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.
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!
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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