Kazakhstan's former capital Almaty is blessed with natural touches, being green and leafy within and having mountains just outside. At the same time, its downtown is super-modern, with high quality shopping, dining and nightlife. Kok-Tobe is a 1100 m hill in the south of the city with a cable car and large TV tower, offering attractions and spectacular views of the city.
There are malls with mid-range and luxury shopping, such as the Esentai Mall which also has an IMAX cinema, restaurants and a fitness center. Mega Mall is the biggest in the city. For a more traditional feel, the Green Bazaar also has kebab cafes and music.
Almaty has some very good museums, among them the Central State Museum, containing details of the coming of Genghis Khan, and beautiful costumes and musical instruments from Kazakhstan's history.
For sport lovers living in Almaty, hiking in the mountain areas around the city is popular, and there is also good skiing. There are high end fitness centers such as the Luxor Wellness Club, which includes a swimming pool and spa.
Most expats who live in Almaty have health insurance provided by their employer. Facilities in Almaty are adequate, but more serious treatment may have to take place abroad, in hospitals in nearby cities. This should be arranged by the insurer and their medical partners, but it is important to check the details of the policy, even if provided by an employer, to make sure this transfer is included.
English-speaking staff are not common, but some hospitals and clinics will arrange interpreters upon advanced request. The US State Department provides a list of prominent medical facilities in Almaty.
The medical emergency number for Kazakhstan is 103.
Almaty opened a new underground metro system in 2011, which is efficient, clean and safe. It is also very cheap, costing only around 0.50 USD for a journey of any length.
Official taxis can be booked in advance and usually arrive quickly, however they cost three times as much as unofficial taxis, which are effectively a system of ordinary cars picking up people who flag them down. This system is very widely used by people who live in Almaty, including some expats. However, precautions should be taken such as not using them late at night or if there is more than one man in the car, agreeing the price in advance and having the correct change ready. Drivers of either kind of taxi are unlikely to speak English. Cost is 2–5 USD.
Driving in Almaty is hazardous because local drivers are often reckless. Congestion is also an issue. Expats need an international license and third party insurance, and must carry their documents at all times. Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. There is a zero-tolerance policy towards drink-driving.