Still feeling the effects of its Soviet ruled past, don’t be surprised if while touring Kazakhstan, you are treated like a criminal. Constant passport checks by police, requests for bribes to avoid “problems”, and sometimes a need to register your location with police every five days rather than just once, can get you in sticky situations such as where a phone is handed to you with an English speaking Kazak sternly informing you that you require an “attorney and translator”. After a ridiculous amount of paper work, visits to a lawyer and the case decision formalised by a police chief, followed by payment of a fine to a government bank account, all because you did not register your accommodation a second time as you could not read the immigration card written in Kazak, you learn that there is no flexibility with the Law here, and that the safest thing to do is just get out of the country as soon as possible to avoid overstaying your visa – a crime that results in jail or deportation, and an even larger fine. Of course it is difficult to exit the country when the police hold onto your passport for days due to the horribly slow process of a simple administrative fine, while at the same time telling you that you must leave country to avoid overstaying. Do not expect common sense here.
With much time spent waiting for available transport across the country, days spent in the Migration Police offices, further days spent sorting out a visa for the proceeding country to enable escape, and searching for accommodation that is not four times more expensive that the rest of Asia, all the while eating mediocre food, it’s understandable why tourists who visit do not always have glowing reports (and why there are no good photographs to share). It’s not all that bad though, many of the locals can be extremely accommodating, and intriguingly Kazakhstan has some of the most beautiful women of any nation. Unfortunately there are no photos of beautiful women to post, so please accept this image as a summation of Kazakhstan, a Mercedes Benz mustering a herd of Kazakh horses (one of their most popular meats).
Note: If you want to enjoy some of Kazakhstan for yourself, it’s safer, cheaper and easier to just rent a copy of Sacha Baron Cohen’s film “Borat”. It may not even be filmed in Kazakhstan, but it is suitably politically incorrect, and far more entertaining – and yes, bride kidnapping is still a reality here. Alternatively, visit beautifully rugged western Mongolia where many Kazak people fled to during soviet rule, and as a result maintain a traditional Kazak life with little soviet influence.