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Kazakhstani popular tourist destinations open for foreigners again

Photo © Turar Kazangapov Photo © Turar Kazangapov

Kazakhstan government has revised the decree that made many popular resorts a special border zone requiring special passes. Foreigners will no longer have to obtain permits to visit them, Tengrinews reports.

The decree On Establishment of Limits of the Borderland, Quarantine Strip and Border Area was adopted this April. It greatly widened the strip of nearborder land considered a special zone not supposed to be visited by foreigners without obtaining a prior permit from the local authorities. A lot of popular destinations, including Big Almaty Lake, Medeo high altitude skating rink, Shymbulak skiing resort, Lake Alakol, Kolsay Lakes and Charyn Canyon ended up in that zone.

Since the decree came into force locals have had to carry their IDs to prove they were citizens of Kazakhstan to those trying to check on them, and foreigners have been encountering problems with the authorities, having misunderstandings and delays during travel, were handed fines and had all sorts of spoilt vocations.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Investment and Development of Kazakhstan announced that the legislative choke up had been finally resolved. The government revised the previous decree to facilitate foreign tourists visiting Kazakhstan.

The revised decree has been signed by the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Karim Massimov and is being ready for the official publishing. The decree will come into effect in ten days after its official publishing, according to the Ministry. Which means that the restrictions will be lifted shortly after mid August.

"The decree contains an approved list of areas that are part of the nearborder special zone strip, but are exempt from the nearborder regime with regards to access of foreigners," the Ministry of Investment and Development said.

The list of the exemptions includes Big Almaty Lake, Medeo high-altitude skating rink, Shymbulak skiing resort, Lake Alakol, Kolsay Lakes and Charyn Canyon, Jungar Alatau natural park, Kok-Jailyau, Usturt natural park, cities of Aktau, Atyrau, Uralsk, Ridder, Saryagash and Taraz. The complete list will become available after the decree is published.

However, even after the decree comes into effect, foreigners should remember not to wander too far away from the exempt natural attractions, since they will not find very many signs and posters informing them about the boundaries of a certain natural park or lake, but once they are outside the tourist site they can be fined for trespassing again. 

It is also unclear whether the authorities will be checking the cars and hikers heading to the exempt sites through the near-border territory for foreigner "trespassers". This makes flying the only safe option if you can afford it. 

By Tatyana Kuzmina and Gyuzel Kamalova


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