"Atyrau, new oil capital of the Capsian" Atyrau by globaltramp

Atyrau Travel Guide: 28 reviews and 20 photos

You want to what..... work in Kazakhstan

Out of the blue in the summer 06 an e-mail drpped onto my lap asking me if i'de like to come and work for an oil major in kazakhstan. Stanger things have happened but not to me recently!!

I did my research on this town called 'Atyrau', small, provincial, modest polulation, drab looking and decided it wasn't for me.

After some pursuasion I came out for a 4 week looksee trip in August and was somewhat surprised by what I found. My first memory is policeman with large brimmed hats pointing at me and pushing me around the airport arrivals hall. Not speaking a word of the local lingo I went where pushed and was eventually ejected out of the airport into the waiting arms of my employment agencies rep much to my releief.

Arriving in Atyrau

Never look a gift horse in the face - if someone sends you some English Language forms and tells youb that thye will be useful - believe them.

I was sent a stack of such forms and printed them out, remembering to pack them only at the last moment. More of this later.

When the Air Astana flight landed (from istanbul) there was no civilised waiting until the aircraft had stopped. 300 people stood up simultaneously and started fighting with the overhead baggage compartments and each other. Going back in time some 8 hours - the check in area at Istanbul was polulated with large baggage trolleys loaded some 2 meters high with black bin bags taped up with packing tape. No-one seemed to own a samsonite or delsey. One major plus was no-one was charged excess bagage,even though some had over 100kgs!!

The average passanger was a 50 something babushka who had just finished her years shopping in Istanbul's Souks.

The outcome of the check in scene was lots of elderly ladies boarding our aircraft with more hanmd luggage than I had in total, and I don't travel lightly.

When the aircraft landed they all wanted off first - with their luggage in hand. I helped the lady sat next to me as she was really struggling. Surprise was written all over her face. I thinkshe believed I was going to run off with her 'cartonite'. We decsended from the aircraft and I depositted her bag next to her on the airport bus. She gave me the most beautiful smile and uttered some words which I now understand to be 'thanks very much' in Kazakh.

Once all 300 perople were decanted into 2 buses (yes only 2) and we had played 'sniff the armpit' for the better part of 20 minutes the bus ventured off towards the arivals hall a whole 50 meteres away. (I still can't fathom this one out!!)

& then the fun started. The arrivals hall is a small portabin like structre with 2 passport booths and one visa booth. I was lucky and was second in line to get my visa - very efficient and easy and then straight through the pasport check. all done in 10 minutes. Amazing......

But don't be fooled. All 300 people then had to wait for the bagagge to arrive. If you fly into Atyrau and wonder why everyones loitering by the door just next to the passport booths - its because they want to escape first.

After another 45 minutes - the side door opens and the locals charge back out onto the tarmac where the baggage trolleys are waiting. All 300 passengers baggage was sitting on 4 airport carts.

Bags were thrown in every direction as people seached for their 'black bin liner' . I stood back aghast watching - it was like a keystone cops episode. Slowly the madnes subsided and the few expats from the flight strolled forward to collect what was left of their luggage. I was lucky, nothing broken ripped or torn - unlike some of the others.

Fisrt Tip - use a rigid case.

And now the reason for all the forms becomes apparent. Customs forms are available atthe airport - but they are all in Rusian. Use the English language forms as a template - customs won't accept the english language forms but they will accept the Russian forms filled out in English.

If you have a lap top tehres a separate form.

The Queing continues as everyone must get their baggage xrayed through one lone machine. I didn't see anyones bags opened, I beleive it was just a formality.


Some 90 minutes after arriving at the air[port, escaped to the car park and was met by the lady who runs the agency I was employed by.

How was your light she asked in perfect English. I gave her an honest answer - she saw the funny side.

The car park was populated with Ladas, skodas and other eastern block transport types, none of which looked to have seen a garage since the fall of the federation. I must have been a VIP as I got the lone Landcruiser.... lucky old me.

Tip 2 - buckle up - driving is manic in Atyrau. No-one gives way - even at red lights - driving is erratic at best as the roads are so pot holed that the drivers negotaite the slalom like bumps atbreak neck speeds.

More of the driving later......

I had arived... in one piece.... I was safe... and apparently I had a comfortable bed waiting for me.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Its not as chaotic as first appears - listen and take advice.
  • Cons:Disorganisation and chaos....
  • In a nutshell:Policemen in wide brimmed hats waving fingers are really nice chaps when you get to know them!!
  • Last visit to Atyrau: Oct 2006
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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