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Panfilova Street in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Living in Kazakhstan

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 03, 2023

Summary: People describe life in Kazakhstan as a mix of traditional and modern. Expats love the country's natural beauty, its friendly people, and its low cost of living. The average cost of living for an expat is around $1,000 per month, depending on lifestyle. Kazakhstan has a population of around 18 million people, and the largest cities are Almaty, Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana), Shymkent, and Karaganda. The cons of living in Kazakhstan include the lack of infrastructure in some areas, the language barrier, and the difficulty of finding reliable internet access. Additionally, the country is still transitioning from a Soviet-style economy to a more market-based one, so there can be some economic instability.

What do I need to know about living in Kazakhstan?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Kazakhstan, they said:

"Before retiring in Kazakhstan, it is important to know about the country's legal requirements for residency, pension eligibility, and taxation. It is also important to consider the cost of living, healthcare access, and availability of leisure activities in the area. It is recommended to familiarize yourself with the local dialect and culture beforehand, in order to ensure smooth integration into the local community and lifestyle. Additionally, the expatriate should take measures to ensure that the move is secure and safe, such as obtaining a valid visa, registering with the police department, and getting relevant insurance," explained one expat.

"Make sure they are well paid Almaty is expensive more than London or Amsterdam and much more than US cities. Have good medical insurrance you need to be flown out for almost anything. Only come if you like out door activities, skiing, walking, there is limited cultual activity though what there ia is more accessible than other cities in the world. Opera and ballet is inexpensive. There are several art galleries and many up and coming artisits. Buy the biggest stongest car you can afford, land cruiser or similar the traffic is deadly, don't take the local gypsy cabs unregulated cars which pick up people, they are very dangerous. Take great care crossing the road. Bring as much of everything that you can, it is probably available here but you won't like the price, lack of choice or quality," said another person in Almaty.

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What do I need to know before moving to Kazakhstan?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Kazakhstan, they said:

"Kazakhstan is the largest land-locked country in the world, located in Central Asia, between Russia and China. The climate in Kazakhstan is continental and can be very cold in the winter. English is not widely spoken, so it's a good idea to learn some basic Kazakh, Russian, or Chinese before you arrive. The working week in Kazakhstan is typically Monday to Friday, with a standard nine-hour working day. The currency used in Kazakhstan is the Kazakhstani Tenge (KZT), and the official language is Kazakh, with Russian also widely spoken. The cost of living in Kazakhstan is generally lower than in western countries, so it's possible to live comfortably on a modest budget. When entering Kazakhstan, make sure you have a valid visa and the necessary documents. Keep in mind that public transport stops running after 10pm, and be aware that alcohol is not widely available outside of restaurants and bars. Finally, be sure to research the culture and customs of Kazakhstan to gain a deeper understanding of the country before you arrive," said another expat in Kazakhstan.

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How do I find a place to live in Kazakhstan?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"Finding a place to live in Kazakhstan is possible if you plan ahead. Contacting a local real estate agent is the best way to find a place to live that is suited to your needs. Searching online can also be a helpful tool in finding a place to live in Kazakhstan, as there are several websites dedicated to listings in the country. Additionally, relying on word of mouth, local newspapers, and websites like Craigslist can also be very helpful in the search for the right apartment or house," replied an expat in Kazakhstan.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Kazakhstan?

"A typical expat home or apartment in Kazakhstan is likely to be modern and quite spacious. High-end apartments in the city offer features such as easy access to public transportation, a good location, up-to-date fixtures, and other modern amenities. Large, newly built apartments in Kazakhstan can come fully furnished and provided with appliances, while smaller flats and older homes may be more basic and require more renovation. Expats may also find homes offering large terraces, balconies, and/or gardens, commonly as a part of a gated community. This can provide privacy and a pleasant atmosphere in which to relax and enjoy Kazakhstan's lovely summers," added another person living in Kazakhstan.

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What is the average cost of housing in Kazakhstan?

If you are thinking about moving to Kazakhstan, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"The average cost of housing in Kazakhstan varies depending on the location, with larger cities typically having higher housing costs than smaller towns or rural areas," remarked another expat in Kazakhstan.

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How do I meet people in Kazakhstan?

