"As far as hotels are..." Almaty Hotel Tip by ianrmillard
Almaty Hotels: 42 reviews and 62 photos
As far as hotels are concerned, I have made detailed comments on my KAZAKHSTAN VT page. Suffice to say that my personal choices would be either the former 'Residence No. 3' (formerly visited mainly by Soviet Politburo and those of similar rank) or the 'Dostyk' Hotel (formerly 'Druzhba', meaning 'Friendship', also formerly reserved for Party apparatchiki at the Central Committee level), on Kurmangazy Street. Neo-Stalin columns, quiet and peaceful, collonaded atrium, white-columned restaurant and a merciful lack of American, Israeli and other businessmen yapping into mobile telephones...<p><img src=http://members.aol.com/EnchanteDjinar/DostykHotel.jpg><p>The more expensive places are the Alatau Country Club (about USD$400 a day), the Hyatt Rachat Palace (about USD$300 a day) and the Ankara (maybe USD$200 a day), all considered 5-star. The Dostyk, Hotel Kazakhstan, Astana and a couple of others might be described as 3/4 star (though the Kazakhstan is very poorly managed and maintained). Of cheaper places, try the gloomy Otrar (formerly the Intourist flagship here) by Panfilov Park on the North side. I have heard that the Zhentitsu Hotel is adequate, but only saw it from the outside so will not rate it. I expect you'd be paying about $50 a night there. Watch out for prostitutes in all the cheaper places from the Kazakhstan down. The others have security.
For longer term visits, rental of an apartment is the thing. Avoid agencies which will probably either be expensive or ripoffs. Personal contacts will always be able to find you a suitable apartment within a few days or a week or two. If you do not speak Russian, take along someone who does. These rentals are not written down (the locals want to avoid the rascally tax authorities) so make sure you have an OK feeling about the people who own the place; I never had a serious problem and rented three apartments during my year in the city (1996-1997).<p>For an apartment in the Abaia-Lenina-Panfilov Park triangle think in terms of between about USD$500-$2,000 per month depending on size, location etc. In the poorer neighbourhoods, you could probably pick up a reasonable-sized (3-5 room) apartment for maybe $200 or $300 or, for $50-$100, a room sharing with a family. Obviously, that means further out from the centre of the city, or in an area with less security/more crime, or more drunken people around (who are swiftly cleared out from the more prestigious neighbourhoods).<p> Some people (usually Americans or others with money and families en poste) take a dacha, but this comes with attendant problems: possibility of heating, water and power outages in winter, plus the ever-present yapping and barking of the dogs which the Kazakhs keep chained in their yards for security...<p>
My most pleasant apartment (though without city views and slightly out of the city proper; also not the largest) was one I took in the 'Military Settlement' area. These buildings, built between a large modern maternity home in extensive grounds and the former KGB--now Border Guards--School, were originally reserved for highranking Army and KGB officers, now mainly occupied by old ladies. I was the only foreigner in this peaceful oasis<p>
<img src=http://members.aol.com/EnchanteDjinar/MilitaryKGBDistrict.jpg><p>In 1997, my three large rooms (plus kitchen/bath) cost me USD$650 a month.<p>For another $100 a month, you can usually get some lady like one of the owners or her mother to come in 3-5 days per week and do all your housework (great!), meaning cleaning, bedmaking, washing-up, laundry and even buying food for you at Optovka or in the Zilyony Bazaar (if you can write a list in Russian)<p>
Russians and--in their own way--Kazakhs can be very generous and it may well be that you will be invited to stay overnight by a family, or an individual--in the case of an unacompanied Western man, probably a woman looking for a Western friend/boyfriend.... Be warned: while many offers (of whatever sort) are fully genuine, Almaty CAN be a lawless place at times and you should feel very comfortable with the individual or people inviting you before you go (not knowing the city or perhaps the language) with them to their apartment. Murders of foreigners are rare but have happened (an American had his throat cut in his own apartment across the way from the building where I myself lived during my first few months in Almaty); more likely, for a male traveller, might be the acquisition of an unwanted girlfriend (ie. one who becomes a 'Velcro' attachment to you during your whole stay!) or even the theft of money or an expensive watch from you by a casual acquaintance. Having said that, I wore a Rolex SeaDweller (then worth around USD$3,000) all my time in the city and never had a problem. Like food poisoning, theft and murder do occur in Almaty, but are rare (in ascending order of likelihood).<p>As for the girlfriends, the vast majority of girls in Almaty are absolutely genuine and not trying (as some foreign men seem to believe) to snare a foreigner and his passport at any cost! I knew of several cases myself where girls were offered marriage by English and other foreign men and rejected them or only accepted after many months or even years of a relationship.
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