Transport in Astana
Astana has increasingly good connections with the rest of the country and the rest of the world. The official city website (www.astana.kz) helpfully gives train and air schedules in English.
AIR - Astana's airport sits some 14km outside the centre. To get there take Kabanbai Batyr Avenue south of town, turning left at the roundabout dominated by a large golden monument. The passenger terminal, designed by the celebrated Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, centres on a green dome somewhat resembling the eye of a giant insect. A viewing gallery in the dome (take the lift to the fifth floor) offers a good view of the runway and large expanses of steppe beyond. Operated by Malaysia Airports Holdings, Astana airport is quieter than Almaty, and most travellers report a reasonably smooth experience on arrival and departure. Taxi drivers wait at the airport entrance to pounce on arriving passengers, but it is advisable to organise an official yellow and white cab at the kiosk in the arrivals hall.
At the airport (www.astanaairport.kz), Air Astana flies at least four times daily to Almaty, once daily to Aktobe, Atyrau, Kyzylorda, Uralsk and Ust-Kamenogorsk, and four times a week to Pavlodar, Petropavlovsk and also Semey. SCAT goes to Shymkent daily, and Aktau and Taraz twice or more weekly.
TRAIN - Astana's railway station lies at the northern end of town. To get there, head north up Pobedy Avenue, which ends its run at the Baiseitova Opera and Ballet Theatre. From here, Birzhan Sal Street runs north-eastwards for a few hundred metres to the curved frontage and glass-sided clock tower of the modern railway station building, with the old building tacked on as a western extension of the new. The station is bright and efficient looking, with signs in English as well as Kazakh and Russian, though the ticket office and enquiry desk staff are the usual mix of mostly brusque and occasionally helpful.
From the train station, trains go to Karaganda (four hours) at least 12 times daily, to Almaty (13 to 22 hours) at least six times daily, to Kokshetau (5 hours) at least five times daily and to Petropavlovsk at least three times daily (8 to 11 hours). The speedy, comfortable though the more expensive sleek-lined Tulpar, which departs from both Almaty and Astana at 19.15, does the trip in a little over 13 hours, making for a convenient overnight journey. This is particularly worth contemplating as an alternative to flying in winter, when air schedules are particularly liable to disruption from fog and snowstorms. In a northward direction, a couple of trains run daily to both Kostanai and Petropavl, and two or three a day terminate at Pavlodar. There are also daily trains to Moscow, and Shymkent, and trains to Aktobe, Atyrau, Omsk, Semey and Yekaterinburg at least every two days. Train 54 to Urumqi, China (33 hours) leaves on Tuesday; train 53 to Astana departs Urumqi on Friday.
Bus, Minibus & Taxi - Astana's Saparzhai bus station lies at the eastern end of the square outside the railway station: the large 'Saparzhai' sign marks out the building. There is a bus roughly every 30 minutes to Karaganda, 12 departures a day to Stepnogorsk, at least seven a day to Semey, seven a day to Korgalzhyn, one to Borovoye, several departures daily to Kokshetau and Petropavl, and more frequent departures to Pavlodar. Long-distance taxis tout for business in the square outside the bus station.
Buses and minibuses run to many destinations including Almaty (17 hours, three daily), Kokshetau (5 hours, nine daily), Pavlodar (seven to eight hours, seven daily), Petropavlovsk (10 hours, five daily), Semey (15 hours, five daily) and Ust-Kamenogorsk (17 hours, two daily). There’s a daily service to Omsk and Novosibirsk in Russia. Private minibuses and taxis to Burabay Karaganda (minibus/shared taxi 2,5 hours) and Kokshetau (3,5 hours) wait outside the bus station.
Getting Around - Astana has an excellent city bus and marshrutka network; check www.astana.kz for route maps in English. Bus 10 runs about every 15 minutes, from around 6am to midnight, between the bus station and the airport (a one-hour trip), via Yesenberlin, Beibitshilik, Seyfullin, Respubliki and Konaev (and vice versa). Buses 25 and 31 run from the train station to the Kongress Kholl (Congress Hall) stop in the city centre, then south on pr Respubliki at least as far as Ramstor. Taxi drivers ask around 600T for rides in the central area. You can often flag down a passing car for less.