme sports.
CU Boulder has a really good astrophysics program. JILA (Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, though they're much more than that) is a collaboration between CU Boulder and the NIST.

Plenty of kids here like extreme sports.

If he is not especially tied to learning Kazakh, the US Department of State has a critical languages initiative that provides scholarships for summer and foreign study https://exchanges.state.gov/us/cls ...plenty of good mountain biking in Croatia, for example.

ChinchillaWhiplash
Posts: 506
Joined: Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:40 pm
Location: Colorado

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by ChinchillaWhiplash » Thu Aug 16, 2018 12:21 pm

Thanks to everyone for all the info! Very aware of CU Boulder's program. Would love for him to attend there especially since it's only 6 hours drive from home. In state also. His current goal is to attend Almaty for undergrade studies and then Cal Tech for grad school. He is still in high school, so his plans could change for sure. 1 more year for him to figure stuff out. Also guessing that his 529 would be worthless for Almaty. Guess we can roll that into his sister's if he follows current plans.

User avatar
VictoriaF
Posts: 18525
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:27 am
Location: Black Swan Lake

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by VictoriaF » Thu Aug 16, 2018 2:09 pm

retired recently wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:18 pm
VictoriaF wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 6:04 pm
retired recently wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 5:09 pm
Borat really has nothing to do with Kazakhstan, it is a serious overstatement to even consider it an exaggeration.
I was born in the USSR and have a personal connection to Alma-Ata (Almaty) even though I have never visited it. My reference to Borat was tongue-in-cheek as was my use of the word "exaggeration." As I was writing it, my tongue was not actually in my cheek.

Victoria
Did you ever eat any of the apples from Almaty back in Soviet times? My understanding is that they were quite large and tasty. By the time we got to Almaty, most of the orchards had apparently been cut down. If I am not mistaken, Alma-Ata means something along the lines of "father of apples".
My personal connection is that a family member lived there under tragic circumstances. I definitely plan to visit Almaty and will try the apples when I do. This thread is a reminder to plan the trip sooner rater than later.

Victoria
WINNER of the 2015 Boglehead Contest. | Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)

ChinchillaWhiplash
Posts: 506
Joined: Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:40 pm
Location: Colorado

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by ChinchillaWhiplash » Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:35 am

To update, specific university he wishes to attend is Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. They have a BS program in physics and astronomy. Not quite astrophysics but a lot of course work in that field. Have relations with Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University in Kiev, Ukrain and a paid internship in Xinjiang Astronomical Observatory (Urumqi, China). Tuition sure is affordable there too. About $5000 total for a full school year. This includes a preparatory language class in Kazakh and dorm.

stan1
Posts: 5818
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 4:35 pm

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by stan1 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:48 am

Are the university classes taught in English, Russian, or Kazakh? I don't see how an introductory Russian or Kazakh class could prepare a student to be successful at the university level. International students do not come straight into bachelor's degree programs in US universities not knowing any English. I must be missing something. Maybe there is a small cluster of ex-pat undergrad physics students here from Europe, Asia, and the Americas? Even for a very independent, self motivated 18 year old who could spend a summer alone in Europe this seems to be a stretch.

User avatar
sperry8
Posts: 1573
Joined: Sat Mar 29, 2008 9:25 pm
Location: Miami FL

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by sperry8 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 9:10 am

Isabelle77 wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:07 pm
VictoriaF wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 2:26 pm
denovo wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:50 pm
ChinchillaWhiplash wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:01 pm
We want to go to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan next summer from the US. Is this a difficult enough trip that a travel agent might be the best way to get this organized with flights, hotels, guides, etc? Trying to this on the cheap with family of 4. We have someone in our family that speaks and reads Russian, that should be helpful. Son plans to go to college in Almaty, so wanted to check it out 1st hand before he packs up and leaves the US for a few years. He might change his mind after actually going there, but we will see.
If you want to discourage him from going, I would make the trip inconvenient as possible :twisted:
Or just let him watch the 2006 film "Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." (Yes, I know that the film is somewhat exaggerated.)

Victoria
Sorry, have to respond on behalf of my Kazakh children :) Borat is totally false and was filmed in Romania. Kazakhstan is a primarily Asian country.

