Astana – The Dubai Of Central Asia

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We left Omsk, heading to Astana, on the last day of our visa in Russia and that was a big mistake. Our bus (Click Here For Details)  was to arrive at the border at 11:20pm, giving us 40 minutes leeway before our time in Russia had expired and we were officially illegal immigrants in the country. We told the bus driver and he seemed to understand.

Omsk to Astana
Our Bus From Omsk To Astana

Well, the bus was actually about 36 minutes late so by the time we were talking to the border guard we had exactly 3 minutes left on our visa. He kept asking questions, wasting time and he could see that we were nervously twitching behind the desk. Finally he laughed and stamped the passports with 2 minutes left on the visa. He then explained, in broken English, that if our bus driver hadn’t cut through the traffic for us we would have been held in Russia for a long time, enduring painful bureaucracy until a new visa would be issued. Phew!

Pulling Into Astana by bus from omsk
Pulling Into Astana

As the bus pulled into the bus station in Astana, we were recharged with new energy. Even though it was a rough sleep on the bus, the excitement of a new country always wakes us up. We took the bus into town (Click Here For Details) and got started on our Astana adventure.

Bayterek - One Of The Many Futuristic Buildings In Astana
Bayterek – One Of The Many Futuristic Buildings In Astana

Astana replaced Almaty as Kazakhstan’s capital in 1998 when President Nazarbaev decided to spend 13 billion dollars on creating a “modern capital” for all of Kazakhstan to be proud of.

Bayterek From Afar
Bayterek From Afar

The city itself practically smells of oil money, and its ultra-modern, uber-futuristic architecture is absolutely amazing. Sprouting up from the middle of the steppe, with nothing around but grassy flatlands, you can see why they call it “The Dubai Of The Steppe”.

Nur Astana Mosque At Sunset
Nur Astana Mosque At Sunset

We spent 3 days here just walking around and checking out the cool buildings. Our first day we went up the Bayterek tower and enjoyed a beer while peering down on the city from 97 meters.

omsk to astana by bus Having Beers Inside Bayterek At 97 Meters
Having Beers Inside Bayterek At 97 Meters

We also spent a considerable amount of time having our visa registered, another bit of bull-sh#t beurocracy forced on travellers (Click Here For Details). On the way back from picking up our passports we stopped at a mini-model of Kazakhstan known as Atameken, a complete waste of time, but a good laugh.

Atameken omsk to astana
Atameken … Why see Astana’s Massive Buildings When You Can See Miniature Versions Of Them?

Astana itself was a very cool, futuristic city and definitely worth a visit. We love modern buildings and this tiny city of just 650,000 people is full of them! After just 3 days here we were off on the night train to Almaty (Click Here For Details), Kazakhstan’s former capital, where we planned to relax for a few days (finally) and do some hiking around another modern Central Asian city.

Inside Khan Shatyr Omsk To Astana By Bus
Inside Khan Shatyr

Tips For Travel In Astana:

Bus from Omsk to Astana (9:20-12:45, 14hours, 45mins w/time change, 1,004RUB)

Bus from Astana train/bus station into town (#21,25,31, 60RUB, 30mins)

Visa Registration Office Address (Migration Police):

29 Seyfullin St.

(Between Beibetshilik Ave and Auezov Street)

Bus from Central Astana to Migration Police (#43 from Khan Shatyr)

Tel: (717) 2716179

Tel: (717)2716181

Registration FREE – Good for 10 days. If you stay longer in the country, you need to register again.

Open Monday – Friday

(9 a.m. to 6 p.m.)


Enjoy your stay in Astana!

Have you ever been to a city with awesome new buildings?! Share with us below!


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Astana – The Dubai Of Central Asia

Nick Wharton Author Bio Picture

Written by

Nick Wharton

Nick is the co-founder, editor and author of Goats On The Road. He contributes to numerous other media sites regularly and shares his expert knowledge of travel, online entrepreneurship and blogging with the world whenever he can. He has been travelling and working abroad since 2008 and has more than 10 years of experience in online business, finance, travel and entrepreneurship.

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11 thoughts on “Astana – The Dubai Of Central Asia”

  1. Such a close call with your visa? I am glad to see you made it just in time.

    Bayterek looks so unlike any building I have ever seen before. All of these pictures are beautiful and it looks like I am going to be adding to my bucket list……again.

  2. Thanks Jennifer! Ya, we were sweating pretty hard at the border…wouldn’t recommend leaving Russia on the day your visa expires, the penalties are a bit more strict/serious than if you overstay in Thailand! That’s the thing about bucket lists, they seem to just get bigger and bigger!

    Happy Travels.

  3. Sounds like you owe your bus driver one of those beers!
    Must admit I’d never heard of Astana before – looks a million miles away from the stereotypical view of Kazakhstan.

  4. haha, you’ve got that right! We were sooo close to overstaying our visa and with no English spoken, we somehow got our point across and made it there on time. We were also surprised about how Kazakhstan was, very modern (at least in the cities), we really enjoyed it!

  5. The “Stans” take up most of my list. I would love to start in Kazakhstan. The problem is, I kind of want to do them all at once. How hard is it to get visas to piggy back each other? Any advice?

  6. Hey Corinne,
    The Stans are the dreaded visa area of the world! But it is possible. From what we’ve read, you would be able to obtain a visa on arrival at the airport in Kazakhstan (we obtained ours beforehand in China, you don’t need a Letter Of Invitation for this).

    You don’t need a visa anymore for Kyrgyzstan.

    In Kyrgyzstan (Bishkek), you could apply for your Tajikistan Visa, it takes one day only.

    In Tajikistan (Dushanbe), you could apply for your Uzbekistan (1 day) and Turkmenistan (5-7 days) visas.

    For your Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan tourist visas, you will need a Letter Of Invitation.

    You can contact Stan Tours for help on arranging the Letters of Invitation as well as any other questions, they’re really helpful!

    Let us know if you need anything else.

  7. Wow…excellent info. I hate those darn letters of invitation, but I do know people in both countries. I’m not so thrilled on taking a tours…what do you think about that? Can you do it all by yourself?

  8. Hey Corrine,

    You can definitely travel through all of the Stans by yourself…except for Turkmenistan, there you’ll need to be on a tour, unless you opt for the 3-5 day transit visa, then you can do it independently.

    There are loads of ways to get around here: buses, shared mini-vans, shared taxis, private taxis, hitch-hiking, horse riding, trekking on foot, etc. Sometimes it’s not all that easy to figure out, but you CAN figure it out. So far, so good for us.

    We just used Stan Tours to sort out our Invitation Letters, but didn’t join a tour or anything like that.

    Hope this helps.
    Cheers 🙂

  9. Hey there,
    Any idea what is the name of the bus station to take from Omsk into Astana? I will be heading there on the 13th sept. I believe there are several bus stations?

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