ASTANA – Khorgos, a visa free and duty-free zone, was established as a unique project by the Kazakh and Chinese governments. Located on the border, the countries plan to turn it into a huge centre of business cooperation with a well-developed infrastructure for business, trade, sports and entertainment and an opportunity to get to know the culture of both nations. The zone offers Kazakh and Chinese citizens the chance to make good buys and approach one another.
Khorgos has five big shopping centres open to anyone with a foreign travel passport from any of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). It is very popular among residents from Almaty and China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
Aigul Sembinova, a 40-year-old mother who visits Khorgos every year, talked about her excursions in an interview with The Astana Times.
“It is better to go to Khorgos on a workday, because twice as many people visit it on the weekends. According to the rules of the zone, each person is allowed to carry hand luggage in the size of 60x40x20 centimetres. Also, there are some limitations on the number of things. People cross the Kazakhstan-China border by bus and nobody needs to leave the bus crossing the border. The bus stops, the border guard checks passports and that’s it,” she said.
“I have four children and it makes sense to purchase bed clothing, clothes and toys at Khorgos. It is incredible, but sometimes you can buy some goods 10 times cheaper than in an Almaty or Astana shop. Also, you always can knock down the original price by more than 40 percent,” she added.
Kazakh citizens prefer to buy textiles, clothes, outdoor clothing (with fur coats being very popular), toys, vehicle spare parts and tires, electronics, footwear, natural skin wallets and handbags. Chinese citizens enjoy purchasing candies, biscuits, pasta, refreshments and cigarettes made in Kazakhstan.
Travelling round trip by bus from Almaty to Khorgos costs 6,500-7,000 tenge (US$19-$21) per person. An additional 1,000 tenge (US$3) is needed for the bus inside the zone. Travelling round trip by train costs 2,750-4,200 tenge (US$8-$12) per person, plus 1,000 tenge (US$3) for the taxi to get to the border and the bus fee inside the zone. Many Almaty residents prefer to travel by car. The five-hour trip is along a good highway and parking is only 300 tenge per day (US$1).