5-Day Almaty Itinerary And Travel Guide With Budget All-In

5-Day Almaty Itinerary And Travel Guide With Budget All-In

By DAN FORTEZA

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Almaty was the capital of Kazakhstan until 1997 when it was moved to Astana (now Nursultan). One of the reasons given for the move was because of Almaty’s geographical location–it is in a southeast corner of the country which is too close to Kyrgyzstan and China’s border. I, on the other hand, moved and traveled down south from Astana to Almaty due to the extreme cold of Astana.

And I made a good choice–not only Almaty has a much warmer climate, but it also has all the attractions of a major city with none of the claustrophobia or stress. If you’re curious enough to know what top attractions this city has to offer, here is my 5-day Almaty itinerary and travel guide which includes the detailed cost breakdown of my day-to-day expenses!

Read also my Astana (Nursultan) itinerary with budget and travel guide.

Hi there! First of all, I am Daniel – a solo backpacker from the Philippines. If you don’t know my story yet, feel free to read this article where I talked about how I quit my job in order to travel. This article was also featured on TripZilla Philippines.

Me with a backdrop of the snowcapped Zailiysky Alatau
Me with a backdrop of the snowcapped Zailiysky Alatau | Dantravels.org

DO YOU NEED A VISA FOR KAZAKHSTAN?

First things first–do you need a visa to enter Kazakhstan? Well, depending on your nationality, you may or may not need a visa. See the information below which category you fall in. Other countries not listed below require a Kazakh visa.

Citizens of the following countries and territories can visit Kazakhstan without a visa:

*90 days
Armenia
Azerbaijan
Belarus
Georgia
Kyrgyzstan
Moldova
Mongolia
Russia
Ukraine

**30 days
Argentina
Brazil
Ecuador
Serbia
South Korea
Tajikistan
Turkey
United Arab Emirates
Uzbekistan

***14 days
Hong Kong

Citizens of the following countries do not require a visa for stays of fewer than 30 days as part of a visa-free policy for countries with the large foreign direct investment in Kazakhstan’s economy:

All European Union citizens
Australia
Bahrain
Canada
Chile
Colombia
Iceland
Indonesia
Israel
Japan
Kuwait
Liechtenstein
Malaysia
Mexico
Monaco
New Zealand
Norway
Oman
Philippines
Qatar
Saudi Arabia
Singapore
Switzerland
Thailand
United States
Vatican City
Vietnam

With my Philippine passport, I fell under the visa-free program and was able to enter Kazakhstan through Astana TSE airport with no issues last October 2019!

Well wait, not really… The visa-free program of Kazakhstan for Filipinos was just recently announced and took effect on September 30, 2019. I was backpacking in Tehran, Iran that time when it was announced. So I actually entered Kazakhstan through TSE airport a few days after it took effect. And upon checking in to my airline carrier (SCAT airlines), I waited for almost AN HOUR because the airline crews are verifying if Filipinos can really enter Kazakhstan visa-free. But anyway, the important thing is GOT IN and got my boarding pass! 

WHERE IS ALMATY?

Almaty is located in the mountainous area of southern Kazakhstan near the border of Kyrgyzstan in the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains. In fact, it is only a 5-hour minibus ride from Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan. By plane, it is a little more than 4 hours of flight from Moscow or Dubai.

Language: Kazakh and Russian
Currency: Kazakhstani Tenge (KZT)
Airport: ALA
Preferred mode of transportation: Bus / Metro
Time Zone: GMT +6

FLIGHTS TO ALMATY:

Finding a cheap flight ticket to Almaty from Europe and the Middle East is relatively easy. In my case, however, I took a train coming from Astana (Nursultan) to Almaty since I’m already in Kazakhstan.
I suggest you check Kayak (click HERE) as they usually offer cheap fare rates compared to other booking sites.

HOW I GOT TO THE CITY:

I arrived at Almaty (Alma-Ata 2 station) at around 7:00 AM from a 15-hour train ride from Astana (Astana-Nurly-Zhol station.) I booked its train ticket online with the help of my friend Akniyet.