Ok, now that that's off my chest! OP, I would probably employ a guide. While Russian is helpful, Kazakhstan has really tried to move away from Russia in the past decade or so. Kazakh is the language of government and Russian is becoming more scarce, especially in the south like Almaty. Russians are leaving Kazakhstan because of discrimination and lack of jobs for them.

https://thediplomat.com/2016/02/why-are ... azakhstan/

I think it's fascinating that your son is considering university in Almaty. I'm not sure if you live in the US or not but it will be quite a culture shock in many ways. I will be interested to hear what you think. Almaty is a beautiful city and more sophisticated than many would think. I would be very concerned though about health care, the hospitals were considered unsafe when we were there (we were told not to go even in a serious emergency) and the general culture of corruption. Be aware too of terrorism issues in Kazakhstan, especially near the southern borders. Which other cities are you planning on visiting?

I haven't been to Uzbekistan but would love to go (we were Kazakhstan for 3 months). It is really the only part of Central Asia that was not completely destroyed by the Russians.

Let me know if you have any city-specific questions, I've been to Almaty, Uralsk, and Astana.
I was just in Almaty last week. Not sure why you believe Russian is "becoming more scarce". Everyone there speaks Russian. I surely couldn't tell anyone was "moving away from it".

Easy enough to book your own flights and hotel. I stayed at the Intercontinental Almaty. True 5* high end hotel close to central downtown and right next to Republic Square. Walk everywhere. Can Uber too.

I used a website called indy-guide which has independent guides who took me on day trips outside Almaty. I chose to see Turgen Gorge and Assy Observatory (2700m). Was ~$170USD for the full day trip in A/C car. Lots of itineraries and suggestions on the website. I personally see no need to use TA's but to each their own. I believe you need a visa for Uzbekistan - you don't need one for Kazakhstan if you've got US passports.

As for Almaty, I LOVED it. Some of the most friendly and curious people I've ever met while traveling. Have unique looks too - a mix of Mongolian, Chinese, and Russian. Downtown is a very green city - with tree lined streets and parks everywhere. I think your son will love it.
Humbling BH contest results: 2017: #516 of 647 | 2016: #121 of 610 | 2015: #18 of 552 | 2014: #225 of 503 | 2013: #383 of 433 | 2012: #366 of 410 | 2011: #113 of 369 | 2010: #53 of 282

Isabelle77
Posts: 291
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2015 1:43 pm

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by Isabelle77 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:46 am

sperry8 wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 9:10 am
Isabelle77 wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:07 pm
VictoriaF wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 2:26 pm
denovo wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:50 pm
ChinchillaWhiplash wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:01 pm
We want to go to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan next summer from the US. Is this a difficult enough trip that a travel agent might be the best way to get this organized with flights, hotels, guides, etc? Trying to this on the cheap with family of 4. We have someone in our family that speaks and reads Russian, that should be helpful. Son plans to go to college in Almaty, so wanted to check it out 1st hand before he packs up and leaves the US for a few years. He might change his mind after actually going there, but we will see.
If you want to discourage him from going, I would make the trip inconvenient as possible :twisted:
Or just let him watch the 2006 film "Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." (Yes, I know that the film is somewhat exaggerated.)

Victoria
Sorry, have to respond on behalf of my Kazakh children :) Borat is totally false and was filmed in Romania. Kazakhstan is a primarily Asian country.

Ok, now that that's off my chest! OP, I would probably employ a guide. While Russian is helpful, Kazakhstan has really tried to move away from Russia in the past decade or so. Kazakh is the language of government and Russian is becoming more scarce, especially in the south like Almaty. Russians are leaving Kazakhstan because of discrimination and lack of jobs for them.

https://thediplomat.com/2016/02/why-are ... azakhstan/

I think it's fascinating that your son is considering university in Almaty. I'm not sure if you live in the US or not but it will be quite a culture shock in many ways. I will be interested to hear what you think. Almaty is a beautiful city and more sophisticated than many would think. I would be very concerned though about health care, the hospitals were considered unsafe when we were there (we were told not to go even in a serious emergency) and the general culture of corruption. Be aware too of terrorism issues in Kazakhstan, especially near the southern borders. Which other cities are you planning on visiting?

