Fast facts about country
Area: 2.7 million sq km
Capital: Astana (since December 10,1997)
Country code: +7 (the same as Russia)
Famous: for oil, steppe, Borat
Languages: Kazakh, Russian
Money: Tenge (KZT) - equal to 100 tyins. It was introduced on November 15, 1993. Exchange rate is floating, fully convertible and recently has moved in a range of 145 - 155 KZT to the dollar.
Phrases: Salemetsiz be (hello); rakhmet (thanks)
Population: 16,6 million
Location: Central Asia, south of Russia and northwest of China
Boundaries: Lying on both sides of the Ural River makes Kazakhstan one of the only two landlocked countries in the world lying on two continents. It is neighbored clockwise from the north by Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, and also borders on a large part of the Caspian Sea.
Total Area: 1,687,443 sq miles (2,717,300 sq km)
Land Area: 1,657,945 sq miles (2,669,800 sq km)
Comparative Area: Total 7,459 miles (12,012 km). The Republic of Kazakhstan shares its longest borders with Russia, 4,251 miles (6,846 km) and China, 951 miles (1,533 km). It also borders 1,183 miles (1,894 km) of the Caspian Sea. Ninth largest in the world, equivalent to the size of Western Europe, Four times the size of Texas, Five times the size of France
Independence: December 16, 1991
Ethnic Diversity: 63.1% Kazakh, 23.7% Russian, 2.9% Uzbek, 2.1% Ukrainian, 1.4% Uyghur, 1.3% Tatar, 1.1% German, 4.5% other
Religions: Kazakhstan allows freedom of religion, and many different beliefs are represented in the country. It is a very tolerant country to religions like Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. Islam is the religion of about 70.2% while Christianity is practiced by 26.2% of the population
Languages: Kazakh, spoken by over 52% of the population, is the state language. Russian, spoken by two-thirds of the population, is used in everyday business and enjoys official status under the Constitution.
Domain code: kz
Festival & Events - The biggest festivities around the country are for Nauryz, the Muslim spring equinox festival on 22 March, with traditional sports, music festivals and family get-togethers. Shymkent is a particularly good place to be for Nauryz. Major religious festivals – the Muslim Qurban Ait (Eid al-Azha) and Eid al-Fitr, and Russian Orthodox Christmas (7 January) – are widely celebrated though they are not official holidays.
Holidays - New Year 1 & 2 January, International Women’s Day 8 March, Nauryz 21–23 March, Kazakhstan Peoples Solidarity Day 1 May, Victory Day 9 May, Capital City Day 6 July, Constitution Day 30 August, Independence Day 16 December
Internet access - Public internet facilities are abundant, and generally charge 300T to 400T per hour. Nearly all midrange and top-end hotels, and some budget accommodation and cafes and restaurants, have wi-fi (sometimes free, sometimes not).
Post - Airmail letters under 20g to anywhere outside the CIS cost 250T. If you have anything of importance to post it’s generally safer and quicker to use an international courier firm. DHL (www.dhl.kz) has a particularly wide network of drop-off centres around the country.
Telephone - Almost everyone in Kazakhstan has a mobile (cell) phone and it’s easy to get a local SIM card for your phone if you have a 900-frequency phone (most European mobiles have this; most North American ones don’t). Shops and kiosks selling SIM cards with call credit for a few hundred tenge are everywhere. Take your passport when you go to buy. The same outlets often sell inexpensive phones too, and will top up your credit for cash or with PIN cards. Activ, KCell and Beeline are the best networks for nationwide coverage. Typically 1000T credit gives you about an hour of talking to a combination of mobile and landline numbers. Mobile numbers have 10 digits. Landlines have a three-, four- or five-digit area code followed by a local number: the area code plus the local number always totals 10 digits. The Kazakhstan country code is %7. You can make phone calls for cash from some Kazaktelekom offices, from call offices signed ‘Peregovorny Punkt’, and from some shops and kiosks with phones for public use. Local calls are generally free, while other calls within Kazakhstan cost around 10T per minute, calls to Kazakhstan mobile numbers and other ex-Soviet states cost around 30T per minute, and other international calls cost around 100T to 200T per minute. Calls from hotel rooms are typically double the call-office rate. You can cut costs for some international calls by using a Nursat i-Card or an Emax card, sold at mobile-phone shops and kiosks. Get a Russian-speaker to show you how to use them. Basically, you scratch off a PIN then dial a local access number given on the card. Calling instructions are then available in English. Nursat i-Card calls cost around 20T per minute to any phone in the USA, Canada, Russia or China, and about 30T per minute to other Central Asian countries and landlines in Britain, Germany, Italy or France.
Mystery of Kazakhstan - I asked why the world seemed to know so little about so big a place. 'In the nineteenth century the Russian tsars closed the country to foreigners as they expanded their empire eastwards. And then the Soviets sealed it tight for another seventy years.' He shrugged. 'It disappeared.'
'That's quite a trick.' It was something to make a country the size of Western Europe disappear and to keep it hidden from the West, out of sight and mind, for more than a hundred years. I had to admit that I didn't know exactly how this vast land mass fitted into the world map. And I was certainly not alone in my ignorance. Even people who might have been expected to know something about the place - journalists, world travellers, people who thought they knew a thing or two - became vague and muddled when asked. Was that the country where the president boiled his enemies alive? No, that was the reputation of the Uzbek president south of the border. Was it the place where the president had golden statues made of himself and placed on revolving platforms to lead the sun? No again, that was next door in Turkmenistan. It was an anarchic, narco-state, wasn't it, embroiled in permanent civil war? No, that was the fate of poor, blighted Tajikistan. Somebody told me they had recently attended a fascinating lecture on the country - but then sent me an email to say, sorry, it had been Azerbaijan. Businessmen at least knew that Kazakhstan had a lot of gold and oil - but then stopped short. (In Search of Kazakhstan by Christopher Robbins)