Inside the train bound to Alma-Ata 2 station | Dantravels.org

I then walked towards the Raiymbek Batyr metro station using my 2GIS offline Maps (Note: offline Google Maps will do as well.) I got off at Baikonur metro station where my hostel (Hostel Eleon) is only 5 to 10 minutes on foot.

  • 80 KZT (0.21 USD) – Metro from Raiymbek Batyr station to Baikonur station

HOW TO GET AROUND?

    • By Bus (and Trolleybus). Just like Astana, Almaty has an excellent city bus network, with bus route maps shown at many bus stops. The bus is how you get around best in Almaty!

Buses start between 6:00 AM and 7:00 AM until 10:00 PM. Single-trip tickets cost 150 KZT (0.40 USD) if you pay by cash. The very useful 2GIS offline map app helps you plot your route and shows you in real-time which numbered buses are due to arrive at which bus stop. The 2GIS app also works even without internet data.

NOTE: It is cheaper if you pay by transport card (called Onay) costing to only 80 KZT (0.21 USD) but I don’t really recommend it for short-term travelers.

    • By Metro / Subway. Almaty’s metro runs from Raiymbek Batyr station, near Alma-Ata 2 railway train station, down south to Moscow station. There are future plans to expand Almaty’s metro train network but as of this writing, the city only has one line of metro.

NOTE: You can also use a refillable Almaty card (sold at all metro stations) or swipe in with the multi-transport Onay card.

    • By Foot. Get your feet ready as you will walk to many places in Almaty, too. And as I mentioned in my budget travel tips blog – “walk as much as you can!
    • By Taxi. Taxis are excellent but rather expensive.

WHERE DID I STAY?

  • Hostel Eleon (click here to book)
    • Hostel room type: Bunk Bed in Male Dormitory Room
    • Hostel rate: 1,400 KZT (3.65 USD) per night
    • How to get there:  5 to 10 minutes walk from Baikonur station (nearest metro station.)

You can book a room at any hotel in Almaty through Agoda or Booking.com. I usually book my room accommodations through booking.com. Room accommodation ranges from cheap hostels to luxury hotels. Book hostels through booking.com as they have free cancellation or pay-at-the-hotel option.

Use my link to book your hostel and you’ll get 10% of your booking back after your stay. Click this link to get that discount.

If Almaty hotel isn’t to your liking, try AirBnb. Airbnbs are immersed in neighborhoods, condos, and townhomes. There is a feeling you get when you stay in an Airbnb that makes you feel like you belong in that city or town. Since it is someone’s home, there is a certain amount of pride you feel while staying there. I have used Airbnb on some of my other trips and I loved it!

If you’re new to AirBnB, then you can get up to 42 USD free travel credit by signing up via this link.

MY 5-DAY ALMATY ITINERARY

DAY 1:

1st Stop: Republic Square of Almaty

Starting off my Almaty itinerary is this impressive monument situated uphill in Almaty, but a rewarding visit. The monument is surrounded by historical monuments in Kazakhstan’s past and notable figures. To get a good picture of the whole site you need to cross a busy road.

Almaty Republic Square | Dantravels.org
Almaty Republic Square | Dantravels.org
    • Duration (getting there + visiting): 1 hour
    • How I got here: By Bus from hostel (using my 2GIS Maps app)

2nd Stop: Medeu

This is in Medeu! Because I’m on a tight budget, I went up hiking on foot than going by cable car. Yeah, tiring but it was fun. Especially meeting and getting to know the locals along the way. And when the locals found out I’m from the Philippines, they would say “Oh Manny Pacquiao!” I didn’t know Manny (the Filipino boxer) is very well-known in Kazakhstan.

