Almaty Airport in Kazakhstan represents the country’s largest international airport and even though this still biggest city is no longer the capital, it still holds the rank as the country’s most populous city. That makes international destinations, traffic and routes more extensive for visitors to Kazakhstan.
Our experience of the airport on arrival was quite good. Kazakhstan is obviously quite distance from many other major world cities. The airport feels adequate for the level of traffic which we saw and the facilities are certainly old, but kept in a good working order.
The recent visa free regime provided by the government was what attracted us there in the first place. Sure enough on arrival the countries eligible were posted on a large board above immigration. From the outset it is obvious that Russian is the preferred language over English as the immigration officer spoke no English and waved us through after some failed attempts to ask us questions in Russian.
Exiting the Terminal:
Once past immigration there is a baggage carousel for those picking up luggage. Immediately one can exit the facility by crossing through customs, which seems to operate as normal in any other airport with random passengers being asked to stop for inspection. Once you cross into the arrivals hall there is a swarm of taxi drivers who will ask you where you need to go. It is recommended that you have arrangements already made, or take the public bus just outside the hall and to the right if you want a more affordable ride into town.
The taxi drivers speak enough english to negotiate, but if you are negotiating with them in English they already know how much they can overcharge you. Only negotiate if you know the city well enough to know the fares or you know what price you can insist on. Some travelers recommend walking outside the airport and hailing a taxi from the street for an immediate price drop, but again only attempt if you are familiar with the local customs and area. Rates are not too bad, but expect to be overcharged.
Currency exchange Almaty Airport:
You will need some cash on hand no matter what to use either taxis or the public bus system. There are good exchange offices just in the arrivals hall, rates are good and no commission is charged. There are restrooms, a ticket counter, information desk and some food stores for a quick bite. Exiting to the outside and turning right one can see a bus stand just 50 feet away. Taxi drivers may hang around and try to convince you to the bus isn’t worth your time, but it comes regularly every 15 minutes, during normal business hours.
Departures are on the second floor of the main airport building. The departures hall is a bit narrow and can be crowded. The airline check in counters are in a separate area to make traffic flow easier. The immigration booths are adjacent and even when the facilities are a bit tired the whole operation runs pretty smoothly. Once inside the waiting area there are several cafes and general seating for all gates. The Duty free shop is very extensive, it has products from around the world as well as a Kazakh section as well. The prices are average for duty free but the arrangement stands out for its variety. There are announcements, free WiFi and tv monitors with updates for passengers.