I haven't been to Uzbekistan but would love to go (we were Kazakhstan for 3 months). It is really the only part of Central Asia that was not completely destroyed by the Russians.

Let me know if you have any city-specific questions, I've been to Almaty, Uralsk, and Astana.
I was just in Almaty last week. Not sure why you believe Russian is "becoming more scarce". Everyone there speaks Russian. I surely couldn't tell anyone was "moving away from it".

Easy enough to book your own flights and hotel. I stayed at the Intercontinental Almaty. True 5* high end hotel close to central downtown and right next to Republic Square. Walk everywhere. Can Uber too.

I used a website called indy-guide which has independent guides who took me on day trips outside Almaty. I chose to see Turgen Gorge and Assy Observatory (2700m). Was ~$170USD for the full day trip in A/C car. Lots of itineraries and suggestions on the website. I personally see no need to use TA's but to each their own. I believe you need a visa for Uzbekistan - you don't need one for Kazakhstan if you've got US passports.

As for Almaty, I LOVED it. Some of the most friendly and curious people I've ever met while traveling. Have unique looks too - a mix of Mongolian, Chinese, and Russian. Downtown is a very green city - with tree lined streets and parks everywhere. I think your son will love it.
So not to get too deep into the Kazakh/Russian debate but we keep in touch with people we met while we were living in Kazakhstan. Two have had to leave and go to Russia because they can no longer find work without being able to speak Kazakh. All of our government business had to be done in Kazakh only. There is a large debate about what language schools should teach in and some are moving to Kazakh only. Russians are leaving, they've gone from 40%+ of the population to less than 20% since the end of the cold war. It's been an ongoing thing for years now. Yes, most people in Kazakhstan still speak Russian but it is changing.

And just to correct your observation. The Kazakh race (not nationality) appear somewhat Mongolian but are not the same, many of the people you saw in Almaty were likely not Mongolian but Kazakh as they make up 67% of the country's population.

User avatar
sperry8
Posts: 1573
Joined: Sat Mar 29, 2008 9:25 pm
Location: Miami FL

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by sperry8 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:37 pm

Isabelle77 wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:46 am
sperry8 wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 9:10 am
Isabelle77 wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 3:07 pm
VictoriaF wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 2:26 pm
denovo wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:50 pm


If you want to discourage him from going, I would make the trip inconvenient as possible :twisted:
Or just let him watch the 2006 film "Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." (Yes, I know that the film is somewhat exaggerated.)

Victoria
Sorry, have to respond on behalf of my Kazakh children :) Borat is totally false and was filmed in Romania. Kazakhstan is a primarily Asian country.

Ok, now that that's off my chest! OP, I would probably employ a guide. While Russian is helpful, Kazakhstan has really tried to move away from Russia in the past decade or so. Kazakh is the language of government and Russian is becoming more scarce, especially in the south like Almaty. Russians are leaving Kazakhstan because of discrimination and lack of jobs for them.

https://thediplomat.com/2016/02/why-are ... azakhstan/

I think it's fascinating that your son is considering university in Almaty. I'm not sure if you live in the US or not but it will be quite a culture shock in many ways. I will be interested to hear what you think. Almaty is a beautiful city and more sophisticated than many would think. I would be very concerned though about health care, the hospitals were considered unsafe when we were there (we were told not to go even in a serious emergency) and the general culture of corruption. Be aware too of terrorism issues in Kazakhstan, especially near the southern borders. Which other cities are you planning on visiting?

I haven't been to Uzbekistan but would love to go (we were Kazakhstan for 3 months). It is really the only part of Central Asia that was not completely destroyed by the Russians.

Let me know if you have any city-specific questions, I've been to Almaty, Uralsk, and Astana.
I was just in Almaty last week. Not sure why you believe Russian is "becoming more scarce". Everyone there speaks Russian. I surely couldn't tell anyone was "moving away from it".

Easy enough to book your own flights and hotel. I stayed at the Intercontinental Almaty. True 5* high end hotel close to central downtown and right next to Republic Square. Walk everywhere. Can Uber too.

