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Astana may not be your typical capital city. Instead of having obvious charm and glamor, it is slowly being transformed to that idea of a modern city once it was already officially the capital. Announced by President Nazarbaev as the future capital of Kazakhstan by 1994, it did become the capital city by 1997. However, Astana is more like a rural area then just being developed into a city; it is also just the second, not the, largest city in the country. By name anyway, Astana is a logical choice. The name literally translates to capital in the Kazakh language. The capital’s 274 square miles is home to 700 thousand people according to latest count.

Today, Kazakhstan’s people are proud of their capital city. Billions of dollars spent on the city have managed to create a sophisticated new city. The building of this city is not without criticism, however. Surrounding the opulence of Astana are villages that are experiencing extreme poverty. So, knowing that the government is spending so much on providing fares for officials traveling to and from the former capital Almaty is unthinkable and considered cruel. The billions of dollars shelled out by the government are also completely directly towards architecture and not poverty alleviation.

Enter Astana by flying to Astana International Airport, only 9 miles south of the city center. Getting around the city is best done with a taxi ride. It may be for the best to be in the shelter of a taxi because Astana is the second coldest capital city in the world. Early winter temperature can be as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. You may want to visit during the summer, instead; July temperature averages at 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

To enter Kazakhstan, you need a passport valid for at least six months and a visa. A tourist visa can be good for 30 days or for 60 days. If you are visiting for business purposes, you can avail of a business visa which may allow you multiple entries of up to two years maximum. You do not need to present your return ticket though you should still keep one handy.

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