When we asked people living in Kazakhstan about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"Kazakhstan is a large and diverse country, so there are many different ways to make friends and meet people. One option is to join online communities related to shared interests, such as expat forums and social media groups. Alternatively, attending local gatherings or events is a great way to meet people in-person. Places like churches, cafés and school events can be great sources of new friends. Another option is to join a variety of clubs and organizations such as sports, language, or arts clubs. This is a great way to meet people with similar interests and build meaningful relationships," added another person living in Kazakhstan.

"Almaty International Women's Group despite the name it is open to both men and women. They have a guide, lots of activities and meet every Wednesday in the Ankara Intercontinental Hotel, 10.30 to 12.00 Otherwise expat bars Mad Murphy's Dostyk Avenue very well known," explained one expat living in Almaty.

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What should I bring when moving to Kazakhstan?

People living in Kazakhstan were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:

"Clothes suitable for the warm climate, comfortable shoes, sunscreen, insect repellent, any essential medications, toiletries, a first aid kit, a universal adapter or voltage converter, a laptop, a camera, a power bank, books and reading materials, snacks, and cash in different denominations," explained one expat living in Kazakhstan.

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Where should I setup a bank account in Kazakhstan?

We asked expats in Kazakhstan what banks they use and there advice about banking. They advised:

"A bank account can be opened in Kazakhstan at any of the commercial banks licensed to operate in the country. Popular banks include Halyk Bank (Kazakhstan’s largest commercial bank), Kazkommertsbank, ATFBank, Bank CentreCredit, and Qazkom. To open a bank account, prospective customers need to be physically present at one of the bank’s branches and provide various documents, such as a passport and proof of address. Customers also need to provide specific information about the type of account they would like to open, such as the types of services and products available through the account," said another expat in Kazakhstan.

"In Kazakhstan, you can set up a bank account at almost any bank. Banks that offer account services in Kazakhstan include Halyk Bank, Kazkommertsbank, Bank TuranAlem and Bank RBK. You can open an account directly at the bank or through one of their authorized agents. When setting up an account you may need to provide personal documents and proof of income, depending on the type of account you open. Once the documents are submitted, the bank usually opens the account within a week," added another person living in Kazakhstan.

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Will I be able to find a job in Kazakhstan?

When we asked people about industries and career opportunities in Kazakhstan, they reponded:

"Finding a job in Kazakhstan may be possible depending on the type of job you are looking for and the qualifications you possess. It is recommended to research potential employers and opportunities to gain information and understanding of the current job market. Networking with professionals already based in Kazakhstan may also be helpful in finding suitable employment. Additionally, it may be useful to register with recruiting agencies or other resources that can help in the job search," said another expat in Kazakhstan.

"Finding a job in Kazakhstan is possible, although there can be challenges. Expats need to have fluency in Kazakh and Russian, as these are the two official languages of Kazakhstan. As a non-resident in Kazakhstan, you may need to obtain a work permit, unless you are from a visa-free country. Networking is important when job hunting in Kazakhstan, as many positions are not advertised online. The main sectors for employment in the country include oil and gas, IT, banking, engineering, and tourism. It is also important to remember that salaries in Kazakhstan are much lower than those paid in European countries," added another person living in Kazakhstan.

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What is life like in Kazakhstan?

When we asked people living in Kazakhstan what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Living as an expat in this area can be a pleasant experience with plenty of activities to enjoy. The weather is generally sunny and hot, which is perfect for outdoor activities like swimming, fishing, and outdoor hikes. In addition, there is an active expat community, with many organized activities and regular gatherings. There is a plethora of restaurants offering traditional fare as well as international cuisine. Shopping and leisure facilities are also plentiful and easily accessible. Local transport is good, with both buses and tuk-tuks offering reliable and affordable services. The cost of living is reasonable, so expats can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle with access to all the necessary amenities. All in all, this is a great place to live, work and play," remarked another in Kazakhstan.

"I belong to the marries group and really don't know any single people here so I can't judge. The married lot socialise with each other, dinner's parties, trips to the mountains and places of interest. There always seems plenty going on. Many of the employed people spend a lot of time travelling within the country, its 2000KM to the capital Astana from Almaty and 3,000 to the Caspian. So they tend to want quiet weekends," explained one expat.

