I am writing this article onboard Air Astana towards Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. I am enjoying good comfort as I look back on the past five days I’ve spent in Almaty. During my research for Kazakhstan, I was surprised to find many luxury hotels in Almaty, but none in the capital of Astana. The top four hotels (Ritz-Carlton, InterContinental, Worldhotel Saltanat and Rixos) all agreed to host me, and I arrived excited to stay in comfort while exploring the city of Almaty. Air Arabia, took me to Almaty from their base in Sharjah, just north of Dubai. The airlines offers the lowest fares to many destinations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Indian Ocean. A great tip for budget travellers is to fly out of Sharjah with Air Arabia instead of flying out of Dubai International as there are lots of money to be saved. Borat is considered one of the funniest movies of all time, but as expected almost nothing of what he claims about Kazakhstan is true. I have decided to mention Borat in the headline of this article as this is how most people know about Kazakhstan. Now let me tell you why I liked Kazakhstan and agree with Borat that it is a very nice place.
First of all visa is issued for free on arrival for a few nationalities, but Denmark is unfortunately not one of them. Instead, it’s very easy to obtain a tourist visa in Abu Dhabi. For me, it took less than 24 hours with no invitation needed. The price was only 30 dollars that you must pay in the local AED-currency.
Immigration at Almaty Airport was very fast with no questions asked. At the airport, Arnai Tours waited for me and took me to InterContinental for the first night. On the following day, I had a full six-hour city tour of Almaty with Arnai Tours English speaking guide, Janar, and it was a pleasant surprise. Lots of things to see and experience. To my surprise, the streets were quiet and with lots of children around. The city had a European feel to it, despite Kazakhstan’s location in Central Asia. In the following days, I explored Almaty on my own by foot. It included a long 4 km. walk from Worldhotel Saltanat to The Ritz-Carlton in heavy rain. Upon arrival, the receptionist felt sorry for me and offered ginger tea and laundry. The Ritz-Carlton is by far the best hotel in Almaty and truly a world class hotel. I especially loved the outstanding Six Senses with sauna, steam, experience shower, swimming pool and gym.
My visit to Almaty ended with a stay at Rixos before Arnai Tours took me back to the airport. Arnai Tours was a wonderful company to work in every way. Fast communication, good English, great guide and nice clean cars with good comfort.
The same can be said about the Kazakh national carrier, Air Astana. The airline is well-run and my experience until now (just about to land) has been great. Friendly check-in agent, flight on time and great comfort. It’s also one of the few airlines left to serve free food and drinks on short haul flights.
The flight is now completed, and immigration into Tajikistan successfully completed. I’m writing these last words from a car towards Dushanbe Serena Hotel where a full board stay awaits.