KAZAKHSTAN

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Country Description: Kazakhstan is a newly independent nation in the midst of profound economic and political change. Tourist facilities are not highly developed and many of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries are not yet available. Internal travel and travel to other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), including both air and land routes, are subject to disruptions and lengthy delays.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: A passport and visa are required. Visas are issued by the Kazakhstan Embassy (on the basis of an invitation from an individual or organization -- the sponsor in Kazakhstan). The U.S. Embassy cannot act as a sponsor. Travelers with a valid visa for another CIS country are normally allowed to transit Kazakhstan for up to three days. Travelers should ensure that the visa is valid for each region in which they plan to travel. The U.S. Embassy has received many reports of harassment and fines for Americans stopped in a part of Kazakhstan not noted on their visa. For complete information concerning entry requirements U.S. citizens can contact the Embassy of Kazakhstan at 3421 Massachusetts Ave, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007, telephone (202) 333-4507.

Internal Travel: All travelers staying for more than three days must register with OVIR, the Office of Visas and Registrations. Visitors who do not register may have to pay large fines. Visitors must also present a certificate indicating a negative HIV test conducted no more than one month prior to registration. Evidence of an HIV test performed abroad is acceptable, but testing may also be done at the Center for Prevention and Control of AIDS (7 Talga-Skaya, Almaty).

Visitors are often stopped by local authorities and asked to produce documentation, usually passports; if unable to do so, the official will often issue a "fine" on the spot. In such cases, it is best to offer to produce the documentation in a more formal setting (such as a hotel lobby or workplace) and to request the name and identification number of the official levying the fine. At this point, requests for payment of the "fine" are often abandoned.

Air Travel: The U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan has recently noticed that a substantial number of Kazakhstan airline flights have been canceled or delayed for at least one day. Travelers using Kazakhstan airlines should plan ahead for unexpected overnights and the possibility of having to arrange alternative transportation.

Medical Facilities: Medical care in Kazakhstan is below Western standards, with severe shortages of basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics. Most resident Americans travel to the West for serious medical needs; such travel can be extremely expensive if undertaken under emergency conditions. Travelers are thus encouraged to get overseas medical insurance that includes coverage for medical air evacuations. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at particular risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Information on health matters can be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline (404) 332-4559 or visit the CDC home page on the Internet: http://www.cdc.gov.

Crime: The rate of crime, particularly violent street crime, is high and has been increasing. It is best not to walk alone at night and to be extremely cautious when approached by strangers, especially in and around hotels frequented by foreigners. The Department of State's pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad," provides useful information on safeguarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad. Additional information on the region can be found in the brochure "Tips for Travelers to Russia and the Newly Independent States." Both publications are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

Currency Regulations: Kazakhstan is largely a cash-only economy. Traveler's checks and credit cards are rarely accepted, except at large hotels catering to Western visitors. U.S. dollars can be easily exchanged for the local currency (the tenge) at local banks and authorized currency exchanges, but all denominations of U.S. dollar bills must have been issued after 1990 and be in good condition (not worn or torn).

Drug Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.

Registration and Embassy Location: Americans are strongly encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Almaty to obtain updated information on travel and security in Kazakhstan. The U.S. Embassy in Almaty is located at 99/97A Furmanova Street, telephone 7-3272-63-39-05.

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