I used a website called indy-guide which has independent guides who took me on day trips outside Almaty. I chose to see Turgen Gorge and Assy Observatory (2700m). Was ~$170USD for the full day trip in A/C car. Lots of itineraries and suggestions on the website. I personally see no need to use TA's but to each their own. I believe you need a visa for Uzbekistan - you don't need one for Kazakhstan if you've got US passports.

As for Almaty, I LOVED it. Some of the most friendly and curious people I've ever met while traveling. Have unique looks too - a mix of Mongolian, Chinese, and Russian. Downtown is a very green city - with tree lined streets and parks everywhere. I think your son will love it.
So not to get too deep into the Kazakh/Russian debate but we keep in touch with people we met while we were living in Kazakhstan. Two have had to leave and go to Russia because they can no longer find work without being able to speak Kazakh. All of our government business had to be done in Kazakh only. There is a large debate about what language schools should teach in and some are moving to Kazakh only. Russians are leaving, they've gone from 40%+ of the population to less than 20% since the end of the cold war. It's been an ongoing thing for years now. Yes, most people in Kazakhstan still speak Russian but it is changing.

And just to correct your observation. The Kazakh race (not nationality) appear somewhat Mongolian but are not the same, many of the people you saw in Almaty were likely not Mongolian but Kazakh as they make up 67% of the country's population.
All that may be true. But the OP simply stated "We have someone in our family that speaks and reads Russian, that should be helpful." And you replied that people are leaving and somehow implied that speaking Russian will be less helpful than in the past. I simply am noting having been there last week that Russian is still widely spoken and thus their friend would still prove quite helpful to the OP. I surely know if I had a Russian speaker with me last week - I'd have been able to more easily communicate and get around Almaty.
Humbling BH contest results: 2017: #516 of 647 | 2016: #121 of 610 | 2015: #18 of 552 | 2014: #225 of 503 | 2013: #383 of 433 | 2012: #366 of 410 | 2011: #113 of 369 | 2010: #53 of 282

an_asker
Posts: 2135
Joined: Thu Jun 27, 2013 2:15 pm

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by an_asker » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:12 am

It might be OT with respect to OP (or not), but I am fascinated by this discussion. Thanks folks!

Another thing: a few years back, my wife observed (not just she, most everyone else, is much better than me in this regard) that in countries that don't have English as their native language, the younger generation can usually get by with some English. After she made that observation, I noticed that in Berlin, in Paris, in Sofia and in Budapest. I can only do so many languages, so if you say I ought to have brushed up each language before I take a vacation abroad, that's not happening! :oops:

prodigal
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Aug 19, 2018 7:57 am

Re: Trip to Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan. Time to utilize a travel agent?

Post by prodigal » Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:10 am

I worked in Almaty some years ago as a university administrator (not at Al-Farabi though I knew a few people there).

I think you should be able to handle travel arrangements on your own. Plenty of hotels in Almaty -- Intercon as suggested earlier in the thread is fine, my university used to put visitors up there. Rixos is another choice. Friends have stayed at Hotel Dostyk and liked it though it's a bit older style.

In my time there a lot of city transport was by gypsy cab -- drivers of ordinary cars, often clapped-out Ladas, making extra money by carrying passengers for hire. Definitely needed a Russian speaker to negotiate that system. Uber has probably changed the transport scene a lot.

Astana is an acquired taste and I never did acquire it. Too monumental, Pyongyang-ish for me. Almaty is a delight in summer though, one of the greenest cities I've ever experienced. Sadly I never made it to Uzbekistan.

On your son's university choice, just two notes. First, public universities in Kazakhstan have very rigid curricula enforced by the Ministry of Education and Science. This means students have very little flexibility. Should he want to change majors, say, he'd have a lot more difficulty doing so than in Colorado or elsewhere in the US, and might lose a substantial amount of credit. Second, you should look into the graduate admissions requirements for CalTech or similar US programs. Overseas degrees might have to be specially reviewed ("equivalency" it's called) and that can be a hassle, especially if the transcript is in Russian.

Good luck, and I hope you enjoy your travels. Kazakh hospitality is not a myth. And the apples are tasty!

Post Reply