The never-ending stairs at Medeu | Dantravels.org
The never-ending stairs at Medeu | Dantravels.org
    • Duration (getting there + visiting): 3-4 hours
    • How I got here: By Bus #12 (using my 2GIS Maps app)

3rd Stop: Shymbulak Ski Resort

If you’re already in Medeu, do not also miss Shymbulak ski resort which is located in the picturesque gorge of the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains. You can take a trip up to the top of the ski resort (Talgar pass), which involved three gondolas from Medeu. Although I did not go, I still advise you to go since the views were spectacular. It will be 4,000 KZT (10.38 USD) for the entire trip.

The view of Trans-Ili Alatau mountains from Medeu | Dantravels.org
The view of Trans-Ili Alatau mountains from Medeu | Dantravels.org
    • Duration (getting there + visiting): 2 hours
    • How to get here: By Gondola / Cable Car

4th Stop: Almaty Central park

This place was an absolute must-visit especially if you have children. The park is absolutely huge and there are activities everywhere you look. There are plenty of places to sit down and eat or have a drink. It’s also friendly for the budget-minded as there is plenty to walk around and see.

Somewhere at Almaty Central park | Dantravels.org
Somewhere at Almaty Central park | Dantravels.org
    • Duration (getting there + visiting): 1-2 hours
    • How I got here: By Bus #12 (Medeu-Abay) then another bus (all using my 2GIS Maps app)

DAY 2:

5th Stop: First President’s Park

First President’s Park is a huge park in south Almaty, and you could spend all day here! It’s the perfect getaway located right in the middle of a busy street, thanks to plenty of space to walk around and enjoy nature. The park was opened in November 2011 in respect to the first President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. You might also catch a graduation or a wedding photoshoot here if you’re lucky!

First President's Park
First President's Park | Dantravels.org
    • Duration (getting there + visiting): 3-4 hours
    • How I got here: By Bus (using my 2GIS Maps app)

6th Stop: St. Nicholas Cathedral

This Russian Orthodox cathedral is located in a really attractive grounds. Beautiful colors make it really attractive and photogenic from all angles. The elaborately painted interior walls and ceilings and the icons made it an interesting visit.

St. Nicholas Cathedral
St. Nicholas Cathedral | Dantravels.org
    • Duration (getting there + visiting): 1-2 hours
    • How I got here: By foot from my hostel

DAY 3:

7th Stop: Park of Panfilov’s 28 Guard

The park is named after the heroes of the Great Patriotic War. The Panfilov heroes were 28 soldiers of an Almaty Infantry who died fighting the Germans outside of Moscow during the war. There is one huge monument that stands out (in the photo below) with a burning eternal flame in front of it and a few other smaller monuments around this area. This park is the crown jewel of Almaty’s history.

Park of Panfilov's 28 Guard
Park of Panfilov's 28 Guard | Dantravels.org
    • Duration (getting there + visiting): 1-2 hours
    • How I got here: By Metro (Zhibek Zholy station)

8th Stop: Ascension Cathedral

Located also within the Panfilov’s park is the lovely Ascension Cathedral. Probably the most renowned Orthodox cathedral in Kazakhstan and understandably so. The interiors and exteriors are very impressive and the cathedral looks wonderful from all sides. The interior takes the form of most Christian orthodox churches and the murals are fantastic.

Ascension Cathedral
Ascension Cathedral | Dantravels.org
    • Duration (getting there + visiting): 1 hour
    • How I got here: By foot from Panfilov’s 28 Guard monument

9th Stop: Zelenyy Bazar

Zelenyy Bazar is known to be the oldest market in Almaty. There are lots of vegetables and fruit and a lot of meat (especially horsemeat!). It was interesting to walk around and check the goods as well as clothing and some souvenirs outside the market.

Zelenyy Bazar
Zelenyy Bazar | Dantravels.org
    • Duration (getting there + visiting): 1-2 hours
    • How I got here: By foot from Ascension Cathedral

10th Stop: The Central Mosque of Almaty

This is the main mosque in Almaty and is in a good position for visiting since it’s close to the bazaar and metro (Raiymbek Batyr station). The mosque was an excellent example of local architecture. The interior is well worth visiting, too. You need to wear long pants and a scarf (for women) if you intend to enter the mosque.

