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The main airport serving Almaty is the Almaty International Airport ( http://en.almatyairport.com/) which is located approximately ten miles outside of the center of Almaty. The airport is served by numerous international airlines including BMI, KLM, Lufthansa, Etihad, Asiana Airlines, Czech Airlines, Air Arabia, Turkish Airlines and Transaero. The major airline serving the airport is Air Astana which flies regularly to such cities as Beijing, Bangkok, London, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Seoul and Moscow to facilitate travel for international travelers from all over the world.
Almaty airport is pretty basic, and lack many of the services you may be used to from other airports. However, it also has some services that you don't find many other places. For example, there is a VIP service which allows you to avoid all the queues, and there is also free wireless internet access in the departure lounge. No special access codes or passwords are currently required to use the internet service.
On arrival in Almaty you need to fill in a landing card if you hold a non-Kazakh passport. This card should be kept with your passport until you depart. Citizens of several countries get two stamps on this card and require no further registration with the authorities in Kazakhstan. If you got only one stamp, please ask the hotel you are staying in to obtain the registration for you. If you have large amounts of cash or some expensive items that you intend to take with you when you leave, you may also need to fill in a custom declaration form. Note that this is not compulsory and you will not be asked for one if you don't fill one in. However, you may be asked to provide it on exit. Laptops for personal use and cameras are no longer required to be declared, however, if in doubt fill the form in and make sure you get it stamped by a customs official before you exit. If the airline didn't provide blank landing cards, you can find those as well as custom declaration forms just in front of the passport control area. Passport control in Almaty is efficient sometimes and super slow and chaotic in other times. Baggage handling at the airport is pretty rough though, so don't use your best suitcases and don't pack anything fragile in them that you can possibly carry in your hand luggage.
Transport to/from Almaty:
The easiest way to get to and from the airport is by taxi. Expect to pay anything from 2,000 KZT upwards (about 16.5 USD, 8.5 GBP, or 10.5 EUR). The exact price depends on how good your Russian or Kazakh is and your bargaining skills. Expect to pay a LOT more if you lack any of these skills.
When you exit the baggage reclaim area you will be required to produce the baggage tags for your checked baggage. When you leave the area and enter the arrival hall you will immediately be surrounded by a mass of people asking you if you require a taxi. Most of them are individuals seeking to earn a little bit of extra money by charging excessive amounts for taking unsuspecting visitors to their hotel in Almaty. The safest bet is either to seek out one of the uniformed women from one of the main taxi companies, or to make your way by yourself to the row of taxis waiting immediately outside. These taxis are normally white and in much better condition than most of the other taxis that frequent the airport. There is no meter in any taxis in Almaty so make sure that you agree on a fixed price before you get into a taxi or allow them to handle your luggage.
The departure lounge is on the top level, and all luggage must be passed through a metal detector as you enter the terminal. Once inside the terminal you will have to wait in the departure hall until the check in for your flight is called. There are few seats available so arriving too early is not recommended. Arriving two hours before departure is generally enough for international flights. For domestic flights the check in rarely starts more than an hour and a half or so before the flight.
When your flight is called you must show your ticket (or print-out of your e-ticket) and your passport at a security desk to enter the check-in area. Anyone accompanying you to the airport will not be allowed past this security point. The check in area is pretty small with a handful of check in desks on each side. In general the check in is efficient, but if you have any special request you need to bear in mind that the check in staff quite often only speak Russian or Kazakh and that you need to pay particular attention to them getting the details right.
Once checked in you need to pass through passport control if you are on an international flight. This is often quite time consuming, but usually pretty straight forward as long as you haven't overstayed your visa and still have your landing card with your passport.
Note that while there are special services provided for business class passengers both in the international and domestic departure areas these are pretty basic and the lounges are quite small. In the international departure lounge there are some shops and bars, but in the domestic lounge there is only a small bar available.
Many travelers reach Almaty by train using the Trans-Siberia railway ( http://www.trans-siberia.com/ ) which came to the area during the early twentieth century. Historically, the railway was what first brought travelers to the area of Almaty ( http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g29... ) and it remains an important part of tourism today. The main route which most visitors take is to travel through Moscow and to take the Moscow-Almaty Trans-Siberia train. This train is available daily but tickets should be purchased in advance, especially during the high travel season. Travelers who are coming from east of the Almaty area may consider taking the Urumgi train to Almaty which comes from Xinjiang, China and takes approximately eight hours travel time.Additional information about methods of getting to Kazakhstan in general can be found online at the Lonely Planet World Guide: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/worldguid... .