“Here are some tips for travelling in southern Kazakstan and Nothern Kyrgyzstand (near Lake Issyk-Kul). These two countries are a bit like Iceland 15 years ago, a new destination for backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts, not a lot of touristy infrastructures. It is much more vast, and poorer than Iceland. You could get a negative reaction if you address older people in English, it’s best to learn to get by in Russian. In a few years, as is the case everywhere, you’ll be able to use English, the younger generation is learning it.
Do unlock your smartphone, data packages are super cheap, there’s good signal almost everywhere, and you’ll love having access to Google translate for signs and menus in Cyrillic, as well as for conversation from Russian; for Google Maps; for the Yandex app, similar to Uber, setting the price and the itinerary for rides, in this country where anyone with a car is a ‘taxi’ driver and prices are very negotiable and they’re all out to get you.
This being said, the cost of living is very low in those two developing countries. Hygiene isn’t excellent everywhere and mild diarrhea is to be expected, an infectious one possible, so bring Immodium and Cipro (antibiotic). Also, if you pack a roll of toilet paper, you’ll cherish it.
For access to all sorts of excursions, information and general organising, ask Indira at Steppe and Sky in Almaty, she knows everything or else will find it quickly for you: Indira Koshkarbayeva +7 702 379 9933.
An excellent driver/guide for Kazakhstan: Vladimir Ismagulov +7 747 463 2955 And another for Kyrgyzstan, based in Karakol but will go to Bishkek: Yrysbek +996 779 443 088 It is a bad idea to rent a car there. It is a great idea to get a driver who knows everything and everyone and will show you things you couldn’t get to on your own and it isn’t expensive at all. All three are easy to reach on What’s App and are fluent in English.”