The Central Mosque of Almaty
The Central Mosque of Almaty | Dantravels.org
    • Duration (getting there + visiting): 1-2 hours
    • How I got here: By foot from Zelenyy Bazar

DAY 4:

11th Stop: One-day hike to Mt. Boukreev 

With my new-found friend Nurseit, he invited me to join a day tour hike to Mt. Boukreev–it is one of the peaks in the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains surrounding Almaty. He knows a group of hikers that organizes a FREE hiking tour every Sunday.

NOTE: I met Nurseit in a language exchange site, I believe it was ConnectPals. Go check out ConnectPals!

At around 8:00 AM, we left the jump-off point at Medeu and all of us headed to Mt. Boukreev (3,010 masl). I think we’re around 50+ who joined the climb.

My friend Nurseit even brought food and snacks for the two of us so I wouldn’t worry about spending too much on food.

NOTE: This climb was organized by Taurest.kz. Go check out their Instagram here!

At around 2:00 PM, I’ve finally reached the summit! It’s beautiful up there! You have no idea!

Below is a photo of my friend Nurseit and myself. He is a local Kazakh and most of the time we use Google Translate to be able to understand each other.

But anyway, the local people I’ve met at the climb love to practice their English!

Nurseit and I at the summit of Mt. Boukreev | Dantravels.org
Nurseit and I at the summit of Mt. Boukreev | Dantravels.org
    • Duration (getting there + visiting): the whole freakin’ day!
    • How I got here: By Bus to Medeu (using my 2GIS Maps app), then CLIMB up!!!

Later that night, Nurseit and his friends treat me for dinner with one of their national dishes called Beshbarmak (a horse meat dish)! And I also tried the horse milk!

I'm trying horsemeat for the first time with Nurseit and his friends | Dantravels.org

DAY 5:

12th Stop: 

Kok Tobe Hill is where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Almaty city and it can be reached by cable car or by road and then hike. In my case, I went by cable car with the remaining cash I have before I head to Almaty airport. It costs 2,000 KZT (5.16 USD) per round trip.

If you are visiting Almaty, it is a must-visit place. It is a kind of little amusement park for kids on top of hills.

    • Duration (getting there + visiting): 2-3 hours
    • How I got here: By Bus (using my 2GIS Maps app), then cable car to the top of the hill!!!

EXTRA DAY:

13th Stop: Big Almaty Lake

I wasn’t able to visit the Big Almaty lake when I was in Almaty due to time constraints. But if I have one more day to spend, I’d definitely come here. Note that visiting here would require at least half of your day as this place is not reachable by public buses nor metro. But I’m telling you this place is a must-see site in Almaty. It is a very beautiful and scenic lake where the city gets its water supply.

There are several tour organizers from Viator that offers a day tour to Big Almaty Lake for a cheap price. Check out my “Recommended Package Tours” section below.

Big Almaty Lake
Big Almaty Lake
    • Duration (getting there + visiting): Half-day

What do you think of this 5-day Almaty itinerary?

I hope that you find this 5-DAY ALMATY BUDGET ITINERARY and TRAVEL GUIDE blog useful!

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comment section below.

