Kazakhstan Loosens Restrictions on Visiting Border-Area Tourist Attractions

ASTANA – Kazakhstan recently amended its regulations to allow foreign tourists to visit popular tourist attractions along its border without a special permit.

The amendment was to 2014 government resolution No. 356, which had expanded the number and width of border areas closed to tourists without a special permit. As a result of that 2014 regulation, most tourists had to enter the administrative districts of the country within a 25-kilometre border zone with China under a special border regime used for departure, temporary stay, residence and movement. This limited the access to tourists to some of the country’s most popular attractions unless they first received a special pass issued by the Kazakh Ministry of Interior.

“Foreign tourists have to obtain passes to visit places like Lake Alakol and Big Almaty Lake. And to do that they have to wait around 10 days after applying. We are working with law enforcement authorities to reduce the waiting time. But the mere fact that permits are needed creates even a greater problem than the waiting time and application documents,” Rashida Shaikenova, chairwoman of Kazakhstan’s Tourist Association, told Tengrinews in 2014.

Timur Duisengaliyev, acting director of a tourism department, also said at the time that the restrictions were having “a negative impact on the image (of Kazakhstan).”

To reverse those problems, the Ministry of Investment and Development and the akimats (local administrations) of border areas created a list of tourist areas to exclude from the 2014 restrictions. The newly amended regulation, which will enter into force after 10 days from the date of publication, adopts those exclusions. Foreign tourists and stateless persons will now be able to visit places in the border zone such as Big Almaty Lake, national nature parks Charyn, Jungar Alatau, Kolsai Lake, Chimbulak ski resort, the Medeo outdoor speed skating and bandy rink, Kok Zhailau – the stow in the Ile-Alatau State National Park, Ustyurt Nature Reserve, as well as the cities of Aktau, Atyrau, Uralsk, Ridder, Saryagash, Taraz and others without having to receive a special permit.

In related news, a new visa regime was launched last year and recently extended allowing citizens from 19 countries – including Australia, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, the UAE, the U. K. and the U.S among others – visa-free entry to Kazakhstan for up to 15 days.