The Directory to the tourist about Kazakhstan
- Freedom of movement and choice of residence
- Customs Declaration
- Migrational Card to the passport
- The list of data of the owner and motor vehicle necessary for customs bodies at entrance to RK
- The obligation about import of a vehicle
- Diplomatic Missions
- Travelling in Kazakhstan
- Police, Registration, Crime, Security, Radio activity
- Post, Internet, Telephone, Electricity
- Hunting and Fishing
- Driving, Car travel, Accommodation, Camping
- Hello and Goodbye, Romance, Hygiene, Maps, Media
- Dining, Alcohol, Toasting, Tipping
- Currency and Credit Cards, Bank, Holidays
- Almaty Shopping Tour
- Restaurants and night clubs Almaty
- Phrase book - English, Kazakh, Russian
Dining in Kazakhstan
Kazakhs have certain table manners that differ from those in the Western world. At the dinner table, Kazakhs tend to smack their lips noisily in order to demonstrate their appreciation of the food. In the same way, tea is slurped rather than sipped. Any guest who imitates these habits will be heartily applauded for it. It is impolite to stop your host or hostess from serving food. If you empty your plate it will be filled again, so once you have had enough leave a small amount on your plate - this is a polite way of saying it was delicious, but it was enough.
The precedence for seating is a very sensitive issue. The eldest or otherwise most important person usually sits at the head of the table. His (occasionally her) role is also that of tamada — a Georgian word that means toastmaster. He makes the crucial toasts himself (opening, closing, in honour of the guests, etc), and he can introduce other people to make a toast - no refusal accepted. If you wish to make a toast on your own initiative you should ask his permission - it won't be refused.
Eating starts together and ends together. Religious Kazakhs end their dinner with a solemn Omin - or Amen, cupping there hands in front of them, then wiping their face with both hands. It is highly appreciated if guests follow suit.
Alcohol in Kazakhstan
Strong alcoholic drink is an "imported" culture from Russia , and it is almost as much appreciated here as in Russia proper. Since alcohol is particularly cheap, it's easy for one's health to suffer. Wherever you go you will have drink pressed on you by your hosts, and they will be insistent; good excuses are needed to refrain from drinking - such as "My doctor has forbidden me to drink", or "I never drink".
Sadly, a new drinking culture is developing in the cities with the rise of a middle class with spending power, and young business people are most at risk of alcoholic excess. Even Kazakhs who cherish their traditions are unlikely to escape the problem.
These days there are a number of good locally made beers on the market such as Amstel, Tien Shan , Derbes and Karagandinskoye. Kazakh wines from the areas of Yesik and Turgen are drinkable. Domestic vodka must always have a tax label on the cap. Buy it only in good shops -the brands offered in kiosks are often of doubtful origin.
Tipping in Kazakhstan
In Soviet times, tipping was taboo, even considered an insult, especially if coming from a foreigner. In reality, though, on a communal level bartenders, in particular, were often favoured with a "present", especially by groups of people. For today's young waiters a tip (chay - "tea") is as much appreciated as it is in the West. A service commission of 10 percent is often included in the bill, but whether it reaches the staff in all cases is uncertain; better to leave a separate cash tip on the table if you want to show your appreciation for good service.
Toasting in Kazakhstan
Dinners, cocktails or any other occasion to raise glasses (and there are many) are seized upon and enjoyed with singular purpose. Drinking without at least saying in Russian u na zdarovye"- "to your health" - is considered highly impolite. The more extended and the more eloquent a toast, the louder the applause will be. Glasses are filled during the toast speech, and are expected to be emptied in a single gulp.
Any official or semi-formal banquet is conducted by a tamada or toastmaster (see also Dining), who makes the key toasts; he (only rarely she) is the only one who can do so without anyone else's permission; he appoints people to make a toast and gives permission to do so on request. Guests are never ignored in this process, and their obvious task is to thank the head of the family for hosting them, which is bound to be responded to by the latter expressing his appreciation for the guests doing honour to his table.
This series of exchanges usually takes up the first round of toasts. There follows a range of toasts to each of those present in order of importance. Later in the proceedings, toasts can be made to happiness, prosperity, brotherhood, the respective nations of host and guests, to all the people present, to all the people absent, to the women in the world, to the young generations, to the old generations...
In Kazakhstan the last-but-one toast is always in honour of the hostess, with thanks for her generosity and hospitality. This is followed by the last "official" toast which is nicknamed pasachok (Russian) - literally "walking stick cup". Those still thirsty can comfort themselves with the very last toast, or stremyenaya (Russian) - "mounting cup" which in times of old used to be made when the guests were already on horseback.
Souvenirs in Kazakhstan
Anything made of felt (rugs, slippers, puppets, miniature camels and yurts) is very popular indeed, as are leather articles including horsewhips (kamchiy) and saddle bottles. Jewellery includes finely wrought white silver medallions with semiprecious stones set in them.
Musical instruments are also sold at most souvenir stands. Items of national dress consist of decorated long mantles and waistcoats, caps and hats. Woven rugs are also in vogue. It's possible to buy really beautiful paintings and other works of art in galleries and at auctions. In this case, however, export requires certain formalities. Travel agencies and major hotels, and also some of the museums, galleries and art shops, can be of service here.
Kazakh brandies (called "konyak") and vodkas in the upmarket sector are good, and you are free to take them out of the country within certain quantity limits. Also - ot so much in exiting Kazakhstan , but in bringing it in to your home country. Usually only labelled pots, with a stamp and serial number, can be brought in, and then only in limited quantities for one's own consumption. Allowable quantities are updated every half-year by the UN protection watchdog CITES.
Time Zones in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan now has two (it used to be three) time zones. The eastern and central parts of the country are on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) plus six hours and include Almaty, Oskemen (Ust-Kamenogorsk), Pavlodar, Semey (Semipalatinsk), Astana, Taraz, Shymkent and Kyzylorda as far as Baikonur. The western part is on GMT plus five hours and includes Aktau, Aktobe, Atyrau and Oral ( Uralsk ). Now that Kazakhstan has abolished summer daylight saving time, the difference to British Summer Time (BST) becomes five and four hours respectively during the summer months.