Kazakhstan's capital Astana is a unique city filled with intriguing modern architecture. The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation is a 60-meter-tall pyramid made of glass, and the Central Concert Hall resembles a traditional Kazakh instrument - the dombra. Other landmarks include a flying saucer-shaped circus arena, a White House-inspired Presidential Palace, and a 100-meter-tall tower, the Baiterek, that looks like a giant lollipop.
A huge shopping and entertainment mall, Khan Shatyr, "the world's largest tent", includes a variety of food options, plus an indoor beach and waterpark. Astana is very much a new city, but the Presidential Cultural Center houses a very good museum.
Expats living in Astana can watch soccer at a huge hi-tech stadium, enjoy ice hockey and basketball games or find their own leisure facilities at modern complexes such as the Apriori Sport Club, which has a large swimming pool, gym, jacuzzi, Russian banya and Finnish sauna. The Daulet Sports complex has a tennis court and Fitnation has martial arts and fitness classes.
Most expats who live in Astana have health insurance provided by their employer. Facilities in Astana are adequate, but more serious treatment may have to take place abroad, in nearby centers of excellence such as Istanbul or Frankfurt. The insurer and their medical partners are responsible for arranging this, but it is important to check the details of the policy, even if provided by an employer, to ensure any transfers are 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 Astana. It includes details of English language arrangements. One facility with English-speaking staff is the Presidential Hospital at 37/1 Moskovskaya St., where interpreters can be arranged by calling 8(7172)751658.
The medical emergency number for Kazakhstan is 103.
Currently Astana has no metro, but there is a proposed light rail system for the future. One public transport system that Astana does boast is an efficient and inexpensive bus network; the number 12 does a good loop of major downtown sights. Minibuses, known as Marshrutkas, can be flagged down on the street and the exit point is decided by the passenger at their convenience. Tickets are purchased on the bus but it is not always clear who the official is.
Taxis are cheap, and even a longer journey within the city, crossing the river, should cost under 10 USD, usually closer to 5 USD; be sure to agree the fare with the driver in advance. Much of the taxi operation in Astana includes unofficial taxis, basically any car flagged down, which some expats use with relevant precautions.
Driving in Astana is hazardous because local drivers are often reckless. Expats wishing to drive in the country 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.