Tuesday, June 24, 2014

15 Days Visa Free Entry for 10 Countries to Kazakhstan

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced on June 12 that Kazakhstan is about to establish a visa-free regime for citizens of 10 countries.

This initiative aims at strengthen Kazakhstan’s bilateral partnerships as well as create favourable conditions for foreign investors and tourists during their stay in Kazakhstan.

The exemption will be for a one year period start from the 15th of July 2014 to July 15, 2015 and apply to citizens of the following countries:

United States 
United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, 
United Arab Emirates 
Republic of Korea and 

During this one-year period, citizens of these 10 countries holding valid passports can enter, exit and transit through the territory of Kazakhstan on multiple occasions without a visa 
for up to 15 calendar days at a time from the moment of crossing the state border. 

If you are planning to stay longer than 15 days you will need to obtain a business visa from the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

This is only a pilot study and after the initial one year period the government will review these conditions. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Summer in Almaty

Summer is here in Almaty and now is the time to really experience the "cafe" society, with all the restaurants and coffee bars that spilling out onto the sidewalks and pavements...giving the city a very European feel.

The city is very enchanting and green which is in high contrast to the colder months of the year.

No summers is complete without a walk in one of the many parks, or a sunset cocktail at Koktobe.

During the first part of the summer, expect rain showers to come quick and fast, while the later part of the summer is much more hot and humid.

The joys of summer in Almaty

+ great excuse to try some yummy ice creams available at most small shops and bus stops 
+ fresh berries -  cheap and plentiful
+ watermelons at the hight of summer
+ great cafe atmosphere in the city
+ lots and lots of weddings-  look out for all the couples taking pictures everywhere especially in the popular parks
+ strolling in the park on a lazy sunday afternoon
+ barbecuing with friends in the mountains 

Hope you have a great summer in Almaty!!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Carrefour rumour

There were rumours going around that Carrefour would be coming to Kazakhstan and the first store would be in the long awaited Dostyk Plaza.   But the latest news from the National Agency for Export and Investment is that there are no plans made by Carrefour to enter Kazakhstan.

Why did the rumour start?

Back in 2011 Carrefour announced that they had plans to enter the market in Kazakhstan, Georgia and Russia.  Although the Tbilisi store has been successful, those that opened in Russia have since failed.

How viable was the idea?

I am sure that the company consider the viability of entering the Kazakhstan market, and competing with Metro the German network that already has a strong presence. 

But from their store failures in Russia, they might have also reconsidered their whole strategy and might be looking for other areas that represent easier entry to the market.  

It is sad that Carrefour is not coming to Kazakhstan, as I am a strong believer in some good competition. 

Now, my only hope is that Metro would actually open in Dostyk Plaza : )   

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Events in May 2014

I cant believe it is May already... it doesn't really feel like Spring as yet, but I am sure from this week the weather will only get better.

Here are some events happening in Almaty during the month of May, 2014

Pop Art Exhibition from 3-30 May, Address: Al-Farabi 77/8 at Esentai Mall

May 3 is the 3Km Colour Run, participants have to wear white at the starting point - it is a similar idea to the Colour festival in India. 
Tickets are 1 000Kzt and proceeds will go towards planting trees in Almaty

Patricia Kaas Concert in Almaty at the Republic Palace on the 4th of May 19:00
Tickets range from 5 000- 35 000Kzt.
Contact +7 727 329 7711 for more information

Expect Indian traditional music on the 6th of May at the Museum of Musical Instruments
The event starts at 19:00,  Address: Zenkova 24A,  Tel: +7 727 291 6917

14-16 May 2014 KIHE - The 21ste Kazakhstan International Healthcare Exhibition

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cost of Living in Almaty - Food & Prices - part 1

Wondering what the cost of food items are in 2014... below I have tried to give you an idea of what to expect in terms of prices. This topic is broken up into 2 posts, the follow-up will include other information, tips and some idea of what other things cost in Almaty.   

Currently the exchange rate is USD 1 to 181 KZT (Kazakh Tenge)

The following prices will give you a rough idea of what to expect (Mid- 2014)

Bread between 70-150KZT ($0.38- $1)

Milk roughly 200 KZT per litre ($1.10) depending on the brand and type, there are lots of milk products ranging from fresh to curd/ sour and cow to camel...and it can all be a bit confusing shopping for milk the first time. I prefer the “Foodmaster” brand when it comes to dairy products. 

Fresh Foodmaster Milk 

The cheese selections are impressive in most supermarkets, so I am sure if you are willing to experiment you will find what you are looking for even goat's cheese.   Yellow cheeses range from 2200 to 3000 KZT per kg. My favourite is a yellow cheese made from sour cream called ‘сметанковые’. 

My favourite yoghurt products also by Foodmaster

Meat is more difficult to price as it depends on where you buy it - either at the market like the GreenBazaar or the supermarket and whether it is chicken, beef, lamb or pork (yes, you can get pork and bacon here, but only at selected shops like Bekker, Ramstore and a few other supermarkets).
If you are brave enough you could buy your meat at the market, but you need to find a good seller and build a relationship with them to get the best cuts and best quality meat.

Chicken products are roughly about 900Kzt per kg
Beef – mince meat about 1500Kzt per kg
Beef strips like ‘beef stroganoff’ about 2900Kzt per kg
If you like salami type meats- there are a large varieties available here in Almaty ranging from Spanish imported cold meats to Russian made sausages.

Bottled water delivered at your home can range from 500-800Kzt for 19L.
Our preferred , but also the most expensive, is Calipso http://www.calipso-water.kz/
When we arrived we where advised to drink bottled water, however, many locals do drink the tap water.  

Fruits & Vegetables
During summer, local fruits and vegetables can be very cheap like 400KZT ($2.20) for a kilo of raspberries and 800KZT ($4.40) for a kilo of cherries. Potatoes can be as little as 90Kzt per kg (50 cents). While during the winter the prices are excessive and the quality is really poor … tomatoes and potatoes don’t even last a day or two.

Grocery expenses

Expect your monthly grocery bill to be roughly 150 000+ KZT for a couple, which includes the odd imported product.

Shopping Tips   
It might all be a bit confusing when shopping for groceries for the first time… you are lucky if any of the brands look familiar. So, my suggestion is to try the bigger stores like Ramstore that have English written on the shelves.  

Over the years, we have found that the range of products and brands  on offer have increased tremendously. When we got here, now that was a different story,  you would not find a particular food item for months on end- so we still stock-up on the stuff that we prefer like peanut butter or all bran flakes... just in case. 

Here are a few items listed below to give you a rough idea of what other beverage items might cost.

CarteNiore instant coffee 100g- 2 000Kzt
Jacobs Coffee 100g- 1 000Kzt
Coca-cola 1l- 160Kzt

There are a range of local and imported beers available, they are relatively cheap in the grocery stores. 
Miller Beer 0.33l – 250Kzt
Holsten Pilsener 0.5l 200Kzt 

Foreign beers 

Bottle of wine depending on what you are looking for could be priced from 1900Kzt and anything upwards. You will find Argentinian, French and Georgian wines plentiful in the supermarkets. There is little or no control over who or when liquor can be sold, so even your small corner shop will stock a wide range of alcoholic beverages and you can buy it at anytime. 

You will even find some STRONG local cognac 

Local Kazakhstan Cognac 

In part 2, I will cover the cost of accommodation, dining out and some other household items.