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What do expats in Kazakhstan appreciate most about the local culture?

"Expats in Kazakhstan appreciate the diversity and hospitality of locals, the strong sense of community, the beautiful environment, and the rich cultural heritage. They enjoy the vivid and vibrant nightlife, the abundance of parks and outdoor activities, and the delicious food, which combines the traditional Kazakh cuisine with dishes from different regions of the world. In addition, there is a great respect for family and education that expats find very appealing," added another person living in Kazakhstan.

"Expats in Kazakhstan appreciate the hospitality of the people and the rich cultural heritage. They are enchanted by the unique traditions and stunning historic sites, as well as the diverse array of cuisine, from kebabs to beshbarmak (traditional noodles). Additionally, Expats are drawn to the wide range of outdoor activities available, such as skiing and hiking, as well as the pristine nature and mountainous scenery. Furthermore, many expats enjoy Kazakhstan’s developing infrastructure, including its fast-growing cities and airports. Expats also value the fact that Kazakhstan has a very low cost of living, making it an attractive destination for those seeking a good quality of life on a budget," explained one expat living in Kazakhstan.

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What do expats find most challenging?

"The most common challenge for expats is adjusting to the language barrier in their new country. Many also find it difficult to adjust to new cultural norms and expectations. Other challenges may include learning the local customs, finding housing, establishing a social life, dealing with bureaucracy, and adapting to the climate. Expats may also struggle to find employment, due to issues such as lack of local experience or language proficiency. There is also often a feeling of loneliness or isolation due to leaving behind family and friends," explained one expat.

"Expats may find adapting to a new culture and language to be the most challenging. Other common challenges are forming new social networks, learning to navigate the local public transport system, finding and settling into a place to live, navigating bank accounts and insurance, locating and adjusting to new work environments and different cultural attitudes around work, and dealing with homesickness and culture shock," said another person in Kazakhstan.

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Is there a lot of crime in Kazakhstan?

We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"No, Kazakhstan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Kazakhstan has the third-lowest intentional homicide rate in the world, with only 0.6 intentional homicides per 100,000 people. Additionally, the Global Peace Index ranks Kazakhstan as the 14th most peaceful country with a score of 1.739," said another person in Kazakhstan.

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Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Kazakhstan accepting of differences?

"Kazakhstan has a surprisingly high level of diversity, considering its location and size. People from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, religions and orientations can be found living peacefully in Kazakhstan. While the country and its people are traditionally quite conservative, the sentiment toward diversity is generally quite accepting, and foreigners are welcome in Kazakhstan with open arms," added another person living in Kazakhstan.

"It's generally very relaxed. There is no dress code the women in summer wear very revealing clothes. Generally people are smartly dressed only the expats wear shorts in town. I have never seen homosexuals openly walking hand in hand as in Europe so I have the impression this is not tolerated, nor people kissing on the streets, so I assume its not done," explained one expat living in Almaty.

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What are the schools in Kazakhstan like?

"Kazakhstan has a free public education system at the primary and secondary level, which is compulsory and free. Higher education consists of universities, academies, and institutes which offer a variety of disciplines, ranging from technical and professional programmes to more traditional academic programmes. The quality of instruction is generally good, and students must pass rigorous tests to gain entry. Many schools offer either a bilingual or trilingual approach to education, with mathematics, sciences, and computing being offered in both Russian and Kazakh languages. The curriculum also includes music and arts, physical education, and summer camps. Some schools also offer international language and culture courses, such as English and German," commented one expat when asked about in Kazakhstan.

"The school is mostly local as the international community has moved to Astana. This is a problem for every 'international' school in Almaty. Quality Schools International system of learning / teaching is something to get used to (mastery education). Creativity is very low among teachers and this shows in art classes, or classes for the elementary children. The budget of the school is never published and the tuition money are not reflected in the quality of the staff or of the school. The school lacks guidance counselor for the elementary school, and this translates in issues being 'solved' through the principal who is not necessarily trained adequately," explained one expat in Almaty, Kazakhstan with kids at Almaty International School, QSI (Quality Schools International) .

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

Panfilova Street in Almaty, Kazakhstan

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