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Arriving to the city of Almaty is certainly a far reaching destination for many and while there is not much tourist transit information posted, the city has a very good public transportation system as well as taxi system.
The Public bus system
This routing service covers almost every square inch of the sprawling city. Comprehensive maps and route planners can be found in detail at citybus.kz, however one will have to patiently sound out the Cyrillic words and plus in various bus numbers to determine routes. There are 131 routes in the city which encompass buses, trolleys and metro. Buses are clean and run pretty frequently, however more popular routes can be crowded and no stops are announced, so one simply has to be aware of the surroundings. The fees are very basic and tickets are obtained by placing coins in the ticket dispenser on the bus or by paying an individual who collects fares inside the bus. A bus ride can be a bit adventurous but if you are comfortable with maps it should not be a problem. Any ride costs 80 Tenge and buses only run from 6am-8pm.
The Airport bus is part of the city’s bus system. It picks up right outside the terminal and towards the right under a bus stop stand. It is said buses #92, #79. #106 and #86 serve the airport, however the only one we ever saw was the #79. The bus runs roughly every 15 minutes from 6am to 9pm. The cost for us (January 2015) was 160 Tenge per person for this route. Don’t be alarmed if you bus pulls over at a big stop and orders everyone out, this we found to be common, just follow the passengers to another #79 bus which is in the front of the line of buses to continue your journey.
The Metro system currently comprises just one Red Line serving a portion of the city and another is set to open in coming years. While the route may only be useful for a certain area of transport, it is worth seeing because it is spotless and constructed with stained glass, marble, ornate decorations and it is a real wonder to behold. The climate control is perfect and nothing is out of place in this museum like transit system.
Taxi’s and private cars
There are official and semi-official taxis all over town. They are often simply hailed outside of a venue like the airport or the Esentai Mall. At the airport, be ready to get swarmed as you leave customs. Bargaining is a must, but don’t really do so unless your perspective driver actually speaks more than a few phrases of English. An agreed upon price of 1 000 KZT (to the city center) and no more than 1 500 KZT (the rest of the city) is acceptable, however be ready to enforce this price at the point of arrival as well. One can get a pre-arranged taxi in advance by using one with an airport kiosk. As always have your address of destination printed out and the phone number of the place handy.
There is a very informal and super common means of getting a lift all over Almaty which is simply raising your hand while standing on the side of the street. Almost instantly 5 cars will pull over, each just full of regular people about their business looking to make a few extra Tenge if they are going in your direction. This option is certainly an at-your-own-risk type of operation. We recommend not to attempt unless you have a Kazakh friend with you or speaking for you or you are conversational in Russian. It happens all around town and the rates are far cheaper than a taxi.