Almaty, Kazakhstan Report of what it's like to live there - 07/31/13

Personal Experiences from Almaty, Kazakhstan

Almaty, Kazakhstan 07/31/13


1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, we lived in Moscow and Ghana before.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Southern Utah. 26-34 hours. Connections in Europe (Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Istanbul) and U.S (we usually go Amsterdam to Seattle).

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3. How long have you lived here?

Over 1 year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

All houses in the Embassy are apartments. You can get very nice houses for the same prices.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can find pretty much anything here.

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3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Burger king, pizza hut, hardee's. There are A LOT of good restaurants. They can be pricey. I would say they range from US$25-$50 an entree.

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4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

The only thing I have had to watch out for are ticks when we go hiking.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

There is no problem finding help. It costs about US$400-$600 for full-time help. Hourly is about US$5-7.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, but expensive. USAID building has one. But, I have never used it because we live far away.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I haven't had a problem using them.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Mormon, Christian, nondenominational.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It helps A LOT to speak Russian. Many people are not helpful even if they do speak English.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Most building have elevators, but most entrances are not handicap-friendly or stroller-friendly. Streets are uneven and constantly under construction.

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1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are everywhere and very affordable. Most are gypsy taxis, which carry the usual risk of not knowing who you are getting in a car with. Buses, are slow, crowded, and old, but very affordable.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

4 wheel drive for winter roads. High clearance is helpful but not necessary. The road are pretty good.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?


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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No every day problems. The only concern is the high earthquake risk.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Air quality. Good quality care can be found. Most people use the IMC or the SOS clinics.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Bad, but we have not ever had problems.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot summers, excellent falls and springs, and snowy long-ish winter.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most people go to AIS (American international School) or Haileyberry (British School). AIS is quite far from downtown, but Haileyberry is rather close. Most parents are pleased I think. But, I have no personal experience.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Many choices. The quality is good. But, they are expensive, US$600-1200/month.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. I know mostly about what is available for toddlers. Swimming, gymnastics, karate, tae kwon do, dance, ice skating, ballet.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?


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2. Morale among expats:


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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for all.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

We have really been enjoying the outdoor activities. We have two small children and are able to get out hiking and biking quite a lot. During winter time we do a lot of winter sports: sledding, ice skating, snowboarding.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Travel to Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan. Outdoor stuff mentioned above. There really isn't much touristy things to do here. But, it is pretty good for everyday living.

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7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking.

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