Shetpe to Taraz (2500km, 48h, 10,000 KZT / 26 € in second class) : first experience of Kazakh train, not obvious. We try to buy the tickets at the box office, which has not possible opening times that are not displayed in local time, and whose internet connection does not work. In the end, we had to buy the tickets directly by getting on the train, according to a price negotiated with the car driver (at that time the train was full, but with money the train seems extensible). The bikes were completely abused to get into the interstage of the train, wheelies on a wheel, handlebars torticollis, but in short, they returned. They were in the way, so the few things we left on them, like the turnbuckles, disappeared, but other than that they made good progress.
From Kulan to Astana (1200km, 21h, 12150 KZT / 31 € in third class) : this time we buy our tickets online (via tickets.kz ). First surprise: this site is sometimes closed. Yes, the internet also takes weekends. Well, we’re waiting. Second surprise is the holidays, the trains are all full, except of course the most expensive. Well, we take.
From Kulan, we have Kazakh buddies who make sure that everything is OK for bikes: they call before the station, which tells them that by 1000 Tenge (2.5 €) we can put our two bikes in the wagon luggage. Arrived at the train, the head of affable wagon looks at our bikes, and with a formal air tells us “ niet luggage! ” … Well, our friends help us, we talk, finally our bikes will land on the luggage rack above our heads .. Not very comfortable, but they have not moved from the trip.
From Taraz (Jambul) to Almaty (Alma-Ata 2) (500km, 10h, 2000 KZT / 5 € in third class, without the bikes) : probably the way the slower to make the trip, but at night it passes quickly.
From Almaty (Alma-Ata 2) to Taraz (Jambul) (500 km, 7h, 2000 KZT / 5 € by seated train, without the bikes) : they are rare in these countries but they exist, the trains sit! Faster, super comforts, wide and reclining seats, in short we are good!
In the end for the bikes it was always ok, but it is necessary to parley a little and to prepare some money to give to the wagon chief to coax it, just in case.
For the choice of classes, the third class is a little narrower especially for the top berths, because there is the luggage rack that prevents you from sitting down. Better to be on good terms with your neighbors down, or better, book a bunk down!
In second class the rack is above the corridor, so the top bunks are much more spacious and you can sit on it without problems. These are compartments of four people, which can be locked. It’s a bit double-edged, it allows one side to have less noise, but the other if you get unpleasent neighbours it’s hell 🙂
For the rest the trains are old but comfortable: sheets and towels provided, samovar with boiling water for tea and noodles in each wagon, relatively clean toilets (there is at least one train employee per wagon who ensures that everything stays in order during the journey).
The trains are slow and often mark stops of thirty minutes or an hour, the time to go down to the dock and buy local food delights to the salesgirls who rush to the door!