Driving in Kazakhstan
6. Re: Driving in Kazakhstan
I went in May 2012 and hired a car from Almaty and drove to Astana and back passing through some really remote places where you do not see a car for many many hours.
I drove from Almaty- Taraz - Aksu - Kyzylorda- Zhezkazgan-Arkarlyk- Astana.
The route passes through desert and then the desert will give way to steppes.
If you ask will i do this route again. My answer is no. But if you ask if i regret doing it. My answer is NO. I do NOT regret and i treasure this experience as a one in a lifetime experience.
Now why will i not do it again
1) From Zhezkazgan-Arkarlyk- Near Astana... The road is mostly unpaved although on some map it is shown as a major road. Unpaved meaning mud road and gravel road. Gravel road is still ok, but mud road is a big challenge.
2) There is no phone connection from Zhezkazgan-Arkarlyk- Near Astana... And also, you will not see a caar for hours. So you are completely "Cut OFF" from the civilized world. If you encounter any problem like vehicle break down, all you can do is wait and pray for a vehicle to pass by which may take hours.
3) Furthermore, i drove the stretch during summer where the unpaved road condition should be best. In winter i can't imagine how will it be.
But still if what i say dont put you off, then try... I guarantee it will be a lifetime experience ( be it in a good or bad way?)
On the way back from Astana to Almaty, i took the much traveled Astana- Balkash - Almaty road. For this road, no problem at all and all paved and generally good condition.
If you intend you rent a vehicle from Europcar Almaty. Ddont just book from website and expect they will deliver car when you reach the airport. I believe they won't.
1)call them a few days after you book through website to check if your booking is received
2)Call them again 1 or 2 days before you reach
If not dont be surprise to reach the airport and see your car not there and see the office close.
Europcar is not the only car rental in Almaty but it is the only one that hire self drive car for unlimited mileage. Looking at how big KAZ is, unlimited mileage is important.
I think your friend who wants to drive 7 hours to and fro is probably a Kazakh i assume.
He or she probably wants to ensure you are safe as you are his/her guest and not because the road is dangerous.. Typically Kazakh treasures their guests. Last time, when i went, my Kazakh host is also very concern about my safety. It is only after persuading my host that they reluctantly allow me to drive to Astana from Almaty. Although they have no knowledge about the route from Almaty - Astana through Almaty- Taraz - Aksu - Kyzylorda- Zhezkazgan-Arkarlyk- Astana because no local will really attempt to travel that route.
If local Kazakh wants to go by road from South to Astana, they will take Almaty - Balkash- Astana route and it is the route where public bus from Astana - Almaty takes.
So, i believe if you could assure your host you have driving exp in many countries, they should be agreeable to this arrangement...