ASTANA – Astana Sightseeing Tours Co. has introduced double-decker buses equipped with sound systems in four languages – Kazakh, Russian, English and Chinese. A special closed route measuring more than 20 kilometers has been developed along the left bank of the Yessil River.
“Our project was launched on June 27 with the support of the akimat (city administration) and Astana Convention Bureau, when the first tour was made. Initially, we planned to introduce tours on the right bank of Astana as there are many attractions and interesting buildings, but due to the load on the transport system we postponed this route,” said project administrator Larissa Vostrova in an interview with The Astana Times.
The tours last 90 minutes and tickets are valid for 24 hours with hop-on, hop-off service. A passenger can get off the bus at any time to visit a museum or see the sights, then return to a tour bus at any of the specialised bus shelters. Tourists can contact the operator (+7 776 116 7675) and get the necessary information about the nearest tour. The phone number is indicated on the ticket and flyer.
“The tours start in three places, at the Khan Shatyr Shopping Mall, Duman Entertainment Centre and the Baiterek Monument, at 10 a.m. The tickets also can be purchased in these places, as the bus stops there. The ticket distributors with red vests and caps can be found near the Baiterek Monument and Duman Centre. The online purchase will be launched in the near future. On weekdays the buses travel from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we offer evening tours until 11 p.m.,” she said.
Tickets cost 3,000 tenge (US$9) for adults, 2,000 tenge (US$6) for students and pensioners, 1,000 tenge (US$3) for children 6-14 and free for youngsters under five. People with physical challenges and journalists with official ID also can travel for free.
The interval between buses is 30-35 minutes. A passenger gets a ticket and can travel the entire tour with an audio guide, which eventually will be available in up to eight languages.
“As the evenings are becoming colder, we offer plaid blankets for our guests. We also provide services for wedding catering. The wedding tours in our buses are now gaining popularity. There are a lot of tourists and visitors from Russia who are interested in the city’s development and architecture,” said Vostrova.
The company signed a contract with Astana LRT integrated transport system and plans to use the GPS navigation system and launch the app.
“We saw the largest number of passengers, over 240 people, on Astana Day. We have around 50-70 passengers per day and 150-170 people on weekends. We intend to expand our services and cooperate with the hotels to organise meeting guests at the airport. We also want to promote domestic tourism and provide services in Burabai and the East Kazakhstan region. At this stage, our task is to work out the service to perfection and build a solid reputation. The foreign visitors should feel comfortable and enjoy their stay in our amazing city,” she added.
For those who prefer walking, audio-guided tours are offered along Nurzhol Boulevard on the left bank. Visitors can explore the sights and attractions on the most picturesque avenue of the capital and see musical fountains and sculptures. A refundable deposit of 5,000 tenge (US$14) is required to rent equipment. Audio guide rental places are located near Khan Shatyr Mall and the House of Ministries. Tours are available in Kazakh, Russian, English and Chinese from 10 a.m.-10 p.m.