MY 5-DAY EXPENSES IN ALMATY

  • Day 0 (Arrival)
    • 6811 KZT – Train ticket from Nursultan to Almaty. I booked it online with the help of my friend Akniyet.
    • 230 KZT – Food (Pie cake)
    • 80 KZT – Metro from Raiymbek Batyr station to Baikonur station
    • 8,400 – 6 Night stay in Hostel
    • 700 KZT – Food (Chicken-rice meal with tea)
    • 450 KZT – Food (Chicken-rice meal)
    • Subtotal:  16,671 KZT (43.28 USD)
  • Day 1
    • 180 KZT – Drink (Bottled of water)
    • 150 KZT – Bus fare from Hostel to a bus stop near the Republic Square
    • 150 KZT – Bus #12 fare from Abay avenue to Medeu
    • 150 KZT – Bus fare from Medeu to Abay avenue.
    • 140 KZT – Food (2x Bread with beef)
    • 240 KZT – Drink (3x Coffee packs)
    • 150 KZT – Bus fare from a bus stop near Abay avenue to Central Park
    • 150 KZT – Bus fare from Central Park to a bus stop near Hostel.
    • 0 KZT – Food (Sultanali, my hostel roommate, treats me for dinner!)
    • Subtotal: 1,310 KZT (3.40 USD)
  • Day 2
    • 650 KZT – Food (Hotdog-rice meal)
    • 150 KZT – Bus fare from Hostel to first President’s Park
    • 200 KZT – Food (Corn)
    • 150 KZT – Bus fare from first President’s Park to Hostel
    • 380 KZT – Food (Bread)
    • Subtotal:  1,530 KZT (3.97 USD)
  • Day 3
    • 700 KZT – Food (Laghman, Kazakh noddles)
    • 80 KZT – Metro from Baikonur station to Zhibek Zholy station
    • 80 KZT – Metro from Raiymbek Batyr station to Baikonur station
    • 650 KZT – Food (Chicken-rice meal)
    • 100 KZT – Drink (Coffee)
    • Subtotal: 1,610 KZT (4.18 USD)
  • Day 4
    • 0 KZT – Nurseit paid my bus fare from my hostel to Abay avenue, should be 150 KZT.
    • 0 KZT – Nurseit again paid for my bus fare from Abay to Medeo, should be 150 KZT
    • 800 KZT – fare for the rented bus from hiking endpoint to city crossing (Gorganaya st.)
    • 150 KZT – bus fare back to Medeu (I met Aynur and her sister from the climb whose car are parked at Medeo and she drove me home to my hostel)
    •  0 KZT – Food (Dinner treat from Nurseit and his friends)
    • Subtotal: 950 KZT (2.47 USD)
  • Day 5 (Departure)
    • 150 KZT – Bus fare from my hostel to KokTobe Gondola / Cable Car
    • 2,000 KZT – Cable Car fee (back & forth)
    • 560 KZT – Food (2x Cup Noodles)
    • 150 KZT – Bus #79 fare from somewhere near Koktobe to Almaty Airport
    • 200 KZT – Hot water at the Airport (for my noodles!)
    • 63.78 USD (24,568 KZT) – Flight from Almaty, Kazakhstan to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I pre-booked it online at Kayak.
    • Subtotal:  27,628 KZT (71.73 USD)

Total Expenses: 129.03 USD (6,536.72 PHP)

RECOMMENDED PACKAGE TOURS

In case you’re also looking for package tours to simply jumpstart your actual itinerary, I highly recommend booking tours through Viator which is perfect for your Almaty itinerary. See tours and packages I personally handpicked for you:

BOOKING ESSENTIALS

  • Hotel / Hostel
    • Booking.com. I usually book my hostel accommodation at booking.com. Thus, I recommend you guys trying it for your Almaty itinerary.  Room accommodation ranges from cheap hostels to luxury hotels. Book hostels through booking.com as they have free cancellation or pay-at-the-hotel option.
    • Airbnb. Try Airbnb in finding comfy and cozy rooms for your Almaty itinerary! I have used Airbnb on some of my other trips and I loved it!

Have you tried Airbnb? Sign up with my link and you will get up to 42 USD (2,200 Php) off your first stay. Click this link to get that discount.

  • Flights
    • KAYAK. All of my flight bookings are all from KAYAK. Kayak is one of the world’s leading travel search engines and searches hundreds of travel sites.

I suggest you check Kayak (click HERE) as they usually offer cheap fare rates compared to other booking sites.

  •  Kazakhstan Package tours
    • Viator. Viator is the world’s leading resource for researching, finding and booking the best travel experiences worldwide.

Click here to find the best Viator deals in Almaty

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